Just as the Premier League starts to get up a lovely head of steam, along comes a pesky international break to kill the vibe.
But don’t despair.
Before we get to that early season recess, there are loads of attractive contests to get us through the weekend. Football expert Adrian Clarke walks us through three of the games to watch…
Bournemouth v Manchester City (Aug 26 – 12:30 pm)
Four Premier League matches. One goal scored. Fifteen conceded.
The very mention of Manchester City must send shivers down the spines of Bournemouth fans, so optimism will be low on the south coast ahead of their latest visit to the Goldsands Stadium.
Coached to play pretty football, and seemingly unable to stifle or frustrate, the likeable minnows are ideal fodder for a side like City, who love to revel in the open spaces.
If you’re looking to take a punt on who might tickle the Cherries’ bellies this time, you could do worse than consider a goals-related flutter on Raheem Sterling.
The winger is hardly noted for his ruthlessness in front of goal, but has scored in all three starts he’s made against Bournemouth, grabbing a fabulous five in total.
Whether Sterling gets a game this weekend is for Pep to decide, but if the Spaniard is superstitious it makes sense to give him a run out.
In truth, this is the last game Eddie Howe needs.
His players were miserable against West Brom and Watford, and with star signing Jermain Defoe yet to get going, there’s precious little to cling on to when it comes to the form-book.
The wacky world of the Premier League, and in particular it’s habit of throwing up crazy results, means it’s well worth giving this game a watch, but everything points to an easy away win.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1 Manchester City 3
Price boost: Gabriel Jesus to score first 10/3
Chelsea v Everton (Aug 27 – 13:30 pm)
He didn’t mean to, but Antonio Conte wriggled his way into Ronald Koeman’s tactical brain last season, causing Everton’s gaffer to overthink his approach to clashes against Chelsea.
Losing 5-0 and 3-0, experimenting with wildly contrasting game plans, a muddled looking Toffees side twice came unstuck against the eventual champs.
The residual damage of those two hammerings won’t aid Everton’s cause at Stamford Bridge this weekend, and frustratingly for Koeman, he also knows its a terrible time to face them.
Angered by their own ineptitude in front of the Stamford Bridge fans against Burnley, Chelsea are guaranteed to have full focus and bundles of fight; qualities they showcased in abundance when bouncing back to beat Spurs at Wembley.
Chelsea don’t lose two in a row on home turf very often (the last time was in 2014), so it will take a very special performance from an Everton side who may be jaded from Europa League action, to take them down.
They will pin their hopes on in-form Wayne Rooney, who likes playing Chelsea; scoring nine career goals against them. However for me Willian and Alvaro Morata can take centre stage on Sunday.
Up against a very good, but not especially mobile back three, I see their nimble footwork leading the Scousers a merry dance.
It will be a high-quality match, and more than likely a home win.
Prediction: Chelsea 2 Everton 0
Liverpool v Arsenal (Aug 27 – 16:00 pm)
Traditionally this fixture is a bit of a goal-fest, and given how much better each of these teams are at attacking than defending, you wouldn’t bet against another epic at Anfield.
Liverpool’s forward line will frighten the Gunners.
The pace of Sadio Mane and Mo Salah out wide, combined with the clever movement of Roberto Firmino, makes them devilish opponents who look well suited to hurt an Arsenal outfit that’s been vulnerable to counters.
Mane, so often a thorn in their side, has to be fancied to score at least once.
Arsene Wenger has some big selection calls to make.
Does he bring fit-again Alexis Sanchez, who has featured in no friendlies, straight back into the fold? And will Olivier Giroud, whose made two quality sub appearances, earn a start against a Liverpool defence that doesn’t look comfortable dealing with crosses?
If so, where does that leave Alexandre Lacazette?
Based on what we’ve seen so far this season, this won’t be 0-0, but I don’t see a large gulf between the teams either. Each of them can be brilliant, and each of them also has flaws.
This fixture screams ‘open and exciting score draw’ and that’s what I’m tipping.
Prediction: Liverpool 2 Arsenal 2