London: Liverpool’s regrets about missing out on a first English league title for 24 years last season will be stronger than ever on Monday when they visit champions Manchester City, who pipped them by two points.
The meeting of last term’s top two is the highlight of the weekend Premier League programme, in which Arsenal and Manchester United face tricky away games while Chelsea will expect to record a second straight win over a promoted side.
Liverpool will make the short motorway trip east to Manchester knowing they should be arriving as title holders. With three matches to play last season, Brendan Rodgers’ side were nine points clear of City, who had two games in hand but had just lost 2-3 at Anfield. Liverpool then lost at home to Chelsea, and then frittered away a three-goal lead at Crystal Palace, allowing City to finish top by winning their four remaining games.
The Manchester side were the more impressive of the two on the opening weekend of the new campaign, easing to a 2-0 win at Newcastle United with goals by David Silva and Sergio Aguero.
Liverpool, now without last season’s leading scorer Luis Suarez, were below their best at home to Southampton and needed a late goal from Daniel Sturridge to win 2-1.City’s neighbours Manchester United will go in search of their first win under manager Louis van Gaal when they travel to Sunderland on Sunday. If there was any doubt about the scale of the task facing the Dutchman, it was demonstrated by last weekend’s 1-2 opening day defeat at home to Swansea.
The experienced Dutchman will have spent the week trying to restore his players’ confidence, which he said was “smashed” by the Swansea result.
Sunderland, who started the season with a 2-2 draw at West Brom, will fancy their chances at the Stadium of Light despite the fact United signed Argentina World Cup defender Marcos Rojo from Sporting Lisbon in midweek.
United’s Marouane Fellaini suffered suspected ankle ligament damage in training. But star striker Robin van Persie is nearing full fitness and could feature against Sunderland.
Chelsea will look to carry on from where they left off in 3-1 win away to Burnley when they face another newly-promoted side in Leicester at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. The day’s stand-out fixture sees FA Cup-holders Arsenal, fresh from their 2-1 win over Crystal Palace, travel to Everton, with Gunners manager Arsene Wenger saying: “We have started well in the Premier League and we want of course straight away to have a good result away from home. Everton are always good opponents, and for us it will be a good test.”
Arsenal need to recover physically from a long trip to Istanbul in the Champions League play-off round on Tuesday, when they were somewhat fortunate to draw 0-0 with Besiktas.
Newcastle will try to bounce back from defeat by champions Manchester City away to Aston Villa while manager-less Crystal Palace face West Ham in an all-London clash.