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Timothy Masters

Partizan v Spurs, 18:00 (Group C)

Tottenham managers in recent times have taken markedly different views on the Europa League from Harry Redknapp’s ultimate apathy to Andre Villas-Boas and his desire for success in the competition he knows and loves, and this season it looks like their boss would like to have a go at this competition if possible. Partizan away is not a good fixture, not least due to traval and time constraints, but that is the lot of a group stage side and if Spurs can win their first three they’ll be able to rotate down the line.

Mauricio Pochettino must make do without a number of first team player, most Jan Vertonghen and Kyle Walker, but will have faith in his squad and has depth in some positions that should make this a competitive match, and the team was handed a boost with the news that Roberto Soldado is fit enough to feature this evening.

Everton v Wolfsburg, 20:05 (Group H)

An ambitious manager and a record spend over the summer from Everton have the fans in a bit of an optimistic tizzy at Goodison, and tonight they’ll face a Wolfsburg team prepared to burst the blue bubble if given the opportunity. The resources required to be a success at this level are theoretically more than Everton have, but they are a club that perennially over-achieves anyway and tonight is just another fairy story delivered in the face of overwhelmingly unlikely odds.

Sylvan Distin and Samuel Eto’o face late fitness tests for Everton, and could join Steven Pienaar, Ross Barkley, Bryan Oviedo and Arouna Kone in missing this match for Everton, who will feel the pressure with their small squad. Wolfsburg are missing the likes or Ivan Perisic, Christian Trasch and Patrick Ochs, but are a side Everton must respect nonetheless.

Bayern Munich v Manchester City, 19:45

Last season Bayern were an incredible team with a couple of weak links, most notably up front and in the centre of their defence and over the summer these issues were addressed pretty well. Medhi Benatia is a great signing at the back, and the time taken securing the signature of Robert Lewandowski is well worth it judging by his impact in the early days of his time in Munich.

As for City, the English champions have had an interesting start to the season, and could do with getting a few players back to full fitness soon. Bayern Munich have some pretty serious injury issues, with Franck Ribery joining Arjen Robben, Holger Badstuber, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thiago Alcantara, Rafinha and Javi Martinez on the sidelines. For City Stevan Jovetic and Fernando are the main absentees this evening, and the latter will be a big miss.

Chelsea v Schalke 04, 19:45

Like Bayern, the side that represented Chelsea last year has seen some augmentation over the summer and like Bayern the moves have come in the logical areas you’d expect the Blues to strengthen. As John Terry fades new defenders have been brought in, and the move to sign Diego Costa looks a pretty good one so far with the Spanish forward scoring at a record rate to date.

Schalke are the 3rd or maybe 4th best side in Germany and as a result they will not expect to beat arguably the best team in England today, but still can with the right team selection. Didier Drogba and Petr Cech are in line for starts as Chelsea are set to rotate their squad, while Schalke have a pair of 18-year old centre-backs to choose from after loans and the recent injury to Benedikt Howedes took a heavy toll on their options with the likes of Jan Kirchoff and Felipe Santana already out, as are Jefferson Farfan and midfield prodigy Leon Goretzka.

Liverpool v Ludogorets, 19:45

It has been quite a wait for Liverpool Football Club, but they are finally back in the group stages of the Champions League for at least a year and it’s clear everyone from manager down is stoked about this development. Anfield is the setting for their opener and PFC Ludogorets Razgrad are their first opponents of the group, meaning there will be instant expectation on the team to win, and pressure if they fail in their simplest home tie.

Raheem Sterling was rested for the first 65 minutes of the loss to Villa, almost certainly with this game in mind and he will be buzzing for his first taste of the action but the likes of Steven Gerrard, Mama Sakho and even Mario Balotelli will be equally vital for their experience on the biggest stage and it will need a team effort to play to capacity and not let the situation overwhelm them.

Liverpool will be without defender Martin Skrtel for this match against the Bulgarians, and Joe Allen hasn’t recovered from a knee injury, which is awkward for a manager with the likes of Emre Can (ankle), Daniel Sturridge, Glen Johnson and Lazar Markovic already out.

