By Archie Burkinshaw, Tottenham Hotspur writer
Tottenham will be looking to continue their perfect Premier League start as they host Watford this Sunday. This will be a very different test for Tottenham - over their first two league games against City and Wolves they averaged 38% possession, encapsulating the counter-attacking nature of those performances.
They cant perform like that this weekend, Spurs will have to be on the front foot, to make sure they dominate possession and score goals early to kill off the game. Watford will no doubt look to hit Spurs on the break through Sarr and Dennis, who both have terrifying pace at their disposal.
Harry Kane will look to build on his two goals midweek as he looks set to receive his first Premier League start of the season. Spurs only injury concerns are defenders Joe Rodon and Cameron Carter-Vickers who will miss this game.
Watford will assess Juraj Kucka, who is nearing a return from the thigh injury which ruled him out at Brighton. Nathaniel Chalobah, Dan Gosling and Joao Pedro are still sidelined. New signing Ozan Tufan is not yet available, while goalkeeper Ben Foster suffered a hamstring injury in midweek and is expected to miss Sunday's match.
All the stats point to a Spurs victory this weekend, they have only lost once to Watford in their last 16 league meetings and also only once in their last 27 matches against newly promoted sides. But this is Tottenham so stats can often quickly go out of the window..
However with Kane and Son in the side I think Spurs will have far too much for Watford to handle and I also have faith in the defence to keep another clean sheet. So my prediction is for Spurs to replicate the result they got at home against Watford in the 16/17 season and win 4-0. Footrace are offering me a huge 140 points for this. Footrace sees Spurs as the massive favourites for this game, offering 3 points for a Tottenham win, 45 for a draw and a whopping 90 for a Watford win.
By Louis Pantziarka, Chelsea writer
There can be no doubt that Chelsea have enjoyed an excellent start to their season. A 100% record in all competitions, a European trophy, no Premier League goals conceded and a drubbing of Arsenal, reads pretty well. With all due respect to the teams they’ve faced so far though, the Blues are heading into their toughest test of the season against Liverpool at Anfield this weekend. Romelu Lukaku’s performance on his return to Stamford Bridge last week was superb and his addition has turned Chelsea into genuine title contenders, regardless of the result on Saturday. Here’s why.
It doesn’t take a football genius to work out that the main thing Lukaku has brought any team he plays for, is goals. And lots of them. He’s bagged 193 league goals in 396 appearances across spells in Belgium, England and Italy – that’s an average of 0.49 goals per game. Considering how long he’s been around, that’s an astounding record and it’s exactly what Chelsea were missing last year. With an xG of 64 goals, the Blues managed just 56 goals and were crying out for a clinical striker.
It’s not just Lukaku’s goals that set him apart as an elite centre forward though. As was particularly evident against Arsenal, his link-up play has come on leaps and bounds since his United days. Chelsea’s midfield were constantly rolling balls into him and watching as he embarrassed Pablo Mari in particular with his strength and touch. The first goal came from one such occasion and the second showcased his brilliant spatial awareness, as his dummy on Marcos Alonso’s pass opened up space for his teammates. Lukaku managed 11 assists in Serie A last season and there’s no reason he won’t be able to carry that over to the Premier League.
Goals and assists are all well and good, and will be vital for Chelsea’s title push this season, but Lukaku brings so much more than that now. He found a new level of fitness under Antonio Conte and has become a real leader. He was instrumental in Belgium’s Euro 2020 run, as he led from the front. That campaign may not have ended in silverware, but he’s certainly shown he can win trophies, as he fired Inter to their first Scudetto since 2010. As a well-rounded professional, Lukaku now brings Chelsea so much more and is therefore nailed on to start at Anfield on Sunday.
The most points you’ll get for this one is 21 for a draw, with a Chelsea win securing 20 points. The home side are being backed as favourites, with 15 points available for a Liverpool win.
By Archie Burkinshaw, Tottenham Hotspur writer
Harry Kanes first start of the season resulted in two first-half goals seeing Tottenham through to the group stages of the inaugural Europa Conference League.
Giovani Lo Celso capped an excellent Spurs victory when his free-kick was deflected in for a third goal meaning Spurs ran away 3-1 winner on aggregate against Paços de Ferreira.
Following Kanes declaration on Twitter that he would be staying at the club, this game was always going to be about him, and he delivered. Kane was handed the armband by Nuno and he certainly led by example, almost scoring 20 seconds in after a wonderful Romero pass from kick-off.
Kane did go on to score 9 minutes later, due to great work, first by Winks who won the ball back and then by Gil, who neatly squared the ball back to Kane on the penalty spot to supply the finish. The England captain looked hungry to make up for lost time and another clinical finish put Tottenham ahead on aggregate for the first time in the tie.
