Anyone who claimed this is how the season would start is lying... unless they just said it would be unpredictable, in which case they’d be spot on and a little cliched.
Just when you think the season is starting to make sense (e.g. Spurs up three at the half), you’re stunned by the unexpected:
...and you just need to start sensing all over again.
Here are some final thoughts and key injuries:
Friday 23 October
[ This is our FRIDAY evening (in the UK) deadline game that should give us confirmed lineups in the countdown hour before the Fantrax deadline. Be here on FRIDAY! ]
At the beginning of the season many would have thought this could be a relegation battle, but Villa are top of the league and Leeds have proved themselves worthy of the EPL thus far. Villa have four win out of four, and they given up only 2 goals, with Emiliano Martinez looking like a winning move for them. Can they continue in this form? Leeds certainly haven’t backed down from anyone, and won’t do so here. It’s a fun way to start
Injuries: No new major injuries for Aston Villa, who will likely see an unchanged lineup. Keinen Davis may return, but I don’t see him making the starting 11. Leeds Defender Liam Cooper is a major doubt, which hurts their back line. Kalvin Phillips also is out for Leeds.
Saturday 24 October
I keep waiting for the Citizens’ to snap out of their scoring slump in the EPL. Besides the five-goal thrashing form Leicester, they have held strong at the back, although Ederson has played a bigger role in some games than Pep would probably like. I’m not sure what to make of West Ham. It feels like there are two different teams, but the last three games the Hammers scored at least three goals.
Injuries: West Ham have some knocks, but it looks like all key players are ready to go. The biggest news is that Kevin De Bruyne is back in training (just), but there isn’t yet definite news on his status. The Friday deadline doesn’t help us as we would rather have another day to hear news. Gabriel Jesus is still out, but Kun Aguero continues to be available. Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake are both doubts.
Fulham remain rooted to the bottom of the table. The missed PK last weekend probably still hurts if you’re a Fulham fan. They’re near the foot of the table in both goals scored and goals against. Crystal Palace conceded at 90 last weekend, missing an opportunity for three huge points. This game is another chance for Crystal Palace to pick up three, and they won’t want to fall short this time.
Injuries: No new injury concerns for Fulham. Crystal Palace have a long list of injuries still: Jordan Ayew is the biggest concern; we’re still waiting on James Tompkins and Gary Cahill, but both are in training.
This is the marquee match of the weekend, at least from historically big names. In reality it’s 8th place Chelsea against 15th place Manchester United. This is big game for both teams who need the three points, with extra pressure on Ole and United to get things right. Chelsea may still be recovering from their collapse against Southampton, where Timo Werner’s breakout game was wasted. But there’s no time to lick wounds in the EPL. I’m expecting goals in this one.
Injuries: Chelsea should start Edouard Mendy in goal, and Kepa Arrizabalaga is out as backup. Otherwise, Chelsea is healthy. Martial is still out with his red card. There are questions for Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani, and Harry Maguire, but all look positive.
Liverpool still are near the top of the league for most goals, but near the bottom for goals-against. Virgil Van Dyke’s injury compounds Liverpool’s defensive problems, so it will be interesting to see how Klopp adjusts. All that said, the Reds sit 3rd even though they have stumbled out of the gates. Sheffield United still haven’t found their mojo, and I worry it may be gone. Two goals in five matches leaves them 19th. They remain decently strong at the back, although not as good last year. Eventually one must score goals to win games in the EPL. Liverpool can do that, so I suspect they will win this game too.
Injuries: Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, and Alisson Becker are all out and are major losses for Liverpool. Naby Keita and Thiago Alcantara are also doubts in the midfield. Sheffield’s John Fleck, Lys Mousset, and Jack O’Connell are out.
Sunday 25 October
[ BST (British Summer Time) ends in the wee hours of Sunday morning, so viewers beware! Clocks will be sliding all over the road as the Brits “fall back” a week ahead of the yanks, followed by America following suit next week just to add confusion. ]
Everton remain unbeaten and top of the EPL table. They are doing it by scoring goals, with a league leading 14. They have conceded in every game but their first, and Southampton have scored in every game but their first, so I’m not expecting a shutout out by either side.
Injuries: Richarlison is out because of this red card. Seamus Coleman and Mason Holgate are out, so Ben Godfrey is an option for Everton. James Rodriguez has a knock, but should be available. New loanee Theo Walcott is unable to face his parent club this weekend. Stuart Armstrong should be back.
Wolves have managed back-to-back 1-0 wins and are again looking more like the team from a year ago who hung around the top-6 all year. Newcastle stay consistently inconsistent. One game they look fantastic, the next not so much.
Injuries: Jonny is still out for Wolves, but there are no other injuries. Magpies Matt Ritchie, Dwight Gayle, and Martin Dubravka are still out.
The other big match-up of the weekend, but this one puts 4th place Leicester vs 5th place Arsenal. Both teams suffered 1-0 losses last weekend so will be looking to rebound. The potential return of Jamie Vardy, out last weekend, would be a huge plus for the Foxes.
Injuries: Arsenal’s injury list is still long but hasn’t affected their main lineup each weekend. Willian and Dani Ceballos have slight issues, but are trending towards being available. As stated, Jamie Vardy should be available, but is listed as needing a late fitness test. Wilfred Ndidi and Caglar Soyuncu are big absentees for Leicester defensively.
Monday 26 October
The first game on Monday sees two struggling teams fighting to pull away from the relegation zone. A loss could see either slip beneath the bubble. Both are conceding goals at a high rate. This may not be the most entertaining match, but there could be some goals.
Injuries: Lewis Dunk will miss for Brighton for a red card. Davy Propper and Danny Welbeck are doubts, although I’m not sure you’re considering them. No new injury concerns for West Brom.
Spurs are scoring goals, lots of them. Burnley, however, have scored only one in their last three outings. I expect both of those trends to continue. We will see how Spurs respond to their 2nd half collapse last week, and their heavily-rotated squad’s 3-0 Thursday evening Europa league victory suggests regular service will be restored; fans will be pleased that Gareth Bale started and played 62 minutes. The goals should continue here for Spurs, and Burnley’s anemic offense could be the tonic the Spurs defense needs.
Injuries: There’s a growing list of injuries for Burnley, none that spark any concern for my team, but it means that their back line and midfield aren’t first choice starters in places. All key players are available for Spurs.
What last minute changes are you looking for? Are we in for another goal-filled weekend (i.e. lots of penalties)? What updated injury news have you seen? Are you confident in your team? Please share your thoughts with us as approach our deadlines and then watch the matches live!