By Temisan Amoye,
The return of the English Premier League for Matchday 1 lived up to its expectations. With the return of fans to the stadium, new signings in action, top individual performances, we witnessed some amazing results, from the opening night upset at Brentford, to Son haunting Man City again.
Matchday 2 kicks off in a few hours, here I preview the matches taking place on Saturday
Liverpool (3rd) vs Burnley (12th), Anfield Stadium 12.30 pm
Fresh off a 3-0 win over newly-promoted Norwich, Liverpool welcome Burnley to Anfield as they seek to make it two wins in two. With Liverpool forwards having an impressive outing last weekend, and the return of fans to Anfield, the Reds could be in for a straightforward tie but will have to be wary of a Burnley who play a compact, low block style, which the Reds have often struggled to break in recent games. Losing 1-0 in this same fixture last season, where the Clarets ended Liverpool’s unbeaten home run of 68 games.
Meanwhile, Burnley coming off a 2-1 defeat at home to Brighton, will be looking to spring a surprise like they did last season, where they opened the floodgates of Anfield defeats for Liverpool in the Premier League. The ever-pragmatic Burnley boss, Sean Dyche is almost certain to set up the Clarets in a very deep and defensive style as they hope to avoid back to back defeats.
Prediction: A fully fit Liverpool look too strong for Burnley, with Thiago, Henderson, Jones likely to return this weekend, although Fabinho is set to miss the fixture, after losing his father this week. A comfortable Liverpool win on the cards seeing as the Reds have won 5 of the last 7 fixtures with Burnley with one loss.
Aston Villa (11th) vs Newcastle United (15th), Villa Park 3.00 pm
Losing 3-2 away to Watford on the opening day, Aston Villa will be looking to make amends as they square up against Newcastle, who they haven’t lost to in their last four premier league appearances. Despite losing star player Grealish to Man City, the Villans have recruited impressively signing Buendia, Ings, Bailey, who the Villa faithful will be hoping can inspire the team to a first league win of the season.
Newcastle despite racing to first-half lead against West Ham ended the match in disappointment, losing 4-2, but will be buoyed by the arrival of Joe Willock from Arsenal, who impressed thoroughly for the Magpies during the second half of the 2020-21 season. Goalkeepers Martin Dubravka, Karl Darlow are absent due to injuries. Their absence could be telling, as they have been very vital in the past.
Prediction: The ever-impressive Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson can put up a show upfront for Newcastle, but impressive signings, better squad, home advantage and head-to-head form makes Villa favourites for this fixture. A possible two-goal margin win.
Crystal Palace (18th) vs Brentford (6th), Selhurst Park 3.00 pm
Patrick Vieira will be looking to escape the pitfall experienced by his former club Arsenal at Brentford. The Crystal Palace boss opened his PL reign with a 3-0 loss at the home of European Champions, Chelsea. With injuries to the exciting attacking duo of Eberechi Eze and Micheal Olise and veteran Milivojevic ruled out for personal reasons, Vieira and his Palace team could struggle against a buzzing Brentford side.
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The Bees are still in dreamland following their impressive 2-0 win over Arsenal in the opening fixture of the season and will be in a buoyant mood as they take on Crystal Palace. Canos and Mbuemo impressed against Arsenal, but Thomas Frank’s Bees will be hoping star forward Ivan Toney who had only two touches in the Gunners box comes alive against Palace to give them an improved chance of making it two wins out of two.
Prediction: Palace should normally win this fixture, but with their absent players, new manager, and a buzzing Brentford, I expect an open game where anything can happen.
Leeds (20th) vs Everton (5th), Elland Road 3.00 pm
Bielsa’s Leeds United experienced an opening day humbling at the hands of Man United, where the Red Devils ran riot in a 5-1 win. Midfielders Fernandes and Pogba played a starring role scoring a hatrick and providing four assists respectively. Leeds penchant for open, attacking play played a role in their heavy defeat against a Man United who exploited the spaces left by an attacking Leeds.
But knowing Bielsa, he is sure to continue with his expansive style when Everton travel to Elland Road, with the Argentine expecting a tough clash against Everton.
Following his shock Everton move, Rafa Benitez has hit the ground running, guiding Everton to an impressive 3-1 win over Southampton. Despite the absence of creative midfielder James Rodriguez, Brazilian forward Richarlison has continued his impressive summer form, scoring and assisting in the 3-1 win over the Saints.
Benitez’s compact and disciplined set-up could easily nullify the attacking threat posed by Leeds, as recognised by Bielsa.
“Benítez has been successful because he puts together compact teams and always gets the maximum from his players. His teams are always hard to beat,” said Bielsa
Prediction: A win or draw for Everton, who are more tactically disciplined and have a better squad. A possible Richarlison masterclass?
Man City (13th) vs Norwich (19th), Etihad Stadium 3.00 pm
Guardiola’s City are fully focused on banishing memories of their opening 1-0 defeat to Tottenham as they welcome newly-promoted Norwich to the Etihad. The Cityzens will be looking to inflict a resounding defeat on the Canaries to ensure its normal service resumes.
Boasting a squad full of experienced quality attackers, City should have no excuse putting Norwich to the sword when they visit, with all eyes on record signing Jack Grealish, who failed to have an impact on his team in the 1-0 defeat to Spurs. Phil Foden remains the only absentee through injury.
Norwich’s last visit to the Etihad resulted in a 5-0 defeat in July 2020, and this visit should produce a similar result. Norwich’s attacking style means they can foment trouble for City’s backline, but the Canaries lack the overall quality to grab all three points at the Etihad, bar a very unlikely upset.
Prediction: High scoring Man City win, no doubt.
Brighton (8th) vs Watford (7th), AMEX Community Stadium 5.30 pm
Brighton welcome Watford to the South coast, as they seek to maintain their winning start after an impressive win away at Burnley. They have been unbeaten in their last five home games, and with the return of fans, a packed AMEX stadium could help boost the confidence needed to maintain a winning start.
But the Seagulls will be wary of Watford who had a flying start in their 3-2 win over Aston Villa in the opening weekend.
The Hornets recorded a fantastic win against Villa, with African forwards Emmanuel Dennis and Ismaila Sarr running riot on opening day. Both players will need to be at their sharpest if Watford are aiming for three points.
Prediction: Watford are strong in attack, but a shaky defence could be their undoing against a more measured Brighton who are strong at home. A win or draw for Watford looks probable.