It's back baby. After the thrills and spills of (yet) another genuinely enjoyable international break, the Premier League returns on Saturday to stamp its footprint onto the metaphorical face of our collective conscience. Yes, England 5 - 3 Kosovo was literally a thrill every 11.25 minutes on average but nothing compares to the Premier League... the best, ahem, league in the world. Two fixtures, in particular, stand out for having the potential to shape the season's (nay the futures) of the clubs involved.
First up is the clash between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford. This is surely a must-win game for the home side if the season is not to plunge into the nightmare many predicted it would be. The four-nil defeat of Chelsea in game week one already seems a long time ago, a damaging defeat by Crystal Palace sandwiched between draws with Wolves and Saints have left United closer to the bottom than the top. Another home loss would leave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stranded in mid-table and questions surrounding his suitability for the job louder and more intense than ever. Leicester then, are possibly the last team United would want to face right now. The Foxes are well organised, play good attacking football and are able to adapt their approach to different situations. With Jamie Vardy up front, they have a striker who is tailor-made to cause problems on the break and he will relish the opportunity to put one over on former teammate Harry Maguire. You can expect Leicester to cede possession to a United side that doesn't appear to have sufficient guile to break down deep sitting defences, Saints managed to hold on for a point last time out despite being down to ten men for the last twenty minutes. It is a nightmare scenario for United. An opposition they are expected to beat but one that is perfectly set-up to hurt them on the counter-attack. It could be another grim afternoon for the home fans at Old Trafford.
The situation is similar for Tottenham Hotspur who face a Palace side that have surprised pretty much everybody so far this season. Tottenham's results this term mirror exactly those of United and failure to win on Saturday afternoon will further increase the sense that everything is not rosy at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Spurs' season has begun in the same manner that the previous one ended. They look lethargic, bereft of ideas going forward and not especially solid at the back as evidenced by the clumsy relinquishing of a two-goal lead away at Arsenal. It is another game where the home fans will expect nothing less than a comfortable win, anything other than a strong start and the atmosphere might turn to the advantage of Roy Hodgson's team.
The subplot to both the above games is, of course, the potential futures of the two managers. Everyone knows that Solskjaer is under pressure to improve things fast but there is also a feeling that Mauricio Pochettino may have taken Spurs as far as it is possible for Spurs to go. It would require investment of biblical proportions for Tottenham to challenge the top two and another run to the Champions League Final looks just as improbable. If Pochettino were to leave Spurs then his most likely destination in this country is Old Trafford. A couple of away wins on Saturday and that prospect would start to look less like idle paper talk and more like a genuine reality.