Time for another set of tasty Premier and Championship clashes as teams look to get back to business following another international hiatus. Managers will no doubt be complaining about players returning from national team duty late or injured (or both) but the good news is they now have a whole month before the next one!

PREMIER LEAGUE

SATURDAY

LIVERPOOL V MANCHESTER UNITED

There can’t be many better ways to start the weekend than a clash between two of the biggest rivals in the game as Liverpool open the newly renamed ‘Kenny Dalglish Stand’.
With one of his star men lost to injury and two more having flown back from Brazil on Wednesday and now facing an early kick-off, Jurgen Klopp will have more reason than most to bemoan the latest international interval.
The depth and quality of Liverpool’s squad is sure to be tested by a United team who seem to be able to win most games without needing to reach top gear. Romelu Lukaku played just 25 minutes of international football (scoring a goal) during the domestic stoppage and he will be fresh and ready to test that wobbly Reds central defence.
These match-ups have a local derby-like quality in their unpredictability but on form, fitness and class, United have to have the edge this time.

We say: 1-3

BURNLEY V WEST HAM UNITED

Sean Dyche’s Clarets have yet to match their form on the road when playing at Turf Moor. Part of this is that the team set up well as a counter-attacking unit but struggle when forced to make the running.
The visitors here will surely sit back and wait for Burnley to make the running and the Hammers have pretty good counter-attacking options of their own. West Ham have found a bit of decent form of their own recently and look to have put that dismal start to the season behind them. It will be tight and will go down to the wire.
We’ll sit on the fence and take the draw that both teams would probably accept right now.

We say: 1-1

CRYSTAL PALACE V CHELSEA

Yet another testing encounter for Roy Hodgson as his baptism of fire continues. The consolation are that his first three games were all ones the club would have expected to lose anyway. Home advantage might offer a small glimmer of hope were it not for the facts that Palace have few attacking options and they will in all likelihood set-up like the away team anyway.
Chelsea have a poor performance of their own to banish with the timid display against Manchester City having put them firmly in their place. Players returning from international duty, and returning injured in the case of star midfielder N’Golo Kante, might be a small hardship for the visitors but, try as we might we can’t find too many glimmers of hope for the Eagles here

We say: 0-2

MANCHESTER CITY V STOKE CITY

Pep Guardiola could probably have done without seeing his players disappearing all over the world last week, just after that great performance at Stamford Bridge. But they re-emerge with an eminently winnable game against former City manager Mark Hughes’s Potters. The way the Sky Blues are utilising their full backs this season is an interesting tactical twist and seems to have provided more space for the ball players – especially Kevin De Bruyne – to perform.
Can Stoke combat this? Possibly for a while, but not for 90 minutes so we’re predicting the Manchester momentum on top of the table to be maintained.

We say: 3-0

SWANSEA CITY V HUDDERSFIELD TOWN

Is it too early for a ‘must-win’ game? Probably, but this one certainly has the feel of an encounter where the home team need a positive result to get their season rolling. Paul Clement has a good group of players at the Liberty but they aren’t getting the results, and aren’t creating a whole lot of chances either.
A game against newly-promoted Huddersfield, lacking their major strike option in Steve Mounie, is surely a decent opportunity to put things right but the well-organised visitors aren’t easy to break down.
A strike-force of Wilfred Bony and Tammy Abraham, supported by Renato Sanches and others, must surely start clicking soon and on that rather slim premise we’ll take a narrow home success.

We say: 2-1

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR V AFC BOURNEMOUTH

Forget that ‘Wembley hoodoo’ for a moment, Spurs, simply put, are a much better team than Bournemouth. The likes of Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen have never been in better form and whilst Dele Alli might not be at his best right now, there is enough talent to overcome even that. Mauricio Pochettino’s men have threats all over the pitch and an early goal could set the tone for a convincing win here.
It’s starting to look like it could be a long season for Bournemouth. They have the ability to create chances in every game but there are holes in the defence, and it’s doubtful they’ll be able to plug them here.

We say: 4-1

WATFORD V ARSENAL

Watford have been one of the surprise packages of the season, although even Mauro Silva would find it hard to believe if you told him they’d be a point behind the visitors coming into this clash. The Hornets last home match resulted in a chastening 6-0 hammering by Manchester City and they are missing Nathaniel Chalobah who is important component. But a win and a draw on the road since that loss will have helped erase those memories.
Arsenal meanwhile, are no City, but their own form has improved considerably recently and some real resilience is being shown by the North Londoners. Despite being on the road, Arsenal have the keys to unlock the home defence and could widen the gap between themselves and their opponents here.

We say: 1-3

SUNDAY

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION V EVERTON

If Brighton are going to be playing Premier football next season it will be because of their form at the Am-Ex.
If Ronald Koeman wishes to feel more secure in his job at Everton he needs his team to start playing up to their potential. There is plenty of quality in the Toffees line-up. But the question remains, are there enough goals?
Brighton will battle and be well-organised defensively whilst the visitors will probably control possession and create more chances. Despite that home advantage, we’ll take a chance on Koeman finally getting his team moving in the right direction, both on the pitch and up the table.

