By Owain Wyse, Sheffield United writer
Sheffield United will be looking to register their first league victory of the season as they face Huddersfield at Bramall Lane on Saturday.
Last time out the Blades were beaten 4-0 away at West Brom so they will be hoping to bounce back with a much better performance in front of the home crowd. United have failed to score a league goal in the first 3 games of the season and will be looking to break their duck this weekend.
Saturday’s opponents Huddersfield recorded their first win in the league against Preston on Tuesday night at the John Smith’s Stadium emerging victorious thanks to a Sepp Van Den Berg own goal in the 74th minute. The Terriers are currently managed by Spaniard Carlos Corberan, this his first job in senior football in England after his appointment from the Leeds United Under 23s side. He also has experience in Cypriot football as he is the former head coach of Ermis and Doxa in the premier division.
The Blades could call upon new signing, Liverpool loanee Ben Davies, to make his debut in an attempt to shore up the defence. Davies has experience at Championship level featuring in 129 games across 3 and a half years, for former club Preston. Davies is extremely highly regarded in the Northwest with many fans disappointed to see him leave when the former champions came calling. Another position in contention for United is in goal, Michael Verrips and Wes Foderingham are pushing for the position after the departure of Aaron Ramsdale to Arsenal. Verrips got the nod to start during the week however after a poor performance Jokanovic could decide to go with the former Rangers stopper on Saturday.
Throughout the week United have been repeatedly linked with Manchester United youngster Amad Diallo. The Ivory Coast international cost Manchester United just shy of £20 million when he joined them last season from Atalanta, however, Diallo has only made 8 appearances for the Red Devil’s first-team scoring one goal and registering one assist in his brief spell at Old Trafford so far. Diallo could be just what the Blades need, adding pace, direct running, and skill in the wide areas.
As for Saturday, the Blades quality should shine through and help them outclass the Terriers to record their first win and get Jokanovic’s reign underway.
If you fancy Sheffield United in this one, 6 points are available. A Terriers win would be worth 45 points, with the spoils being shared worth 30 points.
By Lewis Williamson, Stoke City writer
Stoke City welcome Nottingham Forest to Staffordshire on Saturday afternoon, looking to continue this week’s run of form.
Michael O’Neill’s Potters face Forest on the back of a 3-1 win against Swansea on Tuesday night, against a Forest side that is looking to get their first win on the cards this campaign.
The Reds have suffered three successive 2-1 defeats in the league so far, with Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel picking up a red card in their midweek loss to Blackburn Rover leaving Forest short at full-back.
Chris Hughton’s side has suffered from injuries and new arrivals in their team selection seeing only a handful of players starting every game of the campaign so far.
This has been made worse by Jordi Osei-Tutu picking up a hamstring injury adding another short-fall in the full-back position.
Forest are uplifted by the prospect of Tyrese Fornah getting his first start in the Championship after impressing off the bench against Rovers if Hughton wishes to go with youth in the midfield.
The Potters on the other hand have been revamped this season with their new signings all impressing so far, with Norweigen centre back Leo Østigård getting on the score sheet against Swansea midweek.
Nick Powell was also on the score sheet at the Liberty Stadium for the Potters but will likely miss Saturday’s clash due to picking up a thigh injury in the game.
Stoke City look set to continue their unbeaten run in this fixture, with Michael O’neill’s team looking hard to beat at this rate.
Forest will look to upturn their fortunes but Chris Hughton’s side look set to go without any points from their first games unless something drastically changes.
A home win for the Potters will gain you 8 points, an even split gets you 27, and a Forest away upset will net you 35.
By Jude Hall, Sheffield Wednesday writer
Wednesday will be looking to make it three wins in a row on Saturday as Darren Moore’s side head to The New York Stadium to face local rivals, Rotherham United, for a 1pm kick-off in League One.
The weekend’s hosts come into the game with two wins and a defeat so far in the league, most recently beating Morecambe thanks to a Michael Smith stunner on the West Coast.
Smith’s goal midweek was his first of the season having also provided an assist in Rotherham’s early League One campaign. The 6’3 striker also netted in The Millers’ 2-1 win at Hillsborough last season, the last time these two sides met. Smith was also controversially sent off in the game.
Freddie Ladapo was the other scorer that evening, with a dramatic 97th-minute strike. The 28-year-old also has a goal this term having bagged on the opening day again former club Plymouth Argyle, but is in doubt ahead of the weekend’s clash. The forward sat out Tuesday night’s win due to tonsillitis, but Paul Warne says he could be back in contention for Saturday.
