1) Kante plays a crucial role in the crunch clash
Thomas Tuchel did not hold back in praising N’Golo Kante at the end of last season. “He is our Mo Salah, our Van Dijk, our De Bruyne,” said the Chelsea manager. “He is Neymar, our Kylian Mbappe – he makes a difference.” Then came the warning. The frustration for Tuchel was that Kante often found himself in the treatment room. The French midfielder has struggled with minor setbacks since 2019 and there have been times when he lacked the dynamism of old. However, there’s still nothing like watching Kante when he’s at his best. Few midfielders can live with the 31-year-old when he’s in the mood and he will be key to Chelsea’s chances of victory when they host Tottenham on Sunday. Spurs will start as slight favourites, but if Kante gets ahead of Rodrigo Bentancur and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, the balance of power could tip in Chelsea’s favour. JS
2) Tougher test for Brighton
Brighton, fresh off an opening day win, host Newcastle in one of the standout fixtures this weekend. Both clubs are more mobile and are managed by men whose names could form a two-man shortlist in the future when the Football Association selects Gareth Southgate’s successor as England manager. Graham Potter produced a tactical masterclass to help his players see off Manchester United, but they will face a much stiffer test from a team that will almost certainly not make life easy for their hosts at Old Trafford. Joelinton 2.0 already looks a superior midfielder to Scott McTominay or Fred, while Bruno Guimarães was one of last season’s signings. Expect an exciting tactical battle from two teams with real European ambitions. BG
3) How will the Villa fans respond to the opening?
When asked if he knew Philippe Coutinho’s best position, Steven Gerrard understood after Aston Villa’s defeat at Bournemouth. Gerrard, of course, played with Coutinho at Liverpool for five years before the midfielder left for Barcelona in a £142m deal and has managed him since January. Coutinho lit up some games last season – which is why Villa were desperate to sign him permanently in the summer – but was largely deployed on the left wing, drifting anonymously in the first match of the season. Although Ben Pearson, who started at Barnsley last January, closed it out with ease, the Brazilian was not alone in being off-colour, with Villa struggling to break through a makeshift defense at best. There’s a sentence you never thought you’d see. BF
4) Bees, Red Devils and personality
Thomas Frank described Denmark winger Mikkel Damsgaard’s arrival from Sampdoria this week as “another classic signing from Brentford”. It’s a credit to Frank and his club that even a casual viewer should understand what he means: few can compete with them for attracting young, high-potential talent who can fit perfectly into their system, and that’s just a bonus. most of them are Danish. While we’re here, what’s a classic Manchester United signing? This is harder to answer given that their strategy in recent years has been akin to throwing mud at the wall; Marko Arnautovic won’t join Damsgaard to make his debut this weekend as the move fell through, but even with Erik ten Hag at the helm, it’s hard to know exactly what United are thinking. If they are to win at Brentford, it will be more about individual brilliance than personality triumph. For the second weekend in a row, United face a club that is completely relaxed, lucid and confident: a failure similar to the one against Brighton would be telling. THIS
5) Can Bournemouth catch the city cold?
These sides have a few things in common: both won 2-0 on opening day, both are urgently looking to add to the game before the transfer window closes. Bournemouth successfully signed Argentinian centre-back Marcos Senesi in midweek and are even above Manchester City in the alphabetical draft table. Despite City’s victory at West Ham last Sunday (with 77% possession), accomplished Bournemouth manager Scott Parker may yet sense an opportunity at the Etihad. Pep Guardiola’s side often start slowly in the Premier League and the Cherries will be delighted to see Aston Villa ousted in a one-sided manner. Cut off the supply line to Erling Haaland and it could be huge can Admittedly a productive afternoon for visitors. LMc
6) Do the Saints have a mojo to rediscover?
Last weekend’s rather disappointing surrender to Tottenham means Southampton have won just one of their last 13 Premier League outings. Their opening goal aside, there were familiar defensive frailties on show, but there is little visible evidence that Ralph Hasenhüttl’s summer overhaul of his backroom squad has revived a number of players who fell asleep in the final quarter of last season. With three games to go in this campaign, Hasenhüttl lamented his side’s lack of “energy and at times confidence”, but the fans at St Mary’s will expect better when Leeds visit. With the home capacity temporarily reduced to prevent anti-social behaviour, another lackluster display by the home side will spark early relegation concerns among fans in their seats. BG
7) Will Tielemans send a message to Arsenal?
It’s no secret that Arsenal want more competition in midfield and it’s well documented that Youri Tielemans tops their target list. But no deal has been agreed with Leicester and instead the Belgian will start for the away side on Saturday, with the naysayers already scripting one of his trademark long-range shots. Leicester have had an interesting summer, playing hard on the likes of Tielemans and Wesley Fofana, but have failed to make any reinforcements so far. They’ve got some great players but that’s starting to get a bit old and letting Brentford recover last weekend only added to the grumbling around Brendan Rodgers, who could freshen things up. Arsenal look rough by their early-season standards and should win if they repeat their fast start at Selhurst Park, but if Tielemans delivers a midfield lesson, perhaps that will convince them to match Leicester’s price and a few transfer dominoes will fall. THIS
8) High-flying action at the City Ground
Nottingham Forest and West Ham had baptisms by fire on the opening day, both finishing second best behind Newcastle and Manchester City respectively. Forest have been bloodied at St James’ Park with six new recruits and Steve Cooper could make more calls against the visitors this weekend if he wants to do so. Speaking ahead of his first return to the City Ground since leaving seven years ago, Michael Antonio described the ground as a “special place to play”. Given that the large contingent of Forest fans who clicked the turnstiles this weekend will not be the last time their club host a Premier League match, a special and memorable atmosphere is guaranteed by River Trent on Sunday, regardless of the result. BG
9) The Coady-less Wolves era begins
He signed a new set-up at Molineux, a captain’s armband and a new marquee in the building. For the first time in over seven years, Wolves will line up without Conor Coady on their books. Signed from Huddersfield in 2015, Coady has started 196 of Wolves’ last 199 league matches – last Saturday’s defeat was the first time he has been available for selection as Bruno Lage opted for a new-look central defence. Instead, Coadiy will start at Everton at Aston Villa after being loaned out with a view to a permanent move. Rúben Neves, who is set to stay, will be named captain and Gonzalo Guedes, a £27.5m signing from Valencia who arrived on his first day under agent Jorge Mendes, could make his debut as Wolves begin life without Coady. BF
10) Liverpool must step up against Palace
There will be changes to the squad for Liverpool’s first home game of the season – Thiago Alcantara is out with an injury on the opening day and Darvin Núñez polished his claim against Fulham – but a change in attitude will be a priority for Jurgen Klopp against Crystal Palace. “The performance was a letdown,” said the Liverpool manager after the 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage. “Lethargic” was adopted by Jordan Henderson. If there was any pressure on Liverpool to rediscover their form and trademark intensity in just their second game of the new campaign, it’s the pressure they’re building. The margin for error among the title contenders has shrunk considerably in recent years, such is the standard of punishment produced by them and Manchester City. Klopp’s demand for an immediate response should be answered during Patrick Vieira’s visit on Monday. AH