Big Weekend: Newcastle v Liverpool, Pochettino needs Luton thrashing, Richarlison, West Ham

Richarlison, Eddie Howe, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino Credit: Alamy
Richarlison, Eddie Howe, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino Credit: Alamy

Newcastle must finally break their Liverpool curse, Mauricio Pochettino has to oversee a Chelsea thrashing of Luton. Richarlison and West Ham have big tests.


Game to watch – Newcastle v Liverpool
The composite parts do make up more than a third of the entire league but it is nevertheless a little disconcerting to have so many Big Seven – it is A Thing – games so early on.

Even more unnerving is that they haven’t disappointed thus far. Chelsea versus Liverpool was a delightfully existential draw, Spurs beating Manchester United dripped in narrative and Manchester City scraping past Newcastle was an ideal result in many respects.

Newcastle and Liverpool should not disappoint on Sunday afternoon. Sky Sports will likely focus on some of their historic meetings, unearthing some random and lesser-known match that ended in a 4-3 home win at Anfield in the 1990s, or perhaps some random and lesser-known match that ended in a 4-3 home win at Anfield in the 1990s; there must be something deep and untouched in the archive if they just search the words ‘Kevin’, ‘Keegan’, ‘slumped’, ‘advertising’ and ‘board’.

But the more recent fixtures between Newcastle and Liverpool offer greater relevance and insight, if far less schadenfreude and nostalgia. Despite the shifting sands atop the Premier League pyramid, the Magpies have not beaten the Reds since December 2015. Liverpool’s current 13-game unbeaten streak against Newcastle includes Doubles in the last two league seasons, so deep-rooted is that monkey on Eddie Howe’s back.

And no, we don’t mean Jason Tindall. Although Jurgen Klopp’s recent comments on the Newcastle assistant have stoked fires that rage each time the German passes his judgement on spending, time-wasting or any other such subject matter that pushes buttons in St James’ far more than it used to.

As it is, this seminal rivalry has taken on a modern edge that promises to instil the game with plenty of bite. It does still feel a little backwards at this nascent stage of the season – if you were told one of these teams is unbeaten and made the best midfield signing of the summer, while the other has lost one and won one with one of their midfielders lashing out at certain sections of the fanbase, based entirely on current overall vibes the roles would be reversed.

The momentum probably remains with Newcastle despite them sitting lower. The Magpies have beaten all but three of the teams they have faced more than once since Howe was appointed; Manchester City retained that superiority last week, while personal scores may be settled with Bournemouth soon. Liverpool have held that hex since Steve McClaren was in charge and they won’t give it up easily.


Player to watch – Richarlison
“It was more with myself, because I didn’t get any ball there to shoot,” said Richarlison of his frustrated reaction at being substituted in the win over Manchester United.

“I have to receive the ball, I have to be close to the goal. I didn’t receive any ball there, so I was more upset about that, it wasn’t for the substitution or anything,” the Brazilian added, eager to dispel any sense of tension with Ange Postecoglou and avoid the sort of antagonism which so undermined his relationship with Antonio Conte.

Richarlison’s shot-less 70 minutes or so in that 2-0 win continued the plight of a player laughed at in seemingly equal measure by rival fans and contemporaries. The 26-year-old has almost definitely set himself the target of outscoring Callum Wilson and Michail Antonio this season but both his critics have pulled into the lead by a single goal each.

There should be more chances against Bournemouth, who have conceded the most shots of any Premier League club so far this season. The longer that relationship with James Maddison builds – “little by little I’m gaining rapport with him,” Richarlison said this week – the greater chance there is that Spurs can actually replace Harry Kane, their best scorer and chance creator, with two separate players. A truly crazy idea.


Manager to watch – Mauricio Pochettino
While Spurs proudly parade their new partner in public, pretending that at some point they won’t trip over and reveal their entire bare arse as usual, Mauricio Pochettino has landed in a relationship completely bereft of love and compassion and instead riddled with amortised shame.

The draw with Liverpool was fairly good; the defeat to West Ham was gloriously bad. It was £106.8m midfielder missing a penalty bad. It was £100m midfielder conceding a penalty bad. It was expensive assortment of strangers being schooled by James Ward-Prowse bad. It was bad.

But it hardly bears wondering how much worse things would be if Chelsea fail to beat Luton on Friday evening. And we are talking a good old-fashioned thrashing here. A shellacking. A hammering. An all-out destruction.

Chelsea have to obliterate Luton. They cannot afford to scrape past their opponents at Stamford Bridge through the odd goal from a corner. The Hatters will be bloody tough to break down – and this being only their second Premier League game makes them an eminently dangerous and impossible element to predict. But it is not feasible for Todd Boehly to spend a billion actual pounds on a team that does not thwack Luton at home.

Imagine, though. Imagine the sheer levels of crisis the Blues would reach. Imagine the amount of signings Chelsea would make in response. Imagine just how little of a born serial winner Pochettino would be. Imagine the graphic Sky Sports have prepared to underline the worlds of difference between the spending habits of these two clubs.

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Team to watch – West Ham
The ‘stop trying to bargain with us and just pay £100m for our midfielder’ derby, is it? The Mohammed Kudus is great Clasico, hmm? The Saturday evening tête-à-tête between Europa League threats, yeah?

It is also first versus seventh, not-actually-all-that-surprising-whatsoever leaders against really quite unexpected unbeaten European champions. Brighton seem like they have an impervious plan for the next decade; West Ham rarely appear to know what they’re doing next week. Yet both are currently thriving after being picked at by the usual vultures.

Despite making light work of Brighton’s feeder club, David Moyes will know that the real thing poses an altogether more difficult test. The Seagulls sorted West Ham out in March to the tune of a 4-0 victory and have started this campaign with a pair of 4-1 wins, with six different goalscorers they could probably sell now for nine-figure fees each.

Brighton have essentially broken a glass ceiling – or rather sold the previous one and replaced it for a fraction of the price by shopping in South America – that West Ham had done more than most to test before. The Hammers remain an unknown quantity in a post-Declan Rice world and this will be a fine gauge of where they sit.

Nayef Aguerd, West Ham, August 2023 Credit: Alamy
Nayef Aguerd, West Ham, August 2023 Credit: Alamy

Nayef Aguerd celebrates scoring against Chelsea


Football League game to watch – Ipswich v Leeds
It will be difficult to watch through conventional methods, being as it is a Saturday 3pm kick-off at Portman Road, but those able to at least keep a track of events in that corner of East Anglia owe it to themselves to do so.

Ipswich, a rare example of a widely-tipped dark horse not promptly collapsing in on itself at the earliest possible opportunity, are early Championship leaders with the only perfect record after three games that doesn’t belong to Leicester.

Leeds have suffered a fair few more blemishes, drawing two and losing one of their first three games while loaning out every player they’ve signed over the last four years bar one who they are determined to keep despite him making it patently clear he’s so desperate to leave that he will join Everton if it helps make it happen.

Ipswich have not lost a league game since January. Ipswich have not lost a home league game since last October. Enjoy the three points, Leeds.


European game to watch – Paris Saint-Germain v RC Lens
Last season’s Ligue Un top two are helping fill out the bottom half currently. PSG have only managed draws with Lorient and Toulouse, while Lens have lost to Brest and been held by Rennes.

Both have been impacted by the Saudi Arabia transfer madness, PSG with the ongoing Kylian Mbappe situation and Lens by the exit of Seko Fofana. But as the pair gear up for some Champions League shenanigans, there will be hope of getting a belated domestic win on the board.

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