Andre Onana, Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay and Sofyan Amrabat are the players to watch when record Premier League champions Manchester United attempt to extend a mini revival at home to derby rivals Manchester City in a blockbuster collision on Sunday night. Eric Ten Haag’s side have put behind a nightmarish start to the campaign that saw them lose four out of their opening six encounters across all competitions. They go into the crunch encounter with Pep Guardiola’s ‘noisy neighbours’ buoyed by a three game winning run that has brought victories over Brentford, Sheffield United and FC Copenhagen.
Carlos Henrique Casemiro’s absence through injury has cast the spotlight on United’s makeshift midfield pairing of McTominay and Amrabat with the Scottish international in the thick of the action at both ends of the pitch during their rejuvenation. How well they cope with the mercurial skills of City midfield metronome Rodrigo Cascante Hernandez ‘Rodri’ may well determine the outcome of the contest.
United’s upturn in fortunes has also coincided with a marked improvement in the form of beleaguered defender Maguire who followed up his assist for the winning goal against Brentford with the clincher over Copenhagen on Tuesday. Cameroon keeper Onana has come under scathing criticism following an inauspicious start to his Old Trafford career but he was the toast of the town on Tuesday when he saved an injury time penalty to preserve United’s precarious 1-0 lead.
City could be as many as five points off title pace at kick off if early season pacesetters Tottenham Hotspur overcome Roy Hodgson’s unpredictable Crystal Palace on Friday night. New Spurs boss Ange Postecoglu’s legendary motivational skills are bringing the best out of a spine of players – Son Heung Min, James Maddison, Yves Bissouma and Guglielmo Vicario – most responsible for the north Londoners barnstorming start to the season. The Eagles are no pushover at Selhurst Park but the absence of creative duo Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise tips the tie in favour of the visitors.
Last season’s deputy champions Arsenal will be without Gabriel Jesus for the home tie against basement club Sheffield United as the talismanic forward pulled a hamstring after creating one and scoring another in Tuesday’s Champions League victory at Sevilla. Mikel Arteta’s Gunners should still have too much firepower for the Blades who are yet to register their first victory in England’s top flight.
Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur
Chelsea v Brentford,
Arsenal v Sheffield United,
Bournemouth v Burnley,
Wolves v Newcastle United
West Ham United v Everton,
Aston Villa v Luton Town,
Brighton v Fulham,
Liverpool v Nottingham Forest,
Manchester United v Manchester City