On first glance the old order seems to have been re-established at the top of the Premier League but then you notice Hull City in third place with maximum points. Three of the superpowers have won both their first two matches but surely Hull are not good enough to do a Leicester City. Their home fixture with Manchester United on Saturday will reveal whether they are two flashes in a pan or genuine contenders.
Manchester City look the home bankers of the weekend when West Ham visit the northwest. The Hammers have won their first home match at the former Olympic Stadium but all is not well amongst the fans based on what you are seeing on blogs and forums. Slaven Bilic was a star pundit during Euro 2016 but he has an average squad to work with especially if Dimitri Payet leaves and Andy Carroll is injured!
Middlesbrough were promoted with Hull last season and are unbeaten in two fixtures. The value of the away win at Sunderland is questionable as that side are facing another relegation struggle. New manager, David Mayes, has said he is not used to the quality of the players he can bring to the club but in Jermaine Defoe he has a proven goal scorers at this level and his scoring could again be crucial.
Tottenham host Liverpool in the first live match of the weekend at lunchtime on Saturday. Both clubs can be bracketed in the second level of the Premier League, below the massive brands and wealthy clubs but above the perennial mid-table occupants and never in fear of relegation. It’s too early to talk about must not lose fixtures but if Tottenham win Liverpool could be six points off the pace.
Hull are still the favourites to be relegated despite two wins from two fixtures. The bubble could burst when Manchester United visit their stadium on Saturday. Hull gained promotion through the playoffs in May but manager Steve Bruce resigned because the owners refused to spend any money on players of the quality required to survive in the Premier League. The men in charge want to sell up and the fans don’t feel a connection due to attempts to change the name of the club.
One (or two swallows) do not make a summer and United look good things to pick up maximum points from this fixture. Confidence is restored under Jose Mourinho after the struggles of the immediate Sir Alex era but it helps when you can afford to pay the best part of £100million for one player. Paul Pogba looks a wonderful midfield player and he seems to have struck up a good relationship with Zlatan!
Ibrahimovic is the favourite in all sorts of individual markets such as to be the Premier League leading scorer and the PFA Player of the Year. His and other arrivals has resulted in some optimism and a belief that United can be top dogs in English football for the first time since the 2012-13 season. You can criticise Louis Van Gaal for many things but United kept a joint-high 18 clean sheets last season and David De Gea is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. His club can record their third win from as many matches by beating Hull this weekend.
The combined price for ‘Manchester’ to win the Premier League is odds-on and that looks about right. Arsenal are in the doldrums and Chelsea may struggle to recapture former glories immediately at the start of the Antonio Conte era. Manchester City can maintain momentum by beating West Ham at home on Saturday evening. They lost five league matches at the Etihad last season but just twice in the previous campaign.
City have recruited the best coach in the world in Pep Guardiola. Former German international Philipp Lahm has said: “He is an incredible coach on a completely different level in terms of tactics”. However, despite the riches up front and midfield the key to City’s success is how a defence functions in view of the reliance on injury-prone Vincent Kompany. A Payet-less West Ham will not have enough to test the back line and City should win this fixture without conceding.
If there are some strange results this weekend the top two teams in the Premier League on Monday morning could be the newly-promoted Hull and Boro. A more likely scenario is the leaders will have the word Manchester in their name and goal difference could determine whether it is City or United.
Have a fantastic weekend!