It’s time to prepare for a full slate of action as Matchweek 3 of the 2023/24 Premier League season begins.
Matchweek 2 delivered multiple notable headlines, ranging from Tottenham’s victory over Manchester United, West Ham beating Chelsea, Alexis Mac Allister’s red card, Aston Villa drubbing Everton and Brighton smashing Wolves away.
Only time will tell if Matchweek 3 can live up to that drama, but on the pitch, there are plenty of quality games on the menu starting from Friday evening. With that being said, here are 10 things to look forward to in matchweek 3 of the new Premier League season.
#Sheffield United’s test of character against Man City
Sheffield United were just minutes away from pinching a credible point away at Nottingham Forest, only for a lapse in concentration in defence allowed substitute Chris Wood to score a winning header.
After conceding so early in the game, the Blades fought back really well and equalised just after the interval through a fantastic Gustavo Hamer strike from the edge of the box. However, back-to-back defeats to Crystal Palace and Forest has seen Sheffield United not enjoy the kind of return to the top flight they would have liked.
Things don’t get easy for Paul Heckingbottom and Co. as they welcome defending champions Manchester City to Bramall Lane on Sunday. There is an ominous feeling around Sheffield United ahead of the game but it also gives the opportunity to the players to show their character and resilience for a positive result against Man City.
#Will the Brighton juggernaut keep rolling?
It’s safe to assume Brighton as a genuine contender to break into the top four this season, even though there is so much competition. With a 4-1 thrashing of Wolves at Molineux last time out, the south coast side sit at the top of the table.
Before the game against Wolves, Brighton boss Roberto de Zerbi said he felt his side were reaching “a higher level” regardless of the high-profile departures of Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo to Liverpool and Chelsea respectively. It is difficult to find fault with De Zerbi’s assessment after his side scored four goals for the second consecutive game – including three in a rollicking start to the second half.
Brighton’s opponents on Saturday, West Ham will head to the Amex Stadium on the back off a morale-boosting 3-1 win over London rivals Chelsea. There has been talks of tensions between West Ham boss David Moyes and director of football Tim Steidten regarding control of transfers.
A bright home win over Chelsea has managed to quell those tensions but there is every chance of Moyes coming under pressure if Brighton turn on the heat against the Hammers at the weekend.
#Thomas Frank needs Brentford to maintain form
Brentford going to Craven Cottage and smashing rivals Fulham 3-0 should not have surprised anyone: even without talismanic striker Ivan Toney they have far too many good players to win games on their own and employ a manager who knows how to use his system to great effect.
The manner in which Brentford won at Fulham was telling, albeit a harsh second yellow for the hosts’ skipper Tim Ream made their life easy in the second half. The Bees have been excellent in their opening two games, amassing four points from six to find themselves fourth in the table.
And ahead of another London derby—this time against Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace at the G-tech Community Stadium—Frank would want his boys to be more ruthless and relentless in front of goal to maintain their bright start to the new season.
#Moises Caicedo’s full Chelsea debut
After a tug-of-war between Chelsea and Liverpool, Moises Caicedo brought his long-drawn transfer saga to a close last week by joining Chelsea for a British transfer record fee of £115million from Brighton. He didn’t start the game against West Ham on Sunday and came in with Chelsea trailing 2-1.
However, Caicedo endured a debut to forget. He looked rusty after coming off the bench and gave away a late penalty for West Ham’s third goal, scored calmly by Lucas Paqueta. The loss was far from the Ecuador international’s fault, with the Blues looking disjointed at the London Stadium.
Up next for Mauricio Pochettino’s side is a home game against newly-promoted Luton Town, and with Carney Chukwuemeka expected to be out for six weeks after undergoing knee surgery, all eyes will be on Caicedo’s full Chelsea debut on Friday evening.
#Can Everton break their duck?
Everton were woefully bad in their 4-0 defeat to Aston Villa last weekend, with manager Sean Dyche claiming “I could have taken the whole team off at half-time” in his post-match remarks.
Indeed, it is only two games into the new season but Everton are already bottom of the Premier League table and the problems are piling up for Sean Dyche. They lost 1-0 against Fulham at home in their opener and were taken apart 4-0 at Aston Villa on Sunday to sink to the basement of the table.
