The Weekend Preview : Gameweek 4

Welcome to our weekly series where we, the staff at GCR, preview the upcoming football fixtures and discuss the major talking talking points.

What players should readers keep an eye on?

Reginald : The London teams were pretty busy with deadline transfers. I believe David Luiz and Mustafi will slot right into the starting line ups of their respective teams. The majority of Chelsea fans appear to be ecstatic having Luiz back, and to be fair to them, there aren’t that many defenders who love to attack. It will be interesting to see if he is disciplined enough to fit in Conte’s system because whiles his marauding runs made for good viewing during his first stint at Stamford bridge, he left gaps at the back which opposition teams targeted and exploited.

Over at the Emirates, Wenger faces a much easier decision. Having his experienced centre-backs other than Koscielny out due to injuries means Mustafi should slot right next to to the French defender. Switching attention to Arsenal’s North London neighbours, Moussa Sissoko could make his debut for Spurs. With Dembele due to return from suspension after this weekend, he would be hoping for an impressive performance to make a case for him to remain in the starting XI.

With regards to the Manchester derby, should be interesting if Rashford is given the nod to start as Ibrahimovic’s strike partner, or maybe even out wide. He is brimming with confidence after his last minute winner two weeks ago and his debut hat-trick in midweek.

Donald : I initially had a long discussion written for Loic Remy and Benteke as I was excited about both playing together. Both are proven Premier League strikers and their attributes compliment each other — and had Remy not suffered an injury set-back, we would have had the chance to watch the early makings of what could go on to be one of the league’s best striking duo come the end of the season.

Another player to pay attention to is the Palace striker’s compatriot who is ahead of him in the pecking order for the Belgium national football team, and that is Romelu Lukaku. He scored twice for Belgium during the mid-week and looks like he is raring to go for Everton after an indifferent start to the season.

GCR has big expectations for the Everton frontman this weekend

Cyril : One player I will be paying close attention to this weekend is Christian Eriksen. He finally put pen to paper to a spanking brand new contract that keeps him at the White Hart lane until 2020. Pochettino has suggested the contract speculations might have possibly been a source of distraction for his Danish midfielder, and is perhaps to blame for his sluggish start to the season. His coach will be hoping his midfield architect will quickly find his form as he will be instrumental in helping the Spurs return to winning ways against Stoke.

From one London midfielder to another whose team visibly lacks his presence in the starting XI when he is omitted, Dimitri Payet. One of the best performers of last season and the Euros, it was understandable that the club wanted to ensure he did not risk a burn-out by monitoring his minutes. As a result, he has only played 23 minutes of Premier League football, coming on as a substitute West Ham’s away loss to Chelsea. He featured for France during the international break, and fans will be hoping his manager, Slaven Bilic will start him this weekend. West Ham look a different side without him pulling the strings and if they are to achieve the lofty expectations fans, the press and they themselves have set for this season then the first step is to have Payet in the starting lineup.

What are the must watch games this weekend?

Donald : Obviously the Manchester derby. Biggest game of the season so far for many reasons. Two of the best managers in world football and the most expensive squads in the league. Agüero missing out is a shame but with the players available for selection means this could still be a thriller. I however suspect that because of the history between the two managers, neither one would not want to lose to the other this early. There’s not only professional pride at stake but a loss leaves the loser 3pts behind.

The other must-watch game for me is Liverpool at home to the defending champions, Leicester City. Both managers set up their teams to attack and in a game that features Vardy, Mahrez, Firmino and Sturridge, I reckon there may be a lot of goals in this one.

Cyril : Similar to Donald, high up my list is the Manchester derby. It is Red vs. Blue , Pep vs. José, Zlatan ‘I win a league title everywhere I go’ ibrahimovic vs. John ‘I am pretty good with the ball at my feet’ Stones… I could go on. José’s preference for sitting deep and absorbing the pressure in big games vs. Pep’s penchant for attempting to flood the opposition box with as many attacking players as possible should make for an interesting clash of style. Will the unstoppable force that is City’s Agüero-less attack be enough to crack José’s immovable United? We will find out the answer to that soon enough.

