The first matchday of the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League campaign didn't produce too many upsets, with Arsenal and Manchester City winning rather easily. The scoreline might suggest Manchester City struggled, but that was hardly the case as they could have easily scored five or six goals.
I don't say this lightly, but when I look at Pep Guardiola's side, I don't think there's ever been a team that's so far ahead of every other side in the competition. I know Real Madrid won the UEFA Champions League three times in a row, but there were a few other teams that could go toe to toe with them at the time.
Over two legs, I can't see anyone beat Manchester City. I'll even go as far as saying I'd be shocked if they didn't retain their UEFA Champions League crown - that's how good they are! PSG and Barcelona aren't what they used to be and Real Madrid are a younger team now with no out-and-out centre forward in their squad, so who's going to catch them?
Manchester United, on the other hand, are absolutely all over the place. You can't concede four goals away from home in a big European game and expect to get anything out of it, they need to find ways to keep things tight at the back. Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof are all good defenders, but they aren't leading central defenders. I don't mean this badly, but they are No. 2 defenders and need someone more experienced alongside them - as we saw with Varane when he had Sergio Ramos next to him at Real Madrid.
Will the contrasting fortunes between the two Manchester clubs continue this weekend? Or will Erik ten Hag's side finally bounce back to overcome what has been a dismal start to their 2023-24 campaign? On that note, here are my predictions for the upcoming Premier League weekend.
Manchester City vs Nottingham Forest
Nottingham Forest secured one of the shock results of the season by beating Chelsea earlier this month, but I don't see anything other than a Manchester City win here. Liverpool and Arsenal play on Sunday, so the reigning champions have an incredible opportunity to win their game and put severe pressure on their rivals.
Erling Haaland has been City's leading man since arriving at the club last season, but I'm a big fan of Julian Alvarez - he's a special player. He can play as a No. 10 or up front and is blessed with the ability to score goals and create, as we saw in the UCL in midweek.
He's playing pretty much every week this season - long may it continue!
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Nottingham Forest
Crystal Palace vs Fulham
I watched Crystal Palace against Aston Villa and still can't comprehend how they lost. They weren't careful enough on the ball and were made to pay for their shortcoming, but Palace are a good team and I don't think they'll do too badly this season.
Fulham are good too, although I can't see them blowing teams away after Aleksandar Mitrovic's departure.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-0 Fulham
Luton Town vs Wolverhampton Wanderers
Luton Town need to win their home games if they want to retain their Premier League status. I don't see them winning this one, though, as I believe Wolves are the better side now. They took a deserved lead against Liverpool but couldn't hold on to it as the Reds showed their experience to stage an impressive second-half fightback.
However, they caused Liverpool some major problems and should have enough firepower to get all three points despite not being as free-scoring as they'd want to be.
Prediction: Luton Town 0-2 Wolves
Brentford vs Everton
Brentford were very unlucky last week but I expect them to bounce back with a comfortable win against Everton. They are a fantastic team even without Ivan Toney and have already shown this season that they can't be taken lightly.
The Toffees, on the other hand, are really struggling at the moment - it's not looking good for them. A 1-0 loss to Arsenal isn't really the end of the world for them, but defeats against Fulham and Wolves will come back to haunt them later in the season. They're well behind the eight-ball and must pull up their socks in the coming weeks to climb up the table.
Prediction: Brentford 2-0 Everton
Burnley vs Manchester United
Manchester United are 13th in the Premier League table - they absolutely have to win this game, else there could be serious consequences for Erik ten Hag. The Dutchman will come under immense scrutiny if the Red Devils fail to get all three points at Turf Moor, but on the other hand, they have a bunch of winnable games coming up.
Manchester United will have to make their next seven games in all competitions count if they are to recover from their sloppy start to the season and I think they'll do that with a hard-fought away win this weekend.
Burnley, though, will look to take the game to the Red Devils and cause problems. I fancy them to score considering Manchester United's dismal defensive record, but the Red Devils will just stumble over the line to secure all three points.
Facundo Pellistri started against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena, but I think Alejandro Garnacho will occupy the right-wing spot against Burnley. Ten Hag has kind of shot himself in the foot with the Jadon Sancho saga - had he known about Antony's situation, I don't think the Sancho situation would've escalated as much.
