As Bonfire Night approaches this coming Sunday, there should be plenty of fireworks on the pitch with another explosive weekend of Premier League action on the horizon.
Following consecutive weekends of derby day drama – Liverpool clinching the bragging rights in Merseyside before City made an example of United in their own backyard – there is certainly a more relaxed feel about this weekend’s fixture list but that does not mean that the stakes are not as high as ever.
The action kick starts on Saturday lunchtime, as Fulham welcome Manchester United to Craven Cottage looking to capitalise on a difficult period for Erik ten Hag’s side, who were well-beaten by fierce rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford on Sunday and look bereft of any form of confidence right now.
United had won their last three prior to Sunday’s clash but all three results had come in unconvincing circumstances. Late, narrow wins over Brentford and Sheffield United came before a slender 1-0 victory at home to Copenhagen in the Champions League, where if it were not for the late heroics of André Onana – who spectacularly saved a last-minute penalty from the Danes – they probably would have been dumped out of Europe’s elite knockout tournament.
Despite a promising – but brief – opening spell, Sunday’s performance at a rain-stricken Old Trafford was about as damp as it could have been for United and in truth it felt a little as though City could have score more if they really wanted to, but almost took more pleasure in exhausting their lifelong foes by dominating possession and zipping the ball around with a balanced mix of arrogance and pity.
United now find themselves 8th in the Premier League table and already eight points outside of the top-four. There is plenty of work to be done and this Saturday’s visit to west London is crucial for their hopes of turning things around and implementing a surge back towards the promised land this side of Christmas.
Fulham have endured an inconsistent start to their campaign: winning three, drawing three and losing four of their opening ten league games. The Cottagers are 14th as things stand and are playing some nice football, although look extremely blunt in attack and have only managed to score nine goals all season – the joint-third lowest in the division.
A hard-fought 1-1 draw away at Brighton was a positive result in their last outing on Sunday and that performance will provide them with a degree of momentum when United come to visit on Saturday afternoon. A win for Marco Silva’s side would draw them level on points with the Red Devils heading into Gameweek 12.
Elsewhere, the day’s late kick-off sees arguably the most attractive fixture taking place, as Newcastle host Arsenal. Two teams with lofty ambitions this season clash at St. James’ Park in a game that is practically impossible to call. The Gunners are second, trailing leaders Tottenham by two points while Newcastle are sixth, but their inconsistency sees them already lying six points outside the Champions League places.
Arsenal were good value for their 5-0 drubbing of rock-bottom Sheffield United at the weekend, while Newcastle were held to a 2-2 draw away at Wolves. If I were a betting man, my money would be on the scoreline ending 2-0, with four of the last five meetings between these two sides finishing with that exact score! (Arsenal winning three of those to Newcastle’s one), but please, I must emphasise not to take my advice on anything betting related unless it’s placing a wager on the complete opposite of anything I say…
Meanwhile on Saturday, Brentford and West Ham do battle in an all-London affair; Burnley take on Crystal Palace, Everton and Brighton lock horns at Goodison, Man City welcome Bournemouth to the Etihad and bottom side Sheffield United face off against Wolves. Sunday sees two games taking place, as in-form Aston Villa make the short trip across the Midlands to take on Nottingham Forest, and Luton host Liverpool.
Gameweek 11 is rounded off with leaders Spurs looking to inflict more blues on Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea on Monday evening. Fireworks aplenty.