The weekend is nigh upon us and that can only mean one thing for football fans: The Premier League is back!
Don’t miss: Fantasy Premier League Pundit Picks: Gameweek 10
The Statesman has picked the five match-ups that are sure to dominate the headlines in the coming days for you:
Romelu Lukaku vs Toby Alderweireld (Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur)
So who will clinch the win at Old Trafford? This ‘mini-battle’ will go a long way towards the outcome of the result for sure.
Lukaku started the season on fire but as the fixtures have gotten tougher, the goals have dried up for the Belgian.
Coincidence? His detractors will want you to believe otherwise but there can be no doubt that the 24-year-old is under pressure to deliver against a ‘top’ side.
Up against the burly forward is compatriot Toby Alderweireld. The centre-back is perhaps the best defender in the Premier League and his clash with Lukaku has epic written all over it.
Spurs have had some of the best defences in the league for a while now but even they will be hard-pressed to keep Lukaku silent on Saturday.
Despite playing at home, United manager Jose Mourinho will set up his side to hit Spurs on the break and chances will be at a premium for the Red Devils forward. Depending on how Lukaku fares, his reputation as a ‘flat-track bully’ may be enhanced or quashed for good.
Mohamed Salah vs Tommy Smith (Liverpool vs Huddersfield Town)
Liverpool, after a bright start, have seen their title hopes slip away despite it still being early days in the season.
They just can’t seem to win in the Premier League and are in danger of slipping into the bottom-half of the table. Their opponents on Saturday—Huddersfield Town—are flying high after their historic upset of Manchester United last week.
Against Spurs, Liverpool’s flying Egyptian winger was the sole bright spot and the onus will be on him once again to lead the attack against the Terriers.
Tommy Smith, the Huddersfield right-back will be tasked with keeping the Reds wide-man quiet.
For in Sadio Mane’s absence, the 25-year-old Salah is their most potent threat and with the tie being played at Anfield, Smith and co might be in for a torrid time.
Gareth Barry vs Kevin De Bruyne (West Bromwich Albion vs Manchester City)
Not so long ago, Gareth Barry was pulling the strings for Manchester City in midfield. Nowadays, however, the Citizens have the superlative Kevin De Bruyne as their midfield general.
The 26-year-old Belgian, a decade younger than the Baggies man, has emerged as one of the finest players in the Premier League since his move to the Etihad in 2015.
Barry, a Premier League veteran in every sense of the world (He tops the all-time appearance record) proves that one can doesn’t need to be a physical specimen to be successful in a league as demanding as the English top-flight.
City are the form team in the Premier League and are expected to smash the Baggies, but their mid-week draw against Wolves in the Carabao Cup (City won on penalties after a scoreless draw) showed that perhaps there is hope for the chasing pack yet.
Tony Pulis’ side is known for its defensive organisation and Saturday’s clash takes place at their home ‘fortress’—The Hawthorns. West Brom are unbeaten at home this season, but that record is in danger as the free-scoring Citizens come visiting.
Barry will have to shield his defence as best as he can while ensuring De Bruyne doesn’t get enough time on the ball to supply his in-form forwards or even take a swing at goal himself.
Abdoulaye Doucoure vs Joe Allen (Watford vs Stoke City)
Under Marco Silva, Watford look like a side that might just challenge for the European spots.
It may seem incredulous considering the Hornet’s record in the past few seasons, but the fact is that they are just a point behind fourth-placed Chelsea after nine games played.
The focus on Richarlison’s form is warranted but his teammates have been exceptional as well and one of them is Abdoulaye Doucoure. The 24-year-old Frenchman has already scored four times this campaign and his timely runs into the box will have to be monitored by Joe Allen and co.
Allen, who was somewhat unfairly criticised during his time at Liverpool, has found his feet at Stoke and makes the Potters tick with his immaculate passing.
Stoke have been wildly inconsistent this season and their Welsh ‘wizard’ will have to be on the top of his game as the Hornets are likely to punish them the moment they get any chances. If he manages to check Doucoure’s runs, the Potters may just get a positive result from their trip to Vicarage Road.
Riyad Mahrez vs Leighton Baines (Leicester City vs Everton)
Leicester fired manager Craig Shakespeare last week after a poor start to their campaign and while they have signed his replacement, Claude Puel, doubts remain whether the Foxes can ever come close to achieving the lofty heights of their historic 2015-15 season.
They host fellow strugglers Everton, who are manager less after sacking incumbent Ronald Koeman on Monday and arguably are in poorer form than them.
Leicester are in 14th place with nine points while Everton are flirting with danger as they remain in 18th spot. However, the struggling Toffees are just one point behind the Foxes and should they secure the on Sunday, they could rise as high as 13th.
Plenty on the line for both participants and Leicester’s flying Algerian winger will most certainly be in the eye of the storm at the King Power Stadium. He’s been in fine form, unlike most of his teammates and his ability to cut in from the right and shoot on his favoured left makes him a danger man.
Leighton Baines, Everton’s dependable left-back, will be stretched to the limit to keep up with the pacy winger. Should Mahrez get past him too often, the game will be finished early and the Toffees defender will be wary of any lapses in concentration.