Injuries the only threat for City?

Fifteen points from the opening five Premier League games and a 3-1 win over Red Star Belgrade to start their Champions League campaign: all is going swimmingly for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City. Except, if more of his players join Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Jack Grealish, John Stones and Mateo Kovacic in the treatment room, then Guardiola may have to pray to the medical gods for succour. De Bruyne is out until next year, yet though Guardiola suggested after Tuesday’s victory that only Kovacic has a chance of returning for Nottingham Forest’s visit, there is hope for Grealish, too. Whatever the final medical bulletins, Guardiola still has the fit Matheus Nunes, Phil Foden, Kalvin Phillips (remember him?) and Rico Lewis, who can join Rodri in the team’s creative artistry department. Jamie Jackson

  • Manchester City v Nottingham Forest, Saturday 3pm (all times BST)

‘Fortress Kenny’ gets big test

Four games, two goals, no points. The early signs are ominous for Luton and, in some quarters at least, dreaded talk of Derby’s 11-point tally in 2007-08 has already begun. Hatters fans, however, are rightly dismissing such premonitions at this stage, especially when only one of their opening five games has been at Kenilworth Road. Rob Edwards also bemoaned the key absence of Ross Barkley (to a hamstring injury) for the 1-0 defeat at Fulham last Saturday. And therein lie the three pillars around which Luton’s survival bid will be mounted: Edwards’s cool head and belief in the methods that won promotion in the first place; the necessary Premier League flair Barkley provides; and of course, the Kenilworth factor. Even after a £10m refurb to increase the capacity beyond 11,000, talk of making it a “fortress” is not as platitudinal as some hipsters would have you believe. The striker Cauley Woodrow has used that exact word – saying it will be a cauldron into which opponents will not enjoy stepping. Yet Luton need the results, especially against teams such as Wolves, to make it so. Dominic Booth

  • Luton v Wolves, Saturday 3pm

Sunset over Kenilworth Road.
Sunset over Kenilworth Road. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Eagles need to keep things fresh

In their past two Premier League games Crystal Palace have conceded three goals past the 90th-minute mark. Against Wolves it was a mere consolation but at Villa Park it cost the Eagles a point. Matches are, obviously, lasting longer and longer in a desperate attempt to cut out time-wasting and the like, which seems to be adversely affecting Palace. One issue is that they do not like making substiutions. At Villa Park, the assistant manager Paddy McCarthy brought on Jean-Philippe Mateta in the 25th minute because Jordan Ayew was injured and their next sub arrived in the final 60 seconds of normal time, with a further coming in the 99th. Similarly against Wolves, a game Roy Hodgson was on the sidelines for, Mateta was the only change in the first 90 minutes. If Palace are to avoid late goals, they will need to put faith in their subs to ensure the team stays fresh, otherwise these setbacks will become more common as the season goes on. Will Unwin

  • Crystal Palace v Fulham, Saturday 3pm

Dyche backs Beto to aim fire at Bees

Has Sean Dyche actually improved Everton? The underlying numbers suggest so – the metrics are on an upward curve under him – yet three 1-0 home defeats this season and just a solitary point from five matches indicate the same on-field problem is haunting them; a lack of goals. Dyche has a trump card, though, and it’s not the takeover by the 777 Partners consortium, which he believes won’t affect playing matters anytime soon. It’s Beto. The 25-year-old striker scored on his club debut in the Carabao Cup, starred without scoring on his league debut at Sheffield United and, while he was stymied by Arsenal last time out, he’s shown he can carry the fire up front for Dyche. Given Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s struggle to rediscover his pre-injury self, Everton must do what Saturday’s opponents have done – renew their frontline. Beto’s and Bryan Mbeumo’s respective battles with hardened backlines will define the outcome – the latter continues to impress in Ivan Toney’s absence. DB

  • Brentford v Everton, Saturday 5.30pm

Onana’s form a concern for Ten Hag

Excuses and diversion techniques have accompanied Manchester United on their well-trodden path towards early-season crisis but Erik ten Hag does not get a free pass for André Onana’s worrying start to his Old Trafford career. The Cameroon goalkeeper had the decency to front up after his costly error at Bayern Munich on Wednesday, when United suffered their fourth defeat in six games, but already appears bewildered by the chaos that Ten Hag’s tactics have sown in front of him. More puzzling, of course, is why United agreed a £47.2m deal for the goalkeeper this summer when Onana – Ten Hag’s player at Ajax for five years – was available for free 12 months earlier. Confidence could now be an issue for United’s new No 1, and others. It says everything about their dismal start that a newly promoted, newly constructed Burnley team without a Premier League win this season will sense opportunity at Turf Moor. Andy Hunter

  • Burnley v Manchester United, Saturday 8pm

Gunners face a new-age Spurs in NLD

Harry Kane has scored 14 goals in 19 north London derbies. Over the last decade he has almost invariably had his say against Arsenal whether Spurs win, lose or draw – even if they have not taken three points in a league game at the Emirates over that time. But he will be watching from Bavaria when Sunday’s proceedings kick off and will probably be as interested as anyone in what a post-Kane tussle looks like. On the surface his absence denudes Tottenham of their most reliable weapon but there is a sense that, in Ange Postecoglou’s brave new world, all bets may be off this year. Tottenham are fast reshaping into a slick, exciting outfit that shares the goals around and can go toe-to-toe in these encounters. The likelihood is that they find Mikel Arteta’s side, who are much further into their rebuild, too hot to handle once again but it would count as genuine progress if they improve on the sterile performances that brought successive 3-1 defeats in the last two seasons. Nick Ames