Arsenal v Dortmund, 19:45

Dortmund might not be the team that they were a few years ago but Jurgen Klopp is still in situ, and unlike Arsene Wenger the BVB boss has not seen his legend diminished yet. Like his opponent for the evening Klopp has lost a lot of his best players to richer clubs, often ones in the same division who get the double benefit of strengthening their own side and also weakening a rival, but the resigning of Shinji Kagawa was a lovely moment for the club and they still have oodles of talent to call upon.

Pierre Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are both capable of hurting the Gunners and with Kagawa back in the saddle alongside Nuri Sahin and maybe Ilkay Gundogan one day BVB are far from finished. This should be a high-quality game between two teams capable of making an impression down the line in the Champions League, and is worth catching.

Hull v West Ham, 20:00

There has been some unwanted attention on Hull and Steve Bruce this week with the owner talking about potentially selling the club and the manager linked to the poison chalice that is the Newcastle United top job in the wake of Alan Pardew’s side getting thrashed on Saturday, and it is fair to say all in orange and black would rather be talking about a win over West Ham. If the Hammers win they’ll go level with Arsenal and Liverpool in the Barclays Premier League table, and Hull could do one better and jump above those two into sixth with three points.

New Hull signing Mohamed Diame could make his Tigers debut against his former club but Hatem Ben Arfa and Gaston Ramirez are lacking match fitness, while Abel Hernandez is still awaiting his work permit. West Ham have Alex Song, Morgan Amalfitano and James Collins available, but Matt Jarvis and Carl Jenkinson are doubts.

Manchester United v QPR, 16:00

Fifteenth meets sixteenth in the Barlcays Premier League this afternoon and this match means a lot for both sides, albeit for different reasons. With Chelsea going away at the top of the table United have already resigned themselves internally to not being a part of the title race but the top four still has to be considered a goal, and they don’t want the gap to get any bigger there. As for QPR this is expected to be another year they struggle to stay in the division but United are vulnerable, and the away side could start writing a very different story if they win at the Theatre of Dreams.

It’s too early to say their boss is under fire, but the home side could certainly ease pressure on themselves as a unit with a big win here, and QPR will be aware of that. Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal could hand debuts to Radamel Falcao, Marcus Rojo, Daley Blind and Luke Shaw against QPR, but Phil Jones is out for a month having suffered a hamstring injury on international duty. QPR manager Harry Redknapp is could give debuts to Sandro and Niko Kranjcar, but Joey Barton is nursing a hamstring strain and will be assessed.

Arsenal v Man City, 12:45

Once in a while the BT Sport policy of buying all the Saturday lunchtime games pays off and they get something big, and this game is not just important for the title race but also has a degree of intrigue attached after the two sides have made interesting starts to the season. City looked good in beating Liverpool before losing at home vs Stoke, while Arsenal’s recent draw with Leicester was something of a reality check for their optimistic fans.

Danny Welbeck could make his Arsenal debut and Aaron Ramsey has a small chance of playing, with Mesut Ozil, Mikel Arteta and Kieran Gibbs all fully fit. Manchester City midfielder Fernando has been ruled out alongside Stevan Jovetic, but Frank Lampard and Eliaquim Mangala are in the squad.

Chelsea v Swansea, 15:00

I doubt many thought this would be the first top two clash of the Premier League season but Swansea have started well and Chelsea are meeting expectations, and both teams have perfect records coming in to this match. The 6-3 win at Goodison Park may not have been the exact result Chelsea wanted last week but it was still a victory, and suggests that this could be one of the most exciting Mourinho teams in years, so Swansea are in for a tough afternoon and will need every ounce of their ability to get anything from the match.

Diego Costa faces a fitness test but Eden Hazard is expected to shrug off a minor Achilles problem. Swansea striker Wilfried Bony will be test pre-game, and Marvin Emnes could be involved for the first time this season, but Leon Britton is out.

Crystal Palace v Burnley, 15:00

Most fans will expect this game to have a big impact on the end-of-year standings at the foot of the Barclays Premier League table, and sure enough three games in the pair have a point each and a long road ahead of them. What makes this league so tough is the lack of bad sides generally, and if you come up with a poor squad or make a bad start catching up if you can recover some momentum is no easy task, so these are important moments in the season.

