SPORTS

Weekend Of English Premier League Full Of Potential Upsets

Oct 24, 2019, 2:22 PM
Kepa Arrizabalaga and Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea appeal as Quincy Promes of AFC Ajax scores a goa...
Kepa Arrizabalaga and Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea appeal as Quincy Promes of AFC Ajax scores a goal that is later ruled out by VAR for offside during the UEFA Champions League group H match between AFC Ajax and Chelsea FC at Amsterdam Arena on October 23, 2019 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – As European club football midweek is the focus of conversation, teams will have one eye on the weekend as the English Premier League comes back.

Clubs that finished outside the European competition qualification places last season will have had a full week of training, without travel, to prepare and take advantage of any tiredness from those who played Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Southampton vs Leicester City

The first fixture of interest is the Friday night affair at St. Mary’s Stadium in Southampton. The Saints sit in 17th place and seem to be destined for a relegation dog fight with those around them. Every point counts and the one they got last weekend away to the Wolves could be vital come the end of the season. Home form really needs to improve and this matchup is a huge opportunity.

Danny Ings is finding his feet again after a torrid last few seasons with injuries. The frontman has six goals in all competitions this season and will be the focal point of the attack for Saints. He’ll look to capitalize on any mistakes Leicester offers up. He’s also a good player in the buildup and will certainly chip in with the occasional assist.

Southampton have all the makings of being a solid EPL team, it just hasn’t clicked yet (not to say it won’t) and if it doesn’t happen soon, they’ll be looking to get to the magical 40 point mark as soon as possible. Attacking fullbacks in Bertrand and Soares will both provide width and support.

When it flows, the Saints attack can be effective and those two (Bertrand and Soares) will be key in Southampton playing EPL football next season.

Leicester City come in to Southampton sitting in third. They have, in short, been fantastic this season. It has been thoroughly enjoyable soccer to watch.

Brendan Rodgers’ stock is rising again. After a disappointing end to his Liverpool reign, he went up to Scotland with Celtic and transformed the style of soccer at Celtic Park. Celtic dominate in Scotland, but the manner they did it under Rodgers was impressive.

What’s more impressive to me, is the speed in which the Foxes changed under him. From defensive and unattractive football under Claude Puel, to attacking and possession-based football under Rodgers in eight short months.

Jamie Vardy, the former England international, you would expect to lead the line again. Sitting on six EPL goals he, like Danny Ings for Saints, is in the thick of everything good the Foxes do.

However, it’s England’s new international, James Maddison that most eyes will be on. Two goals and two assists so far this season, most things run through him in the attack. There is no surprise that clubs with larger reputations are coveting his services. It’ll be tough for Leicester City to keep him long term, but in the meantime, Rodgers will continue to develop him and use him to unlock even the best defenses.

I expect this one to be closer than most think.

PREDICTION: Tie

Burnley vs Chelsea

The KSL 5 premiere match of the week will kick off at 10:30 a.m. MT on Saturday. This is an intriguing matchup as fourth-place Chelsea come into Turf Moor against eighth-place Burnley.

The Clarets have been incredibly solid this season. As one of the small teams in the EPL, they continue to punch above their weight. Built to be hard to break down, they are a strong, physical team designed to soak up pressure and frustrate the opposing team. They are very good at attacking set pieces and will look to bully the opponents.

They can hurt you from open play as well. Kiwi forward Chris Wood has four goals in his last four games. The 6’3” New Zealand international will look to continue that rich vein of form.

Exciting prospect Dwight McNeil is someone to keep an eye on, combining in the last game to whip in a cross for Wood’s goal against Leicester. That was McNeil’s third assist of the season.

Chelsea will come in full of confidence, with three wins on the bounce. They have been impressive as they bed in the youngsters to the squad. Playing away at Ajax in the Champions League on Wednesday won’t be the greatest preparation, but even with a transfer ban currently imposed, this Chelsea team is still quality.

Manager Frank Lampard has taken to coaching like a duck to water. The former Chelsea player was always destined to be a manager, so it’s no surprise he finds himself in the dugout. What is impressive is that the younger players have taken their opportunity to prove themselves as not only EPL players, but also good enough to make the grade at Chelsea.

The three players that have made the biggest impact have also been called up to the English national team. Mason Mount (four goals) and Tammy Abraham (tied with Aguero on eight goals as joint top EPL goal scorer) have made a massive impact. Fikayo Tomori has made a considerable impact in tightening up a leaky Chelsea backline.

Turf Moor is a difficult place to visit and they’ve taken plenty of scalps since they were promoted back to the EPL for the 16-17 season.

I think this is going to be a cracking game of soccer and a real tactical battle, but I have to go with the team pushing for Champions League football for this one.

PREDICTION: 2-1, Chelsea

Liverpool vs Tottenham Hotsphelsea 2ur

Last match for round 10 is a rematch of last season’s European Champions League final. Liverpool ran out 2-0 winners over Spurs to claim a sixth Champions League title. They have also had a more than solid start to the season, unbeaten in their first nine matches.

A blip last weekend in a 1-1 draw with Manchester United ending their winning run. Liverpool were poor. United weren’t much better, but they had a game plan and it worked out well for them.

Salah missing the game showed just how important the Egyptian is to what Liverpool wants to achieve in the attack. Until Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lallana came off the bench, the Reds were slow and predictable. They’ll have Salah back for Spurs and will look to bounce back to something close to their best.

Spurs have had an underwhelming start to the season. I really expected them, of all the teams trying to close the gap on champions Manchester City and title contenders Liverpool, to be leading the charge.

They looked to have bought really well in the summer transfer window but it’s stale. They’re not hard to break down and the attack looks bereft of ideas.

This has all the makings of a Spurs win doesn’t it? A good win midweek will have done their confidence the world of good. Kane and Son both getting a brace will give the Spurs marksmen a boost and they’ll look to take advantage of an extra day of rest and no travel to test Liverpool. Maybe they’ll use some of those United tactics from last Sunday to slow this Red juggernaut down.

I fully expect this to be a tight affair at Anfield, just like the last couple of seasons. This will be no different in my opinion as attacking chances will be at a premium. The momentum is with Liverpool, though, and I think they’ll run out winners, just.

PREDICTION: 1-0, Liverpool

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Weekend Of English Premier League Full Of Potential Upsets