As the Premier League season heads into double-figures, are we about to see Manchester City tearaway from the pack that is Manchester United and Tottenham, or will one ensure touching distance with the frontrunners with a win this weekend? Can the Champions make it back-to-back wins and make a fist of their title defence? Could an Aaron Mooy-inspired Huddersfield produce consecutive Premier League heavyweight scalps with a win over Liverpool?
Here is our preview of Matchday 10:
Manchester United v Tottenham
After beginning the season in a hurry, United have somewhat cooled in recent weeks with a point from their past two Premier League outings. They’ll need to re-discover their fire-power quickly if they are to threaten Tottenham at home, who travel to Old Trafford on the back of a 4-1 thumping of a fragile Liverpool outfit.
Both sides come into this clash on the back of conflicting form in their two matches this week. Spurs, with an almighty bottle against West Ham in the League Cup following a resounding win at home to Liverpool in the league and United, an embarrassing loss to Huddersfield in the league but a win on the road in the cup against Swansea. Whether you read into the cup results is down to the individual, with both sides shuffling their squads around for a cup competition to what has become in many of the top clubs thoughts as fourth or fifth priority.
Last Time They Played: Tottenham 2 Manchester United 1 (White Hart Lane – May 14)
Jose Mourinho is facing a midfield crisis with Ander Herrera set to join the already sidelined Paul Pogba, Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick, with the Spaniard picking up an ankle injury midweek. It could mean Daley Blind drafted into midfield with Ashley Young continuing at left-back.
A welcome boost for the Spurs with Mousa Dembele returning to first-team training, while Danny Rose appears ready for a starting-berth after returning from injury but must dethrone the impressive Ben Davies.
Player to Watch: Nermanja Matic
With his lieutenants falling one by one around him, the responsibly placed on the Serbian’s shoulders will only intensify early into his Red Devils career.
As opposed to having players like Paul Pogba and Herrera next to him, Matic will not only have to take up the defensive slack but also work as a passing outlet. The 29-year-old looms as United’s most important player between now and Christmas, as the club can ill-afford to lose any more ground on Manchester City.
Prediction: Manchester United 0 Tottenham 0
With United not going all that great in recent weeks and Spurs still flakey defensively as shown midweek, expect Mourinho to have his tactical fingerprints written all over this fixture.
Hurt by personnel woes and wary of Spurs’ attacking outlets, Mourinho will revert to what he knows best and that is the grind, compressing the contest to a point that nullifies the Spurs attack but at the same time hinders his side’s attacking mind. Expecting a scoreless stalemate in this contest which if it eventuates, will be music to Pep Guardiola‘s ears.
Bournemouth v Chelsea
Returning to the winners list after back to back losses, Chelsea were fortunate last outing against Watford with a 4-2 win, with the Hornets spraying a number of guilt-edge chances to perhaps change the outcome of that clash. On the other hand, Bournemouth are struggling as they sit second-last on the table but will be buoyed by their win away to Stoke last week.
Both sides ensure passage to the League Cup quarterfinals with wins midweek, with the Cherries accounting for Middlesbrough easily at home while Chelsea made it tough for themselves against an Everton side in crisis, but came away with a narrow 2-1 victory. Ironically, both sides have been drawn against each other in the next round and will meet again at Stamford Bridge on December 19.
Last Time They Played: Bournemouth 1 Chelsea 3 (Goldsands Stadium – April 8)
Danny Drinkwater played his first minutes for the Blues midweek, getting through an hour in his return and could make the bench against Bournemouth. N’Golo Kante is unlikely to be fit for this weekend’s clash, but is expected to be to ready for Chelsea‘s trip to Rome in the Champions League next week.
Bournemouth have some problems in attack with Jermain Defoe ruled out with a hamstring concern and Joshua King in doubt due to illness, while Callum Wilson could make his first league appearance since January.
Player to Watch: Michy Batshuayi
Two goals in his last Premier League start, the Frenchman will likely have to settle for a place on the bench again with Alvaro Morata still the preferred option in attack.
Given the chance to show his wears midweek with a starting berth in the cup, Batshuayi was less prolific but nonetheless should he continue to chip away with important goals, he’ll fast become a selection headache for Antonio Conte. Expect him to play an important role off the bench in this contest.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1 Chelsea 2
With Chelsea still flakey in defence, it shouldn’t be as straight-forward early on away to Bournemouth, but they should prevail in the end with too much class.
Liverpool v Huddersfield
That’s how far back you have to go to recall the last top-flight league meeting between the two sides, in which Liverpool ran out 1-0 winners thanks to a Jack Whitham winner. The only other recent meets have been last year in a friendly and in 1999, where the Terriers got the better of Liverpool in the FA Cup.
Both sides are enjoying contrasting recent fortunes in the league, with Liverpool seemingly stuck in a rut and the Terriers making the trip to Anfield on the back of a record-breaking home triumph against Man United.
Last Time They Played: Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 2 (Friendly – John Smith Stadium – July 20 2016)
Gini Wijnaldum is considered a chance to return after missing the side’s drubbing against Tottenham, having participated in the club’s main session at Melwood on Wednesday. Sadio Mane remains a long-term concern while Adam Lallana is set to return from his thigh injury after the upcoming international break.
The only injury concerns for Huddersfield are long-term ones with midfielder Phillip Billing ruled out for 12 weeks due to an ankle injury that requires surgery. He joins Jon Gorenc Stankovic (knee), Michael Hefele (Achilles) and Kasey Palmer (hamstring), who all remain unavailable.
Player to Watch: Aaron Mooy
The Australian star has been a revelation for the Terriers since joining on-loan from Manchester City, who bought him from sister club Melbourne City following his prolific tenure in the A-League Down Under.
After dominating in the Championship last season and leading Huddersfield to promotion, the club have since made the move for Mooy permanent, who has replicated his feats in the Championship and impressed in the top-flight.
Two goals already this season including last week’s opener against Manchester United, Mooy has had a hand in 10 league goals for his side in 2017 (four goals, six assists – including play-offs); four more than any other player. Known for his passing game and relaxed nature on the ball, the Socceroo will be pivotal if Huddersfield are to get a result on the road to Anfield.
Prediction: Liverpool 1 Huddersfield 1
The Merseysiders have registered just two wins in 10 games in all competitions and desperately need to rediscover their mojo if they are to contend for any silverware this season.
Given the closeness of the managers, both sides play a similar aggressive style that proves quite taxing. To quote Wagner, this encounter could be “cinema at its best” while looming as the moment in which the German shakes the ‘Best Supporting’ tag to Klopp.
Brighton 1 Southampton 2