Sound the new signing klaxon – the season may be three games old, but this week’s round of fixtures will see a lot of familiar faces in unfamiliar shirts.
By common consent, Everton ‘had a good window’. While their best bit of business may have been the non-sale of Leighton Baines, they will undoubtedly be strengthened by the deadline day deals for Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and Romelu Lukaku, even allowing for the departure of Marouane Fellaini. Lukaku, on loan from this week’s opponents Chelsea, could prove vitally important for the goal-shy Toffees. But the young Belgian will have to wait for his debut as he’s ineligible this week under the terms of his deal – so once again, the scoring duties will fall to Nikica Jelavic (above).
With 16 goals in 53 Everton games, however, he’s no Bob Latchford – so manager Roberto Martinez will hope Barry and McCarthy will add drive and bite to a midfield that passes the ball prettily but, thus far, with little end result. It will be interesting to see how Jose Mourinho approaches this match.
Having started striker-less against Manchester United, he is again proving that his first priority is not losing, although he does now have Samuel Eto’o at his disposal. Well past his best he may be, but the Cameroonian should still be good enough to start ahead of Fernando Torres and Demba Ba. In essence, then, a midfield battle that may not be easy on the eye. Both sides keep the ball well, but can either create enough chances to go and win it? Should Eto’o play, he could just be the difference.
Stoke City are a surprise package this season – not just in their results, but also in the way they play. Wins against Crystal Palace and West Ham do not suggest a push for the Champions League is around the corner, but they have quietened the doubters who thought them relegation certs. Man City may have scored eight in three, but four of those came against an awful Newcastle and two in defeat. It’s time for Alvaro Negredo (above) to start. Score 0:0
All eyes at Old Trafford will be on Marouane Fellaini, as David Moyes tries to win over the Stretford End. He’ll be hoping for a big display from the big man with the big hair, and if he can impose himself on the midfield, then United can go to town. Still, Palace fans will be delighted with their team’s start, and they did good business on deadline day. Cameron Jerome, Barry Bannan and Adrian Mariappa will improve them. No walkover, this. Score 2:0
They may be everyone’s favourite second team, with their emphasis on youth and playing ‘the right way’, but there is a fear Villa flattered to deceive with a great opening-day victory over Arsenal. True, Chelsea and Liverpool don’t represent easy opposition, but they need to get back on track against Newcastle, whose season is in direct contrast. Awful against Man City, they’ve steadied the ship but have scored just one in three. Papiss Cisse needs to step up. Score 0:0
Too early in the season for what we might term a ‘classic six-pointer’?
Oh go on, indulge us. West Brom are goalless, while Fulham couldn’t score, or barely even threaten, against Newcastle last time out. Still, at home and with the magic boots of Dimitar Berbatov surely about to come good, they should have too much for the Lukaku-less Baggies – whose eighth-place finish last season seems a distant (and unreal) memory to their fans. Score 1:1
If Fulham v West Brom is a six-pointer, then what on earth is this? Seven? Eight? To be fair, both teams have started as well as anyone may have expected – especially Cardiff, whose win over Man City was spectacularly good. Hull’s home games will be vital (as proven by victory at the KC over Norwich) and Steve Bruce knows this is one he needs to win. Tom Huddlestone’s ability to keep the ball will be vital. Score 1:1
Rarely has a transfer been greeted with such wild enthusiasm as that of Mesut Ozil to Arsenal. While a creative midfielder may not have been top of the Gunners’ wishlist, he is one of the very best in the world. Contrast a player of his calibre with the lot at Sunderland – still winless and, according to boss Paolo Di Canio, “empty in the brain”. It could be a long season for all concerned at the Stadium of Light: expect Arsenal to breeze past the Black Cats. Score 1:3
If Tottenham had made all their summer transfers on deadline day, Daniel Levy would be proclaimed a genius. As it is, all their business was done in advance, while Mesut Ozil arrived up the road to steal the headlines. Defeat in the north London derby left Spurs fans, previously so hopeful, feeling like, well, Spurs fans again. Norwich are no pushover, but Tottenham may have too much possession and a finisher in Roberto Soldado (above). Score 2:0
Two teams with identical records, but Saints will be hopeful of three points at home. West Ham were poor against Stoke and look bereft in attack – hence trying to sign Carlton Cole, the striker they previously released. No such worries for Southampton, who have Rickie Lambert, fresh from England duty, leading the line with record signing Pablo Osvaldo. While the Hammers are hard to break down, it’s hard to see them holding firm for 90 minutes. Score 0:0
Table-topping Liverpool won’t be relishing the prospect of taking on their gaffer’s old team. Since Swansea were promoted two years ago honours have been shared, with a win apiece and two draws. If fit, Daniel Sturridge will be the man to watch for Liverpool: his goal-agame return is the reason the Reds have a maximum nine points. But it’s in defence where they have been most impressive – it’s hard to see how the Swans will break through. Today, 22:00.