Liverpool face Chelsea in early title showdown, Arsenal aim to stop rot at Man City


Liverpool (AFP) – Liverpool and Chelsea face off in the first heavyweight clash between title contenders of the Premier League season, while Arsenal aim to get off the mark when they visit Manchester City on Saturday.

Arsenal suffered at the hands of Chelsea last weekend as Romelu Lukaku scored on his second debut in a 2-0 win for the Blues.

The Belgian, who returned to Stamford Bridge this month for a club record £97 million ($133 million), scored his 114th Premier League goal at the Emirates, but his first for Chelsea after failing to make an impression in his first spell at the club.

Now 28, Lukaku looks the complete package and the final piece needed to turn Thomas Tuchel’s European champions into Premier League winners.

Chelsea and Liverpool are two of five teams to take maximum points from two games alongside West Ham, Tottenham and Brighton.

But of the pre-season title favourites, they have already opened up a two-point advantage over Manchester United and three-point lead on Manchester City.

Lukaku faces a much tougher test at a full Anfield with Liverpool rejuvenated by the return of fans and talismanic centre-back Virgil van Dijk from injury.

The Dutchman’s presence has seen Jurgen Klopp’s men keep two clean sheets in their opening games against Norwich and Burnley.

But goalkeeper Alisson Becker acknowledged that beating Chelsea would send a far stronger signal to their title rivals that Liverpool are back to their best.

“For what we believe and for what we want to achieve, it’s a good sign because you are playing one of the favourite sides in the title race and if you can beat one of these sides it’s always good for you to give confidence,” said the Brazilian.

“We won the Premier League before and we know that we need to think always about the next challenge that we have in front of us, so this game is important.”

More misery for Mikel?

Arsenal sit second bottom without a point or even a goal to show from their first two league games and face a daunting trip to the defending champions if they are to break that drought before a two-week international break.

The Gunners got a morale-boosting 6-0 win over a youthful West Brom side in the League Cup in midweek to ease the pressure on manager Mikel Arteta with captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring a hat-trick in his first start of the season after testing positive for coronavirus.

Arteta has reportedly been given until the October international break to turn things around, but Arsenal’s recent record against City gives little cause for optimism come Saturday.

City have not lost to Arsenal in the league since 2015 and can ill-afford another slip up after losing to Tottenham on the first weekend of the season.

Homecoming for Kane

City were forced to concede another defeat to Spurs chairman Daniel Levy this week after Harry Kane announced he will be remaining at Tottenham this season.

The England captain had wanted to move to the Etihad with the aim of ending his wait to win a trophy, but City were unwilling to meet Levy’s demands of a fee well in excess of the Premier League record £100 million they paid for Jack Grealish earlier this month.

Despite the speculation over his future, Kane was given a hero’s welcome by the travelling Tottenham support away to Wolves last weekend.

After committing his future to his boyhood club, he is expected to start for the first time in the league this season when Spurs aim to keep their perfect start going at home to Watford.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday

Manchester City v Arsenal (1130), Newcastle v Southampton, Norwich v Leicester, Aston Villa v Brentford, Brighton v Everton, West Ham v Crystal Palace (all 1400), Liverpool v Chelsea (1630)

Sunday

Leeds v Burnley, Tottenham v Watford (both 1300), Wolves v Manchester United (1530)

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