Before a ball had even been kicked this season, many feared it was already Manchester City’s Premier League to lose, and nothing that’s happened so far has suggested otherwise. City look imperious and this weekend will be looking to make it three wins from three when they head to Molineux to take on newly-promoted Wolves.
While the Wolves faithful will be relishing the prospect – games such as these are, after all, the very reason the Premier League is regarded as the Promised Land – they will know that, to date, City have swatted away their opponents with such ease it’s been almost frightening. Arsenal, under new management, were comfortably beaten at the Emirates on opening day and then a real, serious marker was put down by Pep Guardiola’s men last weekend when they smashed six past a helpless Huddersfield on their first Etihad appearance of the season. And all without their injured talisman – Kevin De Bruyne.
In contrast to their already high-flying visitors, Wolves’ return to the Premier League has had modest beginnings. A tentative home draw with Everton on opening day – Ruben Neves their scorer with an exquisite free-kick – was followed with what, on the face of it, appeared a regulation 2-0 defeat at Leicester. In fact, Wolves could consider themselves a little unlucky having hit the woodwork twice but the regardless of the circumstances, they find themselves with just a single point from their opening two games and with the reigning champions up next.
As mentioned earlier, City will be without De Bruyne until October at the earliest – the good news for them being that he doesn’t need surgery – but the Belgian aside, Guardiola has no other fitness worries. The only decisions he has to make is around who to leave out, given the star-studded squad he has at his disposal.
Almost certain to be a starter is French left-back, Benjamin Mendy, whose thrilling early season form prompted his manager to describe him as a “new dimension” for City. As a result of the natural width given by Mendy, don’t be surprised if Guardiola again goes with Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus up top, but Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling will both be champing at the bit for a starting berth having been on the bench for the Huddersfield game.
For Wolves, Matt Doherty, who was on the receiving end of a rash challenge from Jamie Vardy that saw the Leicester striker red-carded, is expected to be fit, while Adama Traore – their £18m record summer signing – looks to be in line for a full debut. Also, it will be no surprise if another summer signing, Leander Dendoncker (on a season-long loan from Anderlecht) will be brought in to add some ballast to a midfield that is sure to be stretched.
In terms of head-to heads, it’s far more even than some would imagine, with City having won 47 of their 118 encounter and Wolves 46, but they’re stats that bear little relevance to this weekend’s encounter.
This City side rules the Premier League roost and will be massive favourites in every game they play; this weekend is no exception. It’s therefore impossible to see past an away win and so perhaps to try and predict a correct score is the best way forward for those wanting to have a bet. Wolves have conceded two in each of their two games so far, so it’s logical to assume City will test them even more. A 3-0 win for City – at +800 with BetVictor – looks reasonable value, but with Wolves always likely to carry a goal threat at home we’re plumping for a 3-1 win for City at +1000 with 188Bet.
On the premise that Riyad Mahrez may get a start and will be looking to get off the mark for City. Backing him as first goalscorer at +500 with Betway looks good value.
Man City to beat Wolves 3-1
Saturday 25, August. 12:30 BST
Riyad Mahrez to score first
Saturday 25, August. 12:30 BST
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Chelsea’s winning start will be put to the test on Sunday afternoon when they travel to the north-east to take on Rafa Benitez’ Newcastle. But Maurizio Sarri’s side will fancy their chances to make it three from three and will be well aware that games like this one have been a banana skin for the Blues in the recent past.
Despite Sarri predicting that it will take a few months for the Blues to really take on board his preferred style of play, two wins with six goals scored along the way suggests that his squad are already taking the messages on board. Even Spanish striker, Alvaro Morata, who struggled to find any sort of form under Antonio Conte, has rediscovered his scoring touch and was one of the scorers in the Blues’ 3-2 win over Arsenal.
Newcastle, on the other hand, are still searching for their first win of the season and, while they picked up a hard-earned point away in Cardiff last weekend, will be keen to get off the mark in front of the Toon faithful. They had the perfect chance to kick off with a win in Cardiff, of course, but Kenedy missed from the penalty spot in injury time.
In head-to-heads they have met 163 times, with the Blues winning 71 and Newcastle 53.
For Chelsea, it looks increasingly likely that Eden Hazard will start his first game of the season – bad news for the Magpies. Given his late return due to his prolonged World Cup duties with Belgium, he’s only played a cameo role from the bench in their first two games, but he has still managed to weigh in with two assists. If he starts on Sunday, the Blues will be further buoyed.
Cesc Fabregas has not yet featured in the Premier League and it’s likely that his ‘unusual’ knee problem could again see him miss out, so a midfield four of Kante, Jorginho, Barkley and Pedro looks the most likely scenario with Hazard providing the link to Morata.
