Jose Mourinho takes high-flying Manchester United to Liverpool for a searching test of their title credentials this weekend as the Premier League returns with a bang after the international break.
United are level with Manchester City at the top of the table on 19 points, trailing their neighbours on goal difference, but have not yet faced any of their major rivals.
Pep Guardiola’s free-scoring City, who have already beaten seventh-place Liverpool and defending champions Chelsea, host Stoke City, looking to add to an impressive haul of 22 goals so far.
Here are five things to look out for in the Premier League this weekend:
Mourinho and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp must both juggle their resources for Saturday’s early kick-off at Anfield following injuries to key players.
United are without midfielder Paul Pogba, who has been out of action for several weeks with a hamstring injury, and the muscular Marouane Fellaini is also missing.
It means a likely start for last year’s club player of the year Ander Herrera alongside Nemanja Matic.
For his part, Klopp, whose side trail United by seven points, has to do without forward Sadio Mane, who picked up a hamstring injury on international duty with Senegal.
“I think we are a better team (than we were),” Mourinho told Sky Sports.
“You can say, like some people do, we have not played one of the top five teams, but last season we did not beat West Ham at home, last season we did not beat Everton at home or Southampton away.”
Much of the focus in the season’s early weeks has been on the free-scoring Manchester clubs, but Arsenal have been going about their business with quiet efficiency since their 4-0 mauling by Liverpool in late August.
Despite uncertainty over the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, they have knuckled down to win three of their past four league matches, with the exception being a hard-fought 0-0 draw at champions Chelsea.
Wenger conceded on Thursday he may have no option but to sell Sanchez and Ozil in the January transfer window.
The pair are both out of contract at the end of the season and are yet to agree new deals.
“It is possible,” Wenger told a press conference ahead of his side’s trip to Watford on Saturday. “Once you’re in our kind of situation, we have envisaged every solution.”
Champions Chelsea would not be Crystal Palace’s chosen opponents as Roy Hodgson’s beleaguered team attempt to break their embarrassing scoring duck at Selhurst Park.
The south London side are the only team in Europe’s top 20 leagues not to have notched a single goal, with seven defeats in seven matches.
They have already lost one manager in Frank de Boer and Hodgson has so far been unable to stop their slide.
Palace are rooted to the bottom of the table with a goal difference of -17, already five points adrift of safety.
Harry Kane’s recent goal-scoring exploits are frightening. The Tottenham striker, the only English player on the 30-name Ballon d’Or shortlist, has found the back of the net 15 times in his past 10 games for club and country.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino, who describes Kane as one of the best strikers in the world, says he is sometimes lost for words.
“It’s so difficult to talk every three days about Harry Kane and find different words to describe him,” Pochettino said after his side’s ruthless 4-0 win against Huddersfield Town.
“He is fantastic and for me he is so great in front of goal, but when we don’t have the ball he also runs and fights and works hard for the team.”
After a busy close season in the transfer market, Everton were tipped by some to upset the established order at the top of the Premier League.
But the loss of Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United has outweighed the acquisition of the likes of Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson and Ronald Koeman’s team find themselves just two points above the drop zone.
Everton travel to Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday.
Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted that Spurs cannot compete with the two Manchester clubs, who are level on points at the top of the Premier League, in the transfer market.
Pochettino’s side face struggling Bournemouth at Wembley on Saturday, hoping to close the five-point gap to leaders Manchester City and second-placed Manchester United.
The top two both spent heavily during the recent transfer window and Pochettino concedes the financial strength of City and United means teams like Tottenham are forced to adopt a different strategy in the market as they attempt to keep pace.
The Argentinian told beIN Sports: “The difference these days between clubs in the Premier League is that there are clubs, like City and United, who sign who they want and when they want.
“Then there are big teams, like us, who sign when we can and who we can. It’s the big difference today.”
Tottenham headed into the international break having maintained their perfect league record on the road with a win at Huddersfield Town.
At their temporary home of Wembley, however, Pochettino’s men have continued to struggle, claiming just two points from their three home games in the Premier League so far.
Anything less than victory over a Bournemouth side currently lying second-bottom will be viewed as a major disappointment.
Pochettino will be hoping Harry Kane can extend his prolific scoring run.