  • Arsenal v Tottenham, Sunday 2pm

Cherries need Kelly as key in defence

Andoni Iraola is yet to win a Premier League match as Bournemouth head coach but a first clean sheet, against Chelsea last weekend, in their best performance to date under the manager will give hope. Considering one of the pillars of Iraola’s style is chaos, having some organisation at the back is important. Lloyd Kelly returned to the side that drew with Chelsea after being left out before the international break because of a failed move to Tottenham. The centre-back’s attitude has impressed Iraola and he should become the key man to build a defensive unit around, especially with new arrivals at full-back and a 21-year-old, Illya Zabarnyi, alongside him. Being an integral part of a team on an upwards trajectory could convince Kelly to stay beyond his current contract, which ends next summer, but in the meantime any Bournemouth side with the centre-back in the team is better for it and a solid defence will allow Iraola’s attackers greater hope of finding that elusive victory. WU

  • Brighton v Bournemouth, Sunday 2pm

Lloyd Kelly
Lloyd Kelly impressed in the draw with Chelsea. Photograph: Robin Jones/AFC Bournemouth/Getty Images

The Chilwell experiment has failed

An extensive injury list has forced Mauricio Pochettino to alter the enterprising approach that Chelsea used during pre-season. Christopher Nkunku’s knee injury has disrupted the attack and Pochettino’s most notable change, the use of Levi Colwill rather than Ben Chilwell at left-back, has brought mixed results. The balance does not feel right and, as Pochettino looks for ways to solve his side’s lack of ruthlessness, perhaps he may decide it is time for Chilwell to return to his favoured position when Chelsea host Aston Villa. So far the evidence suggests that the England international is not suited to playing as a left-winger. Colwill, meanwhile, does not quite offer the same thrust on the left – his long-term role lies in the centre, where his incisive passing can be more effective. If Chilwell overlaps from left-back, there is more space for another attacker to accompany Nicolas Jackson and Raheem Sterling in Chelsea’s front three. Mykhailo Mudryk will hope for another chance but it could be time for Cole Palmer. Jacob Steinberg

  • Chelsea v Aston Villa, Sunday 2pm

Klopp’s defence bridges Van Dijk ban

After the midfield rebuild that lasted until the final day of the transfer window, the focus switched to whether Liverpool had sufficient cover in central defence to sustain their Premier League aspirations this season. While the clamour for a big-money recruit will continue – for ever – Joe Gomez, Joël Matip and the developing Jarell Quansah have eased immediate concerns in that department since Virgil van Dijk was sent off at Newcastle and Ibrahima Konaté was sidelined by injury. Liverpool have not looked impregnable since Van Dijk received his red card at St James’ Park, but have conceded one Premier League goal in the captain’s absence. Van Dijk and Konaté should both be available for West Ham’s visit and, while any of their deputies can count themselves unfortunate to miss out, they have justified Jürgen Klopp’s confidence in the depth available. AH

  • Liverpool v West Ham, Sunday 2pm

How Howe settles on midfield

If Sheffield United have been a little unlucky at times this season – and never more so than when losing 2-1 at Tottenham last Saturday – Newcastle have enjoyed a bit of fortune in the past week. Indeed, a 1-0 home win against Brentford and, especially, a 0-0 Champions draw against Milan at San Siro flattered Eddie Howe’s side. Arguably the biggest problem lies in central midfield where Sandro Tonali and Bruno Guimarães are not connecting as envisaged. It speaks volumes that, in Italy, Milan’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek was the game’s best midfielder and Sean Longstaff the pick of Howe’s engine room. This prompts the question: does Newcastle’s manager drop either Tonali or Guimarães at Bramall Lane? It would represent a politically freighted decision as the £55m Italy international still seems to be struggling to overcome the heartbreak of leaving his beloved Milan this summer, while the Brazil midfielder is close to signing a new contract on Tyneside. Louise Taylor

  • Sheffield United v Newcastle, Sunday 4.30pm

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Man City 5 11 15
2 Tottenham Hotspur 5 8 13
3 Liverpool 5 8 13
4 Arsenal 5 5 13
5 Brighton 5 8 12
6 West Ham 5 3 10
7 Aston Villa 5 1 9
8 Nottm Forest 5 0 7
9 Crystal Palace 5 -1 7
10 Fulham 5 -5 7
11 Brentford 5 2 6
12 Newcastle 5 1 6
13 Man Utd 5 -4 6
14 Chelsea 5 0 5
15 AFC Bournemouth 5 -4 3
16 Wolverhampton 5 -6 3
17 Sheff Utd 5 -4 1
18 Everton 5 -7 1
19 Burnley 4 -8 1
20 Luton 4 -8 0


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