It wasnt just Kane who looked revitalised, Winks, Gil and Lo Celso all put in brilliant performances. Thankfully, Nuno ditched five at the back that looked so awkward in the first leg, for a 4-1-3-2 formation, with Winks as the anchorman in-front of the defence. Winks swept up brilliantly, unleashing Lo Celso and Gil, with everything flowing through them.
It was an incredibly professional performance by Spurs who have now won three of their opening four games, scoring five times and keeping three clean sheets. I think most Spurs fans will be happy with that.
Spurs have been placed in a very winnable group G in the Europa Conference League alongside, Rennes, SBV Vitesse and NŠ Mura.
By Jude Hall, Sheffield Wednesday writer
The Owls will be backed by a sold out away end as they look for a fourth consecutive league win when they travel to Morecambe for Saturday’s 3pm kick off.
Yet to concede this season and with a full week’s preparation ahead of the weekend, Darren Moore will be confident his side can continue their fine start to the season against The Shrimps who’s midweek cup exit to Preston North End made it three defeats in a row for Stephen Robinson’s team.
Last season’s League Two playoff winners nearly made the perfect start to the season as they travelled to promotion favourites Ipswich Town for their first ever League One fixture but were denied a shock win by Macauley Bonne’s stoppage-time equaliser for the hosts. The Shrimps did however get their coupon buster later that week with a 2-1 Carabao Cup win at Championship Blackburn Rovers.
Morecambe recorded their first ever third division victory the following weekend with a 2-0 triumph over Shrewsbury but have since been brought back down to earth with back-to-back league defeats to Rotherham United and Gillingham before Tuesday’s 4-2 cup loss.
Robinson will be looking for a reaction from his players following a change in fortunes, and one man he can look towards is the current League One top scorer Cole Stockton. After 13 goals last campaign, the 27-year-old striker has started the year on fire, scoring six in as many games. The Englishman bagged a brace in Morecambe’s opener at Portman Road whilst also netting in both of The Shrimps cup games against Championship opponents. Bailey Peacock-Farrell is yet to pick the ball out of his net in Wednesday colours and will face his biggest threat so far when the in-form forward welcomes him to the Globe Arena.
The mood at Hillsborough is a buoyant one, with The Owls flying high at the top of the League One table having secured bragging rights in two South Yorkshire derbies already this season. And Wednesdayites received another boost this week when the club announced that defender Dominic Iorfa has signed a new long-term deal at S6. The 26-year-old was heavily missed through injury last season but has played every minute of Wednesday’s campaign this term. Speaking to the club’s press The Owls defender said “As a collective we help each other out, from the strikers to the defenders.
“Getting that clean sheet is something we pride ourselves on during the game. When we were 2-0 up at Rotherham we were saying to each other ‘we do not concede, we do not concede’ and having that kind of mindset will stand us in good stead for the season ahead.”
As expected, The Owls come into this one as favourites with just 10 points up for grabs for guessing an away win. However, with the division’s deadliest striker at the moment leading the line, Morecambe could well be the ones to hand Darren Moore his first defeat of the season with 30 points available should the hosts do so. Wednesday have only ever faced The Shrimps once in their history and it was in an FA Cup first round tie back in 2011. Goals from Chris’ Lines and O’Grady saw Gary Megson’s team into the next round with a 2-1 win at the Globe Arena. Will Wednesday continue their great start to the season and maintain a 100% record against the West Coast side? Or will Morecambe provide another upset this season?
By Owain Wyse, Sheffield United writer
Sheffield United will take on Luton at Kenilworth Road at 15:00 on Saturday. United will be looking to put together a run of form following their victory against Derby during the week.
Despite falling behind to a Louie Sibley placed finished just before the break at Bramall Lane the Blades battled back after the break. A change of shape at halftime saw John Fleck replace striker Daniel Jebbison this gave the Blades more control in the midfield whilst also giving creative midfielder Luke Freeman the freedom to express himself in a more attacking area. It was Freeman who provided the equaliser when overlapping centre back, sounds familiar doesn’t it, Kyron Gordon’s cross found the head of Freeman and nestled into the roof of the net. With just under 15 minutes remaining United skipper Billy Sharp pounced on a poor backpass from former Blade Richard Stearman for his 251st career goal and the winner, to set up a tie with his former club Southampton at Bramall Lane.
As for Saturday, the Blades take on Luton, who have started their season reasonably well with two wins and two losses from their opening four games. Luton will be looking to bounce back following a 5-0 thumping at the hands of Birmingham last Saturday.
United are still chasing their first league win of the season and with only one point on the board will be looking to get this season started sooner rather than later. However, a poor start to the season isn’t strange for United with Sharp drawing similarities between the beginning of this season and the last Blades promotion season in the pre-match media yesterday “The last time we got promoted we didn’t start particularly well. We need to get a win on the board and build on that”. The Blades are without any new injury issues, however in the cup Jokanovic made 11 changes from the game against Huddersfield, and with the second team impressing we could see some of those players getting a chance in the league, as the new boss tries to get his style of play across.
