After a pulsating first weekend of Premier League action, the football resumes with the potential return of two familiar faces; Romelu Lukaku is set to make his second Chelsea debut, while Harry Kane could feature for Tottenham despite seeking a move away…
Romelu Lukaku is in line to make his second Chelsea debut on Sunday, one week short of a decade after his first game in a Blues shirt.
To pay £97.5million for the Belgian, who spent the majority of his initial three years out on loan and made 14 appearances without scoring before being sold for £28m, may not appear to be the most financially astute piece of business this summer.
But if you take his former Chelsea ties out of the equation, the arrival of Lukaku is one of the summer’s statement signings on the back of his leading role in Inter Milan’s first Serie A title for 11 years.
There were comparisons with Didier Drogba upon Lukaku’s first arrival at Stamford Bridge but they feel more relevant now, seeing how he can provide a cutting edge to a side whose strikers largely misfired last season. Indeed Lukaku sought out Drogba’s advice before committing to a return.
Given the way Chelsea blew Crystal Palace away 3-0 in their opening game, the addition of Lukaku and the possible return of N’Golo Kante – who missed that game with ankle pain – shows just how formidable Thomas Tuchel’s European champions now look.
Whereas Chelsea are adding to their squad from a position of strength, there is more than a hint of desperation about the Gunners’ transfer dealings.
They failed to land striker Tammy Abraham from Chelsea but this week sealed a deal for Martin Odegaard while Aaron Ramsdale’s announcement is imminent, to add to earlier swoops for Ben White and Albert Sambi Lokonga.
Given the impact Odegaard made on loan from Real Madrid in the second half of last season, his arrival cannot come soon enough – though he will not be able to face Chelsea due to a visa hold-up.
In the absence of the unwell Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who remain doubts this weekend, the Gunners’ awful 2-0 opening-night defeat at Brentford was a huge wake-up call.
Only Emile Smith Rowe, who recently signed a six-year contract, and Bukayo Saka looked capable of providing the spark they needed.
It was the former’s winner at Stamford Bridge in May which saw Arsenal complete a league double over the Blues last term, to add to their 2020 FA Cup win at Wembley.
Match Stat: Arsenal have won 22 and Chelsea 19 of the two clubs’ 58 Premier League meetings
Norwich stunned City in an August meeting two seasons ago and Pep Guardiola’s side go into the game off the back of a 1-0 defeat at Tottenham where they were well below their best.
Whether that makes it a good time for the newly re-promoted Canaries to face the reigning champions remains to be seen. After a bright start, there was little in their 3-0 defeat to Liverpool to suggest they will find Premier League life easier this time.
Match Stat: Norwich have now been beaten in their previous 11 games
The 37,000 fans who will cram into Elland Road tomorrow missed a treat last season with some of the football played under Marcelo Bielsa.
But the 5-1 loss at Manchester United on the opening day must act as a warning shot ahead of the visit of an Everton side still missing James Rodriguez amid rumours of his departure.
Boss Rafael Benitez started off the process of winning over Everton fans with a couple of tactical tweaks that turned a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 win over Southampton.
Match Stat: Leeds conceded 14 goals in six pre-season games this summer
It’s no secret the Hammers are still keen to sign Jesse Lingard before the transfer window closes but even without a man who made such an impression on loan last season they produced some dazzling football in the 4-2 opening-day win at Newcastle.
Rumours over James Maddison leaving Leicester for Arsenal persist even if suggestions that is a downward step were one of Roy Keane’s less controversial comments. The Foxes got up and running with a 1-0 win over Wolves.
Match Stat: West Ham scored three goals in each of last season’s games – winning both
Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo makes an early return to Molineux, where he oversaw four successful seasons and he has continued the good work in his new job – the 1-0 win over Manchester City was the perfect way to change the narrative over Harry Kane.
The wantaway England captain, out of isolation this week, may even feature against a Wolves side for whom the major plus point of a 1-0 opening-day defeat was seeing Raul Jimenez back in action after a fractured skull.
Match Stat: 17 shots Wolves mustered at the King Power – but just three on target
Selhurst Park provided one of the biggest dins of the clubs allowed 2,000 fans in during the middle of last season for their game against Tottenham so you can be sure a full-house will provide an atmosphere to remember.
It wasn’t really a surprise they started the season with a 3-0 defeat at Chelsea but this should be a far more realistic test of their new era under Patrick Vieira.
Brentford’s Premier League bow against Arsenal could hardly have gone better but their opponents hardly made life difficult.
Match Stat: Their last meeting saw Palace win 5-1 in the League Cup
Fixtures (3pm unless stated)
Aston Villa v Newcastle
Brighton v Watford (5.30pm) TV Sky Sports Main Event/Premier League
Crystal Palace v Brentford
Leeds v Everton
Liverpool v Burnley (12.30pm) TV BT Sport 1
Man City v Norwich
Arsenal v Chelsea (4.30pm) TV Sky Sports Main Event/Premier League
Southampton v Man Utd (2pm) TV Sky Sports Main Event/Premier League
Wolves v Tottenham (2pm)
West Ham v Leicester (8pm) TV Sky Sports Main Event/Premier League
Villa’s return home sees both sides looking to get their seasons up and running after losing starts.
Boss Dean Smith felt his team were ‘unrecognisable’ from last season in their 3-2 defeat at Watford, although nobody can expect Jack Grealish’s exit to not have some effect.
Villa hope to have striker Ollie Watkins back after a knee injury while Newcastle may well field Joe Willock for the first time since his £25million Arsenal move after he watched their 4-2 defeat to West Ham from the stands.
Match Stat: Eight goals in 14 appearances for Willock on loan at Newcastle last term
The stage is set for a St Mary’s full house but there must be some trepidation at facing a United side who won 9-0 when the teams met at Old Trafford in February, albeit when two red cards were a factor.
Bruno Fernandes hit a hat-trick as United kicked off this term with a 5-1 win over Leeds and they still have Raphael Varane to bring in after signing from Real Madrid. Adam Amstrong’s fine debut goal for Saints proved in vain as they lost at Everton.
Match Stat: United were unbeaten away last term, only the fourth side to achieve that in a top-flight campaign
It took Watford 12 games to register their first victory in their relegation campaign two seasons ago, so their 3-2 win over Aston Villa last weekend gives manager Xisco Munoz something to build on.
Emmanuel Dennis and Ismaila Sarr set each other up for goals to build on automatic promotion at the first attempt last season.
Having Shane Duffy back after a year on loan at Celtic is a boost for the Seagulls, who showed great character to win from behind at Burnley last Saturday.
Match Stat: Dennis is the fourth Nigerian player to score on his Premier League debut
Even Liverpool’s harshest critics must concede they were hit badly, particularly at Anfield, by the lack of fans last season.
It was Burnley and Ashley Barnes’ late penalty that ended an 68-game home unbeaten run and sparked a remarkable run of six straight home league defeats behind closed doors. T
his first game at Anfield in front of a full crowd since March 2020 will be a belated chance to pay homage to the Reds’ title-winning side against a team who lost their opener 2-1 at home to Brighton.
Match Stat: Burnley’s win at Anfield last season was their first slice since 1974
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