Next up for the Toffees is a home game against a demoralised Wolves side searching for their first points. Given both the teams are sailing in the same boat, it will be interesting to watch whether the Everton players thrive in front of the Goodison Park faithful or get swallowed up.
#Aston Villa players will not want rest
Aston Villa are coming into Sunday’s fixture against Burnley off the back of a 4-0 thrashing of Everton at Villa Park. They were annihilated by Newcastle United on the opening weekend but Unai Emery’s men showed great character to immediately bounce back and put the horror show at St James’ Park behind them.
The signs are ominous for Burnley, who had their last match against fellow newcomers Luton Town at Kenilworth Road postponed. Douglas Luiz, Leon Bailey, John McGinn and Jhon Duran scored in Villa’s big win last weekend, while the likes of Ollie Watkins and Moussa Diaby all had chances to make that scoreline a bit more embarrassing for Everton fans.
Emery’s players will be full of confidence heading to Turf Moor and will not be keen on being rotated out, especially against a Burnley side that conceded three against Man City in their season opener.
#How does Liverpool cope without Alexis Mac Allister?
On his Anfield debut against Bournemouth last weekend, Alexis Mac Allister’s day was cut short when referee Thomas Brammall brandished a red card following his challenge on Ryan Christie in the 58th minute. On first viewing, it seemed a harsh decision as Mac Allister mistimed his challenge and mistakenly clipped Christie’s leg, although the VAR went with Brammall’s on-field decision and the red card stood.
Challenging the referee’s call, Liverpool have appealed the red card shown to Mac Allister in the 3-1 win against Bournemouth. They will be hopeful of overturning the Argentinean midfielder’s three-match ban, which would see him miss games against Newcastle, Aston Villa and Wolves. If the FA feel the club have made a ‘frivolous appeal’, the ban could be extended.
As things stand, Jurgen Klopp would be preparing his team without Mac Allister for the stiff test away to Newcastle. Latest recruit Wataru Endo did well on his Liverpool debut after coming off the bench, making him the likely candidate to potentially replace Mac Allister in midfield. But is Endo ready to start such a big game against Newcastle? Or will Klopp alter his system?
#Manchester United’s response to Tottenham defeat
There is plenty to occupy Erik ten Hag this week as he looks to get Manchester United back on track after a tricky start to the season. He will be looking to fix some issues that have come to light in Man United’s opening two games of the new Premier League season.
Three points from their first two games of the campaign is an improvement on last year’s woeful start and the way the Red Devils recovered then should give them some confidence, but some of the weaknesses on show this year have been unexpected—especially in the middle of the park. While they were lucky to edge past Wolves 1-0 in their season opener, the 2-0 away defeat to Tottenham last weekend has undoubtedly raised questions on the manager’s tactics and the mentality of the players.
Come Saturday at home to Nottingham Forest, Ten Hag would expect a stirring response from his United side. But will his boys deliver the goods?
#Can West Ham upset high-flying Brighton?
West Ham produced a brilliant performance in their first home game of the season against Chelsea last weekend, beating them 3-1 with a man down.
Four points from the opening two games is a great return considering West Ham’s on and off-field problems, ranging from tensions between manager David Moyes and director of football Tim Steidten, lack of signings to speculation over Lucas Paqueta’s future. The resilience and unity with which the Hammers defended against Chelsea after going down to 10 men following Nayef Aguerd’s dismissal spoke volumes.
Up next for Moyes’ side is a trip to the Amex Stadium to face high-flying league leaders Brighton. The victory over Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea has given fans hope and belief, and if West Ham can show the same fight, energy and cohesion in defence whilst being threatening in transitions, another scalp in the form of Brighton could just be possible.
#Who will replace James Maddison in Spurs’ midfield against Bournemouth?
Tottenham midfielder James Maddison was seen leaving the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on crutches with his foot in a protective boot after the game against Manchester United last weekend. Ange Postecoglou and Tottenham will be hoping that Maddison’s injury scare is nothing too serious after his excellent performance in the 2-0 win over United.
Spurs picked up a statement 2-0 win over United and Maddison was at the heart of it, pulling strings from his favoured No.10 role. The England international has starred for Spurs during his first two outings under Postecoglou, with the creative midfielder registering two assists at Brentford on the opening weekend.
So, Maddison’s injury is a big blow for the north London outfit, leaving Postecoglou with plenty to think about who replaces him in midfield against Bournemouth in Saturday’s lunch-time kickoff.