September 16th marks only the second Premier League Friday night match (a new innovation for season 2016-17), and with all due respect to Southampton, who played and lost against Manchester United in the first ever such game last month, represents a maiden Friday night bout between two of English football’s heavyweights. It’s Antonio Conte v Jurgen Klopp as second-placed Chelsea take on sixth-placed Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
It’s been a spectacular beginning for Antonio Conte in London, with only some questionable refereeing decisions at the Liberty Stadium last time out costing his side a 100% start. Under the Italian, Chelsea’s malaise from last season seems well and truly over with the likes of Eden Hazard and free-scoring Diego Costa rediscovering the form that saw Chelsea romp to the title two years ago. N’Golo Kante has brought what everyone knew he would – dynamism and verve in midfield – and with new striker-signing Michy Batshuayi also finding his feet early, as well as David Luiz returning for a second stint at the Bridge, all the early signs are good for a squad that does not have the added distraction of the Champions League (or Europa League) this campaign in what should therefore equate to a full-blown assault on the title. Skipper John Terry will miss the game due to damaged ankle ligaments sustained against Swansea, so Luiz is expected to step in for his second Blues debut.
But for the anomaly against Burnley, the new season would have been something of a revelation for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side. Victories against last season’s top two, Leicester and Arsenal, as well as a draw at third-placed Tottenham in a game the Reds dominated bode well, but the defensive frailties shown against the newly-promoted Clarets during the 2-0 reverse in August reveal an Achilles Heel that operators as shrewd as Conte will certainly look to exploit. Even so, the side who are now a better representation of their boss who took over a year ago look formidable in attack as they press the ball high and pounce on the counter attack at lightning speed, something Leicester City found to their detriment at Anfield last Saturday in their 4-1 defeat. With no fresh injury concerns ahead of Friday night’s clash, don’t expect too many changes to the lineup which so effectively dismantled the champions from last season as the Reds look to repeat the trick against the champions from the season before.
The rest of the weekend’s action
Saturday in the Premier League features Arsenal’s trip to the KCOM Stadium to play newly-promoted Hull, while champions Leicester City host another newly-promoted side in Burnley. League leaders Manchester City, who could find themselves second in the table if Chelsea were to emerge victors on Friday night, host Bournemouth, while West Brom and West Ham go head to head at The Hawthorns. Saturday’s late game sees Middlesbrough visit third-placed Everton.
Sunday is a busy day with four games taking place; Watford V Manchester United, Crystal Palace V Stoke, Southampton V Swansea and Tottenham V Sunderland.
Friday Night Match Odds
Odds courtesy of Pinnacle and correct as of 15:00 GMT on 13/09/16
By: Steve Paget