EPL Says Goodbye To Fourth Manager Of Season Before Midweek Matchups
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Last weekend was a fine soccer experience for all of you English Premier League lovers. When I claimed none of the fixtures jumped out at me, the ensuing play couldn’t have made me more wrong.
Newcastle against Man City was a fantastic example. Getting a 2-2 draw against the reigning champions is a massive confidence boost, and a knock-on effect gave Liverpool an opportunity to extend their lead (over Man City) at the top of the table, which they duly did, with a 2-1 victory over Brighton.
In other news, the EPL’s fourth manager lost his job over the weekend.
Quique Sanchez Flores of Watford is the latest managerial casualty (Watford’s second this season, and his second stint as Watford manager) after being unable to provide that spark they needed after 85 days. The Hornets are still rooted to the bottom of the table.
This midweek round has loads of fixtures to look forward to on NBCSN.
Manchester United v. Tottenham Hotspur
I don’t want to make this all about Jose Mourinho’s return to Manchester United on Wednesday but really, this is a massive game.
Mourinho might not publicly say he wants revenge on United, but are United better since he was fired last December? In short, no.
The new manager bump is well and truly over for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. I don’t think it’s the manager’s fault by the way. I think the United board needs an overhaul. Then and only then will you see a United that is more in line with their glorious past.
Tottenham will be looking to make its third EPL win in a row (four in all competitions) as they sit fifth and just six points behind Chelsea in fourth.
Defensively Spurs do have some things to work on, but already Mourinho has made that attack a little more fluid. Dele Alli looks like he’s been reborn even at this early stage. The swagger that’s been missing for a good year, is back. Three goals in his last three games (two in the EPL) is great news for Spurs. Add Kane, who is lethal whatever is happening results wise. Son and Moura can provide width and pace. Suddenly Chelsea, Man City and Leicester City are looking over their shoulders.
United are huffing and puffing. The soccer isn’t great and I’m not sure it ever will be under Solskjaer. There is blatant talent in United’s squad, I just don’t think Ole has the ability to fully unlock it.
What I will say is that the players are fighting for their manager, a United legend. Whilst that is important, there must be more than grit and determination. Those are minimum requirements for all teams.
Marcus Rashford is once again the danger man who was wrongly not awarded a goal against Villa. He is a wonderful talent and his pace and trickery will cause problems for any defender. It’s becoming more apparent that he is United’s go-to man.
Daniel James continues to be a great foil on the opposite side – both were vital for United’s fightback against Sheffield United the weekend before last.
Both teams are struggling at the back, and I can’t see a clear winner. For that, I’ll go for a thoroughly entertaining draw at Old Trafford.
Prediction: 2-2, Tie
Liverpool v. Everton
Form goes out the window quite often in this fixture but Everton are probably at the lowest, confidence-wise, they’ve been in many a year. A cruel 2-1 loss on Sunday against Leicester City, with the winner coming in the 95th minute only damped the mood around Goodison Park.
Eight defeats in the league and Marco Silva is pretty much done. The question is, if he’s let go before the Merseyside Derby? I think he’ll be gone after the match on Wednesday. In the wild league that it is, he could be in fact gone before this article is published.
Should this Everton team be doing better than they are? On paper, this is easily a squad that could challenge for Europa League spots. In the last few weeks Everton has gone from doing okay to new lows.
Liverpool will be without goalkeeper Alisson after he got his marching orders against Brighton. Fabinho is also missing and not expected back in training until the end of January next year. Missing these two players creates a huge test for the Reds.
Adrian came in when Alisson was injured earlier in the season and was fantastic. Fabinho’s absence causes more of a problem as there really isn’t a like for like replacement. I expect Henderson and Wijnaldum to fill this role.
Liverpool will be rotating heavily during December, they have 11 games in the month that include trips to Qatar to participate in the Club World Cup. They are still holding eight points clear and unbeaten in the league. It’s a phenomenal start to the season.
Once again, they’ll look to Mane and Salah to weigh in with the goals. The backline, whilst not getting the clean sheets of a season ago is still doing the job to give the attackers the platform to win matches.
Everton’s Richarlison will again look to provide the attacking spark, and even though there has been a recent contract extension for him, if this form (Everton’s) carries on you can see him being poached away from the Toffee’s.
I think this one will be a closely fought battle. Regardless of Everton’s managerial situation, the Reds will continue to roll forward.
Prediction: 2-1, Liverpool
Sheffield United v. Newcastle United
Finishing off the round of 15 fixtures will be Thursday’s encounter, seventh against 14th.
It’s so tight in the middle of the pack that come Thursday afternoon, Newcastle could feasibly leapfrog the Blades.
However, Bramall Lane has proven a tough place to come and take maximum points. The Sheffield United faithful are loud. It’s a fantastic old stadium. Blades forward Lys Mousset was once again on the score sheet, netting his fifth goal of the season against Wolves. This came after a lovely finish against Manchester United the week before.
The young Frenchman has found a home in Sheffield after being just a bit-part player down in Bournemouth. Sheffield’s manager Chris Wilder continues to impress and the 3-5-2 formation he employs is fun to watch. Wing backs Enda Stevens and George (provided the assist against Wolves) Baldock will once again provide cover defensively and join the attack.
Newcastle will be on a massive high after their result. Going down late against Manchester City, they stuck at it when Jonjo Shelvey struck late to tie it up against the reigning champions. A well-worked free-kick allowed the midfielder to strike home accurately from 20-plus yards. To be fair, nothing short of what the Toon deserved.
Miguel Almirón also got on the stat sheet with an assist. The Paraguayan international hasn’t hit the heights of his days with Atlanta United in Major League Soccer. Tt was good to see him after 24 EPL appearances get his reward in helping feed Jetro Willems for the first equalizer.
I’m hoping for an exciting game that is end-to-end stuff. I just think at home Sheffield United might have too much advantage for Newcastle this week. The Blades midfield three Norwood, Fleck and Lundstram have too much power and workmanlike energy, for the Newcastle midfield two to handle.
Prediction: 3-1, Sheffield United