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Test Of Man United’s Depth, Aston Villa’s Character & More: 10 Things To Look Forward To In Matchweek 7

The Premier League will return at the weekend after the midweek Carabao Cup third-round fixtures.

Matchweek 6 delivered high-octane action and drama, and only time will tell if Matchweek 7 can live up to its hype and expectations. On paper, though, there are plenty of quality games on offer starting with Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off between Aston Villa and Brighton.

With that being said, here are 10 things to look forward to in matchweek 7 of the 2023/24 Premier League campaign.

#Can Man City maintain their top spot?

Manchester City find themselves at the top of the Premier League after matchweek six, with two points separating them from second-placed Liverpool.

Pep Guardiola’s side have started the new campaign like champions, winning their opening six fixtures and are once again setting the pace at the top. Despite being reduced to 10 men after Rodri’s early dismissal in the second half, they showed character and grit to hold on to their two-goal lead against Nottingham Forest and eventually win the game last weekend.

Rodri will be a big miss for City in the upcoming games following a straight red card. Who replaces the Spaniard in the team and how City does against Wolves will be interesting to watch. All in all, they do have enough quality to get the job done at Wolves, who were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Ipswich Town.

And having also lost their Carabao Cup fixture against Newcastle United, all eyes will be on whether Pep makes any noticeable tweak to his approach or not.

#Man United’s full-back department faces a stern test

Manchester United spent big in the summer to strengthen their attack and midfield unit, but might a lack of full-back depth prove their undoing this season?

With Luke Shaw, Tyrell Malacia and Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the sidelines, loanee Sergio Reguilon’s absence—perhaps due to a hamstring problem— didn’t do them much harm as they beat Crystal Palace comfortably in the Carabao Cup third round in midweek. How long Reguilon could now be out or was it precautionary remains to be seen, but if it’s the former then that leaves Erik ten Hag with Diogo Dalot as the only natural senior full-back in his squad.

Sofyan Amrabat made his full United debut in an unfamiliar left-back role and performed well, meaning if Reguilon misses out then we can see the Moroccan again in that position against Palace in the Premier League at the weekend. Roy Hodgson hardly boasts the sharpest attack in the league, but his team could operate differently from the one in midweek with Eberechi Eze starting in midfield. How Ten Hag comes up with a plan to solve his team’s full-back conundrum will be interesting to watch.

#Crucial time for O’Neil’s Wolves

With Gary O’Neil in desperate firefighting mode, Wolves’ home game against Manchester City hardly makes things easier.

Ipswich Town stunned Wolves 3-2 in the Carabao Cup third round on Tuesday which has led to O’Neil now overseeing five defeats in eight matches across all competitions. As they seek to return to winning ways, in their way are Man City, who have enjoyed a flawless start to the new Premier League season so far.

While City will not be at full strength at Molineux due to suspension and injuries, if Wolves go down to a fifth loss from seven Premier League games, O’Neil can expect serious questions about where this season is heading.

#Aston Villa’s test of character against Brighton

Aston Villa’s start to the season has been scratchy; they suffered big defeats to Newcastle United and Liverpool but have recovered well and sit sixth in the table. They have beaten Crystal Palace and Chelsea in their last two league games, sandwiched by a 3-2 loss to Legia Warszawa in the Europa League. They also made an early exit from the Carabao Cup, losing 1-2 to Everton.

Up next for Villa is the visit of high-flying Brighton on Saturday, with Roberto de Zerbi’s exciting, possession-based side sitting third in the table with 15 points—18 goals scored and eight conceded. They will provide a stiff challenge to Unai Emery and Co, but given they are at home and have got some winning momentum, Villa will relish it.

#Will Pochettino’s Chelsea respond at Craven Cottage?

It’s not been a great start to life at Chelsea for Mauricio Pochettino. He has taken only five points from the opening six league games and is yet to show any signs of reversing Chelsea’s fortunes. They have an enormous injury list too, which is partly responsible for a horrible campaign for Pochettino and the Blues so far.

