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Let’s look at five big questions ahead of Matchweek 3 in the EPL.
1. This one is a late-breaking blockbuster, can Liverpool hold onto Mo Salah?
There has never been a disruptor in sports like oil money.
The soft launch was first Chelsea, then Manchester City, PSG and last year Newcastle. Let’s not forget about LIV Golf and what it’s done to the PGA Tour.
But now we’re really seeing what bottomless pits of money can do. With one week left in the English Premier League transfer window, Al-Ittihad has reportedly come in with a massive offer for Salah with a promise to make him the highest-paid player in the world. Where it’s a particular problem for Liverpool is unexpected Saudi bids for captain Jordan Henderson and Fabinho came in a month ago and Liverpool are yet to find adequate replacements to rebuild their midfield and with a week left would be faced with the prospect of replacing one of the world’s best goal scorers. Not to mention getting new midfielders and a star forward acclimatized into Jurgen Klopp’s demanding system.
This is going to be a new reality for all European clubs, the Saudi sportwashing experiment appears to be working.
Say nothing of the cynicism you could have for the Saudi-owned newcomers Newcastle wanting to unsettle Liverpool right before they meet on Sunday in what is the FUBO Game of the Week. Newcastle essentially took Liverpool’s Champions League place this season, but the Magpies lost both games to the Reds last season. This is a massive match. If Liverpool were to win, they’ll be right back in the mix as top four contenders. Lose and it will truly feel like the end of the competitive era at Liverpool, doomed to hoping to squeak into a Champions League place.
Newcastle crushed Aston Villa in their opening match but lost a tight 1-0 game at Manchester City last week. This is a massive test game for them, they will be hopeful of getting lots of chances against a risky Liverpool defensive set up, but Liverpool’s attack is still lethal.
Salah is a massive component in this. There was interest from the Saudi league earlier in the summer but his agent shot it down immediately saying Salah wanted to stay at Liverpool. But the fact Salah is Arabic will be a draw for the player and the league. It may be inevitable he makes the switch, but it’s the timing that’s crucial for Liverpool.
Salah portrays himself as a humble man, he already has enough money to do whatever he wants. But the anonymous reports coming from Saudi club say they’ve met with Salah, that he wants to go and that they’ll give him more money than the $299 million Cristiano Ronaldo is currently paid. This is a drama that’s going to play out dramatically this week.
2. Can Brighton continue their stunning run? For the last four years or so, Brighton have been one of the best stories in all of world soccer. It was thought manager Graham Potter was the mastermind, but he got poached by Chelsea and was an abject failure. New manager Roberto De Zerbi hasn’t skipped a beat, they lost Marc Cucarella last year, lost Moises Caciedo, Alex MacAllister and Robert Sanchez this window, and yet they sit atop the Premier League with a better goal difference than Manchester City and Chelsea.
They recruit well, they spend well, and you only hope they can continue to progress and the bigger vultures don’t pick them clean of players, managers, scouts. The Seagulls have feasted on a couple of discarded mollusks so far, pumping four past Luton and Wolves each. They should beat West Ham this weekend, and then it gets interesting with the next two games against Newcastle and Manchester United.
3. Will Chelsea get their first win? If they don’t there’ll be full on panic. After an opening-day draw with Liverpool, the Blues lost to West Ham last week in a game they largely controlled, but couldn’t score. Their two big signings, Christopher Nkunku and Moises Caciedo highlight their problems. Nkunku is out with a long-term injury, Caciedo, the record British transfer, came on as a sub, gave the ball away three times then gave up a foolish penalty to seal the win for West Ham. They should thump Luton and have Nottingham Forest, Villa, Fulham and Burnley in their schedule. If they don’t win four of those five, you may see a bit more panic around Stamford Bridge.
4. Which team is in more trouble, Everton or Wolves? Both clubs have got off to horrendous starts. Everton are bottom with a goal difference one worse than Wolves. They both have no money to spend and the rumours are Wolves have had a bid from Manchester City for talented midfielder Matheus Nunes. They will both be in the relegation fight all season, but games against the other candidates for the drop are massive, true six-pointers. This is at Goodison where the crowd can be awfully cynical and the atmosphere tense. If Everton go behind this one could be ugly.
5. What are Manchester United? They have a dodgy win over Wolves and a two-goal loss to Spurs where they didn’t generate much attack. It’s a club where you don’t get the luxury of time, and headed into an international break that will see the return of European demands factor into the mix, they need to start stacking up good performances. They have Forest this week, and with Arsenal and Brighton up after the break, they simply must win this week. Headed into a break with a bitter taste that will linger won’t help things. Erik ten Hag has built a squad with some star power, but with questions still remaining over their defence, their build up and attack, consistency is needed. Are they a firewagon attacking squad? A resolute defence that will punish on the counterattack? This team really needs identity and leadership if they are to mount any sort of a serious title challenge.
All games are available exclusively on FUBO https://www.fubo.tv/welcome along with a host of highlight and analysis shows that air during the week.
FRIDAY: Chelsea v. Luton.
SATURDAY: Bournemouth v. Tottenham; Arsenal v. Fulham; Brentford v. Crystal Palace; Everton v. Wolves; Manchester United v. Nottingham Forest; Brighton v. West Ham.
SUNDAY: Burnley v. Aston Villa; Sheffield United v. Manchester City; Newcastle v. Liverpool.