What a game-week we’ve just left in our rear-view mirror! The EPL set a record for the most goals in a single round of play, with balls rippling the back of the net 44 times last weekend! But they weren’t distributed evenly. You were delighted if you had Heung-Min Son (4), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (3), Sadio Mané (2), Neil Maupay (2), Aleksandar Mitrovic (2), Heider Costa (2), Wilfried Zaha (2), or Danny Ings (2) in your squads, but were crestfallen if you didn’t.
Well, today marks the start of another round, and that means we start fresh all over again. Will your players be among the goals this week, or will you be left out in the cold? Either way, we’ll be able to enjoy the games together — six of them even if you don’t have that damned Peacock channel!
Settle in with a favorite beverage, and then tell us about what you’re drinking as together we discuss round three’s action live!
Brighton vs Manchester United
Brighton won convincingly over Newcastle on Sunday, putting three past Karl Darlow while keeping a clean sheet. The win was a nice rebound after their 1-3 opening weekend loss to Chelsea. Since that loss the Seagulls have won three games in a row across all competitions, with an aggregate scoreline of 9-0. Graham Potter will hope their current form will be enough to overcome recent struggles at home: They’ve taken only one point from the last fifteen available at the Amex, winning only one of ten top-flight matches played there in 2020.
In their first match of the campaign, United fell to Crystal Palace in a 1-3 loss at Old Trafford last weekend. It was only the third time United have lost their opening game of an EPL season, and it was the first time in Palace’s last 40 games that the Eagles have scored more than two goals. The loss cast United’s offense, defense, and summer transfer strategy into grave doubt, but the Red Devils responded with a 3-0 Carabao Cup win over Luton Town on Tuesday. For all the scrutiny he is currently under, the victory was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s 50th as United’s manager, a milestone he has reached faster than the great Sir Alex Ferguson did. Still, with Tottenham, Chelsea, and Arsenal coming in their next four league matches, OGS needs to leave the Amex with all three points today.
Fun fact: These two clubs will meet again on Wednesday in the Carabao Cup’s Round of 16.
Crystal Palace vs Everton
This match features a clash of undefeateds, the Eagles registering wins over Southampton and Man U, and the Toffees taking scalps against Spurs and West Brom. Palace are flying high on the back of a rampant Wilfried Zaha, whose goals in each of Palace’s first two matches were the first time he has netted in back-to-back fixtures in almost a year. Improbable as it may sound, the Eagles are currently tied on points for first place, sitting above Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, and Chelsea in the table.
Just as improbable is Everton’s position in the table. The Toffees currently sit second, behind Leicester only on goal differential. The move to Goodison Park has breathed new life into James Rodriguez, who in turn has reanimated Everton’s attack. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has especially benefited from the Colombian’s addition, notching four goals already. But Carlo Ancelotti’s new-look midfield has taken the entire Toffee offense to new heights: They’ve scored 14 goals in the four games they’ve played across all competitions so far. The odds look good for them today too — they haven’t lost this fixture in any of its last 11 iterations.
West Brom vs Chelsea
Many of us predicted that West Brom would struggle in the top flight, and so far we’ve been proven right. Their defense has been particularly shocking, shipping eight goals in only two games. They were also bounced out of the Carabao Cup by Brentford, an embarrassing defeat for a Premier League club. If he cannot manage a win against the Blues, Slaven Bilic will at least want to avoid another blowout.
But that could be difficult against Chelsea’s high-octane offense. Frank Lampard has already confirmed that Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech are still not ready to feature today, but even without them the Blues have put up nine goals in three games across all competitions. Yet Lampard admitted that the shutout loss to Liverpool was a “reality check” that underscored the distance that still remains between his club and the league’s best. He’ll hope that the return of Pulisic and Ziyech plus the addition of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy will soon narrow that gap.
Burnley vs Southampton
These two teams saw out Project Restart in good form, finishing last season in 10th and 11th place respectively. But both have failed to carry that momentum into this campaign, Burnley suffering defeat in its opener last weekend and Southampton losing both of its EPL matches so far. Sean Dyche will hope that home ground will provide the necessary edge today, while Ralph Hassenhüttl will try to motivate a squad that is so far still searching for its first win in any competition this season.
Sheffield United vs Leeds
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Premier League will feature a Yorkshire derby this weekend. The match pits last season’s improbable story against the club that could be this season’s improbable story, with Leeds impressing so far in this long-awaited return to the Prem. While the Peacocks have conceded seven goals in their two top-flight games so far, they’ve also scored as many. But the signing of Spanish defender Diego Llorente this week may help tighten things up at the back, and if they can do that while maintaining their explosiveness going forward, then they could secure another year in the Prem next season.