With United obviously keen to set themselves a platform for the rest of the season, we should see a passionate Blades performance with players wanting to prove their qualities to the manager and settle some of the unrest within the fan base.
By Finley Chung, Sutton United writer
At long last, it seems the day Sutton United fans have been waiting for would never come, but League Football descends on the VBS Community Stadium, for Sutton’s first ever home Football League fixture of their entire 123-year history.
Sutton come into this encounter having had a week break from their last game, a 1-1 away draw v Scunthorpe United in which Donovan Wilson’s sublime backheel, reminiscent of Danny Welbeck’s famous goal for England at Euro 2012, secured Sutton a point.
Their visitors, Oldham Athletic, have had a similarly less than convincing start to the season. While the off-pitch ownership issues and protests took the headlines in their midweek cup encounter against Accrington Stanley, on the pitch, Dylan Bamboula is the only player to hit the target for Oldham in the League this season, something the Latics will be hoping changes quickly.
The visitors went through in the EFL Cup this week v Accrington, beating the League One side on penalties, to set up a draw with Premier League side Brentford in Round 3.
Sutton have a clean bill of health heading into this game, in which it will be interesting to see whether manager, Matt Jay will look to add to the 16 players he has used so far in the league this season.
Ben Wyatt’s injury sustained away at Scunthorpe isn’t as serious as first feared, so he’s available along with Rob Milsom and Louis John in contention for a return to the XI.
By contrast, The Latics have used the most players of any League 2 side this season, using 23 players so far this campaign.
In terms of the points available for the fixture, home advantage is with Sutton as a home win earns you 12 points, if you feel a draw is on the cards, then you can add ten to the Sutton total, with 22 points coming your way if the teams hold each other. Finally, an away win gets you a mammoth 25 points.
The VBS Community Stadium finally hosts Football League Action on Saturday, will it be Sutton or Oldham who come away victorious?
By Archie Burkinshaw, Tottenham Hotspur writer
“I will be staying at Tottenham this summer and will be 100% focused on helping the team achieve success”- Tweet from Harry Kane 25/08/2021
I think this has to go down as one of my top ten tweets of all time, alongside Wayne Rooney publicly offering Rio Ferdinand a lift to training of course.
Kane has finally put an end to an ever so long transfer saga by declaring his loyalty to Tottenham, (for the summer at least) citing the reception he got from Spurs fans at Wolves as a factor in staying. I think it may be more to do with the fact Levy is a nightmare to deal with and City wouldn’t pay what would be required for Levy to part with his prized asset.
Either way Kane is staying and that can only be a positive thing for Tottenham’s season, and Kane may be required tomorrow to bail Spurs out of their first leg defeat. Tottenham were dreadful last week against Paços de Ferreira, Nuno took the blame during his post-match press conference, stating he played a disjointed starting XI that had hardly played together.
So will Nuno stick with young players or play a more recognisable Spurs team. I imagine he will bring in a few more senior players, but I doubt he will want to go full strength if he can avoid it. His hand will be forced in a few areas as Romero, Son and Carter-Vickers are sidelined with injuries.
My prediction is a 2-0 win for Spurs which would see them qualify to the group stage, this would top of a great few days for Tottenham and set them up nicely for the game against Watford on Sunday.
By Charlotte Atherton, Wigan Athletic writer
Wigan Athletic progress to the third round of the Carabao Cup after beating local rivals Bolton Wanderers on penalties under the lights at the DW Stadium.
After 90 minutes of football, the game remained goalless at the DW Stadium sending an already very nervy match to a penalty shootout.
It was Latics who endured success in the shootout, after Nathan Delfouneso sent Bolton’s final penalty flying over the bar meaning the spot-kicks ended 5-4 to the home side.
As predicted, both sides made a host of changes to their starting line-ups with Leam Richardson making seven Wigan changes while Ian Evatt made eight for Bolton.
The home side had the first real opportunity to take the lead when Tendayi Darikwa linked up well with Stephen Humphrys who was able to shoot from inside the area and force Matt Gilks to pull off a decent save in the Bolton net, his stop fell into the path of James McClean who should have scored but his effort went wide of the post.
Wigan had another good chance shortly after as Humphrys controlled the ball well on the edge of the area and so no surprise he took the resulting shot on himself from the same position, but his effort glanced just wide of the goal.
Wigan came out fighting at the start of the second half in an attempt to start converting some of their shots to goals and they almost did when McClean whipped in a free kick on the edge of the area, but his effort wound up in the hands of former Wigan keeper Gilks.
