With last week’s opening weekend now in the history books, there is very little time to relax as another set of Premier League fixtures just around the corner. The weekend’s action now starts even earlier this season with the advent of Friday night football, and tonight sees Manchester United playing host to Southampton at Old Trafford.
The Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Liverpool all got off to victorious starts but it wasn’t good news for the two north London teams as Tottenham were held by Everton, whilst Arsenal showed their soul in microcosm after their 4-3 defeat to Jurgen Klopp’s side on Sunday afternoon.
That Arsenal defeat was undoubtedly the biggest talking point of last week but we’re going to take a look at what’s set to create the headlines once matchday two of the 2016/17 Premier League season is finished.
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After a long and almost never-ending transfer saga regarding Paul Pogba, we were all ready for his debut last Sunday away at Bournemouth but almost everyone overlooked the fact that he was still set to carry out a suspension for his misdemeanours back in Italy. United went on to win comfortably on the south coast without Pogba and what that means is that the player who left Manchester back in 2012 will now make his Premier League return at Old Trafford.
With Pogba joining the club for £89m there is going to be a huge weight of expectation on the Frenchman’s shoulders not just in this game but over the course of the season. You get the feeling that short of getting a hat-trick on his first game back at United that his performance won’t quite live up to the hype.
Not all eyes will be on Pogba though, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic also makes his Old Trafford bow, it’s now 2 in 2 matches for the mercurial Swede as he got United’s third on Sunday as they cruised past a Bournemouth side that were outclassed in every department.
With Southampton fresh off their opening day win, they will expect to put up more of a fight. But this is also Jose Mourinho’s first game in charge of United, and he will want nothing more than a win to endear himself to the Red Devils’ fans. With the way they’ve been playing both at Wembley and in Bournemouth then you would imagine they will make it three wins from three.
Premier League champions Leicester City play host to last season’s runners-up Arsenal, and both are coming off the back of opening weekend defeats. Leicester were victims of the biggest upset of last weekend as they lost to crisis club Hull, while Arsenal’s patched-up defence capitulated at home to Liverpool.
The pressure is already on Arsene Wenger to deliver and with no new faces entering the Emirates this week he will once again have to make do with a depleted side. He should be able to welcome back Laurent Koscielny after not deciding to recall him for their opener, but that seems to be the only glimmer of hope in terms of Arsenal’s long injury list.
That list has got even longer now that Aaron Ramsey has been ruled out for a month and Arsenal are going to have their work cut out if they are to get off the mark this season. Last season they got the better of the Foxes at the King Power with a 5-2 win, it’s incredibly wishful thinking to think that will happen again.
For Leicester, they will look forward to playing a more expansive side, as last Saturday Hull stifled them by sitting back and foiling their counter attacking tactic that was so succesful in their title winning season. Jamie Vardy missed a hatful of chances but how he would love to put one past the side he turned down in the summer.
Ex-Tottenham man Andros Townsend returns to White Hart Lane on Saturday afternoon but this time it will be in the colours of Crystal Palace as Alan Pardew brings his men over from the short trip from South London for what is always an entertaining London derby.
Palace have lost two players this week in Yannick Bolasie and Mile Jedinak and are still looking for a new striker to boost their ranks, so optimism will not be particularly high in both the Palace camp and with their fans. But what better way to allay those fears than by repeating their F.A. Cup win of last season when Martin Kelly’s solitary strike dumped Spurs out the cup.
Townsend’s time at North London was up once he had a row with fitness coach Nathan Gardiner during a post-match cool down last season. The move to Palace has come via a short stint at Newcastle where despite his best efforts he couldn’t manage to beat the drop. How he would love to settle old rivalries by getting on the scoresheet on Saturday.
For Tottenham they had to make do with just a point at Goodison Park on Saturday and on balance that was probably the fair result. It wasn’t quite the start that Mauricio Pochettino wanted after such a dismal ending last season but a win for them in front of their own fans will go some way to eradicating those memories.
They may have already had a glamour friendly and a Europa League qualifer at the Olympic Stadium but this Sunday sees Premier League action finally come to West Ham’s new home as they play host to Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth. Both sides tested defeat over the opening weekend and naturally both sides will be looking to bounce back.
It’s not quite the 60,000 sell out that West Ham were expecting as Newham Council have only allowed them 57,000 seats due to licensing infringements from their first two games at the stadium but that doesn’t mean the atmosphere will be any less partisan.
A feisty London derby on Monday saw them fall to Chelsea courtesy of a last minute goal from Diego Costa. Though Slaven Bilic’s men would have certainly been aggrieved as Costa could very well have been sent off for his tackle on Adrian. They thought they had come away with a well-earned point thanks to James Collins’ equaliser but the Spanish international Costa had the final say and consign The Hammers to defeat.
As for their opponents Bournemouth, they offered very little at home to Manchester United on Sunday and Eddie Howe will have to get more out of his men for this trip to east London. Last season saw Bournemouth pick up their first ever Premier League win when they got the better of a seven goal thriller at Upton Park, how they would love to spoil the party once again on Sunday.
Pep Guardiola takes his Manchester City side to Stoke fresh off their 5 star performance in Bucharest on Tuesday. He may have passed that test with flying colours but can he clear the hurdle of his first Premier League away game?
And there aren’t much harder places to go than Stoke. Last season Mark Hughes masterminded a stunning 3-1 win at what was then known as the Britannia Stadium – it’s now the Bet 365 Stadium – and they would love nothing more than to repeat that feat and hand Guardiola his first ever defeat in English football.
For City they travel to the Britannia off the back of an opening day win at home to Sunderland although they didn’t quite breeze past David Moyes side as they had Paddy McNair to put through his own net just three minutes from time. But in fairness, they should have the game wrapped up well before Jermain Defoe managed to pull the Black Cats level.
City looked mesmerising on Tuesday but dodgy defending from Steaua Bucharest certainly helped them as they put five past the Romanians. You can’t see Stoke giving them the same level of freedom, and City will have their work cut out if they are to come away with all three points.
With Newcastle’s relegation to the Championship, Sunderland will have to make do with not playing their arch rivals for at least a season. Thankfully for them, Middlesbrough are able to step into the breach and give us our first North-East derby of this campaign.
A new-look Middlesbrough were held by Stoke on the opening day but manager Aitor Karanka will have been pleased that new boy and Premier League returnee Alvardo Negredo hasn’t forgotten where the net is. It was his strike that put ‘Boro ahead before Xhedran Shaqiri gave Stoke a share of the points.
Hosts Sunderland will feel hard done by that they didn’t come away with at least a point from their trip to The Etihad on Saturday. That said, the performance would have given David Moyes a lot to take from and certainly something to build on as he looks to keep Sunderland in the top flight.
This game is always action packed and given that the last Premier League encounter between the two sides was in 2009, a return is very much overdue.
If you have said that both these sides would have picked up opening day win before Saturday then you would have probably been viewed as someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about. With Hull having to play host to defending champions Leicester and Swansea having somewhat of a firesale in south Wales this summer it would have taken a brave man to bet on those two sides recording victories.
But come five o’clock last Saturday, that bravery would have been rewarded as Hull got the better of Leicester, whilst Swansea picked up a win at Turf Moor thanks to a late Leroy Fer strike. The question now is whether or not either of these sides can continue their 100% start to the season.
It may be a bit too early and almost cliches to talk about six pointers, but these are the kind of games that both teams will look on as must win. Not only that but six points on the board early on will give that side a huge boost of confidence going in to what is set to be a very tough season. We may only be in the second game of the season but there’s no underestimating how big this game could be.