Eight talking points ahead of the Premier League weekend

After the final international break of the calendar, it’s full steam ahead for Premier League action until the turn of the new year.

Once again, preview the Premier League’s weekend fixtures and discuss some of the division’s major talking points.

Eight talking points ahead of the Premier League weekend:

A rivalry rekindled?

Manchester City against Liverpool has been the best rivalry in the Premier League in recent seasons, with some titanic tussles between the two. Liverpool’s disappointing campaign saw some suggest the Reds were on the decline under Jurgen Klopp, but an overhaul last summer has reignited their fortunes.

City and Liverpool meet at the Etihad this weekend sat first and second in the table, with just one point separating the two teams. Pep Guardiola’s side are chasing a 24th consecutive home win and will start as favourites, against a Liverpool team who have failed to convince on the road. Klopp has failed to win a Premier League game at Manchester City since his first visit to the ground in 2015.

Erling Haaland’s battle with Virgil van Dijk will be a central narrative to the contest. The former is one goal from 50 in the Premier League and will become the fastest player in the division’s history (by some distance) to bring up a half century if he scores. Van Dijk, however, looks back to his imperious best. The Dutch defender leads the Premier League for percentage of duels won (80.5%) this season and is yet to be dribbled past.

Grab the popcorn.

Promoted trio have hope again

Things have been tough for the promoted sides this season, with Burnley, Sheffield United and Luton having each struggled with the step up into the top tier.

The trio appeared in danger of being cut adrift at the bottom of the Premier League table after Bournemouth’s win last weekend, but Everton’s 10-point penalty has provided each with hope once more.

Luton were the big beneficiaries after moving out of the relegation places as a result, with just five points now separating the bottom five clubs. Each face home games this weekend that their managers will be targeting points from, as Burnley host West Ham, Luton entertain Crystal Palace and Sheffield United welcome Bournemouth to Bramall Lane.

A positive result this weekend, coupled with events at Everton, could drastically transform the outlook at each side.

Newcastle record faces test against a Chelsea side clicking

Newcastle take on Chelsea in the Premier League this weekend looking to maintain a strong recent run at St James’ Park. The Magpies have won four consecutive games on home soil, failing to concede a single goal, but this week meet a Chelsea side in free-scoring form.

The west Londoners have scored 14 goals in their last five league games, having netted just seven times in their opening seven. Nicolas Jackson has found form with four goals in two games, improving from the wastefulness (albeit with some glaring misses before his hat-trick against Spurs) of his early season form.

Cole Palmer will return buoyed from his first appearances in an England shirt, having combined well with Jackson and Raheem Sterling so far this season. There could also be a long-awaited debut for Christopher Nkunku, yet to appear after his £52m arrival from RB Leipzig after a pre-season injury.

Ramsdale must take Brentford chance

No matter how Mikel Arteta attempts to paint the picture around signing David Raya, what has been clear so far this season is that the summer arrival is the first-choice of Arsenal’s ‘two number ones’.

Aaron Ramsdale has not featured in the Premier League since the opening weekend of September, while the England international is yet to make a Champions League appearance this season. Ramsdale will return to the side this weekend however, with Raya ineligible to face Brentford having joined Arsenal on an initial loan to combat FFP rulings.

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Ramsdale impressed as Arsenal won at Brentford in the EFL Cup earlier this season, making a superb save from Yoanne Wissa as the Gunners claimed a narrow win in west London. He’ll need another solid showing this time around if he is to stake a claim for regular football, against a Brentford team who will be keen to pile the pressure on.

Some unhelpful podcast comments and interference from family has done little to aid Ramsdale’s return to favour. Now, he has the chance to impress.

Awoyini absence a big blow for Forest

Steve Cooper has confirmed that Nottingham Forest will be without Taiwo Awoniyi for an extended period, with the Nigerian set to be out ‘for months’ after aggravating a groin issue on international duty.

Awoyini has become a talismanic figure for Forest and had scored 10 goals in his last 14 games in the Premier League, while he has averaged a goal involvement every 123 minutes since joining the club.

Only Stan Collymore (119 minutes) can better that record for Forest in the Premier League and the 26-year-old will be a big absence, both for this weekend’s clash with Brighton and the coming months.

Konsa can send Southgate statement

Ezri Konsa’s England call-up felt like fair recognition for his consistent performances at Aston Villa, where the central defender has been a prominent part of the club’s ascent under Unai Emery.

Konsa’s cool and the defender’s distribution have propelled him into international contention, but Southgate opted against giving the 26-year-old a maiden England cap this month. Despite clashes with Malta and North Macedonia essentially serving as dead-rubbers for a Three Lions side already assured of their place at Euro 2024, Konsa watched on from the sidelines in both games.

The centre-back will be keen to send the England manager a statement this weekend, as Villa travel to face Spurs with both teams in European contention. Villa are just three points behind leaders Manchester City and chasing Champions League football.

Expect an Evertonian bear pit

Hell hath no fury like a woman football fanbase scorned.

Manchester United better prepare themselves for a ferocious atmosphere at Everton this weekend, with the Toffees still reeling from the Premier League’s 10-point deduction for breaching profit and sustainability rules. Everton slammed the sanction as ‘wholly disproportionate’ and ‘unjust’, one which has seen Sean Dyche’s side drop into the Premier League’s relegation places.

Everton remain just two points from safety, such has been the standard at the bottom this season, and the club’s sense of injustice – coupled with recent improvement under Dyche – might just unify a club that has long been in disarray and make Goodison Park one of the most challenging venues to visit this season.

Manchester United have won consecutive away games at Burnley, Sheffield United and Fulham, but have failed to convince during that run. The Red Devils must brace for a blue backlash, if Ten Hag’s team are to continue their recent momentum.

Investment needed at ageing Fulham

Fulham find themselves in danger of being dragged into the dogfight, with a four-game winless run having left the Cottagers just above the five-team relegation battle forming beneath them.

Marco Silva’s side have struggled for goals following the summer sale of Aleksandar Mitrovic, with summer recruit Raul Jimenez – who will face former club Wolves on Monday – having failed to fill that void. The Mexican has scored just one Premier League goal in 26 games since the start of last season and younger, fresher, options are required in the final third.

The west Londoners have been linked with exciting options with reports of interest in Fluminense midfielder Andrea and Wolfsburg forward Jonas Wind. Each would provide Fulham with a real injection of quality with the current side in danger of stagnating. Silva will hope he can keep the club clear of trouble until badly needed reinforcements arrive in January.

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