The Premier League is back – with different faces in a few of the dugouts.
Three managers take charge of their new teams for the first time this weekend, but who will have the biggest immediate – or lasting – impact?
“For someone getting their first job in the Premier League, I can’t think of many better places to be than Aston Villa,” said BBC Sport expert Mark Lawrenson.
“They have got some good players, they spend money and they are in a false position at the moment. I am sure Steven Gerrard will give them a lift, and they have a much better chance of climbing away from the relegation zone in the next few weeks than Newcastle or Norwich do.
Lawro is making predictions for all 380 top-flight matches this season, against a variety of guests.
This week’s guest is singer-songwriter and Everton fan Zuzu, whose new album Queensway Tunnel – named after the tunnel under the Mersey linking Liverpool and Birkenhead – was released last week.
Zuzu is a lifelong Evertonian, not that she had much choice in the matter.
“I think I knew what Everton was before I even knew what football was,” she told BBC Sport. “That’s what it was like in my house.
“My dad, my grandad, and all of my uncles – I’ve got a big family – they are all massive Blues.
“My grandad is obsessed, but he refuses to watch games on TV. My dad got him all set up in his living room to watch a game once but he said ‘no, I’ll watch it on the radio, thanks’.
“I grew up in the David Moyes era, and my favourite player was Leighton Baines for multiple reasons. He was the biggest of teamplayers, who would get everyone else motivated.
“Baines is into his music too and I’d love to meet him – I feel like everyone around me has met him but I never have, which is sad. If he wants to come and see me play at the Academy in Liverpool on 5 December then I would absolutely love that!”
Five top-flight clubs have changed their manager already this season. Could Everton be next?
Current Toffees boss Rafael Benitez has only been in charge since the end of June but his Liverpool connections made him an unpopular choice with some fans even before his side’s poor run of form – they have taken only two points from their past five games.
“Some Evertonians are always going to have a bit of a bee in their bonnet about him,” said Zuzu. “But he definitely deserves more time, whatever people thought about him getting the job in the first place.
“When I was growing up, the Everton I knew had Moyes in charge for 11 years. That seems mad because it just doesn’t happen now – people get sacked after two minutes.
“We’re not doing too well at the moment but I try not to judge managers too heavily this early on, because I know it takes a long time to build a team properly.”
|Leicester v Chelsea||x-x||1-1||1-3|
|Aston Villa v Brighton||x-x||2-0||1-2|
|Burnley v Crystal Palace||x-x||2-1||1-2|
|Newcastle v Brentford||x-x||2-0||1-0|
|Norwich v Southampton||x-x||1-1||0-1|
|Watford v Man Utd||x-x||0-2||0-1|
|Wolves v West Ham||x-x||1-2||0-3|
|Liverpool v Arsenal||x-x||2-0||2-1|
|Man City v Everton||x-x||3-0||1-1|
|Tottenham v Leeds||x-x||2-0||1-0|
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.
Games kick off at 15:00 GMT unless otherwise stated
Leicester v Chelsea (12:30 GMT)
Chelsea are still top of the table but they hit a little bump before the international break when they were held at home by Burnley.
I think they might drop more points here too. Every team has had players away on international duty but this is a tricky trip for the Blues, even if they had been able to prepare for it properly.
Jamie Vardy will be lying in wait, and Leicester are going to spark into life sooner or later – they have got too many good players not to find some form eventually.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Zuzu’s prediction: Leicester have come off the rails a little bit this season and Chelsea are flying, even with Romelu Lukaku out injured. He was so good for Everton – teams just couldn’t stop him. 1-3
Aston Villa v Brighton
Brighton have turned into the draw specialists, with five of them in their past six league games.
At the start of the season the Seagulls were making the most of their chances and winning games, but they have stopped taking those opportunities now and are not beating teams.
In that regard, they have regressed a bit to the way they were last season, when they did not score enough goals.
That’s one of the reasons I can see Villa winning this one. Gerrard will have made a difference in training already and I think we will see a response from their players here.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Zuzu’s prediction: This is a tough start for Steven Gerrard. 1-2
Burnley v Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace are in really good form but there have been signs of improvement from Burnley too, and they are now three games unbeaten in the league.
We’ve seen the Clarets go on really good runs before, which is why I fancy them to get something here.
They always seem to turn a corner at some stage of the season, even when they start badly, and they will be full of confidence now after their recent results.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Zuzu’s prediction: Patrick Vieira is doing really well at Palace. 1-2
Newcastle v Brentford
Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has got the toughest job out of the three new Premier League managers to be appointed in the past few days.
