Things are starting to heat up and the standings are starting to shake out. The early-season excuses are over in the Premier League as we enter Week 7.
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With three teams still searching for their first win, reigning champs Chelsea finding some form and other giants faltering, we have a lot to look out for in the 10 games coming your way.
Here’s five things to focus in on this weekend.
Chelsea aim to end St James’ Park hoodoo under Mourinho
Believe it or not, Jose Mourinho has never led Chelsea to victory at St James’ Park. There’s something about the roar of over 51,000 Geordies which strikes fear in those wearing blue and now, more than ever, Newcastle’s players need a huge helping hand from their fans as the reigning PL champs roll into town on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra). New manager Steve McClaren is still searching for his first win as Magpies boss and admitted his side is “close to crisis” following their League Cup defeat to second-tier Sheffield Wednesday in midweek.
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Talking about crisis, Chelsea have shown signs of getting through theirs as they beat Arsenal 2-0 last weekend and hammered Walsall in the League Cup. Diego Costa‘s three-match retrospective ban for flailing his arms at Laurent Koscielny has not sat well with Mourinho, especially after Arsenal’s Gabriel had his red card rescinded following his clash with Costa. Chelsea will miss Costa on Saturday in the fiery cauldron of St James’ but it is time for Radamel Falcao and Loic Remy to step up and score the goals which will continue Chelsea’s resurgence.
Pressure mounting on Rodgers
Liverpool squeaked past fourth-tier Carlisle at Anfield in the League Cup in midweek and the Reds fielded an incredibly strong side for what should have been a cakewalk. That points to problems for Brendan Rodgers as his side look devoid of confidence in attack and have score just five times in six league outings this season. Rodgers is the bookies’ favorite to get fired first out of all 20 PL managers and if the Reds lose at home to Aston Villa on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra) expect that pressure to crank up. True, Rodgers can’t be expected to work miracles as players like Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling have left, but he has spent over $300 million on new signings over the past 18 months and, in truth, many have failed to live up to the expectations.
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Talking of pressure, Tim Sherwood isn’t on a much longer leash at Aston Villa. After selling Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph this summer, Sherwood is in a similar situation to Rodgers, but with no win in five since the opening day of the season, Villa look likely to be in another relegation battle. Two teams low in confidence will clash at Anfield. Expect a nervy and close encounter.
Can City bounce back away at Spurs?
Manchester City’s lead at the top of the Premier League standings was cut to two points last week as they suffered a shock home defeat to West Ham. Manuel Pellegrini‘s men looked unstoppable until last week. Winning their first five PL games of the season without conceding a goal, they first lost to Juventus in the UEFA Champions League after a late collapse, then came the shock loss to the Hammers. Pellegrini’s men ripped open Sunderland in the League Cup this week, winning 4-1 as Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero all got on the scoresheet. The Citizens, on paper, will be wary of this trip to Spurs on Saturday (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) and if they lose to Mauricio Pochettino‘s side and Manchester United beat Sunderland, the Red Devils will replace them at the PL’s summit. Spurs, who lost to North London rivals Arsenal in the League Cup, have won two-straight in the PL but have struggled for goals this season as Harry Kane‘s drought continues.
Foxes aim to stay unbeaten as Arsenal come to town
Claudio Ranieri is fostering something special at the King Power Stadium. Leicester is the only unbeaten team left in the PL and in their last two games they’ve fought back from 2-0 goals down to grab four points from losing positions. The veteran Italian manager hasn’t changed much, as over the summer the Foxes have ridden their wide of euphoria from last season’s incredible escape from the relegation zone. With Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy ready to exploit weaknesses in Arsenal’s defense, and the home fans fired up to welcome the Gunners, this will not be an easy game for Arsene Wenger‘s side on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on USA Network and online via Live Extra). The Gunners showed grit and determination in their 2-1 League Cup win over Spurs in midweek and they will need plenty of that to get past Ranieri’s side.
Saints, Swans ready to take next step
When you mention either Southampton or Swansea City, most people have positive thoughts. Both clubs have been promoted to the PL in recent years and have finished in the top 10 after building their squads shrewdly yet still retaining their loyalty to players from their journey up the pyramid to the top-flight. Saints and Swansea finished in seventh and eighth respectively last season and the challenge for them now is, despite selling star players once again, they must try to kick on further and finish in the top six. That will not be easy but in Ronald Koeman and Garry Monk they possess two managers both getting plenty of plaudits. Koeman is older, wiser and has worked wonders at Saints as they have offload star talent and bolstered the squad considerably.
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As for Monk, his swift promotion to manager at the Liberty Stadium while his modest playing career (compared to Koeman’s anyway) wasn’t even officially over has brought out the best in him. Swansea started the season impressively but have failed to score in their last two games and lost at Watford last weekend and away at second-tier Hull in the League Cup. Southampton had a slow start and crashed out of the Europa League at the final qualifying hurdle, but after smashing six past MK Dons in League Cup play and putting up a strong offensive showing against Manchester United last week in a 3-2 defeat, Koeman’s boys are starting to gather some steam. Both clubs are perfect models of how to build success from the bottom up off the pitch. On the pitch the last three meetings have ended in 1-0 wins for the away side to show how tight things are between them on the pitch.