Is it too early to start talking about the title race? Because Chelsea could very well sit on top of the table by the end of the weekend should both Manchester clubs share the spoils of war. Hazard looks to have rediscovered his title-winning season form and if that isn’t interesting enough for you dear readers, how about the return of David Luiz? This weekend gives us a chance to see how much of the kinks Luiz has ironed out of his game when he makes his 2nd debut for Chelsea against the Swans. Chelsea fans would be hoping that the saying, defenders age better as they gain more experience rings true. For rival fans and i suspect most neutrals, they would be hoping he still plays like he is controlled by a 10 year old on a PlayStation. Conte has his work cut out for him but nothing less than an away win and a clean sheet will represent a good weekend for Chelsea fans.

With all attention on the Manchester Derby, can Hazard lead his team to the top of the table?

Reginald : A certain derby up in the northwest of England makes it to my list, no big deal. Guardiola was incredibly successful against Mourinho when they were both in the same league. They faced each other 16 times with the former Barcelona player winning seven, losing three and drawing the remaining games. Whether we will see history repeat itself remains to be seen. And let’s be honest, even Wenger stood a chance of beating José with that Barca team. It should be an early afternoon classic for both fans and neutrals.

Leicester vs. Liverpool promises to be another tasty affair. Both teams have had sluggish starts so far and should be raring to have a go at each other. Leicester also have the little (I shouldn’t even bother bringing it up) issue of having one eye on their midweek debut in the Champions League whilst the Merseyside club has no such European concerns.

Any interesting match-ups happening this weekend?

Cyril : It’s all about the derby guys!!! I’ve got one eye on how the City defence deals with the threat of Ibrahimovic. Kompany is yet to play a competitive match in the league this season so unless he is a surprise inclusion to the City matchday squad, it is looking like Stones and Otamendi will have their hands full on Saturday. City are yet to keep a clean sheet this season and will rely heavily on Fernandinho to keep the big, determined Swede at bay.

At the other end of the pitch, Eric Bailly is certain to continue his defensive partnership with Blind as the stalwarts of the United defence. Without a doubt, Agüero’s suspension affords them some breathing room but with fleet-footed wingers, skillful midfielders, Nolito and Iheanacho available to lead the attack, don’t be surprised to see the United CB pairing endure their most demanding and tasking game of the season so far.

Whoever walks away the victor on Saturday will have their defence to thank.

Reginald : The tactical matchup in the Manchester Derby promises to be intriguing. Zlatan already sent a message to Claudio Bravo. Safe to say he won’t have the easiest of debuts at Old Trafford. Staying with the visiting team, will Pep also go with a back three seeing as Otamendi and Zabaleta return late from nation team duties with Argentina? And then there is the small issue of Agüero’s ban. This might force Pep to unleash the famous “false 9” formation he used to devastating effect when he was at Barcelona, whilst fielding possibly 7 midfielders! I expect Jose to stick to what’s worked for him over the years and rely on a pacy midfield to counter when possible.

The Swede has his targets firmly locked on City’s new goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo

Donald : Well the major one for me is obviously Pep vs Mourinho which we have discussed to death already. As Reginald pointed out, the Spaniard has been more successful when they’ve crossed paths. So Mourinho would surely approach this game with a score to settle in mind. Another interesting matchup to look out for is Burnley vs Hull. Both promoted teams would see this as an even contest and an opportunity to get ahead of the other since they both would most likely be fighting for survival. Hull have defied everyone’s expectations that they would be the league’s new whipping boys. Their current 5th placed standing in the league makes a mockery of those early season predictions. Curtis Davies’ heroics against United was not enough to secure a point but he has a chance to help his team walk away with points on the table when he faces the Clarets forward, Andre Gray who himself is lucky not to be suspended for this game. Given that his chances of escaping suspension next weekend are low, look to him to do his best to go out in style.

Eyes on the touchline — which manager[s] to watch?

