EPL Spotlight: All eyes on offence
Attacking players dominate the big questions ahead of this weekend of EPL action before the international break. Can Danny Welbeck continue his hot streak? Will Mario Balotelli finally break his Premier League drought? Can Juan Mata make the best of the chance that was giftwrapped for him? This week's EPL Spotlight falls on...
Before we get to the main bits, let's get the most obvious one out of the way, eh? Pressure's still on and spiking...
It looks like getting the central role he has been craving is starting to reap rewards for Welbeck. However, his hat-trick heroics from mid-week must now be cast aside for his second London derby in as many weeks as Arsenal prepare to take on Chelsea in the big match of the weekend. The Gunners have a poor track record against the Blues - they've won just two out of their last 10 Premier League meetings - and the ex-Manchester United man has a good opportunity to win over some of his detractors with a good performance. Scoring a goal or two won't hurt either.
After starting against Sporting Lisbon in mid-week, can those twangy hamstrings of his hold up?
Losing to Everton at this stage of the season will certainly not cost Louis van Gaal his job. However, the Dutchman can ill-afford a similar outcome as his predecessor did last season if United are to get on from their rotten start to the season and find some form. With Everton still coming to grips with handling mid-week European football again, the Red Devils have an excellent opportunity to capitalise on their opponents' European hangover following a gruelling Europa League trip to Russia.
Probably muttered "Mucho gracias, el capitan" under his breath when Wayne Rooney's brainless challenge on Stewart Downing earned him a three-match. As the player sacrificed to make way for Radamel Falcao since the Colombian's arrival, Mata now has the prime opportunity to reclaim his spot in the Manchester United line-up. With his future strangely uncertain so quickly after his then club record move to Old Trafford, the Spaniard must grasp his chance with both hands to prove he has the stomach for a fight.
It seems like a long, long time ago since Howard was unofficially declared the United States' secretary of defence during an impressive World Cup. The Everton goalkeeper's EPL stats make for worrying reading - he's conceded a league-worst 14 goals while having made just 15 saves in comparison. While the paucity of goalkeeping options at Everton might mean that Howard is safe from being axed like Sylvain Distin was at last week's Merseyside derby, the American has the daunting task of arresting his slide at his former stomping ground Old Trafford - against the likes of Radamel Falcao, Robin van Persie and Angel di Maria no less. Good luck, buddy.
On paper, West Bromwich Albion coming to Anfield should be an easy assignment for Liverpool. Alas, such things are hard to tell with the Reds these days. This is surely not the start Brendan Rodgers had envisioned after tasting the thrill of a solid title challenge last season. While Liverpool were expected to feel the loss of Luis Suarez when the serial muncher departed for Barcelona, few would have imagined the clamour that has developed for the injured Daniel Sturridge. Even with Raheem Sterling still in the team, the Reds are barely scraping by. While this isn't an entirely fair comparison to make because of the one-point margin that separates them, Liverpool are seven places lower on the league table than Manchester United, whose disastrous start to the season has been well-documented. After a disappointing defeat to Basel in the Champions League, Rodgers must achieve a result against an improving West Brom side in a tricky-looking tie.
Even though the stats include his days at Manchester City, the photo in the above tweet says it all. Time to stop LOL-ing at your rivals and start scoring, Mario.
After shoving all the nasty things people have been saying about their summer clear-out, now it's time to see if the Saints have the cojones to continue riding high with the big boys. A test against Tottenham should give a decent indicator if Southampton are European contenders or mid-table pretenders.
Your in-form ex-team that has not been missing you is coming round for a visit while your own team hasn't exactly been flying of late. The pressure's on, Mauricio.