Harry Maguire is another player who has been a major talking point in recent weeks. If he was playing regularly and Manchester United conceded as many goals as they have, he'd have been ripped apart. For once, I think Maguire will be sort of relieved not to be starting games regularly.
Prediction: Burnley 1-2 Manchester United
Chelsea vs Aston Villa
Chelsea have been nowhere close to their best this season and are coming on the back of another disappointing draw against Bournemouth. Still, from box to box, they actually carved the Cherries open and played well between the lines. Their performance wasn't as bad as everyone made it out to be - they looked good on the night but just didn't manage to put the ball into the back of the net.
Nicolas Jackson is currently struggling, but I rate him highly and wouldn't worry about him in the long term. The kid has just come into a new team and is adapting to a new league, so he's still very much a work in progress. The problem for Mauricio Pochettino is that with Christopher Nkunku out injured, he doesn't have the option of taking Jackson out of the firing line.
Chelsea have enough pace up front and could hurt Villa's high line, but I think this game will end all square.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Aston Villa
Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur
The only time I miss playing football is when this game comes along as I've experienced some of my best and worst memories as a professional in this fixture. This is an absolutely massive game - more so considering how both sides have started the season. People up and down the country sometimes don't realize how big the North London derby is, but I expect this weekend to serve a timely reminder as to why this is one of the most anticipated games in world football.
I'm very bullish, but I think Arsenal will win this game easily. Tottenham have started the season well - there's no question about it. However, if they play gung-ho football and look to take the game to Arsenal, the Gunners will destroy them. If they stay quiet and look to nick a goal on the counter, they could be in with a chance, but I can't see that happening as that's not how they've played so far under Ange Postecoglou.
Earlier this month, Burnley had 16 shots against Tottenham and scored twice despite losing 5-2. If Spurs adopt a similar brand of football against Arsenal, I'm afraid to say it won't end well for them. Guglielmo Vicario deserves a shot for slotting in between the posts for Tottenham - I'd say he's gone under the radar a little bit as James Maddison has stolen the show at the start of the season.
Arsenal are coming on the back of a resounding win against PSV Eindhoven in the UEFA Champions League and should top that up with another impressive result at the Emirates Stadium.
Prediction: Arsenal 4-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Liverpool vs West Ham United
I thought West Ham played well last weekend despite losing 3-1 to Manchester City. They had their chances, but ultimately, the defending champions showed their class, especially in the second half.
Liverpool also turned on the style after the interval against Wolves and looked so much better after subbing on Luis Diaz for Alexis Mac Allister. Things didn't go their way in the first half, but Jurgen Klopp made a few tactical tweaks at halftime as they clawed their way back into the game.
West Ham are really good on the counter, but I expect Liverpool to nick this one. Playing at Anfield will be a big advantage for them after a trip to Austria in the UEFA Europa League.
I think Darwin Nunez will start ahead of Cody Gakpo. The Uruguayan is more pacy and direct, while the latter knits it all together and brings others into play. They are both talented players in their own right, but Nunez suits this game better. Mohamed Salah, on the other hand, might not be scoring too many goals, but you can never take him out of the game, as we saw against Wolves when he chipped in with two assists.
Prediction: Liverpool 1-0 West Ham
Brighton & Hove Albion vs Bournemouth
Brighton need to be consistent with their starting XI and retain their new-found standards if they are to continue to cement their status as one of the most exciting teams in the Premier League. They aren't playing under severe pressure at the moment, but soon enough, there will come a point where people expect them to win games.
They beat Manchester United last weekend, but if they'd lost, we wouldn't have heard a dicky bird about it. Very soon, I expect that to change, as Brighton are slowly getting to that stage where the weight of expectation is increasing.
Prediction: Brighton 3-0 Bournemouth
Sheffield United vs Newcastle United
I feel this is a must-win for Newcastle, while for Sheffield, this is a 'must get something' kind of game. The Magpies were fortunate not to lose against AC Milan on their UEFA Champions League return and have been nowhere close to what they were last season.
In my opinion, they are already out of the title race and could face an uphill battle to secure a top-four spot if they don't string together a run of wins. Sheffield, meanwhile, are already up against it and have already lost a handful of winnable games. I think it'll get worse for them this weekend as Newcastle have enough pace and quality to hurt them.
Prediction: Sheffield United 0-3 Newcastle United