Premier League: Five Biggest Games of Matchweek Eight
© AFP 2021 / OLI SCARFFManchester United's Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (L) shakes hands with Manchester United's Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo as he comes off the substitutes bench during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 2, 2021.
After the international break saw a new Nations’ League champion be crowned, star players complained about fixture congestion, and the Premier League clubs are still reckoning with mandatory quarantine for their Brazilian internationals. These are the Premier League’s five biggest games of matchweek eight ranked from fifth to first.
5. Southampton v Leeds
Southampton v Leeds is not your typical bottom-of-the-table clash. Both Southampton and Leeds feature high-octane presses and give up goals galore. While their offenses have been less sterling, Leeds have seven goals and Southampton five, their expected goals suggest both teams’ attacks are better than they’ve shown. This should be an entertaining game and has the added bonus of being critical for both sides’ chances of avoiding relegation.
4. Newcastle v Tottenham
Nothing about this match should be entertaining - Newcastle are poor and Tottenham have fluctuated between lucky and dreadful.
What makes this game interesting is that Newcastle were just purchased by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund after months of negotiations. There are so many questions that this game will help answer:
How will Newcastle respond to new management? How will the fans react to suddenly having limitless resources from a state that has been accused of committing human rights violations? Does anyone even care about Tottenham? This is a match where the storylines are greater than the product on the pitch.
6 October, 23:41 GMT
3. Everton v West Ham
With all apologies to the Europa League and the Europa Conference League, European competition really means the Champions League, and both Everton and West Ham look ready to crash the top-four party.
While Everton sits in fifth place and West Ham in ninth, the two sides have even more impressive metrics - Everton has the third-best expected goal differential and West Ham has the fourth.
Finishing fourth will be a tall task for either side, but don’t be surprised if these are the two English representatives in the Europa League.
2. Leicester City v Manchester United
Every Manchester United match is must-watch entertainment. As one of the largest clubs in the world and the current employer of Cristiano Ronaldo, there’s hardly ever a dull moment. Leicester City, despite their poor start to the season, are still one of the best teams in England.
This is a matchup of two strong sides with European expectations. However, the most interesting duel will be which elderly striker will give their side the edge. A 34-year-old Jamie Vardy is tied atop the Premier League goal-scoring list with six goals, whereas the 36-year-old Ronaldo has bagged three after missing the first few games of the season.
They say age is just a number, but so is a goal tally. The two sides’ geriatric goal scorers could decide who walks out with three points.
30 September, 00:03 GMT
1. Arsenal v Crystal Palace
The city of London has so many teams in the Premier League that it feels like there is a London derby every week. While Arsenal v Crystal Palace checks off the intra-city rivalry box, it’s Palace’s manager that makes this the weekend’s best match.
Patrick Vieira, before becoming Palace’s manager, spent nine seasons at Arsenal, where he won three league titles and four FA Cups. Whenever a legend returns to face their old club, it’s always an emotional affair.
However, Arsenal and Palace are two evenly matched sides, with Palace grading out as the better side in terms of goal differential and expected goal differential. If Vieira can go to Arsenal and lead Palace to a victory, he’ll cement his managerial chops and possibly get the attention of Arsenal’s board if they ever decide to move on from Mikel Arteta.