As Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham get ready to go head after the international break, Lynsey Hooper looks at the teams’ strengths and weaknesses as they aim to take crucial points.
October is set to be a blockbuster month in the Premier League as Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham all go head to head after the international break.
The Premier League returns with a big one on Saturday 14th at Anfield as Jose Mourinho and his in form and high scoring Manchester United face Liverpool.
Across both teams, I would identify Sadio Mane as the standout player. He has been one of my personal favourites so far this season (along with Kevin De Bruyne & David Silva), up until the Manchester City red card.
United’s visit will be a good test for Mane to see if he has recovered from that disappointment at the Etihad Stadium.
Having said that, Manchester United will be favourites to win, Mourinho will know exactly how to set his team up and the overall better quality in the side should see them edge it.
Up until this point, they have shown they have strengths in every department and are beginning to look like title winners of United teams gone by.
United are without Paul Pogba for longer than first feared but that could work in their favour in these big games.
The French midfielder drives his team forward and was sparkling in the first few weeks of the season but with Mourinho likely to pack midfield, Pogba’s absence is not the end of the world.
A midfield of Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini will stay solid and therefore provide less gaps for the better teams to exploit.
It’s been a strange month for Liverpool but it is clearly highlighting the issues that Jurgen Klopp knew about in the summer. There is no top goalkeeper and no solid centre-back – that will ultimately be their undoing.
Philippe Coutinho is back in the team and scoring goals to add to an impressive attack, which is where Liverpool match up to their rivals, but it’s behind them where the issues lie.
I’m a big fan of Klopp as a coach and a manager but this is a huge task for him. A defeat to their biggest rivals will turn up the scrutiny a notch.
A question that I don’t think has been asked enough, is whether Jordan Henderson is cutting it as captain? He had huge boots to fill in Steven Gerrard, and leaders are needed in that team with defensive frailties, now more than ever.
It will not get any easier for Liverpool as they go to Wembley to face Tottenham the following week where they probably have a better chance of exploiting Spurs with the bigger pitch at the national stadium.
However, that defence will struggle to keep Harry Kane quiet. His movement is impressive and he has a constant eye for goal. If he continues that form, Tottenham should just squeak a win.
In stark contrast Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen will marshal Spurs’ back line meticulously, although I do wonder if the absence of Victor Wanyama and Moussa Dembele could hurt them in these big matches.
In our recent Offside Rule Podcast Exclusive with West Ham and England goalkeeper Joe Hart, Kane was a topic of conversation when speaking about Hugo Lloris as captain.
He suggested an interesting concept that the nominated player outfield to speak to the referee would most likely be the England striker. Another string to a fledgling bow and extra responsibility that could eventually have the inform goalscorer wearing the armband for not just club but country too.
The final huge meeting of these three heavyweights this month is at Old Trafford on the 28th October and will no doubt be billed as the battle of the strikers between Romelu Lukaku and Kane.
United’s Belgian number nine has the physicality that Kane lacks but the England man has a different style to his counterpart.
Kane comes deep and is always after the ball with a greater willingness to shoot from almost anywhere.
The issue with the match being at Old Trafford is that the emphasis is more likely to be on the North London club to keep Lukaku quiet compared to the other way round.
It’s quite feasible that goal difference could still be in play between United and Manchester City by that stage but Mourinho knows how to win these games and could frustrate Spurs making it another very good month for United.
Follow Lynsey on Twitter at @lynseyhooper