Chelsea have neither scored a goal nor won a league game in September. Their meek 1-0 loss to Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge last time out further piled pressure on Pochettino. The Argentinean finds himself in a spot of bother, with fans continuing to show their displeasure at the club’s slide.

Following their positive midweek Carabao Cup adventure against Brighton, they will travel across the capital to face Fulham in the West London derby. A positive result at Craven Cottage would do wonders but if Chelsea lose, it will certainly spark murmurings between Todd Boehly and the club’s top brass regarding Pochettino’s position.

#Can Brentford rebound at Nottingham Forest?

After the disappointing 3-1 defeat to Everton at home last time out, the Brentford players have had a week to let it fester with a 0-1 loss against Arsenal strewn in the middle. Will they come flying out of the traps at the City Ground?

Last season they did that, but then let Nottingham Forest off the hook in a 2-2 draw.

#How Maddison performs against Liverpool?

Tottenham Hotspur hosting Liverpool on Saturday will be the weekend’s most intriguing matchup—both teams unbeaten in the league and in flying form.

Spurs were excellent against Arsenal last weekend, surprisingly dominating the ball and playing some lovely stuff that barely happened during the dark days of Nuno Espirito Santo and Antonio Conte. James Maddison produced a stellar display at the Emirates Stadium, supplying both assists for Son Heung-min’s goals.

Having already scored twice and provided four assists in his first five league starts for Spurs, the England international will be full of confidence heading into the big game. Liverpool have looked good this season, but they have been slightly open in midfield despite spending millions in the summer revamping it. That will be music to Maddison’s ears—a player with swagger, charisma and confidence to hurt the visitors anytime and from anywhere.

#Will Calvert-Lewin start against Luton?

It is not rocket science to suggest that Dominic Calvert-Lewin will be vital for Everton this season— of course, if he can stay fit.

The English striker, who had scored just twice in 19 league games since May 2022 amid several injury setbacks, sealed three points for Everton by adding the third against Brentford last weekend. With the Toffees having gone into the match winless, it was a good time for Calvert-Lewin to open his account for the season.

Summer signing Beto has shown he can carry the fire up front for Everton, but given newcomers Luton Town’s freefall and failure to keep a clean sheet, Sean Dyche may opt for Calvert-Lewin to lead the line at Goodison Park on Saturday.

#Is Heckingbottom’s time up at Sheffield United?

Sheffield United are bottom of the table and slumped to their worst-ever Premier League defeat in front of a stunned home crowd, losing 0-8 to Newcastle United last weekend which led to a chorus of boos at full time. Generally, managers don’t last long after such a heavy defeat but for now, Paul Heckingbottom is here and ready to fight his way through along with his players.

The Blades make the trip to London to face West Ham at the weekend, and Heckingbottom will be desperate to see a response from his boys. He is on the brink of becoming the season’s first Premier League managerial casualty after a horrible start and a defeat at West Ham should all but seal his fate at Bramall Lane.

#An away-day lift for Burnley?

19th in the table with just a point from seven matches, Vincent Kompany’s Burnley have found life in the Premier League difficult. The question arises here—How long might Kompany stick with Burnley’s attacking style?

Matches such as Newcastle United away are likely to determine that. In his defence, their fixture list in the Premier League has been unkind, with Manchester City, Aston Villa, Tottenham and Manchester United the first lot of visitors to Turf Moor. For their second away game, the Clarets travel to St James’ Park to face Newcastle United, who have managed to get their season back on track and smashed Sheffield United 8-0 at Bramall Lane.

Newcastle ripped the Blades to shreds and they could do something similar if Kompany fails to mix pragmatism with his attacking principles at St James’ Park. If Kompany and Co are to get a result at Newcastle, they must take a leaf out of Liverpool’s recent trip to St James Park—stay tight, compact, focused, disciplined and hit hard on the counter.

Rohan Sengupta

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