Everyone will be talking about how much money he has to spend in the January transfer window, but there is a lot of hard work to be done before they get to that point.
Who they bring in then will be pivotal in terms of whether they stay up or not, of course, but he has to get some results with his existing players first.
That won’t be easy. The Magpies are in a relegation battle, and they haven’t won a game yet this season despite playing most of the teams around them at the bottom already.
This might just be a good time to play Brentford, though, because the Bees have lost their past four league games.
Newcastle’s defence will have to improve if they are going to keep a clean sheet for the first time in the league this season, but there will be a fabulous atmosphere again at St James’ Park and I have a feeling they will find a way of winning this one.
Three points here would only be a stepping stone to survival, but it is vital that Howe gets off to a good start. He is a really good coach, but results are the only way he will convince his players of that, and the fans too.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Zuzu’s prediction: Howe will start with a win. 1-0
Norwich v Southampton
No-one is writing Norwich off, but we know they are a yo-yo club – and they do too.
Dean Smith can have a good go at keeping them up but he has clearly been appointed as someone who is capable of winning promotion if they do go down.
As with the other two clubs to have just changed their manager, you will get raised performance levels from Norwich here – certainly in terms of effort and endeavour.
I don’t think it will be enough for them to beat Southampton though. Saints have been solid of late, and I’d be surprised if they left Carrow Road empty-handed.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Zuzu’s prediction: It’s going to be hard for Smith to have a big impact at Norwich this season – they are bottom for a reason. I’d love to see him turn things around though. 0-1
Watford v Man Utd
The international break was the first time in weeks I didn’t hear on a daily basis about how close Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is to being sacked.
If United drop any points here, the heat would be right back on Solskjaer – but I don’t see that happening.
Watford have lost both their home games under Claudio Ranieri so far, and I think this will be defeat number three.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Zuzu’s prediction: United really need to win this one. 0-1
Wolves v West Ham
Wolves saw their good run ended with a home defeat by Crystal Palace and I think this will end up with a similar outcome.
West Ham are sweeping all before them at the moment and they got an excellent win over Liverpool last time out. Tactically, the Hammers were almost perfect in that game too.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-2
Zuzu’s prediction: It’s great to see Moyes doing so well at West Ham. 0-3
Liverpool v Arsenal (17:30 GMT)
Arsenal are unbeaten in their past 10 games in all competitions, but this is by far their biggest test since that run started.
I know they won at Leicester in October but arguably their best player that day was goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, who made save after save.
Still, the fact they aren’t losing is important – because I usually expect them to win a lot of games, but lose a few as well.
You can see the improvement from front to back – in attack Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette seem to be playing with a smile on their faces and Ben White has settled everything down at the back.
Let’s see how they get on at Anfield before we get carried away though.
Liverpool looked porous in the final half-hour of their defeat by West Ham so I’d fancy Arsenal to create chances against them. The question is, will the Gunners hold out?
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Zuzu’s prediction: Arsenal have been playing well but Liverpool are going to win this one, aren’t they? 2-1
Man City v Everton (14:00 GMT)
Everton lack a threat without injured striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin but it is at the back that I am more worried about them at Etihad Stadium.
I don’t see the Toffees scoring, or keeping City quiet either.
Lawro’s prediction: 3-0
Zuzu’s prediction: I’ve tried to be as realistic as possible here, but optimistic at the same time. I can’t back against Everton but we are going to have to work very hard to get this result. 1-1
Tottenham v Leeds (16:30 GMT)
Leeds are another team who I think are lacking something defensively.
Tottenham manager Antonio Conte still hasn’t had much chance to work with his players since he took charge at the start of the month but they should create plenty of chances here. If Harry Kane is firing, they will win comfortably enough.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Zuzu’s prediction: I reckon Spurs will be a bit better than they have been – they need a good performance at home. 1-0
Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
How did Lawro do last week?
In the last set of games before the international break, Lawro got four correct results from 10 matches, with no exact scores, for a total of 40 points.
He drew with Murray and Tav from indie band Fur, who also got four correct results with no exact scores.
GUEST LEADERBOARD 2021-22
|110||Friction, She Drew The Gun|
|75||Lawro (average after 11 weeks)|
|50||Aqib Khan, Shaun Thomas|
|40||Dan Haggis of The Wombats, Murray & Tav from FUR, Justin Young|
|30||Michael ‘Venom’ Page, Roger Taylor|
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