Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Week 3 Preview: High Stakes At Old Trafford; Gunners Target Third Straight Win; Hammers Look To Make A Point; Undefeated Fulham and Brentford in London Derby

Manchester United and Liverpool both enter the weekend under pressure. Manchester United limps back to Old Trafford to face their historic rival smarting from two embarrassing performances in their first two matches. Another bad loss could threaten the job security of Manager Eric ten Hag who has failed to make a positive first impression as the clubs sinks further into chaos and dysfunction. Liverpool, fearing Manchester City will pull too far ahead in the title race, cannot afford to drop points for a third consecutive week and will look to ramp up the pressure on the Red Devils. Darwin Nunez is out for the Reds due to his red card against Crystal Palace Monday, but Luis Diaz is in form after a wonder goal to salvage the point versus the Eagles. Signs of life from Mohamed Salah would also help the Reds’ cause. Ronaldo would still seem the only viable attack option for Manchester United but of course he wants to leave, an option that the club now seems amenable to if a buyer can be found.

The Manchester City title train travels to Newcastle after outscoring opponents by an aggregate 6-0 margin in the Citizens’ first two victories. Manager Eddie Howe’s Newcastle will try to absorb pressure and look to counterpunch in front of their home fans. The Magpies, still undefeated after two matches, could use reinforcement in attack before this window closes.

Arsenal hopes to keep firing after two impressive victories when the Gunners visit promoted Bournemouth. Manager Mikel Arteta’s attack is much improved with acquired striker Gabriel Jesus and fellow Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli leading the charge. Bournemouth surprised Aston Villa opening week before being demolished by Manchester City.

West Ham will seek its first points of the season when the Hammers host Brighton at London Stadium. Manager David Moyes has moved to add attack options in transfer additions Maxwel Cornet and Gianluca Scamacca, but now finds himself dangerously thin at center back. Kurt Zouma was the only healthy center back last weekend, forcing fullback Ben Johnson to the center of the back four where he was culpable for Nottingham Forest’s winning goal. Brighton has racked up four points this season despite having sold off several players and doing little to ignite a lethargic attack. Manager Graham Potter continues to work seeming magic with his low budget Seagulls.

Leeds squandered points in surrendering a two-goal lead to Southampton last week and now sees a step up in competition when Chelsea visits Elland Road. Chelsea Manager Thomas Tuchel is likely sidelined due to the red card received for his interaction with Antonio Conte. Chelsea will also have a hole in its midfield this week, and likely many more to come, as Ngolo Kante is out for an extended time with a hamstring injury suffered against Spurs. Despite dropping points at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea looked improved after an ugly opening win over struggling Everton. The Blues, however, have not gotten a goal yet in open play from any forward or midfield player. Leeds will be closely monitoring the fitness of oft-injured striker Patrick Bamford who had to be removed due to a muscle strain in the Whites’ draw last week with Wolves.

Tottenham Hotspur Manager Antonio Conte faces a one match suspension which could idle him for Spurs’ match with Wolverhampton on Saturday. Wolves Manager Bruno Lage could soon come under pressure as the club can play pretty football at times but remains toothless in attack. The multiple attacking options of Spurs is a marked contrast to their opponents. Antonio Conte switched up his formation for the second half versus Chelsea to accommodate Richarlison’s insertion into the fray and the former Everton player could be in line for a start this week. Fellow transfers Ivan Perisic and Yves Bissouma were also second half substitutes in the draw versus Chelsea.

Leicester hopes for a better performance from its defense this weekend when the Foxes host Southampton. Manager Brendan Rodgers’ side fumbled a two-goal lead in an opening draw with Brentford before conceding four goals to Arsenal last week. Only their Saturday opponent, Southampton, and wretched Manchester United have given up as many goals in the young season as Leicester. Southampton showed a spark of life in coming back from a two-goal deficit to draw with Leeds in their last match and relieve pressure on embattled Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl. Both Rodgers and Hasenhuttl, however, could do well with three points this weekend.

An interesting London derby will be played at Craven Cottage Saturday when Fulham host Brentford. Neither club has tasted defeat yet this season. Fulham should have had three points last week but for a missed penalty kick by striker Aleksandar Mitrovic. Brentford come off an annihilation of Manchester United and the Bees should be buzzing after their big victory. Fulham needs a bounce back game from Mitrovic in front of the home fans.

One week after defeating Frank Lampard and Everton, Aston Villa Manager Steven Gerrard faces another former playing legend on the opposite touchline when the Villans travel to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace and Manager Patrick Vieira. Vieira’s Eagles executed his defensive blueprint to perfection in grabbing a point at Anfield and will likely pivot to a more aggressive attack mode at home. Villa’s Emi Buendia gives Manager Gerrard an awkward selection decision after the winger scored and was overall far more effective than the substituted Philippe Coutinho last week.

Everton is home to Nottingham Forest hoping for inspiration from the Goodison faithful. Goals have been scarce for the Toffees after Richarlison left for Spurs and Dominic Calvert-Lewin continues to be perpetually injured. Nottingham Forest, meanwhile, have demonstrated serious intent in the current transfer window as they are approaching 20 new signings to help ensure their survival in the top division. While the mass acquisition strategy is not always successful, Forest already began reaping benefits from new signings in their win over West Ham.

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