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Star Players Will Be On Display This Weeknd In English Premier League

Dec 20, 2019, 1:29 PM
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League...
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Week 17 of the English Premier League saw Liverpool stretch their lead at the top to 10 points on Saturday.

An ugly 2-0 win over basement boys Watford, only lit up by two fantastic finishes by Mo Salah. If Watford hadn’t been so wasteful in front of goal, and if Liverpool Goalkeeper, Alisson Becker hadn’t been so alert, then this could’ve been a much different story.

New Watford manager Nigel Pearson will be encouraged, though.

Leicester City finally dropped points after a shocking 1-1 draw at home to Norwich. Sunday saw Manchester City get back to winning ways after demolishing Arsenal 3-0.

The Liverpool against West Ham United match was postponed and will be played later in 2020. Liverpool are in Qatar competing in the Club World Cup. While they are away there are some other exciting games ahead of us on Saturday and Sunday for round 18.

In other news, former Napoli manager is rumored to be taking over manager-less Everton. Former Gunners midfielder and current Manchester City assistant manager, Mikel Arteta is supposed to be announced imminently as the manager for Arsenal.

Manchester City v. Leicester City

Let’s start with KSL 5 premiere match on Saturday with kick-off at 10:30 a.m. This is the first of two huge games this weekend.

Leicester came off a hugely disappointing draw with relegation-threatened Norwich at the weekend; still, they are unbeaten in the EPL since October 5, a truly phenomenal run. Jamie Vardy is the hottest striker in the league, and before last weekend’s draw had scored in eight games on the bounce, taking his season’s tally to 16 EPL goals, five goals ahead of anyone else in the league.

Leicester have been fortunate on the injury front and I expect them to continue their good squad management. In my opinion, this current team is better than their championship-winning squad from 2015/16. They play a better brand of soccer. The dropped points at home to Norwich was their first mental test and coming up against a desperate City will only add to the pressure-cooker environment that exists within the EPL.

Man City looked phenomenal against a struggling Arsenal. I prefer to give City praise than downplay the performance against a struggling defensive unit. Kevin De Bruyne ran the show from the first minute. Two goals and an assist of the highest order killed Arsenal off in the first 20 minutes.

City’s movement was fast and purposeful. At times this season, Pep Guardiola’s teams have been accused of over complicating things. They have found it difficult to be consistent; but with De Bruyne driving them forward in midfield, and the movement of Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling, they made light work of their opponent.

Leicester have the best defensive record in the league, conceding just 11 goals during their first 17 matches. However, City has scored 47 goals, the most goals in the league. Something must break on Saturday.

Both teams will look to close the gap in points during Liverpool’s absence this weekend. The midfield matchups will be something to look out for. Watch for the Foxes to provide better defensive cover and City to dominate the ball and push Leicester deep.

This game will be entertaining and well worth watching. Two teams that on their day fully justify their top three positions.

Prediction: 3-2, Manchester City 

AFC Bournemouth v. Burnley

Maybe not the standout fixture you were anticipating, but this is a beauty and the best. Two teams that have made themselves solid EPL teams, but with hugely contrasting styles.

Bournemouth’s DNA under Eddie Howe has always been to pass and move. Keep the ball on the floor and try to play attractive soccer. At times they’ve had to adapt as all good coaches get their teams to do.

Last weekend was an example of this, a glorious 1-0 away to Chelsea. A squad decimated by injury, and before the Chelsea result, they’d lost five in a row. In those previous losses, Bournemouth had been toothless and quite soft, still trying to play “the right way” but against Chelsea there was a more rugged approach, using a speedy counter-attack to catch their opponents. It wasn’t pretty, but not being drawn into a relegation battle is far more important than style.

The Cherries played four central midfielders in a five-man midfield and surprisingly were able to protect the back four behind them. With Josh King and Ryan Fraser, Bournemouth will always have the chance to stretch a backline; but Burnley are a team that defends deep, they don’t offer a ton of space behind their defensive line. This means they’ll need a little more guile in the midfield to open a stubborn Burnley.

Lewis Cook is capable, the central midfielder is an England international and a wonderful talent but missing the likes of goal-scorer Callum Wilson and winger Harry Wilson is a huge blow. Already struggling at the long-term loss of David Brooks, goals have been incredibly hard to come by this season, just 19 scored in the first 17 EPL matches.

Burnley have had their own issues this season, but also won last weekend after losing three games in a row. Burnley’s style has not changed however, they are the best side of this matchup. Burnley is rugged, aggressive and being defensively minded is their number-one priority; built in the image of their manager, Sean Dyche, an old-fashioned center half.

There isn’t a ton of speed on their side, they will mix it up with the best of them and try to bully Bournemouth into submission. I must mention however, Kiwi striker, Chris Wood has been a menace all season. Sat on seven goals so far this season, his best EPL return is 10. With the right service, this old school #9 should smash his goal total by some distance. He is partnered in a 4-4-2 formation with Ashley Barnes, who sits on six goals.

Barnes is constantly buzzing around and harassing the opposition backline. This could be a delightful watch. I think there will be chances, but also a tight game. I just can’t go against my home town on this one.

Prediction: 2-1, AFC Bournemouth

Tottenham Hotspur v. Chelsea

What a way to finish up round 18, Spurs against Chelsea.

Jose Mourinho will be talked about regardless of the result on Sunday. This matchup provides two teams with the ability to finish in the top four but might have a little issue with consistency. Spurs, to be fair, have looked completely different confidence-wise since Mourinho’s arrival and have pushed themselves up the table sitting in fifth place.

Three points behind the fourth-placed team, Chelsea. Spurs have picked up 13 points in their last six games. Chelsea have picked up just six. Frank Lampard is facing his first real test as Chelsea’s manager as the soccer has become slower and inconsistent.

Positive news for the Blues is that the transfer ban that was imposed on them will be lifted for the January window. We could see some reinforcements, but the true hope is that Abraham, Pulisic, Mount and Hudson-Odoi can find the form that made them so exciting to watch earlier in the season.

Another disappointing loss at the weekend saw Lampard scratching his head about what to do next. The squad, despite not being able to make additions in the summer is very much a top-four contender. They face a Spurs team that I thought added extremely well to their already great squad in the summer. But, before Jose’s arrival, they looked stale, and the hangover from the Champions League final loss to Liverpool was evident. Since Mourinho’s arrival, Dele Alli looks like a different player. The swagger is back. Harry Kane was always a threat whatever is happening results-wise, he’s an absolute goal machine. Probably the purest goal scorer in the EPL.

I saved the best player (likely to be on the pitch Sunday) for last though, South Korean Heung-Min Son. He has it all, speed, strength, with five goals and seven assists. Look for Kane to drop deep on occasion and try to find Son on the overlap. Kane, despite how ruthless he is in front of goal, is a fantastic playmaker as well.

This is a real battle for London bragging rights. Both teams and sets of fans will be wound up and ready for action; it should certainly come across like that on television. Plus, who doesn’t want to see Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in all its glory?

For me though, Jose is the master of the big occasion more of, than not, and I’ll side with the North Londoners on this occasion.

Prediction: 2-1, Spurs

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Star Players Will Be On Display This Weeknd In English Premier League