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Intriguing test for Manchester United on back of international break

Paul Pogba poses with the trophy after helping France defeat Spain to win the Uefa Nations League on Sunday. Can he carry that form from the international break to the King Power Stadium where Manchester United visit a slow-to-the-boil Leicester City? (Photograph by Miguel Medina/Pool/AP)

The English Premier League has been on international break and several players have stolen the show over the past two weeks. France won the Uefa Nations League last Sunday, edging Spain 2-1 in the final, with Paul Pogba playing a starring role for Les Bleus in winning his second international trophy.

The fantasy landscape gets more interesting with the performances during the World Cup qualifiers. New recruit Hwang Hee Chang at Wolves is a good shout for FPL managers after he scored twice in their last match. Ismaïla Sarr and Abdoulaye Doucouré, from Watford and Everton respectively, are reasonably priced midfield options to watch out for in the coming weeks.

For tables, see the bottom of the story

Saturday

Watford v Liverpool

8.30am

Watford were wasteful wsith their chances in a 1-0 away defeat to Leeds last time out. Before this, Xisco Muñoz became the first managerial casualty of the season, despite earning seven points from the Hornets’ first six games. Sarr and fellow attacker Emmanuel Dennis have started well, the latter on his debut season in English football.

Liverpool are flying at the moment and remain the only unbeaten side left in the league. The Reds conceded a late equaliser in a pulsating 2-2 home draw with champions Manchester City.

New Watford manager Claudio Ranieri has positive history against the Merseyside team, so this could be a tight one for Jürgen Klopp.

Prediction: 1-2

Aston Villa v Wolverhampton Wanderers

11am

Aston Villa have had an inconsistent start to the season and could miss a few key players for this West Midlands derby. Leon Bailey suffered a thigh strain in training just before their 2-1 away defeat to Tottenham.

Striker Hwang Hee Chang smashed a brace to guide Wolves to a critical 2-1 home win over Newcastle, the South Korean’s full Premier League debut.

This derby always produces goals, and could go either way. Across 12 previous meetings, Villa have won five and Wolves three; two of which have come on the road.

Prediction: 2-2

Leicester City v Manchester United

11am

Leicester have struggled this season, dropping points in four of their past five games. They conceded a late equaliser to Jeffrey Schlupp in their 2-2 away draw to Crystal Palace last time out.

Manchester United have dropped one third of their available points through seven matches, yet remain only two points off top spot. They have not yet played a major rival, so this may be their first real test.

With United defender Raphaël Varane out for two weeks after suffering adductor injury on international duty, the visiting side will have to shuffle the pack. This match-up provides positive history, as the Red Devils have won 19 of the previous 30 meetings.

Prediction: 0-2

Manchester City v Burnley

11am

Manchester City dominated Liverpool in large spells of their 2-2 draw at Anfield, with Kevin de Bruyne scoring the tying goal with nine minutes remaining.

Burnley survived a barrage of Norwich pressure to earn a goalless home draw last time out. The Clarets are the second-lowest scorers in the division. Manager Sean Dyche remains under pressure to stay in the top flight.

City normally dominate the visitors — in 14 previous meetings, the champions have won ten and lost just one. Their last two encounters in Manchester have ended in 5-0 home victories for Pep Guardiola’s side.

Prediction: 3-0

Norwich City v Brighton & Hove Albion

11am

The Canaries failed to capitalise on several spells of dominance in their 0-0 away draw with Burnley, their first point of the season. They have conceded the most goals in the division (16), scoring just two goals through seven matches.

Brighton have started really well under Graham Potter, earning four points against Leicester and Arsenal, two of last season’s top eight. The Seagulls are sixth with 14 points, their best start in the English top flight.

Prediction: 0-2

Southampton v Leeds United

11am

Southampton were beaten 3-1 away to Chelsea last time out, when a strong performance was marred by a dangerous tackle by captain James Ward-Prowse on opposite number Jorginho. The England midfielder was sent off after video review.

Leeds finally earned their first win of the season, a 1-0 home victory over Watford. Diego Llorente scored his first goal for the Yorkshire side to secure the points.

Leeds have dominated the history of this battle, winning 14 of their 26 meetings.

Prediction: 0-2

Brentford v Chelsea

1.30pm

Brentford have shown they can mix it with the big boys in their first season in the Premier League. Substitute Yoann Wissa scored in the last minute of stoppage time to sink West Ham 2-1 at tthe London Stadium. The Belgian striker also scored a late equaliser against Liverpool to earn a 3-3 home draw for the Bees.

Chelsea took control with two late goals in their 3-1 home win over Southampton. They sit top of the division heading into the return from international break.

This will be their first meeting, a potential test for Blues manager Thomas Tuchel.

Prediction: 3-2

Sunday

Everton v West Ham United

10am

Everton earned an exceptional 1-1 away draw with Manchester United. Andros Townsend scored the Toffees’ equaliser midway through the second half, and they now sit fifth with 14 points.

West Ham had their strong start to the season halted by a late Yoann Wissa winner in their 2-1 home defeat by Brentford. The Hammers now sit ninth on 11 points.

The visitibng side earned a crucial win over Everton at Goodison Park on New Year’s Day last season, helping their European hopes. However, the Toffees have won 27 of their 50 previous meetings.

Prediction: 2-1

Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur

12.30pm

Newcastle could not take their chances, and paid for this in their 2-1 away defeat to Wolves. They were recently purchased by a Saudi private investment fund. The Magpies remain winless this season and must improve results to enhance the new owners’ forward plans.

Spurs have had a roller-coaster start to the season under new manager Nuno Espirito Santo. The 2-1 home win over Aston Villa stopped a rut of three straight defeats. They remain in mid-table with 12 points.

A perfectly even historical battle: both sides have 22 wins apiece from previous 52 meetings. The last two meetings ended in draws.

Prediction: 2-1

Monday

Arsenal v Crystal Palace

4pm

Arsenal may have found some form, but against teams they should beat on paper. They drastically disappointed in their goalless away draw with Brighton. The Gunners remain the joint-second lowest scorers in the division.

Palace came from two goals down to earn a 2-2 home draw with Leicester. They have only one win this season, 3-0 over rivals Tottenham.

The Eagles have just three wins in 24 previous London derbies with Arsenal. However, they earned a 0-0 draw on their last visit to the Emirates Stadium.

Prediction: 1-1

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Published October 15, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated October 15, 2021 at 10:21 am)

Intriguing test for Manchester United on back of international break

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