All eyes – and ears – will be trained on Old Trafford on Saturday where Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to make his much-anticipated second debut for Manchester United.
“I don’t think Ronaldo will necessarily start,” says BBC football expert Mark Lawrenson. “But he will definitely play some part – and, no, I would not be surprised at all if he scored.”
Lawro is making predictions for all 380 top-flight matches this season, against a variety of guests.
This week’s guest is singer and guitarist Justin Young from indie rock band The Vaccines, whose new album Back In Love City is out on Friday.
Justin is a United fan who is relishing the return of Ronaldo, but admits he is unsure what to expect from the Reds this season.
“Once again we are starting a campaign with what looks like, on paper, a pretty fabulous team – maybe even more so with the return of CR7,” he told BBC Sport.
“But it has been almost 10 years in the relative wilderness for us now so, like many United fans, I have gone from expecting us to win something every season to now really feeling like I am going to be perpetually disappointed.
“I am not a natural optimist to be honest with you. We have a great team, and some great players but I just don’t know yet how we will do. I am not sure I know enough about how we are going to set up and play this season.
“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a United legend, and I had posters of him on my wall when I was growing up.
“He will forever be a United great and forever be a hero to me but, given the time he has had as manager and the starting line-up he now has, I think it is on him to deliver now, and start proving the people who doubt him wrong.”
|Crystal Palace v Tottenham||x-x||0-1||0-3|
|Arsenal v Norwich||x-x||2-0||1-1|
|Brentford v Brighton||x-x||1-1||1-0|
|Leicester v Man City||x-x||1-2||1-2|
|Man Utd v Newcastle||x-x||3-0||3-0|
|Southampton v West Ham||x-x||2-1||1-0|
|Watford v Wolves||x-x||1-2||2-2|
|Chelsea v Aston Villa||x-x||2-0||3-1|
|Leeds v Liverpool||x-x||1-2||0-2|
|Everton v Burnley||x-x||2-0||1-1|
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 BST unless otherwise stated
Crystal Palace v Tottenham (12:30)
Tottenham have not done anything spectacular so far but they have done really well to win every Premier League game 1-0 – especially because I think their defence is their weak link.
Harry Kane is back, and scoring again – well, for England anyway – but Spurs could be without his strike partner Son Heung-min on Saturday because of a calf problem picked up on international duty with South Korea.
I’d still fancy Spurs to edge this one and continue their 100% winning start, even if Son is not fit, but I am not especially worried about Crystal Palace’s wait for a first league win under Patrick Vieira.
The Eagles got a really good point against West Ham last time out and, from what I have seen of them so far this season, they have picked up a bit each game they have played.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-1
Justin’s prediction: This is going to be a tough one for Palace. They aren’t looking great, but Spurs are. 0-3
Arsenal v Norwich
Arsenal have had a terrible time of it so far but surely they will get something out of this bottom-of-the-table clash.
We know Norwich are facing a long, hard season fighting the drop and they are ready for that – but Arsenal fans obviously expect a heck of a lot better than that.
If the Gunners don’t win this game, at home against a team that most people are probably tipping to be relegated, then the pressure on their manager Mikel Arteta will really ramp up.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Justin’s prediction: The table speaks volumes for where both of these teams are – in serious trouble. Arsenal have got better players than Norwich have, but it looks like they are in a mess at the moment. Norwich will go there thinking they can get something. 1-1
Brentford v Brighton
It’s so far, so good for Brentford who are still unbeaten after three league games. Brighton should probably expect a noisy atmosphere like the one we saw when the Bees beat Arsenal in the first game of the season because the home fans will be enjoying themselves.
The Seagulls made a bright start themselves by winning their first two games but they found it hard going against Everton last time out, and I think the points will be shared here.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Justin’s prediction: Brentford are a classic newly promoted team with puppy dog enthusiasm – the sheen of just being in the Premier League has not worn off. I live in west London, so I’m going to back the Bees here. 1-0
Leicester v Manchester City
As I speak, Manchester City are still hoping they are allowed to play Brazil duo Ederson and Gabriel Jesus but I’d still fancy them here without those two, even though it would mean third-choice keeper Scott Carson stepping in because Zack Steffen is also unavailable.
