The Clasico, Real Madrid versus Barcelona, may now be regarded as the biggest football match on the planet in the modern era. But every time Liverpool’s meeting with Manchester United pops up on calendars across the world, there’s a rush of excitement.
After a two-week break from domestic football, the clash between English football’s two biggest clubs is a perfect reintroduction into the Premier League. Anfield will be a hotbed on animosity, passion and tension come lunchtime on Merseyside on Saturday. It dominates the weekend.
Hopefully, it’s a fixture that’ll set the tone for an enjoyable Week 8 in which the division’s unique sides all have a plethora of different challenges to take on.
Read on for a focus on the three standout fixtures of the weekend, a line on the rest of the matches and a prediction for all 10 games to come from English football’s top flight.
Liverpool vs. Manchester United
This fixture appeared in danger of losing its allure not too long ago. With both clubs changing managers and neither challenging for the Premier League title, the rivalry between the two sets of supporters was the key storyline in the buildup to a lot of these matches. Thoughts of silverware seemed fantastical.
Now, with two world-class coaches in the dugout and improving football teams under their guidance, it feels massive again.
Saturday’s meeting does, especially for Manchester United. Their brilliant early-season form has come with the caveat of the opposition they’ve come against. They’ve won matches in style, with purpose and even when they haven’t been at their best. But six wins and a draw from the games in question is to be expected.
This fixture is one of those that feels on a knife edge. At the home of their biggest rivals, United might well lose, while a point would be commendable. Win? They’ll be taken extremely seriously.
Liverpool will bring the intensity for this one, even without Sadio Mane, and will seek to scare the Red Devils in the early stages of the game. If United can see off that early flurry, find a foothold in the game and ensure they’re level going into the last third of the match, they have the tools to come through here. 0-1 (9/1 Bet365)
Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea
With no wins, no goals and no points before the international break, the last thing Crystal Palace players and supporters would have wanted to return to would be a tussle with Chelsea.
For manager Roy Hodgson, rallying his players in the buildup to this one will be a huge challenge. In their last two outings they’ve been pulled apart by Manchester City (5-0) and Manchester United (4-0), as the team have posed no attacking threat and showcased no defensive cohesion.
Factor in the absence of Christian Benteke and Ruben Loftus-Cheek for this one, there appears to be a massive chasm between the two teams. One that can’t be bridged by a home atmosphere, endeavour or even a sense of the pressure being off.
Nor by the injuries and suspensions Chelsea have to contend with heading to Selhurst Park. N’Golo Kante is poised to miss out, Alvaro Morata is unlikely to be risked, whereas David Luiz is still serving a ban. It means manager Antonio Conte will be without three key components in the spine of his best XI.
Yet Chelsea have the quality to cope and while Palace will battle in front of their own supporters, they’ll be heading into their ninth game of the season scoreless and pointless. 0-2 (6/1 Bet Victor)
Watford vs. Arsenal
The most vivid memory of Arsenal from the current Premier League season is their pitiful performance away at Anfield. But they quietly put together an impressive September and sit in fifth position in the standings.
Chelsea away could have been tough for the Gunners but they came through to grab a 0-0 draw, West Bromwich Albion at home would have potentially been a challenge too, but they negotiated that confidently. Even so, there’s always a sense with Arsenal that another slip-up is just around the corner.
Away from home it’s tough to trust them, with no goals netted in any of their three matches on the road so far. Still, for all the positive words said about Watford, they’ve yet to win at home either.
But we should say some more positive words about Watford. After being obliterated 6-0 by Manchester City the early promise shown in the campaign could have been snuffed out; in their two following games they beat Swansea with a last-minute goal and completed a stoppage-time comeback against West Brom having been two goals down.
Marco Silva has instilled some spirit into a side that’s lacked any togetherness in the past. That determination will see them to a draw against an Arsenal team that still seems scarred by early-season events. 1-1 (8/1 among most green listed bookmakers)
Burnley vs. West Ham United
After a wonderful win at Everton, Burnley return to Turf Moor seeking to bring their away form to home soil. Against them is a West Ham outfit that’s still struggling to foster an identity despite some small recent improvements. It’s unlikely to be one for the purists and easy to see the spoils being shared in an even game. 1-1 (11/2 William Hill)
Manchester City vs. Stoke
The international break came at the worst possible time for Manchester City, as they were in irrepressible form. Their 1-0 win against Chelsea was Pep Guardiola’s vision come to life, as the Etihad Stadium outfit dominated possession, created chances and pressed with a tremendous intensity. They’ll have too much for an inconsistent Stoke. 3-0 (13/2 Betfred)
Swansea City vs. Huddersfield Town
Two teams that desperately need a win. Swansea continue to shoot themselves in the foot despite looking largely solid in a lot of matches, while Huddersfield were taught a harsh lesson about the Premier League last time out by Spurs. Given both sides have had major issues in front of goal, expect a low-scoring affair and for home advantage to prove decisive. 1-0 (11/2 Bet365)
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Bournemouth
This has to be it for Spurs, doesn’t it? The end of the Wembley hoodoo. Not only have they been in irrepressible form and boast arguably the finest striker on the planet at the moment in Harry Kane, in Bournemouth they’re up against a team devoid of confidence. An early goal here will see Spurs secure their first home win of the season in style. 3-0 (15/2 BetVictor)
Brighton vs. Everton
Ronald Koeman has come under intense pressure since his team were beaten by Burnley and after an international break, a trip to the south coast is far from ideal. Brighton have performed well at home in the main this season and will feel confident of adding to the Toffees’ misery; the visitors will do just enough to earn a share of the spoils, though. 1-1 (6/1 Bet365)
Southampton vs. Newcastle United
A decent beginning to the season for Saints has been soured by two back-to-back losses in their last two games and scrutiny will come for Mauricio Pellegrino if Newcastle do a job on Southampton here. Rafael Benitez’s side have acquitted themselves well in the Premier League so far and boast the know-how to avoid defeat at St Mary’s. 1-1 (13/2 William Hill)
Leicester City vs. West Bromwich Albion
Another game between two teams in need of a spark. Leicester still only have one win to their name this season and while they’ve performed well in most of their games, Craig Shakespeare’s side have failed to show any killer instinct. West Brom haven’t won in five and don’t have the attacking quality to test a ropey defence on the road. 1-0 (13/2 Bet365)