1) Kanté decisive in crunch clash
Thomas Tuchel did not hold back in his praise for N’Golo Kanté at the end of last season. “He is our Mo Salah, our Van Dijk, our De Bruyne,” said the Chelsea manager. “He is Neymar, our Kylian Mbappé – he makes a difference.” Then came the caveat. For Tuchel, the frustration was how often Kanté found himself in the treatment room. The French midfielder has struggled with minor setbacks since 2019 and there have been times when he has lacked his old dynamism. That said, there’s still nothing like seeing Kanté in top form. Few midfielders can live with the 31-year-old in his mood and he will be key to Chelsea’s chances of victory when they host Tottenham on Sunday. Spurs will start as small favourites, but the balance of power can tilt back in Chelsea’s favor if Kanté overpowers Rodrigo Bentancur and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. JS
2) A tougher test for Brighton
With an opening day win under their belt, Brighton host Newcastle in one of the standout fixtures this weekend. Both clubs are upwardly mobile and led by men whose names could conceivably form a two-man shortlist when the Football Association selects Gareth Southgate’s successor as England manager at some point in the future. Graham Potter produced a tactical masterclass to help his players see off Manchester United, but they will almost certainly face a far sterner test from a team unlikely to make life as easy for them as their hosts at Old Trafford. Joelinton 2.0 already seems a superior midfielder for either Scott McTominay or Fred, while Bruno Guimarães was one of last season’s signings. Expect a fascinating tactical battle from two teams with real European ambitions. BG
3) How will Villa react to a tame opening?
After Aston Villa’s defeat to Bournemouth, Steven Gerrard understandably bristled a bit when asked if he knew Philippe Coutinho’s best position. Gerrard, of course, played alongside Coutinho for five years at Liverpool, before the midfielder left for Barcelona in a £142m deal, and has managed him since January. Coutinho lit up some games last season – hence Villa’s desire to sign him permanently in the summer – but, mainly stationed out on the left flank, he drifted anonymously through their first game of the season. The Brazilian was not alone in being harmless, Villa tasteless at best as they struggled to penetrate a makeshift defence, although he was comfortably chained by Ben Pearson, whose last league start came at Barnsley in January. It’s a phrase you never thought you’d see. BF
4) Bees, red devils and identity
“Another classic Brentford signing,” was how Thomas Frank described Mikkel Damsgaard, the Danish winger who arrived from Sampdoria this week. It’s a credit to Frank and the club that even a casual onlooker should understand exactly what he meant: few can compete with them when it comes to signing high-potential young talent who can fit seamlessly into their system, and it’s just a bonus that many also happen to be Danish. While we’re here, what’s a classic Manchester United signing? It’s much harder to answer since their strategy in recent years has resembled throwing mud at a wall; Marko Arnautovic will not join Damsgaard on his debut this weekend after that move failed to materialise, but even with Erik ten Hag at the helm it is hard to tell exactly what United think they are. If they are to win at Brentford it will more likely stem from individual brilliance than a triumph of identity. For the second weekend in a row, United face a club who are completely comfortable, ready and confident in their way of doing things: a similar failure to the flop against Brighton would be telling. NOW
5) Can Bournemouth catch City?
These sides have a few things in common: both recorded 2-0 victories on the opening day, both are urgently trying to bring in reinforcements before the transfer window closes. Bournemouth successfully signed Argentine centre-back Marcos Senesi in midweek and are even above Manchester City in the embryonic table, albeit by virtue of alphabetical order. While City galloped to victory at West Ham last Sunday (with 77% possession), resourceful Bournemouth manager Scott Parker may yet sense an opportunity at the Etihad. Pep Guardiola’s side are often slow starters in the Premier League and the Cherries will be boosted by a unilateral dismissal of Aston Villa. Cut the supply line to Erling Haaland and it can – a big one maybe however – be a productive afternoon for your visitors. LMc
6) Do the Saints have a mojo to rediscover?
Last weekend’s rather dismal surrender to Tottenham means Southampton have won just one of their last 13 Premier League games. Apart from their opening goal, there were familiar defensive frailties on display, but little visible evidence that a summer overhaul by Ralph Hasenhüttl’s backroom team has revamped a set of players who sleepwalked through the final quarter of last season. With three games remaining in that campaign, Hasenhüttl lamented his side’s lack of “energy and sometimes belief”, but fans gathering at St Mary’s will expect better when Leeds visit. With the home capacity temporarily reduced in an attempt to prevent anti-social behaviour, another sensational performance from the home side will lead to early relegation concerns among the fans taking their seats. BG
7) Tielemans to send Arsenal message?
It is no secret that Arsenal want extra competition in midfield and it is also well documented that Youri Tielemans leads the list of goals. But no deal has been agreed with Leicester and instead the Belgian will start for the away side on Saturday, with the writers already penning one of his trademark long-range flourishes. Leicester have had a strange summer, playing hardball over the likes of Tielemans and Wesley Fofana, while failing to make any reinforcements so far. They have some excellent players but it is starting to look a little old and the way they let Brentford recover last weekend only added to the murmurings around Brendan Rodgers, who could do with freshening things up. Arsenal look in rude health by early-season standards and should win if they replicate their fast start at Selhurst Park, but if Tielemans dishes up a lesson in midfield, perhaps that will convince them to meet Leicester’s price and get some more transfer dominoes to fall. NOW
8) Top-flight action back at the City Ground
Nottingham Forest and West Ham had a baptism of fire on the opening day, and both finished second best behind Newcastle and Manchester City respectively. Forest blooded six new recruits at St James’ Park and should he wish to do so, Steve Cooper has plenty more to call upon against this weekend’s visitors. Speaking ahead of his first return to the City Ground since leaving seven years ago, Michail Antonio called the ground “a special place to play”. Considering a sizeable contingent of Forest fans clicking through the turnstiles this weekend will not have been born the last time their club hosted a Premier League game, a particularly special and memorable atmosphere is guaranteed by the River Trent on Sunday, whatever the outcome . BG
9) The Coady-less Wolves era begins
A new formation, the captain’s armband being passed on and a new marquee signing in the building, it’s all change at Molineux. For the first time in more than seven years, Wolves will line up without Conor Coady on their books. Coady, who signed from Huddersfield in 2015, has started 196 of Wolves’ last 199 league games – last Saturday’s defeat was the first in the spell he was out as Bruno Lage opted for a new central defence. Instead, Coady will start for Everton at Aston Villa after joining on loan with a view to a permanent move. Rúben Neves, who looks set to stay, is set to be named captain and Gonçalo Guedes, a £27.5m signing from Valencia who arrived for his first day with agent Jorge Mendes in tow, could make his debut when Wolves kick off life without Coady. BF
10) Liverpool must face Palace
There will be changes in personnel for Liverpool’s first home game of the season – Thiago Alcântara is out with a hamstring injury sustained on the opening day and Darwin Núñez polished off to start when he came on against Fulham – but a change in attitude will be a priority for Jürgen Klopp against Crystal Palace. “The performance was a defeat,” said the Liverpool manager after the 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage. “Lethargic” was Jordan Henderson’s take. If there is pressure on Liverpool to rediscover their form and trademark intensity in just the second game of a new campaign, it is pressure of their own making. The margin of error among title contenders has decreased considerably in recent years, such are the penalty standards they and Manchester City have created. Klopp’s demand for an immediate response must be answered when Patrick Vieira visits the side on Monday. AH
• Liverpool v Crystal Palace, Monday 8pm