Newcastle will be without Isaac Hayden, who is suspended after the red card he received in the 0–0 draw in Cardiff, and also Kenedy who is ineligible to play against his parent club. DeAndre Yedlin is however back in contention for a place after recovering from a knee injury, but long-term absentee Florian Lejeune is still a way off fitness. The Toon will likely go for the pairing of Rondon and Perez up top.
Unsurprisingly, the bookies have Chelsea down as odds-on favourites but we have a sneaking feeling that Newcastle who, let’s not forget, were unlucky to lose on opening day to Tottenham could get something from this game. A raucous St James’ Park is a test for even the best sides and for the speculators out there the +420 on offer will be more than a little tempting. However, perhaps a home win is a little too aspirational but certainly don’t discount the Toon earning themselves another point.
To take this one step further, both teams to score and the match to be a draw is also worthy of a punt at +410 with 888Sport given that Chelsea look full of goals, and the way the Toon attacked Spurs on home territory on opening day.
Newcastle and Chelsea to draw and both teams to score
Sunday 26, August. 16:00 BST
After last Sunday’s humiliation at Brighton, United will be looking to bounce back at the first possible opportunity but with Tottenham in town, Jose Mourinho will know he’s in for another tough afternoon.
The 3-2 defeat at the Amex has cranked up the pressure on Mourinho and again has drawn attention to the fractious relationship he currently has with his captain, Paul Pogba. Clearly, there are problems bubbling not too far from the surface at Old Trafford, but the question is can these be put to one side sufficiently for the Reds to remain contenders in the title race? The evidence on show in Brighton suggests otherwise.
Tottenham, meanwhile, have ongoing issues of their own although, with two wins in two, theirs are more around the uncertainty over when they will finally get to move from Wembley and into their shiny new stadium. As things stand, there is still no definitive ‘moving in’ date, which may perversely make playing away from home a release.
On the field, things are going well for Spurs and most of their World Cup stars now have at least one full game under their belts. They made light work of Fulham who, despite looking dangerous in patches, were ultimately dismissed with some considerable ease, with Harry Kane also finally ending his August goalscoring hoodoo. Despite the problems off the field, for Pochettino’s men it’s business as usual on it.
For United it looks as though they could again be without Alexis Sanchez – who missed the 3-2 defeat in Brighton – with Mourinho talking about a “one or two weeks maximum” but the Chilean has indicated on social media he’s due to start training again. This will be a judgement call for Mourinho who will be desperate to field his best team against Spurs.
The other absentees – Antonio Valencia, Nemanja Matic and Jesse Lingard – all returned to full first-team training late last week, with Lingard making a cameo appearance from the bench in Brighton. As a result, all three are now expected to be in with a shout of a start on Monday night.
For Tottenham, they are expected to be without Heung-min Son, due to his continued participation in the Asian Games with South Korea, while Victor Wanyama is still out as he recovers from a knee injury. Juan Foyth, Cameron-Carter Vickers and Josh Onomah are all still out as they recover from relatively minor injuries but some good news for Spurs is that Harry Winks is finally back in full training.
In their head-to-heads, United unsurprisingly hold the upper hand with 90 wins from their 190 contests, with Tottenham winning 51 times.
As you would expect from a matchup between two of the title pretenders, the bookies find this one hard to call with United just slight favourites – a top price of +420 with 888Sport. And to be fair this has a whiff of respectability about it. Despite United’s travails off the pitch, they have a squad that is jam-packed full of attacking talent; the big question marks being over their ability to defend.
Much will depend on Mourinho finding a centre-back pairing who can contain the threat posed by Kane, Alli and Eriksen, but everything points to there being goals in this one. Lukaku has historically had joy against Tottenham’s back line before and notoriously makes life difficult for his compatriots, Alderweireld and Vertonghen. He’ll fancy this.
So, while the temptation is to go for a scoring draw, we have a feeling that United will be putting their off-field squabbles to one side for the evening and pushing Spurs to the limit. Whether they have enough defensive quality to shut out Spurs is debatable but at the other end, with Lukaku, Lingard and possibly Sanchez working as a unit, we predict they’ll out-score the north Londoners, with 188Bet’s +880 for 2-1 looking particularly enticing.
As ever in these contests, there will be no quarter given and so expect there to be a fair smattering of yellow cards, with Matic, Smalling, Dier and Vertonghen sure to be among the main protagonists. On the basis we expect Tottenham to come under some early United pressure we consider Eric Dier to be the first to be shown a card at +180 with BetVictor to be a decent shout.
Manchester Utd to beat Tottenham 2-1
Monday 27, August. 20:00 BST
Eric Dier to be shown the first card
Monday 27, August. 20:00 BST