James McArthur, Kevin Doyle and Zeki Fryers could make their Palace debuts, but Marouane Chamakh is out with a hamstring injury. New Burnley signings George Boyd, Nathaniel Chalobah and Michael Keane are in contention and Danny Ings is available after overcoming illness.

Newcastle v Southampton, 15:00

So far Newcastle haven’t got a single win to their names and sit eighteenth in the table, and although it may be a bit early in the season to make any judgements based on that there have been rumours that Alan Pardew is two losses from his P45. Southampton’s eight-place advantage is only by virtue of having two more points than their hosts, so this could be a big game in terms of altering league positions and both managers have a great deal of talent at their disposal to make it a thriller for the fans.

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman hopes new signing Sadio Mane will be involved, and Toby Alderweireld is expected to start. Newcastle winger Ronaldo Aarons is out with a hamstring problem, Siem de Jong has a long-term injury and Facundo Ferreyra is out, but Cheick Tiote and Jack Colback are fit.

Sunderland v Spurs, 15:00

After a bright start Tottenham got a bit of a reality check last time out at the hands of a young Liverpool side, and today they’ll face more enthusiasm and pace from Gus Poyet’s Sunderland eleven. Draws with Man Utd and West Brom were good results, but a disappointing loss to QPR has checked the Sunderland momentum a bit and they need to get back on track as soon as possible to make this a season to remember, rather than one to forget.
Sunderland’s new signings Sebastian Coates and Ricky Alvarez and Gus Poyet can pick from a fully-fit squad. Tottenham are without the injured duo Roberto Soldado and Kyle Walker, while Nabil Bentaleb will be assessed, but Federico Fazio and Benjamin Stambouli may make their debuts.

West Brom v Everton, 15:00

Last time Everton went out on the pitch it wasn’t for a game they’ll want to remember as Chelsea put six past them in front of the Goodison faithful, and that makes this game against West Brom all the more vital for Roberto Martinez and his team. As for the Baggies, three games have yielded just two points, and being level with Everton in that respect is not the bonus it would have been last May for example, so again we’ve got two sides that need to win even at this early stage.

Joleon Lescott could make his West Brom debut and Ben Foster is set to play. Leon Osman and forward Samuel Eto’o face fitness tests for Everton, and neither Arouna Kone or Bryan Oviedo are ready to return just yet.

Liverpool v Aston Villa, 17:30

Liverpool’s start to the season has been pretty odd by all accounts, featuring a heavy loss to Manchester City and a thrashing of Spurs at White Hart Lane, but losing your best player is bound to hurt your consistency and this team is something of a work in progress at the moment, rather like Villa’s. The fact Paul Lambert’s side are third shows you how much potential he has amassed on a budget, but the results speak of a team yet to face a real test, and one that isn’t banging in goals all over the place.

Liverpool will be without Daniel Sturridge so Mario Balotelli is set for his home debut and Adam Lallana may be involved for the first time since joining. Tom Cleverley could make his Aston Villa debut but Ron Vlaar and Jores Okore are doubtful.

The actual game that the England players were torn away from their clubs to play is on today, and for that we should be thankful I guess, especially after the soporific fare served up in the friendly encounter with Norway. A few players have already fallen to injury during their short time with the national team, and that won’t help club/country relations at all but it seems like the message from Roy Hodgson is generally consistent right now, that he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Whether it is his salty choice of language or unimaginative tactical setup, the manager has had it up to here with well-intentioned advice, and that is probably bad news for the fans.

Beating the Swiss would be a better result than most fans probably realise, especially away from home and there will be a lot of pressure on the English fullbacks early in the match from Xherdan Shaqiri in particular. The Bayern man has come in for some serious stick from the fans of his club recently and rumours about his departure from the evil empire in Munich swirled around for most of the summer, and he’ll be looking for a good and intelligent performance to prove to the doubters that he can be one of the top European stars in the coming years.