Lewis Wing is a player who will know what this one is all about and will be expecting a frosty reception from the Rotherham faithful on Saturday after his loan spell at the New York Stadium last season. Wing played in The Millers’ 2-1 triumph at S6 and was on Paul Warne’s radar this summer but said he ‘never really wanted to go back’, a comment bound to add fuel to a fiery atmosphere.
Darren Moore will be desperate to settle the score after beginning his Wednesday tenure with that 2-1 defeat to The Millers last March. The Owls manager admitted he was ‘pleased but not satisfied’ with his team’s start to the season after three games, with ‘room for improvement’.
The Wednesday camp seem to have high hopes for the year ahead with new number nine, Lee Gregory, saying ‘We are not here to make up the numbers in the league. We are here to win the league.’ The Owls striker opened his account in blue and white with a goal on his first start for the club in Tuesday night’s 1-0 victory over Fleetwood. Sheffield-born Gregory is another who will feel the passion of this week’s South Yorkshire derby and will be itching to add to his tally.
With home advantage, Rotherham United come into this one as slight favourites. The Millers’ hold an impressive record in this fixture having done the double over Wednesday last season. The Owls have to go back to 2017 for the last time they claimed bragging rights in the league when a Steven Fletcher brace secured the points at the New York.
A home win earns 12 points whilst it’s 25 should Moore’s side extend their winning run. It all seems set for a tight, intense South Yorkshire derby in a fixture that never seems to disappoint, with a habit of late drama. Last time out it was Ladapo’s late finish which settled things, but it’s Wednesday who are the usual beneficiaries of stoppage-time goals. Atdhe Nuhiu’s late goal knocking The Millers out of the League cup in 2019, and Dominic Iorfa scoring a last gasp equaliser on his Owls debut earlier that year. And who could forget Kieran Lee completing a dramatic turnaround scoring with the last kick of the game in a 3-2 Wednesday away win back in 2015.
Will the visitors spoil the party at the New York once again, or can Rotherham make it five league games unbeaten against their Yorkshire compatriots?
By Harry Leaitherland, Manchester City writer
This Saturday the reigning Premier League Champions, Manchester City, will take on the newly promoted Championship winners, Norwich City at the Etihad.
After a disappointing 1-0 loss to Leicester in the Community shield and another 1-0 loss to Spurs in the opening match, City will be looking to seal their first win of the new campaign.
Despite City being heavily favoured, Norwich too will hope to get something out f this match after being defeated 3-0 my Liverpool last weekend.
Manchester City have lost their last three matches in all competitions without scoring a single goal. Pep Guardiola has never lost four consecutive games nor four goalless games in his prestigious career. In addition to this, the last time Manchester City lost 4 consecutive matches was in August 2006 and the last time they lost 4 and didn’t score was all the way back in 1986.
So, unless City wish to break or equalise some unwanted records, then they will have to improve on their poor form that has cost the 2 trophies and 3 points.
On top of City having the advantage in terms of their impressive squad, they also have a historical advantage over Norwich City. Manchester City have won their last three home games against Norwich City by an aggregate score of 14-1, with their last encounter in July 2020 finishing as a dominating 5-0 scoreline.
In fact, Norwich have won only 2 of their last 31 visits to Manchester city with wins in 1997 and 2013. Furthermore, the reigning champions have lost only two of their last 58 home Premier League matches against newly promoted clubs. So as we can see Manchester City have typically dominated when they have played against Norwich, especially when playing in front of the Cityzens.
One great thing about football is that its not the history that matters, nor the overall value of the squad, its what happens on the day. So we need to look at what problems the teams may face.
Manchester City will be missing Phil Foden who remains out of action with the ankle injury which kept him out of the Euros final. As well as Ilkay Gundogan who is a doubt after injuring his shoulder against Spurs.
As for Norwich, Sam Byram and Przemyslaw Placheta are out. Onel Hernandez and Jordan Hugill could return after contracting Covid-19, providing they return negative tests of course, while Andrew Omobamidele may be back after tonsillitis.
The main problem for Manchester City will be goals. In the previous two matches City have played, they seem to lack a solid no9 that can put the ball in the back of the net. They have a number of incredible creative players such as Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and their new £100 million man Jack Grealish, but are obviously missing the killer instincts of Sergio Aguero. Even when Pep put Jesus on the pitch during the loss to Tottenham he played more on the left side and struggled to get into dangerous positions within the box.
