Shortly after the COVID-19-compromised the 2019-20 season, we’re back after a short hiatus to kick off the 2020-21 EPL season.
There are two games that have been postponed for this weekend – Burnley hosting Manchester United and Manchester City hosting Aston Villa – with reports Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte have contracted the virus. It will be interesting to see what happens in Manchester.
Even without those games, however, there are still some great matches to keep an eye on this weekend
1. Fulham versus Arsenal Saturday, 9:30pm (AEST) This is the very first game, kicking off the 2020-21 season. Fulham was in the Championship for only one season before making their return to the Premier League. Arsenal have been shaky away from home for a couple seasons now. With minimal fans to start the season, can Arsenal start their away form with a win?
Led by Aleks Mitrovic up front, who was the joint leader in goals scored in the Championship last season, Fulham will be hoping to put the heat on Arsenal defensively. Last season Arsenal collected only 20 points of a possible 57 through four wins, eight draws and seven losses. On many occasions errors were made defensively, and of last season’s top ten teams only Burnley and Chelsea conceded more often.
On the other hand, Arsenal certainly have the players to worry the Fulham defence. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was one of the top scorers last season with 22 goals, and he’ll be hoping to get some good service from the midfield and the wings. It will be interesting to see who Mikel Arteta chooses in his line-up. Willian Borges da Silva has joined the team, which hopefully gives Arsenal another option offensively. There have been talks of Alexandre Lacazette moving away from Arsenal, and Nicolas Pepe will be hoping to have a better season than he did last.
2. Liverpool versus Leeds Sunday, 2:30am (AEST) The defending champions return to start their campaign against the darling team of Leeds. Leeds have not been in the Premier League since 2003-04, which was when Australian Mark Viduka was leading the team up front. All eyes will now be on main striker Rodrigo Moreno Machado, who Leeds brought in for €30 million (A$48.7 million).
Rodrigo will have a tall task ahead of him going up against the likes of Virgil van Dijk and their stout defence. Liverpool with no significant additions will be looking to take care of business in Anfield, but for those who want to enjoy the fairytale of Leeds United, their first game against Liverpool should be interesting, albeit but difficult.
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3. Tottenham versus Everton Monday, 1:30am (AEST) Spurs are looking to rectify their poor performances last season that saw Mauricio Pochettino replaced by Jose Mourinho. They finished sixth, which was their worst finish since 2014-15. They haven’t made many ripples in the transfer market so far, signing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to give them an option in central midfield. They did make a good bargain by snagging Matt Doherty from Wolves, and he figures to play a major role for Spurs as they require some quality play and depth from right back.
Everton have generally been a top-eight team for many seasons now. They usually have a group of talented players but have never worked cohesively as a team. However, on any given day they could certainly trouble any team. They’ll be looking to rely on the likes of Richarlison de Andrade, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Gylfi Sigurosson for contributions. Lucas Digne has also provided some quality from the left-back position, producing eight assists to lead the team.
For Everton fans, everyone will be monitoring the situation with James Rodriguez’s potential arrival for the team. He is extremely talented dating back to his days in Porto and Real Madrid, and he could be a huge asset to Everton should he come over. It will also be interesting to see how Carlo Ancelotti utilises Allan Marques Loureiro, who came over from Napoli.
For Spurs fans, they will want to see the style of play that Mourinho has implemented. There were shades of counterattacking football, which was fruitful. Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Dele Alli, Lucas Moura and Giovani Lo Celso are potent offensive threats.
This match could certainly go either way, and it should certainly be an entertaining match-up for Week 1
4. Sheffield United versus Wolverhampton Tuesday, 5:00am (AEST) Sheffield were promoted to the Premier League last season and made their presence felt. Although they finished only ninth, they boasted the fourth-best defence, conceding 39 goals. Only Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United conceded fewer. Sheffield is known for their extremely physical play and toughness. They’re not afraid to get into your body, confront, contact and battle for every possession of the ball. They are simply scrappy.
Wolves have finished seventh two seasons in a row, but they did improve defensively and scored more goals than the previous season. They play an attractive brand of football. The noticeable observation is Adama Traore and the problems he creates with his blistering pace. He led the team with nine assists last season.
When the 2019-20 season restarted Sheffield United won only three of their final 11 games. These two teams were in the top six for the majority of the season until both had their share of slip-ups.
Both teams will be looking to get off to a good start, and this could be a match-up of two teams battling hard to get three points. How will the likes of Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota, Joao Moutinho and Traore break down Sheffield’s physical defence? Having two teams with contrasting styles will be intriguing to see which one prevails.