It’s back...again! Yes, the Premier League returns to our screens after an excruciating week and a half, which felt like months, of international football.
Now, GMF likes nation v nation as much as the next football site, but a format where England get the equivalent of a light training session against Moldova is clearly lacking something.
It doesn’t quite have the same buzz as the Premier League and GMF is relieved to have the superstars back in stadiums around England.
But what is going to happen this weekend? Who is going to storm to victory? Which team is going to pull off an upset? GMF has analysed each fixture in great depth and has attempted to predict the outcomes.
Here are the results:
Arsenal v Southampton
Arsene Wenger’s side have shown a defensive stability so far this season uncharacteristic of recent years, but Nigel Adkins’ Saints have exhibited a proficiency for finding the net against big teams.
Southampton have thrown away leads over both Manchester clubs and may be forced to approach this game in a different way if they are to collect their first points of the season.
Arsenal will be hoping there is no change, as their new found solidity and speedy counter-attacking qualities would make light work of a side that have been leaking goals at an alarming rate. Southampton may get something out of the game if they are able to contain themselves, but that is easier said than done.
Manchester United v Wigan Athletic
Sir Alex Ferguson is reportedly sweating over a number of injury concerns ahead of this game, as Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa are both carrying knocks, while Patrice Evra has been tipped for a rest – Wayne Rooney is still out after the nasty gash he received in the win over Fulham.
If the worst comes worst then it will leave United with only Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck in the forward positions, but that should be enough to see off the famously accommodating Latics defence.
Roberto Martinez won’t be expecting a repeat of the last time these two teams met, where Wigan ran out 1-0 winners, and especially so since the loss of their most potent attacking threat from last season, Victor Moses. This is likely to be a long afternoon for them.
QPR v Chelsea
All eyes will be on Anton Ferdinand and his expected handshake snub of Blues defenders John Terry and Ashley Cole for reasons that should not require any further explanation at this point.
Terry is a fitness doubt for this game and Roberto di Matteo’s defence is never quite so assured when the captain is absent, so the likes of Bobby Zamora will be hoping to exploit any chinks in their armour.
QPR were victorious in the corresponding fixture from last season, but Chelsea were in their Andre Villas-Boas inspired mire at that point and had some rotten luck in a game they should have got something from, as well as having two men sent off in the first half.
Mark Hughes will be hoping for a repeat of that first half performance, but this is a reinvigorated Chelsea and their new brand of quick passing, led by the in-form Eden Hazard, should be too much for the Hoops.
Sunderland v Liverpool
Brendan Rodgers is desperate for his first league win as manager of Liverpool, but he might find that hard to come by at the Stadium of Light. Martin O’Neill’s side have been resolute when facing the more glamorous teams in the league, which will do little to help Liverpool relieve their goal woes.
Nicklas Bendtner scored the winner here last season and the Black Cats will be hoping to repeat that, so the Reds will have to be wary of new signing Steven Fletcher, who has been in fine fettle for some time and scored a brace on his debut last week. It will be a tough fixture in an emotional week for the side from Anfield.
Stoke City v Manchester City
The champions could be buoyed by the return of Sergio Aguero to the squad after he returned to full training on Friday, but they have an able deputy in Carlos Tevez if last season’s top scorer does not quite make it.
Stoke have drawn all three of their games this season and have shown themselves to be reasonably solid at the back, though going forward hasn’t been entirely impressive and they can’t rely on another Peter Crouch wonder goal, which got them a draw here last season. Roberto Mancini’s side look as though they are beginning to properly get into their stride and it is hard to see Stoke as anything other than their next victim.
Fulham v West Brom
Steve Clark has brought his signature defensive organisation to the Midlands side and has made a good start to his managerial career, though Fulham have shown themselves to be a tough proposition at home.
Martin Jol appears to be shaping another talented and organised Premier League side at Craven Cottage, but their attacking verve has been far superior to their defensive work and that could leave them vulnerable to the counter-attack.
West Brom got a deserved draw on their last trip away at Spurs, while Fulham are unbeaten on their home patch so far – this looks like it could be a score draw.
Aston Villa v Swansea City
Paul Lambert looks like he may be getting to grips with Villa’s porous defence, if their draw at Newcastle last week is anything to go by. His job is far from over, however, and home form has been a real issue for them over the past year.
Swansea, meanwhile, have been flourishing under new boss Michael Laudrup and would not be misguided in claiming they should have won all of their fixtures so far this season – Sunderland hung on for a slightly fortunate draw at the Liberty Stadium last week.
The Welsh side’s attacking verve will cause the hosts plenty of problems and solidity alone will not be enough to save Villa.
Norwich v West Ham
Sam Allardyce’s side looked rejuvenated in brushing aside Fulham at Upton Park last week, using his familiar tactics of high balls and muscle to batter the side from across London into submission. This was mostly down to the presence of Andy Carroll, however, and the big striker is out with a hamstring injury this week.
Going away will be a problem for the Hammers this season, as it is hard to intimidate a team in their own back yard, but Chris Hughton’s Norwich have looked a touch vulnerable so far this season.
Both sides are likely to be concentrating on keeping their respective goals intact, so swift and exciting attacking football is unlikely to be high on the agenda in what is likely to be a close, bruising encounter.
Reading v Tottenham Hotspur
Andre Villas-Boas needs a win fast if he going to shake off the constant mentions of his Chelsea nightmare. With each game that goes by without a win, the press and public pressure will mount further on the young Portuguese, so a straightforward victory at a newly promoted side would be a timely tonic.
Reading have been impressive in their first two games and were maybe a little unfortunate to have lost by two goals at Chelsea, where they battled well. Their scrapping qualities got them a late point in their first game against Stoke, so Spurs are not likely to be in for a smooth ride.
However, another game with the new players at White Hart Lane bedding in together will only see them improve and Emmanuel Adebayor should have had sufficient time to get his sharpness back by now – they should be too strong for Brian McDermott’s side.
Everton v Newcastle United
David Moyes appeared to have bucked his side’s trend of slow starts to their league seasons, until a lacklustre performance at West Brom saw them turned over easily; while Alan Pardew’s side have not hit the heights of last season just yet.
The Toffees are a different proposition at home though, and Goodison Park will be heaving at the thought of another electric Monday night – their last was a 1-0 win against Manchester United. Marouane Fellaini is likely to be played higher up the pitch and will give the Toon defence considerable problems.
Hatem ben Arfa has been in decent form this season and Pardew will be hoping he can unlock a resolute Everton defence, but Moyes may have just too much for his opposite number on a night that should provide plenty of drama.
What do you think will happen this weekend? Leave a comment below and let us know…