The small matter of Cristiano Ronaldo’s return, Rafa Benitez’s shot to take Everton TOP, Saul leading the debuts and Arsenal’s hunt for a goal: 10 reasons we CAN’T WAIT for the Premier League’s restart
- The Premier League is finally back after the two-week international break
- There are several exciting fixtures for fans to look forward to this weekend
- Supporters could also see debuts for some of their new signings
- Sportsmail picks out 10 of the things we are most looking forward to
The first international break of the season had plenty of drama. Health officials invading pitches, Cristiano Ronaldo breaking records, Gareth Bale saving Wales again and a bit of a scrap in Warsaw.
But it’s now time for the Premier League to return – and there’s plenty to get excited about. Tottenham are leading the way at the top of the table while five teams are tied on seven points after the opening three games of the season.
With some exciting fixtures coming our way and new faces in town, Sportsmail takes a look at 10 reasons why we can’t wait for the Premier League to return.
The Premier League is back this weekend with Tottenham currently top of the table
Three Premier League games, three defeats and no goals scored – it could be make or break for Mikel Arteta this weekend.
It’s bottom vs second bottom as Arsenal take on Norwich, who have also lost their three opening games.
The Canaries, however, have at least managed to find the back of the net and were unlucky not to take a point against Leicester.
Arsenal and Norwich are looking for their first points of the season, and face off on Saturday
Arsenal were thrashed 5-0 by Manchester City in their last outing and another defeat on Saturday would really ramp up the pressure on Arteta.
Newly-promoted Norwich have conceded the most goals of any team in the league (10) and if the Gunners fail to score again, serious questions will be asked.
But it’s not just in front of goal where Arsenal have struggled. Arteta has chopped and changed his defence with little success. Ben White’s absence after a positive Covid test didn’t help matters but the £50million centre back should be back to face Norwich.
Alexandre Lacazette should also be fit enough to start for the first time this season in a much needed boost. With both Arsenal and Norwich looking for their first points of the season, Saturday’s clash at the Emirates is an important one.
THIS WEEKEND’S FIXTURES
Crystal Palace v Spurs (12.30pm, BT Sport)
Arsenal v Norwich, Brentford v Brighton, Watford v Wolves, Man United v Newcastle, Southampton v West Ham, Leicester v Man City (3pm)
Chelsea v Aston Villa (5.30pm, Sky Sports)
Leeds v Liverpool (4.30pm Sky Sports)
Everton v Burnley (8pm, Sky Sports)
2. New (and old) faces to make their debuts
Several late transfers were completed after the last round of fixtures and fans have had to wait patiently to see their new signings in action for the first time.
Surely the most exciting deal was the return of Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United, and he could make his second debut for the club against Newcastle on Saturday.
A 76,000-strong crowd will descend on Old Trafford with the hope of seeing the 36-year-old in action.
As one man came in, another headed across the M62 to Elland Road. Leeds finally signed Dan James after missing out on him in January 2019.
The winger completed a £30m move on deadline day and is set to make his debut against Liverpool on Sunday.
Saul Niguez is one of the new signings who could make his debut in this weekend’s fixutres
Another deadline-day signing was Saul Niguez, who joined Chelsea on loan from Atletico Madrid. The midfielder believes fans will see a ‘new Saul’ at Stamford Bridge after struggling with being a utility man under Diego Simeone.
He might have to make do with a place on the bench against Villa on Saturday but fans will be eager to see him in action.
Takehiro Tomiyasu, Emerson Royal, Odsonne Edouard and Nikola Vlasic could also make their debuts this weekend.
3. Can Bruce spoil Ronaldo’s return?
It’s been a predictably tough start to the season for Newcastle with two defeats and a draw from their opening three games.
They were painfully close to taking all three points against Southampton after scoring what looked to be an injury-time winner, only for the Saints to equalise with a penalty at the death.
And it doesn’t get any easier with Manchester United, and potentially Ronaldo, up next.
Cristiano Ronaldo (right) is back at Manchester United and could play against Newcastle, but Steve Bruce (left) is out to spoil the party with the Magpies still looking for their first win
The Magpies’ last three games against the Red Devils have ended in a 3-1 and two 4-1 defeats but Bruce did mastermind a 1-0 victory at St James’ Park in October 2019.
He will need his team to improve defensively if they’re to earn a similar result at Old Trafford on Saturday. Newcastle are yet to keep a clean sheet and have conceded eight goals in three games.
United fans will be hoping to see Ronaldo at some point on Saturday but the forward could start on the bench having spent time in quarantine following his return to Manchester.
All eyes will be on the Portuguese hero, but can another former United man spoil the party?
4. Vieira looking for first win vs perfect Spurs
Crystal Palace ended their goal drought with a 2-2 draw at West Ham before the international break, but they’re still looking for their first win.
Unfortunately for new boss Patrick Vieira, his side face the only team in the league who have a 100 per cent record.
Tottenham have won every game 1-0 and, with Harry Kane returning from the international break following a scorching goal for England, they’ll be hoping for a victory of a bigger margin this weekend.
A former Arsenal captain stands in their way – and he’ll be desperate to end Spurs’ winning run at Selhurst Park.
Perhaps the advantage for Vieira is their game being a 12.30pm kick-off on Saturday. It means the likes of Kane and Tottenham’s other internationals will have less time to recover.