Donald : It would be interesting to see if Klopp persists with Milner at left back or puts faith in Moreno. Milner’s trial at left back last week was unsuccessful in my opinion so I’d imagine he has spent the time working with Moreno on his defensive responsibilities. Against the current PFA Player’s Player of the year, it is probably a good idea to play a natural left back and not a makeshift one.

Antonio Conte favored a system of three centre backs at Juventus and during his tenure as the Italian national team coach. I felt the David Luiz and Marcos Alonso signings were a signal he is planning on doing the same at Chelsea. It would be interesting to see whether he tests that formation against Swansea or if continues with the back four he has played so far this season.

Mark Hughes has finally got in a proven striker in Bony. I have personally been looking forward to this because I was a huge fan of the Ivorian at Swansea. He was being wasted on the City bench after finding it impossible to nail down a starting XI spot and falling behind Iheanacho in the pecking order. The challenge Hughes faces is to coax the world class performances that the Ivorian displayed that convinced City to part away with £28M for his signature.

Cyril : Palace fans would hoping that Remy’s unfortunate injury setback doesn’t see Pardew revert back to a 4–4–1–1 formation which he debuted in the 1–1 draw at home to Bournemouth in the last round of games. The decision to start Connor Wickham behind Benteke left many scratching their heads and that experiment went about as well as you’d expect. Pardiola has had an extra week to tweak his formation and against newly promoted Middlesbrough, the away fans are hoping to record their first win of the campaign.

For Baggies who feel their club has cemented her position as a permanent fixture in the league, ambition makes for an uncomfortable bedfellow. On one hand, fans are assured that under the guidance of Tony Pulis, they will survive by hitting the magical 40+ points needed to avoid relegation. But the fans have started to want more, demand more, asking for the manager to show ambition. A mid-table finish, a cup run, a more expansive style of play, something other than finishing just above the relegation zone. WBA’s transfers have done little to assuage the fans fears — and with Berahino still out in the cold, there are murmurs that even the acquisition of former Spurs wideman, Nacer Chadli won’t be enough to lead the attacking revolution fans are demanding at The Hawthorns. Personally, I don’t see Pulis playing any differently, West Brom’s owners knew what they were getting with him. A rigid defence and premier league survival. His playing style is not pretty, it is definitely not sexy but it does exactly what it says on the tin.

Does WBA have to get rid of Pulis to show ambition?

Reginald :
It is still early days but Ranieri would definitely not want to lose any more ground on the trio of league leaders. The Italian has in his disarming fashion, played down his team’s chances of defending the league title but make no mistake, that remains very much his target this season. With a tricky fixture at Anfield and an away game in Belgium on Wednesday, it will be interesting to see which game he prioritizes.

Rumours have been ripe this international break of Eddie Howe possibly replacing Wenger at the Emirates. He might want to concentrate on getting Bournemouth firing and grabbing their first win if that rumour is to ever come true. It will be interesting to see how he uses Jack Wilshere. Playing Wilshere in an advanced role could see him link up with his academy mate, and close friend Benik Afobe. His tenacity, dribbling skills and ability to unlock defences should come in handy for the Cherries. Should Howe guide Wilshere in fulfilling his potential at Bournemouth, the claims for him to replace Wenger won’t seem as far fetched as they do now.

Which player do you think will spend their Friday night pre-ordering the iPhone 7?

Donald : I guess Loic Remy is going to be spending a lot of time on his new iPhone 7 since his latest injury setback.

Reginald : Definitely Memphis Depay. With more Instagram posts than minutes on the pitch this season. He’ll be eager to test his 12 MP camera with shots from the bench.

The Manchester United winger out and about

Cyril : That’s an easy one for me, Bastian Schweinsteiger. He has officially become the club’s unofficial mascot and number one paid fan. Since he is caught in a stalemate with José’ and won’t be used much, if at all, I suspect he will have time to listen to his favourite music over on his Airpods when he shows up for training.

That’s all from us here at The Gold Coast Report. Make sure to check back in next week !