Ahead of Matchday 2 of the 2015-16 Premier League season, let’s take a look at the top five storylines to keep an eye on.
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From a clash between title contenders, a rare Friday night match and potential banana skins for a couple of the big boys, this promises to be another enthralling weekend.
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So, here’s what we have to look forward to.
Manchester City has a chance to put down a marker vs. Chelsea
On Sunday at the Etihad Stadium Manchester City host Chelsea (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) with the Citizens given the chance to put down an early marker as title favorites. Before the season began most people had Chelsea as clear favorites to defend the PL crown they won last season, but after a shaky opening day draw with Swansea which saw Thibaut Courtois sent off, many looked on in awe as City demolished West Bromwich Albion 3-0. Both Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure ran the Baggies ragged and City look hungry to prove their doubters wrong.
Chelsea will likely sit back and soak up pressure from City, but with Sergio Aguero likely to start, Raheem Sterling buzzing down the wing and David Silva pulling the strings, this is an opportunity for City to show Chelsea they mean business this season. A clash between the top two title contenders in just the second week of the season… this will be tense, tight and there should be a fantastic atmosphere at the newly-expanded Etihad. Will the majority of the 56,000-plus fans go home happy? The safe bet is the draw, just like the two 1-1 draws which occurred between these last season, but City will be the slight favorites given their better start to the current campaign.
Friday night lights
A rare sight will grace the PL this week, as a Friday night match takes place at Villa Park. Aston Villa host Manchester United (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) with a packed house expected in England’s second-city. United love an away day at Villa, as they haven’t lost there in the PL in 20 years. Tim Sherwood’s new-look side improved as the game went on down at Bournemouth in their opening day win, but this will be a stern test against United. Louis van Gaal’s side will be without David de Gea once again as the Spaniard will be in the stands as his contract saga continues, while the Red Devils looked far from convincing in their opening day win over Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford.
Of course, from next season there will be a Friday night game in the PL every weekend so due to unforeseen circumstances involving other events in the Birmingham area on Saturday and United’s involvement in the UEFA Champions League playoffs next week, this game was switched to a Friday. It will be a great taster as to what we can expect from the Friday night action taking place in the coming years.
Can Gunners negotiate Selhurst?
After suffering a shock defeat on the opening day to West Ham United, Arsenal will be under a little bit of pressure as they head into the cauldron of Selhurst Park to play Crystal Palace on Sunday (Watch live, 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra). Arsene Wenger’s side won every single game in preseason and beat Chelsea in the Community Shield final as a real air of optimism surrounded the Gunners heading into this season. However, many people’s favorites for the title slipped up on day one as the same old issues cropped up. Creating plenty of chances against West Ham, they failed to put the ball in the back of the net and new signing Petr Cech made two costly mistakes at the other end of the pitch.
Cech’s mistakes were particularly disappointing as his $18 million signing from Chelsea this summer was hailed by Arsenal’s fans and pundits as one of the final pieces in the jigsaw for Wenger’s men to mount a title charge. If Cech and Arsenal crumble under the pressure in the intimate and hostile surroundings of Selhurst Park on Sunday, the pressure will continue to build on Wenger to spend big money on a new star striker before the transfer window slams shut. Alan Pardew has bought wisely over the offseason and with Yohan Cabaye pulling the strings in midfield, this could be a very tough game for the Gunners to negotiate.
Liverpool’s new boys get chance to build momentum
It was hardly a vintage start for Liverpool but the they got all three points away at Stoke in their opening game of the season. The 1-0 win was sealed by a brilliant late goal from Philippe Coutinho and Brendan Rodgers’ side are up and running for the new season. New boys James Milner, Christian Benteke, Joe Gomez and Nathaniel Clyne all started, while Roberto Firmino came off the bench for the Reds. At home, you would expect Firmino to start and the likes of Danny Ings could also get a run-out. These new boys will have been looking forward to their first taste of playing for the home team at Anfield, but playing against Bournemouth on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) represents a trip into the unknown.
Eddie Howe’s boys did most of the pressing against Villa on the opening day of the season and were unlucky to not grab anything from their first-ever Premier League game. The Cherries won’t go to Anfield and sit back, which could unsettle Liverpool a little. That said, the Reds will be heavy favorites and their new boys could rack up a few goals and make it two wins from two to start the new season. With Daniel Sturridge returning to the team in the coming weeks, everything is looking pretty good for the Reds following a busy summer of ins and outs.
Can Spurs, Everton kick on?
Fans of both Tottenham Hotspur and Everton are perennial optimists that their teams can break into the top four. Spurs came agonizingly close last season, finishing fifth, just six points off Manchester United in fourth. During the 2013-14 campaign, Everton blew up late in the season to also finish fifth and struggled last year to juggle the Europa League and PL. This time around, both teams still harbor hopes of challenging the powerhouses, but after slow starts to the season they will want to kick on and both have winnable matches this weekend.
Tottenham host Stoke City in their first home game of the season (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) on Saturday, while Everton head to Southampton (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) on the same day. Spurs have a score to settle with Stoke after losing 2-1 at home to the Potters last season, and although they played well in stages against United on the opening day, Harry Kane was isolated for large periods of the game. He desperately needs support in and around the box. As for Everton, they also have a score to settle with Saints after losing 3-0 in this fixture at St Mary’s last season. The Toffees looked unsettled defensively in their draw at home vs. new boys Watford on the opening day of the season and they must improve at the back if they’re going to get back into the top six this year. Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino knows he must improve this season or his job could be on the line next summer. The same can be said for Roberto Martinez at Everton.