England are 11 places below Switzerland in the world rankings at the time of writing, and given that they’ll not have Daniel Sturridge for the game there is some considerable pressure on Raheem Sterling and Wayne Rooney to do the business up front. Ben Foster and Jack Colback have also been forced to withdraw from the squad with injuries, but with all due respect their absence may not be as heavy a blow as the loss of the Liverpool man.

We’re three games into the Premier League season directly after a World Cup, so obviously what the world of football needs is a pointless round of international friendlies to break all the momentum managers might have built, and here are Norway at Wembley to make that a reality. England normally do quite well in these matches before going on to bomb harder than the Insane Clown Posse at the Proms and there are a lot of guys in the squad with a point to prove, so this might be entertaining, albeit in an unsatisfying way, like Chinese food or The Big Bang Theory.

The main point of these friendlies is normally to test new players, but sadly Newcastle’s Jack Colback has failed to recover from an injury picked up playing for Newcastle against Crystal Palace, and won’t feature here as a result. Roy Hodgson added that none of Calum Chambers, Danny Rose and Fabian Delph, the other three new men in the setup, will start against Norway either, and have been informed thusly. There is also a slight concern over the fitness of Arsenal’s new signing Danny Welbeck as well as his team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

This begs the question as to whether the three were picked for their ability to contribute on the pitch or just their ability to fill spots 19-23 in the squad itself but the former Fulham and Liverpool boss has been given the reigns thus far, arguably making some far worse decisions (picking Frank Lampard in the World Cup squad, for example). However, this two-year cycle will almost certainly be Hodgson’s last chance to deliver, which potentially amplifies any errors he might make.

Aston Villa v Hull, 13:30

It’s early in the season, but Villa v Hull is eighth versus seventh in the Barclays Premier League and with the teams at the top faltering there is a chance to go even higher, above the likes of Southampton and Man City at the least. Neither has played amazingly well so far, but with relegation a projected end result for them prior to the season starting these early points are incredibly valuable and the home team will want to take all three with their fans behind them.

Aston Villa defenders Ron Vlaar and Aly Cissokho are fit to play, but Jores Okore won’t be ready until after the international break. Hull defender James Chester is suspended, but Steve Bruce has no new injury concerns.

Spurs v Liverpool, 13:30

For all the fun Liverpool fans have had at the expense of Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester United over the results last season those games count for nothing anymore and the 2014/15 iteration of Tottenham Hotspur is a different beast it seems. Mauricio Pochettino has got more out of the likes of Lamela and Capoue in his short time at White Hart Lane than Tim Sherwood managed to in his entire tenure, and the battle of the former Serie A men will be interesting if Mario Balotelli features for his new team.

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino will assess Roberto Soldado, who was unavailable in midweek because of neck and back problems but new signing Federico Fazio is available. Mario Balotelli and Adam Lallana are both fit to start for the Reds, but there are doubts over Glen Johnson, Alberto Moreno, Martin Skrtel and Jose Enrique.

Leicester v Arsenal, 16:00

Leicester finally made their biggest signing in a while when former Inter Milan and Argentina midfielder Esteban Cambiasso joined this week after an lengthy pursuit, and it’ll be exciting for the fans if he receives international clearance in time to make his debut against Arsenal this afternoon. The Gunners can go into the top four if they beat their hosts, and a really bad match might force the manager into the market for a striker which will probably mean a few of the supporters will be conflicted about what they want this afternoon.

Matty James and Matthew Upson have shin and foot injuries respectively and won’t play for Leicester this afternoon. Arsenal are missing Kieran Gibbs, Mikel Arteta and Olivier Giroud, but Aaron Ramsey returns after serving a one-game European ban.

Burnley v Man Utd, 12:45

It’s been a funny old week for Manchester United supporters in truth, as their club has broken the transfer record in the UK and also suffered a heavy loss to MK Dons in the Carling Cup, but the majority of fans are still buying into the ‘teething troubles’ theory on Louis Van Gaal, and a win this afternoon would ease some worries. Burnley aren’t the kind of team United should lose to even away from home, and with Angel Di Maria signed the away team will have new blood and new motivation for the established squad members, now the competition for places is that much stiffer.