We say: 1-2

SOUTHAMPTON V NEWCASTLE UNITED

Saints have yet to find their form under their new boss while Newcastle have a boss who is more adept than any at getting the most from his players. There is little doubt that Mauricio Pellegrino has the talent at his disposal to lead his new club to a much higher level than the one they currently occupy but he is still struggling to find the winning formula.
Newcastle, on the other hand, clearly add up to more than their parts, thanks mainly to Rafa Benitez, master manipulator of players and excellent tactician who finds himself taking on a coach he used to manage here.
Having made out a very good case for the visitors to get something here, we’re now going to tip a home win! Talent to rule!

We say: 2-1

MONDAY

LEICESTER CITY V WEST BROMWICH ALBION

It’s pretty surprising to see City languishing near the foot of the table, especially having seen them play a couple of times and been quite impressed. The lack of a replacement for Danny Drinkwater has had an effect but there is enough talent in the squad to expect a much higher position than that achieved to date. They need to find a way to break down a well-organised Albion who will be happy to return to The Hawthorns with a share of the points. Surely City can find a way through and start their climb up the charts.

We say: 2-1

CHAMPIONSHIP

FRIDAY

BIRMINGHAM CITY V CARDIFF CITY

A 6-1 win thrashing at Hull must have given Steve Cotterill a fair indication of the task ahead at St Andrews. In truth they aren’t really ‘that’ bad and we’re going to suggest a pretty big surprise here with City claiming a point against a team who, while they lead the table, have their own weaknesses.

We say: 1-1

BRISTOL CITY V BURTON ALBION

Two 4-0 home thrashings in a row and now Burton have to visit one of the league’s better attacking units. City are starting to look like serious promotion contenders. They have the firepower, are decent at home and should win comfortably against a team that must be among the relegation favourites.

We say: 3-0

SATURDAY

BARNSLEY V MIDDLESBROUGH

Both of these have been disappointing so far. Barnsley might be hoping for mid-table and safety, ‘Boro should be expecting a promotion challenge. We certainly do still expect the Teesiders to challenge for a return to the top flight and these are exactly the kind of games they need to start winning to fulfil that.

We say: 1-2

BOLTON WANDERERS V SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY

Basement dwellers Wanderers come up against a Wednesday team finally starting to show glimpses of last season’s promotion near-miss. The visitors’ 3-0 success against fellow promotion hopefuls Leeds last time shows that Carlos Carvalhal’s men are rapidly approaching their best. Expect another step on the road to the top-six.

We say: 1-3

BRENTFORD V MILLWALL

One of the lower-key London derbies and this one is starting to have the look of a basement battle. Millwall must be pleased with results so far but most of their best performances have come in front of their own fans. On the road they aren’t quite the same force and Brentford can move closer to their rivals here.

We say: 2-0

FULHAM V PRESTON NORTH END

After a slow start Slavisa Jokanovic has Fulham moving in the right direction. They are one of the better teams in the division and now that they have hit form they can continue heading upwards. Preston have been a major surprise but are slightly less impressive on the road and that sway it the Cottagers’ way.

We say: 2-1

LEEDS UNITED V READING

Leeds were massively disappointing last time, folding meekly against Yorkshire neighbours. They have a perfect opportunity to get back to winning ways here against a Reading team who continue to struggle mightily. Leeds to get back on track is the easy call here.

We say: 3-1

NORWICH CITY V HULL CITY

Norwich return to Carrow Road after a pair of excellent road wins. They face a Hull team coming off their own superb performance making this one very hard to call. Hull had been poor prior to the hammering of Birmingham and we’ll given them a chance of a continued revival with a share of the spoils here.

We say: 1-1

SHEFFIELD UNITED V IPSWICH TOWN

Aside from a blip against an inconsistent but capable Norwich recently, the Blades have been excellent at home. Now they face another in-form East Anglian team and this will prove a tough test. Ipswich themselves are free-scoring so we’ll plump for an exciting score-draw.

We say: 2-2

SUNDERLAND V QUEEN’S PARK RANGERS

A decent point at Preston last time gives some hope to Sunderland fans. But weirdly it is home form that is proving the biggest problem for Simon Grayson’s team with a solitary point to show from five games. Can they start to put things right against Rangers? We’ll say yes, and go for a big home win.

We say: 2-0

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS V ASTON VILLA

Villa have hit top form recently and now face a Wolves team that continue to impress. This is a game that will have real ramifications in the promotion picture with both teams likely to be pushing for the Premier come the season’s end. Our verdict is a slightly fence-sitting share of the points.

We say: 2-2

SUNDAY

DERBY COUNTY V NOTTINGHAM FOREST

No love lost between these two! Both have been a disappointment thus far this term but on the basis that Derby have more talent and are at home we’ll go for the points to remain at Pride Park, although, as ever with clashes between these two, with no real confidence

We say: 2-1