Friday, September 10, 2021

Premier League Preview Match Week 4: Brazilian Players a Question Mark; Ronaldo Returns; Gunners and Canaries in Relegation Battle; Foxes Lie in Wait for Manchester City; Undermanned Spurs face Clawless Eagles

The Premier League returns to action this weekend following a contentious international break where international federations and domestic leagues crossed swords over the availability of players to compete internationally amid COVID related quarantine restrictions. Brazil has enlisted a FIFA ban barring several Premier League players from this weekend’s action. The action was taken after the clubs refused to release their players for international duty due to the impact of COVID quarantine requirements. The Premier League is still in discussion with Brazil and FIFA to potentially lift the ban before tomorrow’s matches. Meanwhile, players who did participate for their South American countries will miss weekend league matches as they quarantine upon their return.
One noteworthy player who is fully available to play this weekend is Cristiano Ronaldo, who is poised to make his first Premier League appearance in twelve years when Manchester United hosts Newcastle.Ronaldo scored in his last appearance at Old Trafford during a 2008/09 derby match versus Manchester City. Ronaldo subsequently scored 392 goals in 390 league matches in Spain and Italy before his Saturday return to English competition. Manchester United have lost only once in their past 36 home matches versus Newcastle which last won at Old Trafford in 2013. The winless Magpies will be without striker Callum Wilson as they could play Christians to the Lions this weekend. Manager Steve Bruce will likely employ a passive low block defense to try to even the mismatch, a strategy which is sure to anger the already restless Toon Army.

Selhurst Park will be the venue as Crystal Palace hosts league leader Tottenham Hotspur in what will be a fourth consecutive London derby for Crystal Palace. The Eagles have the fewest shots and shots on target of any Premier League side this season as forwards Christian Benteke and Jordan Ayew offer very little in attack and Wilfried Zaha is off to an indifferent start. Palace desperately needs goals from recent transfer addition Odsonne Edouard, and the French striker could be available for an appearance on Saturday. Spurs will be undermanned as Giovani Lo Celso, Cristian Romero and Davinson Sanchez are following COVID quarantine protocol after appearing for their South American clubs during the break. Son Heung-min picked up a calf injury while on duty with South Korea and could also be a doubt for the match. Steven Bergwijn and Oliver Skipp will also be match day decisions after picking up knocks on international duty. Spurs are trying to become the fifth club in English topflight history to open a season undefeated and unscored upon in four matches. While scoring just once in each of their three league wins this season, Spurs have scored in 18 consecutive league matches, the longest current streak of any Premier League club.

Leicester lies in wait for what could be an undermanned Manchester City side as the Foxes look to win for a third time in their last four matches against the Citizens. Leicester most recently defeated Manchester City in August’s Community Shield. Goalkeeper Ederson and right-wing attacker Gabriel Jesus are Brazilian players who will potentially miss the match for Pep Guardiola’s men. Backup goalkeeper Zach Steffen is already out with COVID so Guardiola could need to start 36-year-old Scott Carson in goal. While Gabriel Jesus would also be missed, Ferran Torres has been leading the City attack with seven goals in his last nine league appearances. Jamie Vardy could be excused for looking forward to Guardiola’s visit to King Power as the Leicester striker has eight goals in 10 Premier League meetings with the manager’s Manchester City teams, making him the leading topflight scorer versus the Catalan.

Arsenal travel to Norwich for a relegation battle between the league’s current bottom two teams as the Gunners hope to avoid opening the season with four consecutive losses for the first time since the 1923/24 season. The Gunners, however, could see the return to action of Thomas Partey, Ben White, and Gabriel Magalhaes to help bolster their defense. Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, meanwhile, scored a brace in each of his two matches against the Canaries who have lost their last 13 matches in Premier League competition.

Chelsea looks to remain unbeaten when it hosts Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea could be without Thiago Silva, suspended by FIFA for not participating in Brazil’s matches this break, and Christian Pulisic who injured his ankle playing for the United States as the American star’s poor luck continues. Reece James, meanwhile, is suspended for his actions during the Liverpool match and N’Golo Kante remains sidelined with injury. Aston Villa’s Emi Martinez will miss his first league match since joining the club as he and fellow Argentine midfielder Emi Buendia observe quarantine rules. In more positive news for Villa fans, the club could potentially start strikers Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings together for the first time this season. Ings’s transfer from Southampton to Aston Villa has not interrupted a run of form which has seen him score six goals and assist on two others in his last nine Premier league starts. Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku will surprisingly be seeking his first ever goal at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea looks to make it 16 wins in their last 17 home contests versus Aston Villa.

Unbeaten Liverpool faces Leeds at Elland Road where Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites have not lost in their last seven league matches. The Reds could be without Brazilian players Alisson, Fabinho, and Firmino as they try to stay undefeated on the season. Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah currently has 99 Premier League goals, and a goal Sunday would make him the fifth fastest player to achieve the century mark. Patrick Bamford remains the main man for Leeds as the striker has four goals and an assist in his last seven league matches.
Undefeated Brentford returns home to face Brighton. The Bees created a lot of buzz when they opened the season at Brentford Community Stadium with a win over Arsenal before staying unbeaten with two road draws. Brentford has lost only 3 of the thirty matches played at its relatively new and quite noisy stadium. Brentford and Brighton face each other for the first time in a topflight league match after previously having faced each other in each of England’s lower three divisions. Brentford can become only the second Premier League club, after Portsmouth, to go unbeaten in its first four league matches. Despite Ivan Toney scoring the most goals in English football since the 2019/20 season, the Bees’ six goals in all competitions this season have been scored by six different players. Brighton started the season brightly with two victories before falling at home to Everton in their last match before the break.

Southampton welcomes West Ham to the south coast. Many believed Southampton had raised the white flag on this season when Danny Ings and Jannik Vestergaard departed in the transfer window, but the Saints have revived hope with a point in each of their last two matches. New striker Adam Armstrong has looked lively and young right back Valentino Livramento has proved a positive squad addition. The Saints return to St. Mary’s having lost only one of their last six home matches. Unfortunately for the Saints, West Ham have emerged with six wins and a draw in their last seven meeting with the Saints and manager David Moyes will be looking for a response from his Hammers who were caught off guard by a draw with Crystal Palace in their last match. West Ham striker Michail Antonio, meanwhile, enters the match with a chance to become the first Premier League player to register a goal and an assist in four consecutive matches.

Wolves have yet to score a goal or capture a point in the young Premier League season as new manager Bruno Lage leads his pack to Watford this weekend. Despite not finding the net, Wolves have taken the third most shots in the Premier League this season. Wolves will be hoping to avoid losing their opening four league fixtures for the first time in club history. Watford, which began this season with a 4-2 opening win at Vicarage Road over Aston Villa, have won 10 consecutive home matches in a run begun in the Championship last season.

Everton’s Dominic Calvert Lewin will try to match his feat of last season by scoring in each of Everton’s first four matches to open the season when the Toffees host Burnley this weekend. Everton’s seven goals this season are joint second in the league and as many as they scored in their last 10 matches of last season. Burnley, meanwhile, have scored but two goals so far this season after scoring fewer goals last season than any returning Premier League team. The Clarets, however, have won on two of their last four league visits to Goodison Park.

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