Premier League players and fans have the chance to honour Queen Elizabeth II this weekend, but the upcoming state funeral for Britain’s longest serving monarch on Monday has seen three matches postponed.
Demands on police to handle the huge crowds descending on London to pay their respects as the Queen lies in state have seen Liverpool’s trip to Chelsea and Manchester United’s clash against Leeds called off.
Brighton’s meeting with Crystal Palace had previously been postponed due to a rail strike affecting supporters and will not go ahead despite the industrial action being called off.
The football authorities were met with criticism from fans’ groups after matches at all levels were called off at short notice last Friday in the wake of the Queen’s death.
Cricket, rugby, golf and horse racing were among the many other sports to go ahead that weekend with tributes paid and rousing versions of the ‘God Save the King’.
Football has its chance over the coming days to follow suit, with the national anthem to be played before all seven Premier League matches.
There will also be a minute’s silence before the games and fans have been encouraged to applaud in the 70th minute to mark the Queen’s 70 years on the throne.
– Top three can pull away –
The top three, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham, are in action and have the chance to consolidate their positions with Brighton, United, Liverpool and Chelsea inactive until after a two-week international break.
City can retake top spot in the early kick-off on Saturday, with Wolves the latest side tasked with stopping the rampant Erling Haaland.
The Norway striker has scored in his last six games and has 13 in total in his first nine matches for City after netting a spectacular winner against his former club Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Tottenham, by contrast, suffered their first defeat of the season at Sporting Lisbon in midweek and Antonio Conte has warned some of his stars they are not undroppable ahead of the visit of bottom-of-the-table Leicester.
Arsenal hold a one-point lead at the top of the table and will end the month there if they win at Brentford.
– Lampard, Gerrard, Rodgers feel the heat –
At the other end of the table, a number of high-profile managers will be fearing the upcoming international break should they fail to win this weekend.
Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers has been outspoken in his criticism of the club’s unwillingness to invest in the transfer window, but has so far been given a stay of execution despite a run of five straight defeats.
“We’re in a situation we haven’t been in before. Results haven’t gone our way but what is important is we have to be brave,” said Rodgers on Thursday.
“Like in anything, in any sport, it’s not just about the talent. The ones who succeed are the ones who have that grit, determination and perseverance.”
Everton are the only other side without a win this season, with the pressure rising on Frank Lampard ahead of West Ham’s visit to Goodison Park.
Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard is also under the spotlight after a summer of heavy spending resulted in just four points from their first seven games.
There were promising signs for Gerrard in a 1-1 draw against Manchester City last time out, but he knows they have to back that up against Southampton at Villa Park on Friday.
“It doesn’t guarantee that you’ve turned the corner, one performance,” said Gerrard.
“The onus is on us and the responsibility is on me to prepare the team to put in a good performance.”
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Aston Villa v Southampton, Nottingham Forest v Fulham (1900)
Wolves v Manchester City (1130), Newcastle v Bournemouth (1400), Tottenham v Leicester (1630)
Brentford v Arsenal (1100), Everton v West Ham (1315)