It’s almost like the old days with the majority of matches in the Premier League starting at 3pm on Saturday. Four fixtures have been rearranged for television as the domestic season reconvenes after the international break. The most significant fixture is the early match on Saturday because Manchester United’s visit to Chelsea begins a spell of matches that could make or break Jose Mourinho’s time at the club. The fixture is followed by home and away meetings with Juventus in the Champions League plus the tricky meeting in the league with Everton at Old Trafford.
If Mourinho comes through this run relatively unscathed his job could be safe. However, no wins could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It was United of old in the last 20 minutes against Newcastle but some critics saw the come-from-behind win was papering over the cracks. Paul Scholes had a reputation during his playing days for not saying much but now in his role as a pundit he is duty bound to offer an opinion. However, in his playing days with United he walked the walk so is justified in now talking to talk but there does seem to be a slight personal edge.
It would not be a disgrace to lose at Chelsea but the score line and manner of defeat could reveal much. On current form before the Newcastle win United were well off the pace and Chelsea are a team in form. It will be interesting to see what Mourinho does with Marcus Rashford and Alexis Sanchez. Both have suffered a crisis of confidence but things have improved. Mourinho must weigh their overall contribution over the course of the season against a recent goal. Avoiding defeat would be satisfactory and Mourinho excels when that is the case so the draw is the expected outcome. That sets United up nicely for two matches against Juventus.
After a run of six wins Liverpool have drawn their last two matches in the Premier League but they were at Chelsea and at Anfield against Manchester City. Huddersfield have drawn three and lost five of their first eight Premier League meetings, scoring just four goals but conceding 17. Liverpool were the biggest spenders in the summer while Huddersfield struggled to recruit the top-class players. The match in Yorkshire should produce an away win for the team from Merseyside. Huddersfield failed to score in 21 of their 38 Premier League matches last season.
The only live match on Sunday is Everton’s home meeting with Crystal Palace. Goodison Park is a famous old ground but land locked by terrace houses. The team are in decent nick but the club need to move to their purpose built new stadium to move to the next level. Palace have picked up three points just once in five matches and avoiding defeat on the road at Everton looks beyond them. Everton are one of the home bankers of the weekend.
The top four teams in the Premier League are unbeaten in five matches but Arsenal are the only team to have won all those fixtures. The league season did not start well with two defeats but it was a difficult schedule. Six wins on the bounce have taken Arsenal to fourth, just two points behind Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea who are the joint leaders on points won. City top the table on the basis of the best goal difference. Arsenal can keep the pressure on the top three with a home win against Leicester on Monday Night Football. Jose Mourinho could be happy or under more pressure by then and that depends on the result at Stanford Bridge.