Fixtures at Goodison Park, Villa Park, Britannia Stadium, the Stadium of Light and the Liberty Stadium should be of real interest.
Football may well be a team game, but there are always personal battles that can decide a match’s outcome. This weekend will be no different, with a number of evenly matched sides going head-to-head, with their key players looking to stamp authority on proceedings.
There will be quite a few Premier League debuts across the piece, with it being the first fixtures since transfer deadline day. New faces and old feature in the top five Premier League personal battles to look out for over the weekend.
Gareth Barry vs Frank Lampard
Chelsea’s trip to Goodison Park is arguably the game of the weekend, and will pit two England international midfielders in direct competition. Frank Lampard picked up his 100th international cap against Ukraine in midweek and will look to inspire his Blues side to victory in a tough clash.
Gareth Barry looks set to make his debut for Everton after a loan switch from Manchester City, and his battle with Lampard should be fascinating. The 32-year-old is keen to push his way back into the national reckoning, and putting in a competitive showing against Lampard would be an excellent start.
Christian Benteke vs Fabricio Coloccini
Aston Villa and Newcastle go head-to-head on Saturday, with both clubs in dire need of points to kick-start their seasons. The sides are relatively evenly matched, but Villa striker Christian Benteke has the ability to be the difference.
The Belgian forward will be marked by Newcastle central defender Fabricio Coloccini, who has committed himself to the Toon cause despite rumblings of a return to his homeland. Their personal battle in the air and in tight situations should be compelling viewing.
Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones vs the Manchester City defence
Without Vincent Kompany to call upon, Manchester City’s defence does not look its usual self. In the Belgian’s absence, the Etihad Stadium outfit were beaten by Cardiff before surviving some treacherous moments against Hull in their last outing.
Mark Hughes is trying to steer Stoke clear of the direct approach that they have become renowned for, but with the City rearguard looking shaky, the Welsh manager will want to test his former charges in the air. Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones have the ability to make it a difficult afternoon for the visitors.
Mesut Ozil vs the wave of expectation
Mesut Ozil’s name has been on the lips of Premier League fans since he made his transfer deadline day move from Real Madrid to Arsenal, and the German playmaker is likely to make his debut away to Sunderland this weekend.
Regardless of the supreme talent that the attacking midfielder possesses, his arrival has added a wave of expectancy to the Gunners this term. From being no-hopers they are now being spoken of as title challengers again, with the emphasis on the new man’s shoulders.
Arsenal should be too good for Sunderland, but Ozil will be expected to work wonders from now on in due to his reputation and inflated transfer fee.
Brendan Rodgers vs the Liberty Stadium crowd
Brendan Rodgers returns to the Liberty Stadium on Monday night, with a Liverpool team on top of the league with him. The Northern Irish manager can expect a frosty reception at his former stomping ground once more.
Swansea fans would love nothing more than to inflict Liverpool’s first defeat of the new campaign and dethrone them from the Premier League summit. Expect a blood and thunder affair.
image: © little-pete