With major changes taking place (either in management or personnel) across most of the top seven clubs in England, early season clashes between Premier League heavyweights offer the first real glimpses into the potential of teams as well as highlighting some weaknesses.
As a major example of this - Manchester City have already demonstrated (against Arsenal in pre-season and against Cardiff in the league) that they have developed a defensive frailty - yet at the same time have shown that scoring goals will not be an issue this season.
These massive games are the clashes that can spark a team into life or send a team on a losing spiral. It goes without saying then that these are the results that are the hardest of all to call (especially with so many close season changes taking place). Sunday sees two clashes between giant Premiership clubs. The first of which is Liverpool vs Manchester United.
Arsenal are regularly lambasted for spending so many years trophyless (and for the most part probably justifiably so) - but in truth the biggest under-achievers in the Premiership (note me saying Premiership) are Liverpool (with Spurs being a close 2nd place).
Every season begins with new optimism but finishes with a battle for the Europa League places. But this season - there is real hope at Anfield that Liverpool will finish in the Champions League places (also please note that I haven’t said challenge for the title - as I’ve already written them out of that).
With 2 wins out of 2 already under their belt this season, Liverpool will be looking to extend their winning streak by beating Manchester United at the weekend. But whilst Liverpool have yet to concede a goal in the league, United will provide a much sterner test to their defence than their previous opponents.
It’s also worth noting that so far this season in the absence of Suarez, Liverpool have also struggled for goals. But against their bitter rivals, Liverpool will raise their game.
After hosting Chelsea on Monday night (a game which resulted in a somewhat inevitable stalemate), Manchester United have already played one of their title rivals - and after taking Swansea apart in the first game of the season they have already demonstrated that they are still a force to be reckoned with.
Across the course of the season I think United will discover that they don’t have enough options in midfield (at the time of writing neither Fellaini or Bale have moved to them) but I don’t think that problem will become evident yet. Chelsea and City probably have stronger squads overall, but United have proven year after year that they should never be written off.
This game will be tough, it will be tight and it will be hard fought. A draw would be a safe bet but I’ll take a risk and go for a small United victory with Rooney (if he hasn’t moved clubs) scoring the winner. There will also inevitably be some form of controversy………..
Prediction: Liverpool 0 Manchester United 1
image: © kevinzim