Chances for Bolton to try and steal the game followed when substitute Gethin Jones picked up a loose ball on the right side and forced Jamie Jones to make an important save. Another chance arose for the visitors when Dapo Afolayan hit a half-hearted shot on the edge of the area, but it proved an easy save to make for Jones in the Wigan net.
Thelo Aasgaard came close to opening the scoring after Max Power kept McClean’s corner alive but his shot on the volley went straight into the gloves of Gilks.
Jones pulled off another great save to send the game to penalties when he pulled off a solid stretching save to deny Alex Baptise’s header.
Penalties were taken in front of the empty South stand at the DW Stadium and Power, Aasgaard, Tom Naylor, Humphrys and goalkeeper Jones all converted for the Tics, while Jordan Jones had his attempt saved by Gilks.
For Bolton, Eoin Doyle, Antoni Sarcevic, Afolayan and Josh Sheehan all converted from the spot, but Kieran Lee had his penalty saved by Jones and Delfouneso fired his shot over the bar to send Wigan through to the third round.
By Lewis Williamson, Stoke City writer
On Tuesday night Stoke City played host to League One side Doncaster Rovers in the EFL Cup. Stoke came into the clash unbeaten and left unphased by the Rovers who have continued their run of no wins to the start of the season.
The game saw Stoke line up with an entirely new starting XI compared to Saturday’s win over Nottingham Forest. This saw the first start for Romaine Sawyers who has joined the side on loan from West Bromich Albion, as well as starts for youngsters like Adam Porter in midfield, Alfie Doughty out wide, and Christian Norton upfront.
Tom Ince and Sam Surridge were both given starts, with both finding the net as Michael O’Neill’s lads looked comfortable throughout the contest seeing the Rovers only hitting the target once in the game.
Ince’s goal came first in the 38th minute after a shot from Morgan Fox was stopped by Doncaster keeper Louis Jones was turned in at the near post. A classical example of making a run to be in the right place at the right time. The young Rovers keeper could have done better to keep the shot from going towards the Stoke winger but did impress throughout the rest of the game keeping out shots, stopping the Potters from running away with 4 or 5 goals. This was Ince’s first goal for the Potters in over 12 months.
Rover’s only shot on target throughout the game came shortly after from Charlie Seaman just at the edge of the 18-yard line, producing an excellent save from Stoke back-up stopper Adam Davies as he kept a clean sheet.
Surridge managed to put the game to bed with a goal shortly after halftime in the 48th minute, taking down a beautiful cross from Alfie Doughty and slotting the ball into the bottom right-hand corner past Louis Jones in the Rovers goal.
The two frontmen were replaced in the 66th minute, Steven Fletcher coming on for the goal-scorer Surridge, and Jacob Brown replacing Norton. Mario Vrančić came on less than ten minutes later for Adam Porter. All three substitutes linked up well putting the side in for a few more chances, kept out by the side netting and Louis Jones once again.
All round a solid performance by Michael O’Neill’s side who will look to continue their run of form this weekend against high-flyers Fulham.
By Ben Brown, Leeds United writer
Leeds United will be looking to put their cup hoodoo to rest as they welcome Crewe Alexandra to Elland Road in the Carabao Cup second round. The hosts have bowed out at this stage on their own turf in the previous three seasons, losing on penalties to Hull City and Stoke City as well as an embarrassing 2-0 home defeat against 10 man Preston. That dismal record is something head coach Marcelo Bielsa will be keen to get rid of and given the relative resources of the two sides may feel confident that tonight will be the night.
Crewe come into this one after a poor start to their League One campaign, having only accrued one point during their opening four fixtures, albeit two of them losses coming from 1-0 score-lines. Add to that a resilient 1-0 victory in the first round against Hartlepool United where they played 80 minutes with 10 men away from home and it suggests they will provide a stubborn test for a likely rotated Leeds United XI.
Adam Forshaw was not involved at all during an U23’s defeat against Tottenham having been regularly involved previously during his comeback after an extremely lengthy absence. He will likely start alongside the likes of Charlie Cresswell and Crysencio Summerville who were both only given 45 minutes in the aforementioned 4-2 defeat. Joe Gelhardt, Sam Greenwood, Cody Drameh and Lewis Bate are the other academy names most likely to be involved.
Crewe will be without defender Luke Offord after his red card against Accrignton at the weekend whilst a lengthy injury list of Chris Long, Owen Dale, Will Jaaskelainen, Callum McFadzean and Donervon Daniels will all be assessed prior to kickoff. Ex-Leeds midfielder Luke Murphy is also expected to start against a side he made over 100 league outings for.
Leeds are unsurprisingly overwhelming favourites on the site, with a measly 3 points available for successfully predicting a home win. If you’re feeling lucky however, Crewe will earn you a minimum of 90 points if they successfully pull off an away shock.