The mood is a bit gloomier at Bramall Lane, the Blades having lost both of their league matches and failing to even score so far. Those two defeats continue a three-game skid that closed out Project Restart. With Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Chelsea coming up in his next five games, Chris Wilder is in desperate need of points tomorrow.
Tottenham vs Newcastle
After an insipid loss to Everton on opening weekend, Spurs have rebounded with wins against Southampton in the Prem and Shkendjia in the Europa League. The two victories, with a combined scoreline of 8-3, have lifted the mood among the Spurs faithful and reignited interest in the club’s fantasy assets. This has all come too late for many fantasy managers who lost faith in Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane. After many of their owners headed for the exits following GW-1’s dreary performance, the Korean scored four and the Englishman delivered four helpers in a 5-2 rout of Saints in GW-2. Many will whiplash right back into those players for GW-3, but is that a smart move? Or is it just knee-jerk points-chasing?
Newcastle did ambush West Ham 2-0 in their opener, but then fell to Brighton 0-3. The Magpies looked poor in the defeat to the Seagulls, but they’ve won their two Carabao Cup matches by a combined scoreline of 8-0, so Steve Bruce will hope for a better showing in the league this time around. It won’t help that his danger man, Allan Saint-Maximin, is a doubt with an ankle injury.
Manchester City vs Leicester
Here the current leaders will face off against the team many expect to win the league. This match should entertain, with City’s always-powerful offense scoring three goals in the club’s season opener against Wolves, and Leicester tallying seven across its two league games so far. Adding to the intrigue will be City’s injury situation, with Pep Guardiola stating in his pre-game presser that he has only 13 first-teamers who are fit to play tomorrow. Leicester have also suffered an injury blow, with Wilfred Ndidi likely to be sidelined for up to three months by a groin injury. With the defenses of both teams weakened by injury absences, we should expect to see goals in this one.
West Ham vs Wolves
Things look grim at West Ham, where the Hammers are off to an 0-2 start and now face six games in a row against teams that finished last season in the top eight. Indeed, many are predicting that David Moyes will be the first manager to be sacked in the 2020-21 campaign. And while he did muster a mid-week Carabao Cup win, he tested positive for the novel coronavirus so will sit in quarantine and “work from home” while his squad hosts Wolves.
Wolves were handed a defeat by City last time out, but they won their opener and now look forward to a favorable run of fixtures. They’ve also had a full week’s rest, having been bounced from the Carabao Cup back in the second round. Wolves have defeated West Ham by shutout in each of their last four league meetings, so all signs point to another Wolves victory tomorrow.
Fulham vs Aston Villa
This battle between newly-promoted sides pits 1-0 Aston Villa against 0-2 Fulham. The home team has found its return to the Prem difficult, shipping seven goals in just two games. Scott Parker will be torn tactically then: He must reorganize his team in order to tighten up his porous defense, but he must also go for a win. We can be certain that much faith and responsibility will be laid upon the shoulders of his talismanic striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Villa will be buoyed by last weekend’s victory over Sheffield United, who finished in the top half of the table last season and were one of the Prem’s most difficult teams to break down. The Villans have also won their two Carabao Cup games 6-1 on aggregate. With new-boy Ollie Watkins adding an edge to their attack and former Gunner Emiliano Martinez now minding their net, we may well see them hand the Cottagers a third consecutive defeat.
Liverpool vs Arsenal
What a way to end the week, with two of the Prem’s most celebrated sides fighting for the spoils at Anfield. Jordan Henderson’s injury could mean that Jurgen Klopp hands Thiago Alcantara his first start since joining the Reds last week. The Spaniard replaced Liverpool’s captain at the intermission when Hendo was unable to continue against Chelsea, and he promptly set a record for the most passes recorded in a 45-minute half in the Premier League era. Joe Gomez should be ready to return to the lineup as well, shoring up ‘Pools defense alongside Virgil van Dyke.
Like the Reds, Mikel Arteta’s much-improved Arsenal side is undefeated in the 2020-21 campaign, and actually sits ahead of ‘Pool in the table based on goal differential. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette were rested for the mid-week Carabao Cup victory over Leicester, and Willian played only the final 20 minutes. Arteta’s preferred strike force will be rested and ready then, and they’ll need to be: Liverpool haven’t lost at home since April of 2017 — 60 games ago.
Another fun fact: Like the two teams who face each other in round three’s opener, these two teams will meet again in a mid-week Carabao Cup tie in just a few days.
Stats and info for this article sourced from sportsmole.co.uk, telegraph.co.uk, and skysports.com.
Will we see another record-breaking goal-fest in round four? Which big-name players will explode this week? Which will crash and burn? How many teams will still be undefeated at the end of this round of play? How many will still be winless? Grab your favorite beverage and please join us in the comments section as we collectively enjoy GW-3!