Leicester have got a bit of history against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, including beating them in last month’s Community Shield, but the Foxes will face a different animal this time.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-2
Justin’s prediction: I am reluctant to write Leicester off, but Manchester City are looking pretty strong. 1-2
Manchester United v Newcastle
Newcastle badly need a win, but Old Trafford, on the day Ronaldo makes his return, is not the time or place for them to get it.
There is no doubt Ronaldo’s arrival has improved Manchester United. In terms of what he brings to the team, well, he won’t be chasing full-backs down, will he?
It will be a case of ‘you stay up there, we will get the ball to you’. It is pretty basic, but why wouldn’t you do that with Ronaldo in your side, when he is so good in the air?
If he gets the service you’d expect him to from the players behind him, he is going to score plenty – and he’ll probably be taking every penalty, free-kick and even the throw-ins and goal-kicks too.
Lawro’s prediction: 3-0
Justin’s prediction: Given Ronaldo’s history and how he always marks every occasion by doing something special, I am expecting a goal from him and a win for Manchester United, helped by the fact Newcastle do not seem to be at their best right now. 3-0
Southampton v West Ham
Southampton are another team without a victory so far but I think their performances have been better than their results in their first three games.
West Ham, meanwhile, have won two out of three and would have a 100% record if they hadn’t let their lead slip twice at home against Crystal Palace before the international break.
This is going to be close, but I just have a sneaky feeling Saints are going to snatch the points here, and end their wait for a win.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Justin’s prediction: I grew up in Southampton so I have got a bit of an affinity with Saints – I used to go and watch them play at The Dell with my dad. Being totally honest, I’m not really sure where either team is, this close to the start of the season, but I will go with Southampton for sentimental reasons if nothing else. 1-0
Watford v Wolves
Watford have lost their past two games after starting their season with a win over Aston Villa and I don’t see that run ending this weekend.
Wolves are without a point or even a goal so far but they have had plenty of chances and surely that will change soon, whether Mexican striker Raul Jimenez is allowed to play or not.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-2
Justin’s prediction: This one is hard to call. 2-2
Chelsea v Aston Villa (17:30)
I was impressed by Chelsea in their draw with Liverpool before the international break – they were the better side with 11 men and they still did well when they were down to 10.
Aston Villa won’t lack energy or effort but the Blues should be too strong for them.
The only issue Chelsea may have is if their £97.5m striker Romelu Lukaku doesn’t recover from a thigh problem he picked up playing for Belgium last week, although it does not sound too serious.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Justin’s prediction: Chelsea will win this one. They are definitely in the conversation when it comes to the title. I need to see more of Liverpool but I think the race is between United, City and Chelsea. 3-1
Leeds v Liverpool (16:30)
Leeds have stuttered a little bit so far this season, but I think that’s all it is. I don’t see them struggling, put it that way.
There are still lots of positives about the way Marcelo Bielsa’s side play, but they are still easy to get at which is something I thought they would change.
That hasn’t happened, which is why I am going with Liverpool. The Reds will get plenty of opportunities in front of goal.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-2
Justin’s prediction: This should be a good, open game but Liverpool should win it. 0-2
Everton v Burnley (20:00)
Everton have made a good start under Rafa Benitez and I am expecting that to continue here.
Burnley will make life difficult for them, of course – but the Toffees have enough quality to break them down.
Benitez has got them playing some good football, and they work hard and are very competitive as well. It’s a good mix.
In contrast, I worry about Burnley a bit. You know that Sean Dyche will get the absolute maximum out of his players but it looks as if he has got his work cut out to keep them out of trouble this season.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Justin’s prediction: Burnley are awkward enough to get something out of this. 1-1
Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
How did Lawro do last time?
In the round of games before the international break, Lawro drew with Jungle’s Tom McFarland. They both got five correct results from 10 matches, including one exact score, for a total of 80 points.
GUEST LEADERBOARD 2021-22
|110||She Drew The Gun|
|80||Lawro (average after three weeks)|
|40||Dan Haggis of The Wombats|
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