After what proved to be a rollicking start to the 2021-22 season, the Premier League has set high expectations for the rest of the campaign. From newly-promoted Brentford registering a shock win over Arsenal to reigning champions Manchester City slipping up against Tottenham Hotspur, the opening weekend had its fair share of moments.
Now, even before the dust has settled, another set of intriguing fixtures await the top guns in the Premier League. Although it is too early to predict how the season will pan out for the traditional top-six, the early signs indicate the competition will be intense among them.
Ahead of what promises to be another promising weekend of Premier League action, we delve deeper into the five main talking points before the second round of fixtures:
#1 London derby awaits Lukaku on Premier League return
And hence, there is no better game than the London derby against Arsenal for Lukaku to make a statement on his return to Chelsea. By his own admission, the Belgian feels matured and ready to shoulder the goal-scoring responsibilities at Stamford Bridge.
The fact that he is set to take on a depleted Arsenal, who suffered a demoralizing opening day defeat to Brentford, should give him a huge shot in the arm. But several others before him have fallen to the curse of the no.9 shirt at Chelsea.
The added pressure is always there when you represent Chelsea, however, Lukaku has a point to prove in the Premier League. He was crucified by the media in England after all, constantly picked up on during the stint at Manchester United.
If Arsenal fail to sort out their defensive frailties, they could end up playing into the hands of a determined Lukaku. That will almost definitely end up being tough viewing for the home crowd at the Emirates. With the stage set and the spotlight on, can Lukaku fulfill his Chelsea prophecy?
#2 Red Devils prepare Varane initiation on the south coast
Raphael Varane would have enjoyed what transpired at Old Trafford last Saturday. But it is only natural for him to have felt a little less important at the end of the Premier League game, which Manchester United won 5-1.
Prior to kick-off, Varane was pretty much the cream of the crop. A much-needed reinforcement at the back, the world-class centre-back was unveiled in front of a packed house ahead of a fierce Premier League derby at Old Trafford.
The Frenchman received a raucous ovation from the fans. But as soon as the referee's whistle blew, the attention had understandably shifted. Come the end of full-time, the likes of Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes were celebrated and dominated the headlines after the dismantling of bitter rivals Leeds United.
Not that Varane would mind. But the Red Devils did not really look like a team crying out for his help.
With the formalities done, it is now time for Varane to show the Premier League what he can offer to Manchester United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men are away on the south coast this weekend as they prepare to face Southampton.
The Saints failed to hold on to a lead in their opening game of the Premier League season last weekend and were beaten 3-1 by Everton. Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl will know Southampton have a herculean task on their hands on Sunday.
Varane will be keen to establish himself within this Manchester United side starting with a strong debut against Southampton. If everything goes well, he'd fit in like a glove too. The omens are surely looking great for the Red Devils, who could retain their place at the top of the Premier League table this weekend.
#3 Nuno set for bittersweet reunion with the pack
Despite only entering his second week of Premier League action as Tottenham Hotspur manager, Nuno Espirito Santo has already been at both ends of the spectrum in terms of results. An impressive win over Manchester City on the opening weekend of the Premier League was followed up with a rather demoralizing defeat during midweek.
Spurs, who rested many of their key players, were handed a 1-0 loss in the UEFA Europa Conference League by Portuguese club Pacos Ferreira. The result has brought the Spurs faithful crashing down to earth.
Harry Kane was understandably left out for the midweek trip, but if he fails to get involved again on Sunday, a lot could be derived from it. However, the spotlight is not on Kane anymore. This weekend, it shifts completely to Nuno, who is preparing for a return to face his former club Wolves at Molineux.
There is no denying the magnitude of Nuno's achievements at Wolves. Under his tutelage, the club secured promotion to the Premier League and even competed in the Europa League. But last season, the dip arrived. Although his achievements were nothing short of sensational until then, the club hierarchy sensed the need for a change and Nuno obliged.
In many ways Nuno is the lone wolf now, he is in uncharted territory at a club like Spurs. Ahead of what could be a stern test, the Portuguese is now set for a bittersweet reunion with the pack. Will he outlive the winter? Such questions could resurface depending on the outcome of the Premier League clash on Sunday.
#4 Premier League champions seek strong reaction after Spurs debacle
Manchester City would love to forget what happened on the opening weekend of the 2021-22 Premier League season. Pep Guardiola and company were on the receiving end of a frustrating defeat, one that left a bitter aftertaste.
The reigning Premier League champions did start brightly at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Quite characteristically, they recycled possession efficiently and applied the pressure on Spurs from the get-go. But they soon ended up falling prey to a familiar foe.
Their profligacy in front of goal, coupled with carelessness at the back, meant that City left the back door open for Spurs to exploit on the break. The sooner they forget that harrowing episode, the better.
Unlike some of their rivals, Manchester City have not exactly come off the blocks at lightning pace. Maybe it isn't as bad as one would think, especially considering how last season worked out for the club. Back in November last year, City suffered a 2-0 defeat to Spurs and bounced back with a 19-game unbeaten run in the Premier League.
If that is the kind of reaction the champions are working towards on Saturday, Norwich City could be in a world of trouble. The Canaries' defeat to Liverpool last weekend proved that Daniel Farke will not move away from his ethos of playing expansive football. Although it is a risky approach for a newly-promoted side in the Premier League, Norwich are expected to stick to it.
However, the fixtures don't get any easier for Norwich, who have games against Leicester City and Arsenal to follow in the Premier League. Norwich could do with at least a point on Saturday, but whether they get it or not will rely on how they approach the game. Plenty to think about for Farke and company as City prepare to make a statement.
#5 Luck must favour Burnley if they are to pull off unlikely Anfield heist
It took just two minutes for Burnley to find their first goal of the 2021-22 Premier League season. It's not something many would've predicted of the Clarets, especially considering their blueprint under Sean Dyche all these years in the top-flight.
However, James Tarkowski's early opening goal meant nothing in the end as Brighton came from behind to stun the hosts at Turf Moor last Saturday. Before Graham Potter introduced Jakub Moder and Alexis Mac Allister to turn the game on its head, Burnley did have their chances to put the result to bed though.
Both Johan Berg Gudmondsson and captain Ben Mee were denied by the woodwork in the first half as Burnley were left to rue their luck in the end. On another day, the result could've been different. But goals from Neal Maupay and Mac Allister in the space of five late second-half minutes meant that Burnley succumbed to defeat with their fists clenched.
Burnley have always been fully aware of their footballing capabilities and stick to what works best for them. They remain compact at the back, absorb pressure and hit teams on the break. It has worked well for Dyche, who has retained the club's Premier League status consistently, despite working on a shoe-string budget.
Now a trip to Anfield awaits them in Saturday's early kick-off in the Premier League. The Clarets did secure a famous win the last time they faced Liverpool on Merseyside, but the entire complexion of the fixture has changed now.
Back then Liverpool were in a rut without their fans in the stadium and crippled by injuries. Now it seems as if the former Premier League champions are equipped to be serious contenders for the title. Mohamed Salah was at the peak of his powers against Norwich City during the opening weekend and will look to lead Liverpool to another Premier League triumph.
The corresponding fixture last season will be fresh in the minds of Liverpool and their fans, especially considering Burnley ended their 68-game unbeaten run at home in the Premier League.
Without the shadow of a doubt, an unforgiving test awaits the visitors at Anfield, where the Kop is expected to create a raucous atmosphere. Dyche and company must remember that luck often favors the brave.