PL Preview: Iheanacho needs a new soap, other key talking points and predictions

Super Eagles players have returned to the Premier League after successful outings with Nigeria

Kelechi Iheanacho (Instagram/Leicester City)

All eyes will be at the Villa Park, Carrow Road and Sports Direct where three of the latest managers make their respective Premier League debuts at Aston Villa, Norwich City and Newcastle United in what was a managerial merry-go round during the international break.

Former Liverpool captain and midfielder, Steven Gerrard has taken the reigns at Villa, where he has replaced the Smith, who is now the new boss at Norwich while Howe is back in the PL after becoming the first manager of the Saudi Arabia era at Newcastle.

However, for me, the real talking points involve Super Eagles who have returned to their PL clubs after guiding the Nigerian national team to the final phase of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

With international break done and dusted for 2021, Super Eagles players shift focus to their various domestic leagues in Europe.

For the players like Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho, and the rest of the lads in the most popular English Premier League, it will be a very busy weekend indeed as they look to help their clubs move up the ever-changing table.

Here are all the key talking points and predictions for this weekend’s round of matches in the PL;

The Super Eagles duo will be looking to help Leicester City maintain their mini-unbeaten streak against league leaders, Chelsea. The Foxes are unbeaten in the last three matches at home to the Blues and would hope to extend that run to four for the first time since 1995.

Leicester go into this one in a bit of an off form after two matches without a win in the PL, they will eye a return to winning ways against the European champions who have won four of their last five but were held at home the last time by Burnley.

The home side needs Ndidi and his defensive teammates to be at their very best to contain Chelsea’s rampaging wing backs who have a combined contribution of eight goals and four assists this season in the league. Also, they will be looking to Iheanacho to rediscover his scoring touch, the Super Eagles forward hasn’t scored for the Foxes since the 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace.

After 1 goal and two assists in 10 PL appearances (4 starts) for the Foxes in the League this season, the senior man needs a new soap and washing gel.

Prediction: LEI 1-1 CHE

Things are not going well for Manchester United and their under-fire manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and our dear Dennis Emmanuel and William Troost-Ekong have just one job this weekend when they welcome the Red Devils to the Vicarage Road – compound their woes.

Watford welcome United this Saturday at 4 pm Nigerian time with both teams looking for a quick change in fortunes. Both clubs have identical form in the PL, Watford have lost four of their last five matches while their visitors have lost three of their last five.

But in this fixture, it is the away side that has all the advantage as they lead on head-to-head. In Cristiano Ronaldo, the Devils have a player who is prolific against promoted sides having scored more goals against them since 2003/2004 when he first joined United.

Watford look like a perfect team for Ronaldo to add to that record, the Hornets have conceded at least once in each of their last 21 matches in the PL. Super Eagles assistant captain, Troost-Ekong and the rest of the Watford defense will need to be at their very best to stop the Portuguese, who will be looking to relieve his manager some pressure with his goals.

Prediction: WAT 1-2 MUN

Newcastle United may be the ‘perfect fit’ for their new manager, Eddie Howe, but Nigeria international Frank Onyeka and his club Brentford will be out to soil and spoil the mood at the Sport Direct as the former Bournemouth coach makes his return to the PL.

Howe is the new face at oil-rich Newcastle, who are under new ownership following the take-over by Saudi Arabian investment group. The Magpies, who are the only team in the PL still without a win this season, will be looking for a positive start to life under their new boss when they host the newly promoted side.

Brentford have been brought back to life in recent times after their quick-fire start to life in the league with four defeats in their last four matches, two of them against two teams who were winless before meeting them. Onyeka ‘the tank’ and his mates will be weary of this particular record heading into that game at St. James’s Park.

Onyeka will eye his 10th appearance in the PL this season after making 9 (7 starts) since he joined the club last summer in a very celebrated transfer from Danish outfit, Midtjylland.

Prediction: NEW 1-1 BRE

Alex Iwobi and Everton are in for a long afternoon at the Etihad, where they face defending champions Manchester City. Without a win since September 25, the Toffees travel to face Pep Guardiola’s men, who have recovered from that defeat to Crystal Palace to win their last two matches in all competitions, including that comprehensive win over city rivals United just before the break.

However, Guardiola and his champions must be weary of their hosts, who have a thing for derailing champions. The Toffees have beaten more reigning champions than any other team in the division and will be eyeing a repeat of that when they take to the Goodison pitch on Sunday.

City hold the advantage here regardless, having won each of their last seven games in the PL against Iwobi’s Everton, scoring 21 goals and letting in just five. But the visitors will be looking up to their Super Eagles playmaker, Iwobi, for inspiration on Sunday to help them put an end to that woeful run.

Prediction: MCI 3-0 EVE

There are no Nigerians or Super Eagles players involved in this one but in what is arguably the biggest match of the weekend, Liverpool play host to Arsenal in a late kickoff on Saturday that will see no fewer than four top African stars feature.

Led by their hosts Egypt’s Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane of Senegal, who go head-to-head with Arsenal’s duo of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the Gabon skipper, and Nicolas Pepe of Ivory Coast.

Salah is the man to watch out for in this one, the Egyptian has been a nemesis of some sort for the Gunners, having been directly involved in nine goals in nine Premier League appearances against Arsenal (seven goals and two assists). Six of those goals, four goals and two assists, have come at Anfield.

With Arsenal in fine form, stopping Salah will be key to success at Anfield and Mikel Arteta’s men are capable of handing the Kops a second consecutive defeat after West Ham’s pre international break ended a run of 20 matches without a loss for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Arsenal have kept six clean sheets in their last nine away matches in the PL, including in each of the last three in a row. But the Gunners haven’t had four successive away clean sheets in the league since May 2005. Keeping Salah quiet will be key here.

Prediction: LIV 2-1 ARS

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