Weekend preview: Chelsea’s Werner the key in Man United clash

The Premier League season has ripped up the script so far: Everton are one point clear of Aston Villa at the top of the table, Manchester City are level on point with Leeds, and Manchester United have slumped to a sorry 15th place.

Week 6 of the season should continue to throw up surprises as Chelsea travel away to United, and Arsenal must keep out Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy.


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Let’s look ahead to an exciting London football weekend:


Manchester United vs. Chelsea


The lowdown: All eyes will be on Old Trafford for what is undoubtedly the biggest game of the weekend, with Chelsea looking to kick their season into high-gear after a slow start following a flurry of summer arrivals.

United bounced back from their 6-1 demolition at the hands of Tottenham last time out with an impressive 2-1 Champions League win over PSG on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Chelsea struggled in attack against Sevilla on Wednesday, although United’s leaky defence should rectify that.

Last summer was a tale of two cities for these two clubs: Chelsea splashed over £220 million on stars —  including Germany’s Timo Werner and Kai Havertz  — while United spent months tracking Dortmnd’s Jadon Sancho before settling on former Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani on deadline day, among other signings.

Expect to see plenty of new talent on show this weekend.


When they last met… Chelsea failed to score against United in the league last season, including Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side running out 4-0 winners at Old Trafford, followed by a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge in February. 


Team news: Chelsea star Hakim Ziyech could be in line to make his first start for the club since arriving this summer, while fellow new-arrival Edouard Mendy will replace Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal after returning from a thigh injury. 

United defender Harry Maguire is in contention to return after he picked up a knock on international duty, while Solskjaer is faced with a selection dilemma after Axel Tuanzabe put in a commanding performance in midweek.

Cavani will be available for the first time since his arrival earlier this month. Forward Mason Greenwood could also return, while striker Anthony Martial remains suspended and defender Eric Bailly will remain out of contention.


Player to watch: Werner will be the key for Chelsea. The striker will be hoping to pick up where he left off after opening his Premier League account with two goals against Southampton last weekend.


Prediction: Chelsea edge United in a 3-2 win.

West Ham United vs. Manchester City


The lowdown: Few would have expected West Ham and City to be level on points heading into Week 6, and David Moyes’ side will look to capitalise on City’s injury-hit defence that have already struggled for clean sheets.

Midfielder Manuel Lanzini capped a remarkable comeback to draw 3-3 against Spurs last weekend, transforming the east London side’s rollercoaster performance into a serious confidence boost — although consistency remains an issue.


When they last met… City winger Raheem Sterling bagged a hat-trick at the London stadium in 5-0 thumping during last season’s league opening weekend. Pep Guardiola’s side followed up with a comfortable 2-0 victory in February.


Team news: West Ham’s deadline day signing Said Benrahma could make his club debut, with out-of-favour striker Sebastian Haller will also be available.

Midfield star Kevin De Bruyne is a doubt for this weekend. City will also be light at the back as Fernandinho has been ruled out along with defenders Benjamin Mendy out and Aymeric Laporte a major doubt.


Player to watch: West Ham midfielder Tomas Soucek received high praise from Spurs boss Jose Mourinho last week, and the Czech Republic star will need to dominate with his physicality if his side are to stand a chance against last season’s league runners-up. 


Prediction: Man City outscore West Ham in a goal-fest 4-2 victory.

Fulham vs. Crystal Palace


The lowdown: A gritty London derby is what Fulham need to kick start their season.

The only way is up for Scott Parker’s side who have managed just a single point so far this season — good enough only for last place in the league — and they’re many people’s favourites for relegation.

Palace have enjoyed a different start to the campaign, including an upset 3-1 victory at Old Trafford. But Roy Hodgson’s team have been stagnant in their three games since.

Hodgson will return to his old stomping for the first time this season — the Palace boss managed Fulham over a decade ago — but he will have to ignore any of the romantic sentiments of the European nights he once enjoyed at Craven Cottage in what should be a feisty affair.


When they last met… We have to go back to the 2018-19 season to see a meeting between these two in the league, when Palace logged a pair of 2-0 wins over Fulham.


Team news: Palace defenders Gary Cahill and James Tomkins will be in contention, while striker Jordan Ayew has been withdrawn after testing positive for the coronavirus..

Fulham will have a full-strength side available, maybe even another start for ex-Palace loanee Reuben Loftus-Cheek. 


Player to watch: Should I stay or should I go? That was question that Palace winger Wilfried Zaha must have asked repeatedly himself as he was linked with bigger moves away. But the Nigeria international stayed and has already equalled his goal tally of four from last season.


 Prediction: Palace fail to create much but manage a 1-0 win in a tight affair.

Arsenal vs Leicester City


 The lowdown: Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta’s more disciplined and pragmatic approach has worked well this season, despite early losses to City and title holders Liverpool — even in defeat, they have avoided the kind of defensive embarrassment that has haunted them in recent years.

Sunday will bring yet another familiar test: Leicester’s Vardy. The 33-year-old striker has long found the Emirates a happy hunting ground — he has scored 10 goals in 11 Premier League games against Arsenal — and Arteta’s new look side must finally find a way to stop him in his tracks.

A victory of over top four rivals Leicester would be a massive early boost to Arsenal’s Champions League qualification bid.


When they last met… These two sides shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw in July after the coronavirus lockdown, although Leicester bested Arsenal 2-0 earlier in the season. Vardy scored in both games.


Team news: Arsenal midfielder Dani Ceballos should be in contention to start, but the home side will be without defender Rob Holding due to a hamstring injury.

Arsenal will be praying that Vardy remains sidelined after missing Leicester’s last two games with a calf injury, although manager Brendan Rodgers said that he will be in contention on Friday.

Defensive trio Wilfred Ndidi, Caglar Soyuncu and Ricardo Pereira make up the rest of Leicester’s crowded physio room, with all three ruled out.


Player to watch: Partey Time! Arsenal fans are eager to see new-arrival Thomas Partey make his Premier League debut this Sunday after a strong display against Rapid Wien in the Europa League on Thursday.


 Prediction: Arsenal do not keep Leicester quiet but manage to secure a hard-fought 2-2 draw.

Burnley vs Tottenham Hotspur


The lowdown: Question marks remain over a Spurs side who have conceded eight goals this season, including three in final 10 minutes against West Ham.

Gareth Bale has yet to pay dividends in his triumphant return to north London, but Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane have not let that get in their way.  A tough test awaits at Turf Moor from the combatant, powerful game that Sean Dyche’s side provide on a weekly basis.


When they last met… Remember that Son goal? The 28-year-old winger weaved in and out of Claret shirts when he ran the length of the pitch before slotting home past goalkeeper Nick Pope last season on the way to a 5-0 home win.

Burnley held Mourinho’s side to a 1-1 draw at Turf Moor later in the season, though.


Team news: Spurs will field a squad to full strength with only a couple of absences — Japhet Tanganga has been ruled out and Eric Dier remains a major doubt.

Burnley will have to face Spurs’ free-scoring attack with a bare bones backline as they remain without captain Ben Mee and defender Phil Bardsley. Left-back Erik Pieters is also a doubt for Sunday, but right-back Matt Lowton is in contention to return.


Player to watch: Bale could make his first Premier League starts since returning to Spurs from Real Madrid earlier this month, and the 31-year-old winger will add serious firepower to an already potent attack. Can he do it on a cold, wet night in Burnley?


Prediction: Spurs blow past Burnley in a 3-1 win.


Copy by William Murray and Connor O’Halloran

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