Overall, despite City’s lack of goals I think this is their match to lose and Norwich will struggle to carve apart their star studded midfield and defence. I believe the final score line will be 3-0 to Manchester City and either Grealish or Sterling will try and fill the scoring void.
This predicition would bag me 55 bonus points, on top of the 2 points available for a Manchester City win. However, should you fancy an upset a draw would be worth 65 points and a victory for the visitors would be worth 120 points. The bonus points available for a Norwich win are tantalising, but do you think it'll happen?
By Jordan Hailey, Aston Villa writer
Aston Villa had a rough beginning to the season after a shock defeat to newly promoted side Watford which saw them concede 3 goals in their first fixture which is cause for major concern from fans.
After Jack Grealish’s recent record-breaking departure to Premier League winners Manchester City it seemed that Villa had compensated well signing the likes of Leon Bailey, Danny Ings and Emiliano Buendia. Each signing was an incredible piece of business but as of yet they haven't managed to fill that void that Grealish left when he departed, but it has only been one game.
Looking forward they are facing Newcastle United who have had what you could call a quiet transfer window as they haven't seemed to make any improvements to their current squad - with the exception of Joe Willock.
However, with players like Saint-Maximin they still have potential to be dangerous in attack which will most likely prove to be a handful for the Villa defence.
Newcastle also suffered defeat in their first fixture against West Ham which was mainly due to poor defending on their side. This could prove vital for Villa as they will be looking to get their first points of the season on the board and with a poor Newcastle defence it gives new signings Bailey and Buendia an opportunity to make their mark on the premier league.
This fixture could prove to be a goal fest like the previous outings from both sides and I think this will be a good judge of how Villa will fair in their first season without their poster boy as another defeat here could prove to be the beginnings of a miserable season for Villa fans or with a solid win here it could prove to be a prosperous top half finish for them this season but only time will tell.
In terms of Footrace points if the Villains grab a win here then it would mean 8 points, a draw between the two sides would mean 27 points and a win for the toons would result in 35 points. Villa are the clear favourites here and fans will be anxiously waiting for a good win and to get their first 3 points on the board.
By Sam Ketch, Editor-in-Chief
Tom Huddlestone returned to Hull City’s playing squad permanently this week, and made his re-debut in the midweek game against Derby County in the 1-0 loss.
It was perhaps a sign of how things are at Hull City that despite Huddlestone’s heroic status at the club, it was a well-received signing on the basis that he loves the club and the fans love him back – rather than his addition making the playing squad any better.
At 34, Huddlestone is by no means past it – in fact, he’s probably in the same shape he was when he played for Hull in the FA Cup final seven years ago.
When he first came on, he immediately picked out Josh Magennis’ chest with a side footed, long-range pass. Those two things, side foot and long-range, shouldn’t go together but the new number 23 for the Tigers has magic in his boots. Okay, maybe not magic; but his skillset allows him to dictate games from the base of midfield.
It feels a great way of viewing Hull City to say that Huddlestone’s role hasn’t changed despite his years away from the club. The issue is, City don’t need his talents in this squad as a starting player now.
He might be a great player to do cameo appearances – either to play the ball long to target men in the box, of which Magennis and Tom Eaves are, or to slow the game down to its death – but the players in the squad who can also play central midfield are more fit to the way Hull City should be playing.
Perhaps the only player, and this is if you want to be harsh, he could be seen as more valuable than is club captain Richie Smallwood – but even that isn’t a sure thing. Smallwood’s place as sitting midfielder is based on defensive responsibility, whereas Huddlestone would be in there to control the game.
But if you look to Greg Docherty, George Honeyman, George Moncur, and Matt Smith you will see a quad who can play football, run the hard yards and turn teams over.
It will be interesting to see if Huddlestone is used in a pivot alongside Smith at any stage, as it is clear the Welsh midfield has the ball playing talent to run a game himself.
Perhaps the better partner in the middle would be Honeyman – someone to do the running next to a great playmaker. Then a rotation of Docherty and Moncur, ahead of the pair, could make for a great midfield trio.
Anyway, it’s all conjecture currently.
Huddlestone’s re-arrival is far more celebrated than when, for example, Fraiser Campbell re-joined the club. It’s kind of a win-win for City boss Grant McCann and the City hierarchy.
Should Huddlestone work out as a Tigers player, then on the pitch the team have won. However, off it they’ve already won because of his popularity amongst supporters and his invaluable mentoring to the young playing squad.
