Welcome back, Premier League and all that comes with it.
Premier League action returns this weekend, bringing a feast of new and old storlyines to tables around the soccer world. The recently completed two-week international break only seemed to increase the drama and tension in England’s top-flight, as managers Jurgen Klopp and Sam Allardyce, arrived at Liverpool and Sunderland, respectively, Jose Mourinho clings to his grip on power at Chelsea and a host of players return from national-team duty with injuries or fresh impetus.
Those factors will play big roles in the outcomes of this weekend’s games, and the results will affect the races within the league that are tight as can be after eight rounds.
The title race currently includes no fewer than the five leading teams, which are separated by just three points at the top of the standings. Seven more are within three points of contention for the all-important top-four places. Ten teams, including Mourinho’s defending champions, are within a bad result or two of slipping into a relegation scrap.
If the Premier League races haven’t captured your attention yet, tune in Saturday morning for the marquee game of Round 9.
Tottenham vs. Liverpool
Premier League games between Spurs and the Reds need no help advertising themselves, as the teams have competed for similar aims — most notably UEFA Champions League places — in recent seasons. But Saturday’s meeting doubles as Klopp’s first game in charge of Liverpool, and the soccer world will watch intently in an effort to gauge the true scale of the newly installed German tactician’s early impact at Anfield.
What better test is there for the new Reds than Mauricio Pochettino’s current crop of Spurs? Tottenham is riding a seven-game league unbeaten streak, and its home game against Liverpool presents an opportunity to move up in the standings from eighth place and create space between itself and 10th-place Liverpool, which trails by two points.
Tottenham will be short of options in midfield. Eric Dier is suspended due to yellow-card accumulation. Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason haven’t yet recovered from injuries that have kept them off the field for the last month-plus. Forward Son Heung-Min also will miss out.
We’re not sure what Klopp’s first Liverpool lineup will look like, but Danny Ings and Joe Gomez won’t play, having suffered season-ending ACL injuries. Neither will Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino, who are working their way back from hamstring and back ailments, respectively. Captain and midfield engine Jordan Henderson is out because of a foot injury.
Premier League Round 9 schedule (home teams listed first; all kickoff times ET):
Saturday, Oct. 17
Tottenham vs. Liverpool, 7:45 a.m.
Chelsea vs. Aston Villa, 10 a.m.
Crystal Palace vs. West Ham, 10 a.m.
Everton vs. Manchester United, 10 a.m.
Manchester City vs. Bournemouth, 10 a.m.
Southampton vs. Leicester City, 10 a.m.
West Brom vs. Sunderland, 10 a.m.
Watford vs. Arsenal, 12:30 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 18
Newcastle vs. Norwich City, 11 a.m.
Monday, Oct. 19
Swansea City vs. Stoke City, 3 p.m.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@standardsport
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