Following last weekend’s hiatus due to the international period, coming with it all the thrills and spills of players picking up knocks and positive Covid tests, the Premier League is back for Match Day 9.
With no international break now until March, it’s one less thing for managers to worry about in what will be an extremely hectic dash towards the end of 2020, beginning with this weekend’s fixtures.
It already looks as if matters at the top of the table will be significantly tighter than in previous seasons, with just points separating first and ninth for example, as we enter a pivotal period of the season.
Premier League Game of the Weekend: Liverpool vs Leicester City
Third meets first this weekend as pacesetters Leicester City travel to Anfield to take on defending Premier League champions Liverpool, with both sides suffering somewhat with absentees.
Jurgen Klopp’s injury issues have been well-documented but is still scarcely believable. Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah are ruled out due to either injury or Covid-related reasons, Fabinho and Thiago are still doubts despite returning to training, while question marks remain over the fitness of both Jordan Henderson and Andrew Robertson after they picked up knocks while on international duty.
Brendan Rodgers is in a similar boat with him already without Wilfred Ndidi, Caglar Soyuncu, Ricardo Pereira and Daniel Amartey, while Timothy Castagne is a doubt as is the impressive Wesley Fofana, albeit the latter is expected to start.
Despite the plethora of absentees, both sides still have plenty of quality match-winners on hand to decided the game. Sadio Mane has three goals in his last four Premier League games against the Foxes, while new signing Diogo Jota already has seven goals in 11 games for the Reds, including three goals in three home league games so far.
As joint-top scorer in the league with eight goals, Jamie Vardy will be looking to maintain his fine record against this weekend’s opponents. He’s already netted seven league goals against Liverpool, with the 33-year-old only scoring more in the league against Arsenal (11) and Manchester City (8). With the likes of Harvey Barnes, James Maddison and Youri Tielemans in support, the Foxes can certainly cause their hosts plenty of problems.
Rest of the Weekend
Newcastle United against Chelsea kicks off the weekend’s action on Saturday lunchtime, before Aston Villa will look to continue their fine start to the season when they face Brighton & Hove Albion.
It’s Jose Mourinho versus Pep Guardiola later in the day when Tottenham Hotspur – who will go top should they avoid defeat – host Manchester City, while the red half of Manchester concludes Saturday when they welcome West Bromwich Albion to Old Trafford.
Sunday begins at Craven Cottage when Fulham take on Everton, before Sheffield United face West Ham United, while Leeds United welcome Arsenal to Elland Road.
There are two games on Monday, the first being Burnley against Crystal Palace, while Wolverhampton Wanderers face Southampton.
Premier League Player to Watch: Ollie Watkins – Aston Villa – £1.26
Six goals and one assist in seven Premier League games is a great return by anyone’s standards, but when you consider that that is the form of Ollie Watkins in what is his first season at this level, it deserves individual praise.
The 24-year-old has added a cutting edge in the final third that Aston Villa lacked last season, while his pace and positioning helps create space for creative players such as Jack Grealish and Ross Barkley to shine.
Brighton this weekend pose a great chance for Watkins to add to his already-healthy goal tally for the season and maintain Villa’s strong start to the campaign in the process.