Burnley manager Sean Dyche has all but available to select, and rotated in the cup midweek. Midfielder Angel Di Maria is set to make his debut but Marcos Rojo is still awaiting clearance on a work permit.

Man City v Stoke, 15:00

If you follow their players on Twitter, you’ll know the schadenfreude at Manchester City is real right now as United struggle and they’ll be keen to get another win today, both to stay at the top of the table and also to emphasise their dominance in Manchester. Beating Liverpool was definitely a statement of intent from City and Stoke will be in for a tough game today, as the home team are big enough and ugly enough to deal with pretty much everything the Potters have in their collective locker, at least on paper.

Edin Dzeko is touch and go with a thigh injury and new defender Eliaquim Mangala is still not ready to play, but Sergio Aguero is fit for City. Stoke forward Bojan Krkic should feature, but Phil Bardsley is doubtful and Geoff Cameron could be out for a couple of weeks.

Newcastle v Palace, 15:00

Alan Pardew’s two major clubs come face to face at St James Park this afternoon in a game few would give Palace much of a chance of winning, if we’re being honest. Newcastle aren’t exactly Real Madrid but they do have greater resources than their guests and a better squad as a result, so failing to pick up three points would definitely be a black mark on Pardew’s not spotless record, and could put undue strain on the staff at such an early stage of the season.

Newcastle will be without Cheick Tiote and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, but Siem de Jong is in line for his first start at St James’ Park. Wilfried Zaha is expected to play for Crystal Palace but Scott Dann remains doubtful and Joe Ledley is out with a groin strain.

QPR v Sunderland, 15:00

Only two points separate these sides going into their game today, but with the home team bottom of the table and without a goal to their name their need for three points is probably much the greater, especially if they want to avoid fighting for their life all season. Sunderland had a good draw with Manchester United last time out and want to keep their spot in the top two thirds for as long as they can, and this is one of the away games they’ll fancy.

QPR’s Alejandro Faurlin will be sidelined for much of the season and Eduardo Vargas is again unavailable, but Charlie Austin could return after a hamstring strain. Sunderland manager Gus Poyet has a fully-fit squad available, and rested players midweek in the cup.

Swansea v West Brom, 15:00

There were a few pundits saying Swansea might be in trouble before the season started, and it has been a turbulent time for the club since Brendan Rodgers left for pastures new but faith in their system and a return to the values he instilled have worked wonders over the summer, and after two games the Swans are fourth in the table. West Brom have two draws to their name so far, and this isn’t a match they’ll particularly fancy but they need to fight for every point you’d imagine.

Defender Federico Fernandez could replace Jordi Amat against for Swansea, but Marvin Emnes and Leon Britton are out. West Brom signings Joleon Lescott, Georgios Samaras and Silvestre Varela are lacking match fitness and won’t play.

West Ham v Southampton, 15:00

Seeing all the old boys do well at their new clubs isn’t the reward Southampton fans will have wanted after years of loyalty, but they need to get behind the new manager and roar on their team if this is not to be a long and difficult season, and West Ham will test the resolve of the Saints team today. The Hammers are in their usual injury crisis with multiple absentees, and that means this match could go either way as Southampton aim to make it into the top half of the table.

West Ham could be Diafra Sakho, while Matt Jarvis, Carl Jenkinson and James Collins have joined Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan on the sidelines. Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has a near fully-fit squad available to him with Lloyd Isgrove the only doubt.

Everton v Chelsea, 17:30

Although Burnley v Man Utd may end up being closer, this game is certainly the highlight of the Saturday program on paper and has all the makings of an early-season classic to boot. Chelsea’s perfect record is not matched by the pair of draws Everton have managed to muster against Leicester and Arsenal, but the latter result shows this will be a tough game for Jose Mourinho and one he’ll need to commit all his resources to if he wants to stay at the top of the table.

Samuel Eto’o could make his debut against Chelsea, and Romelu Lukaku has a chance of playing, but Steven Pienaar is out with a groin problem. Diego Costa is nursing a minor hamstring for Chelsea, while Andre Schurrle is doubtful.