And yes, that beautiful hair might need cutting on the pitch after he scores in a 6-0 home win again before I really believe he was worth it. I really don’t believe you should ever go back in football, unless you’re just there to make the fans smile.
By James Pender, Liverpool writer
Burnley make the trip to Anfield for the early kick-off this Saturday with all signs surely pointing towards a comfortable win for the Reds.
In seasons gone by, you’d have this down as a game with a more subdued atmosphere with Liverpool facing a team towards the bottom end of the table and it being a lunchtime kick-off, but this will be far from that. The Anfield faithful have waited 18 months to be back inside a packed stadium cheering on the Reds for a league game so I expect the ground to be bouncing from the very first whistle.
After a long hiatus for football fans, home advantage seems as though it could be bigger than ever this season. Last weekend we saw seven of the ten home teams claim three points with Burnley being one of only three teams not to capitalise on the return of crowds, whilst Liverpool upset the trend with a win on the road.
The return of fans won’t be the only boost for Liverpool this weekend with the Meryseysiders welcoming back club captain Jordan Henderson as well as star midfielder Thiago Alcantara.
Whether or not they are both fit enough to start the match remains to be seen but either way having them back amongst the squad is a huge plus, particularly in an area where they have lost the ever present Gini Wijanldum.
Now whilst Liverpool will be favourites to get the three points on Saturday, they should be aware Burnley will be no walkover. In fact, the last time these two sides met at Anfield in January, The Clarets came away with a 1-0 win so they must be respected.
Burnley fans may have further cause to be optimistic thanks to their man between the sticks. Much to Liverpool fan’s dismay, Nick Pope turns into a man possessed when playing at Anfield. In his three visits here, his side have come away with 5 points whilst only conceding two goals. Something to take note of?
With Liverpool being overwhelming favourites for the match, it’s no surprise to see only 2 points up for grabs for a Liverpool win, and after putting three goals past Norwich in the opening fixture many people will be expecting the same scoreline again this weekend.
Whilst a repeat scoreline of 3-0 would net you 55 points, perhaps Burnley’s recent record against Liverpool, combined with Pope and his Anfield antics means it may be worth taking a more cautious approach. A lesser scoreline of 1-0 would provide you with 85 points and a generous 65 points are available for a 2-0 win.
By Owain Wyse, Sheffield United writer
It was the understatement of the night from Sky Sports pundit Keith Andrews as he struggled to find words to describe the 4-0 drubbing at the hands of West Brom at the Hawthorns tonight.
The game had a downer on it from before it began, as reports broke that Blades number one and last season’s player of the season Aaron Ramsdale’s transfer to Arsenal was all but confirmed, for a fee of around £25 million. However, there was slight optimism within the Blades fanbase as the first signing of the summer Ben Davies was available for selection following his loan move from Liverpool on Monday.
With Ramsdale unavailable for selection the goalkeeper gloves were handed to Michael Verrips to make his Blades league debut. After a good half-season in Holland with relegated side FC Emmen, there was hope that Ramsdale’s replacement was already in the ranks at Bramall Lane.
There was an early scare for the new goalkeeper as a long throw-in from the son of former Blades loanee, Paul Furlong, Darnell Furlong was bundled home by another former Blade Callum Robinson, however, it was ruled out for offside. Balls into the area causing trouble for United would become a feature of the night.
A second disallowed goal shortly followed as two former Blades combined, Callum Robinson had his second goal ruled out this time for a push from Kyle Bartley on John Egan.
A rare flurry forward from the Blades led to nothing after veteran striker and skipper Billy Sharp pounced on a David McGoldrick flick to have a chance on goal, however, a great tackle back from Ireland international Dara O’Shea prevented Sharp from getting his shot away. This would be the last Blades attack before the Baggies opened the scoring at the third attempt, a rifled throw in again from Darnell Furlong caused trouble in the United defence as Jack Robinson climbed to challenge for the header, but could only head into his own goal in the 26th minute.
However, despite the disappointment of going behind United were straight back at their opponents as Sharp slipped through a well-weighted through ball to his strike partner McGoldrick but his effort was poor and went wide of Johnstone’s near post. It was all downhill from here…
Half time came around after a very poor spell. There was a lack of control in midfield and the ball didn’t move quickly enough, worsened by a lack of width. There were too many long balls being played forwards from the backline and goalkeeper up towards the increasingly frustrated Sharp. These came straight back as the centre-halves hoovered up the aerial balls due to the disparity in physical presence. Changes needed Slav!
