Burnley v Manchester United
Sean Dyche is known as ‘Ginger Mourinho’ but even a manager named after the Special One will struggle to keep Burnley in the Premier League. They won promotion to the top level of English football automatically behind champions Leicester. However, the relatively small budget means Dyche will have to be a miracle worker to prevent relegation and a return to the Championship.
Continuity was the key to their success as Burnley used 25 players last season, the lowest number in the league. Ten of them started 38 league matches. However, beyond the usual starting 11 there is no strength in depth. Any kind of injury crisis or multiple suspensions would leave them in serious trouble.
There is a morbid fear amongst Manchester United supporters that Louis Van Gaal is David Moyes in disguise. His new career at Old Trafford could not have got of to a worse start. Losing to Swansea on the opening day could be seen as a blip. The result against Sunderland was an improvement but the performance was not. Things went from bad to worse with the humiliating 4-0 loss to MK Dons in the Capital One Cup.
This was the first time United conceded four goals or more against a side from the lower league in the League Cup. Angel di Maria joined the club from Real Madrid this week after the most expensive signing ever by an English club. However, other areas of the field still need attention most notably central defence. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic had an effective understanding and partnership. Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Johnny Evans are still learning how to operate in that part of the pitch.
Everton v Chelsea
Everton have a wonderful old fashioned stadium, great fans and a decent team on the pitch. However, those elements of the club have not prevented them only drawing their first two league matches. Roberto Martinez will have been most disappointed about conceding two goals to Arsenal in the last eight minutes of their first fixture at Goodison Park this season.
Having been held to a draw by Arsenal Everton now host another major London club in Chelsea. Romelu Lukaku was unplayable at times against Arsenal but so he should be for £28 million, the biggest fee Everton have paid for a player in their history. For all the excitement of this permanent signing it will basically be the same starting 11 as last season when the Blues finished seven points off Champions League qualification.
Chelsea have made a perfect star to the season with two wins from two matches. However, Jose Mourinho would have been very disappointed if his side had not won six points in easy matches at Burnley and at home to Leicester. A better indication of their title prospects is a trip to Everton as that side lost just three league matches at home last season.
The lack of a striker was seen as a major issue but Mourinho has addressed the problem by signing Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid and brought back the legend Didier Drogba to the club. No doubt Mourinho will find many reasons to complain but his team look ideally placed to win their first league title since 2010.
Tottenham v Liverpool
The fixture between Tottenham and Liverpool brings together two sides with Champions League aspirations. The fact that Liverpool are playing in the competition this season makes Tottenham’s job easier as they can focus on finishing high enough in the league to qualify. There is a new season and new manager at White Hart Lane as Mauricio Pochettino has become the eighth manager at the club since Daniel Levy became the chairman in 2002.
The Spurs set up this season is far less crazy then last when two different managers were trying to create a winning formula while introducing seven new signings from overseas. Despite the money from the Gareth Bale transfer to Real Madrid which funded these arrivals Tottenham have a budget around the sixth biggest in the league and that’s where they are most likely to finish.
Liverpool were second best in their 3-1 defeat to Manchester City in their first away match of the season. This followed a narrow win over Southampton at Anfield on the opening day. After the disappointment of last season faded Liverpool could reflect on a fantastic campaign which brought them second spot and 101 goals. But the chances of going one better diminished when Luis Suarez was sold to Barcelona after his latest biting scandal. The manager’s desire to play with adventure will bring many goals. The problem is that Liverpool may not be as devastating without Suarez.
Leicester v Arsenal
Leicester were given a tough pair of fixtures to begin their Premier League campaign so a point from matches at home against Everton and at Chelsea is in line with expectations. The last two Championship winners, Cardiff and Reading, were both relegated immediately. However, Leicester won 102 points and the four times the Championship winners won more than 100 points they stayed with the elite for one season at least. They have a daunting start against the big boys which may work in their favour so soon after the World Cup.
Arsenal have started the season with a win and draw though but for two late goals it would have been a draw/loss scenario. Aaron Ramsay scored in both matches which showed how much his goals were missed during the second half of last season when he was ruled out due to injury. Having won the FA Cup last May to break a nine year trophy drought it will be interesting to see if Arsenal can take the next step by getting in the mix to win the title.
Wenger showed some intent with the early signing of Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona to increase his attacking options. However, unless other areas are improved Arsenal may have to settle for third place behind Chelsea and Manchester City.