United out of the Champions League and must play a vastly improved City with Aguero back from injury
Ole Gunnar Solskjær went into Tuesday’s match against RB Leipzig with two holding players in front of three centre-backs, against opposition playing without a traditional centre-forward. He is right to mistrust his team’s defending – though he signed three of those responsible for it – but the best way of combating that is to get the ball down the other end, not deliberately invite pressure. Should Solskjær try that against City, things could get embarrassingly messy, especially with Aguero firing again.
James Rodríguez key to Everton returning to winning ways
In the form table for the past seven Premier League games, Everton are fourth-bottom, with only West Brom, Arsenal and Sheffield United below them. It’s an alarming slump for a team that started the season so well. Everton’s woes coincided with the dwindling contributions from James Rodríguez. Saturday night’s performance against Chelsea should provide Everton fans with a better idea of what to expect from their marquee summer signing in the coming months.
Balogun and Nketiah should make Arteta think again
Nobody should get too carried away by a 4-2 win over Dundalk, particularly given Arsenal’s defending. But the performances of Eddie Nketiah and Folarin Balogun should put pressure on Mikel Arteta’s first-choice forwards, particularly Alexandre Lacazette. Nketiah is the club’s top scorer in all competitions with five goals, but has played just 161 league minutes this season. Balogun impressed from the bench against Dundalk with his well-taken strike and his hold-up play to set up Joe Willock. At 19, he looks ready to take the plunge against Burnley.
Palace’s attack to test Spurs’ defence
No team in the division has a better defensive record than Spurs, who have conceded just nine goals in 11 games. On the face of things, their usual back four – the impetuous Serge Aurier, the ageing Toby Alderweireld, the unreliable Eric Dier and the callow Sergio Reguilón – looks like a weakness. But through discipline and weight of numbers – midfielders Moussa Sissoko and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg fill the gaps at times to make a back six – it has become a strength. The decline of Christian Benteke has been as hard to watch as to explain, but following two goals in last week’s 5-1 win over West Brom, he will finally be full of confidence. Alongside him is Wilfried Zaha, who also scored twice at the Hawthorns and whose jinking directness is a perennial threat, while Eberechi Eze poses a similar danger.
Wolves attackers must fill void left by Jiménez
Aston Villa have been excellent on their travels this season, even in their unfortunate defeat to West Ham before last weekend’s unexpected rest when their game against Newcastle was called off. Dean Smith’s attack-minded team will aim to test a Wolves defence that has undergone unprecedented change under Nuno Espírito Santo this season, shifting between a back three and a back four. Wolves can ill-afford another sluggish start but the Villa defence can also be got at, especially if Nuno can come up with a way of coping with the loss of their best attacker. In the absence of Raúl Jiménez, players like Daniel Podence, Pedro Neto and Adama Traoré need to add more goals to their often wonderful attacking play.
Klopp opts not to rest his best before visit to Fulham
A record that went under the radar this week: with the opener against Midtjylland, Mohamed Salah became Liverpool’s highest Champions League goalscorer with 22 goals, surpassing Steven Gerrard. For a manager that has spoken at length about fixtures, substitutions and injuries, it was a surprise to see Jürgen Klopp have the Egyptian play 90 minutes in Denmark considering the Reds had already qualified as group winners. Klopp explained that Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold were more in need of game time than rest, but there seemed little reason to bring on Roberto Firmino, Jordan Henderson, Andy Robertson and Sadio Mané from the bench. Luckily no damage was done, but it will be interesting to see if he again mentions fatigue this weekend after choosing not to rest his most important players in midweek.