No changes came. In the 47th minute, former Tykes midfielder Alex Mowatt swung in a corner, Verrips came, his punch was weak and the ball dropped to the ground below him. He then failed to gather at the second attempt with the ball falling at the feet of Dara O’Shea who prodded his finish through the desperate attempts of the Blades defence for his second goal of the season, 2-0.
Just 5 minutes until the next goal. Mowatt won the bobbling ball in midfield and continued his run, the defence’s lack of shape made it easy for Karlan Grant to bring the ball down and place it on the end of Mowatt’s run to slot home. 3-0 and game over.
Only it wasn’t and it was getting worse. Six minutes this time separated the goals as another throw-in caused trouble. Verrips came unconvincingly and didn’t get there through the crowd of players. The ball was flicked on and fell to the feet of who else but Callum Robinson with an open goal, there was no way he was allowing this rout against his former club without getting one himself. 4-0 and the end of the game could not come quick enough.
The Blades registered one shot on target in the game with an Egan header late on easily saved. This sparked the travelling Blades fans into life as sarcastic chants broke out from behind the goal.
Full time, an awful result and still yet to score a goal in the Championship under Slavisa Jokanovic. The squad needs additions to help the new boss get the first win of the season when they host fellow Yorkshire club Huddersfield at Bramall Lane on Saturday.
By Archie Burkinshaw, Tottenham Hotspur writer
Tottenham are playing for a place in the inaugural Europa Conference League as they face FC Pacos de Ferreira in the first of two play-off games on Thursday night.
Spurs have managed to draw one of the toughest opponents available in Pacos de Ferreira. The Portuguese side finished fifth in the Primeira Liga last season and sailed through the previous qualifying round after dispatching Northern Irish side Larne 4-1 on aggregate.
It is doubtful that Spurs will field a full strength side with the likes of Kane, Dele and Bergwijn all remaining in England, to prepare for the game against Wolves on Sunday. New signings, Gil, Romero and Gollini have all travelled and could be in line to get some minutes under their belts.
I have mixed feelings about Tottenham’s involvement in the Europa Conference League this season. On one hand it would be great to see Spurs get their hands on some silverware, but to think it was only two years ago Spurs were competing in the Champions league final shows how far we have fallen.
Everyone will expect us to win a third tier European competition which will make it an underwhelming victory. But if we crash out, it will mean crippling embarrassment for the team and fans alike.
Ultimately I think Spurs could have done without the extra games in order to focus on the Premier League. Having said that I’m sure if we reach the final come May I will be fully invested in the Europa Conference League, signing it praises to the full.
By Charlotte Atherton
The spoils were shared at the DW Stadium on Tuesday night as Wycombe Wanderers held Wigan Athletic to a 1-1 draw.
The Latics opened the scoring when Callum Lang fired home in the opening minutes of the second half, but Antony Stewart was able to pull Wycombe level in injury time to ensure it finished a point apiece to both sides.
Prior to kick-off, Wigan introduced their latest signing to the fans inside the DW Stadium as they welcomed back their 2014/15 player of the season James McClean – another top signing for the League One outfit.
The Latics should have taken the lead in the opening five minutes of the game after Callum Lang fumbled his shot into the path of captain Tendayi Darikwa, but his effort glanced passed the side of the post and behind for a goal kick to The Chairboys.
The visitors had a couple of half-hearted chances to take the lead, with the first coming in an effort from Gareth McCleary but his shot was easily dealt with by Ben Amos in the Wigan goal.
Amos was called into action again shortly after when Anis Mehmeti hit an effort on the volley, but The Latics were able to clear.
Charlie Wyke was then gifted a chance to open his Latics account after Jordan Jones whipped in an almost perfect ball into the box, but Wyke was only able to head the ball over the bar.
Wigan thought they had taken the lead just before halftime when Will Keane headed the ball into the back of the net after another well executed cross from Jones, but the striker was judged to be offside.
Wigan Athletic finally got their goal in the 47th minute of the match when Lang fired the ball into the top right-hand corner following a free-kick delivery from Jones.
The home side came close to doubling their lead in the 69th minute after Jack Whatmough got a flick on the end of Max Power’s cross to keep the ball alive for Keane who could only hit the crossbar.
Just as Wigan thought they had been able to see another game through Wycombe drew level in injury time after Stewart was able to guide his header home at the near post following a well taken corner by Sullay Kaikai.