The striker – nominated for the Ballon d’Or this week – has scored 15 goals in his last ten games for club and country, including the winning goals in England’s back-to-back 1-0 World Cup qualifying victories over Slovenia and Lithuania last week.
Kane was joined on England duty by club team-mate Harry Winks, who will hope the experience of his first international call-up can help boost his chances of more regular action for his club.
— Jan Vertonghen (@JanVertonghen) October 10, 2017
And defender Jan Vertonghen returns to club duty having become the most-capped Belgium player of all time when he made his 97th appearance in the 4-0 defeat of Cyprus.
Mousa Dembele, Vertonghen’s team-mate for club and country, said: “If you look at him when he arrived at Spurs he was doing well but if you compare it to now, obviously he’s played a lot of games in the Premier League and this translates to playing in the national team as well.
“It’s an unbelievable achievement. If you see all the times he’s played for Belgium, I can’t remember him having a bad game.”
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe believed his side deserved more than a point from the scoreless draw with Leicester City last time out.
The Cherries paid the price for their failure to make more of a number of chances and the sight of Callum Wilson scoring twice for the club’s under-21 side this week will have been welcomed by Howe.
Wilson is recovering from a long-term knee injury and while he is still some way off a first-team return, the striker is confident his recovery is going to plan.
“It’s always good to score as it builds confidence and since the injury it’s good to get back on the scoresheet,” he said.
“I was never in doubt over my abilities and I feel I’m striking the ball probably better than I was before to be honest.
“Two goals, both different goals today, and now I’m looking forward to scoring these goals in the first team.
“I’m feeling fine, the knee feels strong and I feel ready to go now. I’m going to carry on working hard in training and waiting for my chance.”
— AFC Bournemouth 🍒 (@afcbournemouth) October 11, 2017
Liverpool host Manchester United on Saturday, pitting two of the world’s top managers in Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho against each other again.
The German has the upper hand in their personal battle, with just one defeat in seven meetings, although their two matches as north-west rivals last season both ended in draws.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at the encounters.
Played – 7
Won – 3
Drawn – 3
Lost – 1
Goals For – 12
Goals Against – 8
Borussia Dortmund 2 Real Madrid 1 (Champions League, October 2012)
Klopp established an early advantage in their first meeting during his successful spell at Dortmund. Robert Lewandowski’s opener was quickly cancelled out by Cristiano Ronaldo, only for defender Marcel Schmelzer to score the winner just after half-time.
Real Madrid 2 Borussia Dortmund 2 (Champions League, November 2012)
The return fixture came a fortnight later when Real twice had to come from behind to draw. Pepe equalised Marco Reus’ opener but it required Mesut Ozil’s 89th-minute free-kick to cancel out Alvaro Arbeloa’s own goal.
Borussia Dortmund 4 Real Madrid 1 (Champions League semi-final first leg, April 2013)
Five months later the two coaches were reunited with the stakes much higher in the last four of the Champions League. A Lewandowski-led Dortmund blew away the visitors with the striker scoring all four to render Ronaldo’s equaliser just before half-time meaningless.
Real Madrid 2-0 Borussia Dortmund (Champions League semi-final second leg, April 2013)
Mourinho finally secured his first win over Klopp but it was a hollow victory as late goals from Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos were not enough as Madrid lost 4-3 on aggregate, which contributed to Mourinho’s departure at the end of the season.
Chelsea 1 Liverpool 3 (Premier League, October 2015)
Klopp’s first win as new Liverpool manager came at the expense of a struggling Chelsea side were struggling near the bottom of the Premier League. Having lost five of their opening 10 matches, Klopp increased the pressure on Mourinho as, after Ramires scored, two goals from Philippe Coutinho and one from Christian Benteke turned things around.
Liverpool 0 Manchester United 0 (Premier League, October 2016)
Mourinho arrived at Anfield knowing he had to contain a free-scoring Liverpool side who were sweeping aside teams with some scintillating attacking football. The United boss succeeded in strangling the life out of the game with a well-drilled defensive gameplan which saw him frustrate Klopp and his players.
Manchester United 1 Liverpool 1 (Premier League, January 2017)
In a more entertaining affair than the previous encounter, James Milner put the visitors ahead from the penalty spot and Klopp looked on course for another win over Mourinho until Zlatan Ibrahimovic popped up with an 84th-minute header.