There’s also an injury doubt over Son Heung-min while Spurs will be without their Argentina players Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero, with the pair having to quarantine after travelling to Brazil.
Patrick Vieira is still looking for his first victory as Crystal Palace boss, against Tottenham
5. Rodgers vs Guardiola II
It’s the first league meeting of Manchester City and Leicester on Saturday but the teams have already faced each other this season, with the Foxes coming out on top in the Community Shield.
Kelechi Iheanacho’s 89th-minute penalty was the difference between the two teams at Wembley but the striker is yet to start a match this season.
Both clubs have two wins and a defeat from their opening three games. City bounced back from their defeat by Tottenham with back-to-back 5-0 victories over Norwich and Arsenal.
Leicester beat Wolves 1-0 in their first game before a 4-1 defeat at West Ham and a 2-1 win over Norwich.
Rodgers and Guardiola have had intruguing battles in the Premier League. The Foxes thrashed City 5-2 at the Etihad at the start of last season but City were calm and controlled when they claimed a 2-0 win in the return fixture.
Saturday’s match at the King Power looks set to be an entertaining one.
Pep Guardiola (left) and Brendan Rodgers (right) go up against each other for the second time this season – Leicester beat Man City in the Community Shield last month
6. Lukaku’s Stamford Bridge return
Romelu Lukaku is still waiting for his first outing at Stamford Bridge after sealing a £98m move back to Chelsea.
The striker’s first two games both came away from home against Arsenal and Liverpool.
The Belgian will be looking forward to playing in front of the Blues’ home crowd for the first time since his return – providing he shakes off a small thigh concern.
Chelsea host Aston Villa, a team they struggled against last season, in the 5.30pm kick-off on Saturday.
The Blues drew 1-1 with Dean Smith’s side at home last season but were beaten 2-1 on the final day of the campaign. The result threatened their chances of making the top four but Leicester’s defeat by Spurs ensured they qualified for the Champions League.
Tuchel’s side are unbeaten so far while Villa have won, lost and drawn. Lukaku scored on his debut against Arsenal but was kept fairly quiet at Anfield after Chelsea went down to 10 men. He’ll be keen to make an impact in front of the Stamford Bridge crowd.
Romelu Lukaku will finally make his return to Stamford Bridge when Chelsea host Aston Villa
7. Leeds + Liverpool = goals!
This fixture produced nine goals in two games last season and it’s hoped we’ll be treated to a similarly entertaining game on Sunday.
The opening match of the 2020-2021 campaign saw Liverpool take a 4-3 victory at Anfield while Leeds secured a late point in a 1-1 draw in the return fixture.
Leeds fans have been waiting for fixtures like this at Elland Road and it’s set to be an electric atmosphere in west Yorkshire.
Liverpool have made a strong start to the season with two wins and a 1-1 draw against Chelsea while Leeds are still looking for their first win.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side were exposed in their first game of the season, with Manchester United picking them apart in a 5-1 victory.
Two draws against Everton and Burnley followed and while a point against the Reds would be a good result, Leeds will be hoing for all three on Sunday.
Leeds host Liverpool at Elland Road in what looks set to be an exciting fixture on Sunday
8. Can Antonio continue his strong start?
Four goals and three assists in three games for Michail Antonio so far this season.
The striker’s fantastic form has helped West Ham take seven points from their opening three fixtures and they currently sit second in the league.
The Hammers travel to St Mary’s on Saturday and Antonio will be confident of getting on the scoresheet once again. Southampton are yet to keep a clean sheet and have conceded six goals.
Antonio has already set his sights on the Golden Boot and is currently the leading goalscorer in the top flight. He’s also joint-second for assists.
The forward celebrated becoming West Ham’s all-time leading Premier League scorer against Leicester by holding up a cardboard cut-out of himself.
While that was a one off, he’ll be hoping for a long stay at the top of the charts.
Michail Antonio is looking to continue his fine goalscoring form at Southampton on Saturday
9. Will unbeaten records fall?
Seven teams remain unbeaten in the Premier League – including newly-promoted Brentford.
The Bees have made an impressive start to life in the top flight, following up their 2-0 win over Arsenal with draws against Palace and Villa.
The other unbeaten teams are Tottenham, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton and West Ham.
None of the seven clubs are set to face each other, meaning they could all remain unbeaten come the end of the weekend.
Brentford, who have conceded just one goal so far, take on Brighton at home. The Seagulls have also enjoyed a decent start to the season, with two wins and one defeat.
Graham Potter’s side were beaten 2-0 by Everton before the international break and will be looking to bounce back.
Brentford are one of seven teams with an unbeaten record going into this weekend’s games
10. Rafa Bentiez could take Everton top!
If results go their way, Everton could have the chance to go top of the Premier League under the lights at Goodison Park.
The Toffees take on Burnley on Monday night and will be looking to extend their unbeaten run.
Rafa Benitez has made an impressive start to life with his new team, with two wins and a draw in his opening three games.
Everton will fancy their chances of getting another victory at Goodison but Sean Dyche’s men proved tricky opponents last season. The Clarets held the Toffees to a draw at Turf Moor before taking all three points in the return fixture.
Benitez will be hoping Demarai Gray continues his good form and will want to have Dominic Calvert-Lewin fit, with the striker having missed the international break through injury.
Everton could go top of the table if results go their way and they beat Burnley on Monday
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