SPORTS

English Premier League Double-Header Provides Treat For Fans, Challenges For Coaches

Dec 27, 2019, 4:21 PM | Updated: 4:22 pm
Max Aarons of Norwich City takes on Trezeguet during the Premier League match between Aston Villa a...
Max Aarons of Norwich City takes on Trezeguet during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Norwich City at Villa Park on December 26, 2019 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – We’re officially over halfway through the English Premier League season and you EPL fans will have a treat on Saturday, KSL 5 will show a doubleheader.

Watching Jose Mourinho painfully explain that his dog passed away on Christmas Day made me get up and give my beloved pooches a snuggle. To be honest, Spurs played like they were struggling in the first 45 minutes, just like their manager.

Pressure continues to build on West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini, as the Hammers went down 2-1 at Crystal Palace.

We’re now in the territory of two games in 48 hours, where we as fans sit back and enjoy, but coaches stress about how much is too much. Who to rest and who comes in?

Norwich City v. Tottenham Hotspur

Our first installment of the EPL doubleheader on KSL 5 is the 10:30 a.m. kick off between relegation-threatened Norwich against the Jose Mourinho Spurs, fighting for a top-four finish. Norwich went down against relegation rivals Aston Villa, and now they can hope to pick up on Spurs inconsistent form.

If they are to survive, Norwich must make Carrow Road a fortress. Currently sitting bottom of the table, and just two shut outs this season. You can see where the problems stem from. They just can’t keep teams out very well. Will there be money for Daniel Farke to spend in January? It’s a fine balance, spending money in the hope you survive and recoup the money by having another season, or the flip side, you’ve spent big and now you don’t have the EPL TV money and have players you’ve spent big on with big wages and putting your club in financial difficulty.

Norwich has players that’ll run for the cause and scrap tooth and nail for a result, they just haven’t been quite enough. With Buendia, Cantwell and Pukki, there is a spark offensively. The issue is the platform they’re given to perform. The spine isn’t strong enough, even though they are good and honest pros, they need two to three additions to make this team more competitive. It’s just starting to look a little desperate for the Canaries. They’ll be looking for a belated Christmas miracle.

Spurs bounced back from a disappointing result against Chelsea with a stop-start performance against Brighton. Spurs looked much better when Christian Eriksen came on as a second-half sub. The ball was moved with much more zip.

Dele Alli scored the winner with a lovely lobbed finish, and it must be said that he has been in such a good moment since the arrival of Mourinho. Spurs are always going to get goals with Kane leading the line. With a player like Alli he can elevate them to another level. The backline hasn’t been able to keep the goals out, which is hugely surprising for a Mourinho team. This does have a touch of the banana skin feel about it.

The Spurs are still out of the top four spots and will be desperate to potentially close the gap on Chelsea. I must go with Spurs, but I don’t expect them to keep a clean sheet as the defensive woes continue to plague the North Londoners.

Prediction: 3-1, Spurs

Burnley v. Manchester United

This tasty Northwest encounter rounds off the KSL 5 EPL doubleheader, kicking off at 12:45 p.m. This will have been a 48-hour Christmas soccer extravaganza. Just over a 25-mile journey further north for United as they take on a stubborn Clarets at Turf Moor.

Sean Dyche’s men are on 24 points, sat in 12th position and had won two in a row before the 1-0 loss to Everton on Boxing Day. As I’ve written many times before, Burnley aren’t particularly attractive to watch. They’re not fast. They are defense first, everything else second type of team. What they are, is effective. They are incredibly physical and robust. They make full use of set pieces.

When you look at the front two, Chris Wood is your typical number nine – great at holding the ball up and strong in the air. He should lead the line again and look to add to his seven EPL goals (his best return is 10 EPL goals). His strike partner for most of this season has been Ashley Barnes, who is a busy player that constantly harasses defenders, popping up with the occasional vital goal.

As of late, local boy Jay Rodriguez has been Wood’s partner, comfortable up top or pulling out wide to the wings. As we’re seeing teams play two games in two days, expect to see some rotation.

Manchester United were gifted a few goals in their win over Newcastle, that is no slight on United, they were gifted opportunities, but they also ruthlessly put them away.

The Red Devils have been inconsistent. Really solid record of teams above them this season but losing games you expect better from. The front three players all scored against Newcastle. Daniel James was rested. Paul Pogba had a very good 45 minutes which will be hugely important for the remainder of the season.

Is this the corner that United needed to turn? In short, I doubt it. They are where they are for a reason. Until Newcastle started giving gifts away, they were average at best. I’ve made my thoughts on their coaching situation clear, and in the summer, I expect rumors will go through the roof of potential replacements. However, I think they’ll win this match.

It’ll be a slog, but all three points will go back to Old Trafford.

Prediction: 3-1, Manchester United 

Arsenal v. Chelsea

The last fixture of round 20 was a tough pick as all three matches this Sunday are intriguing. I went with the battle of London. Both teams are in indifferent form. Arsenal have a new manager, Mikel Arteta. A 1-1 draw away to Bournemouth in miserable conditions isn’t the worst. To be fair to the Gunners, there was a little bit more cohesion about them.

This is the start of the journey though and so many issues will need to be addressed. Starting with Arsenal’s porous backline. In the meantime, he must work with what he’s got. Using two defensive midfielders in front of the back four. Also, trying to get the best out of Mesut Ozil and giving him a platform to become the assist king that he was before Arsène Wenger left Arsenal.

There isn’t much wrong with the Gunners attack, it’s great having Lacazette and Aubameyang in the attack. It’s not ideal for Auba to be playing wider, but it is something he can do, and we saw how he drifted in from wide against Bournemouth to be in the right position to slot away the equalizer on Boxing Day.

Chelsea have been stretched at times this season, yes, the Gunners will be hoping for a bit of luck at the back and using their pace upfront to get in behind.

Chelsea’s form has been turbulent of late, and Frank Lampard’s first real test as the Blues manager is to find a solution. A cracking result against Spurs last weekend only to be undone at home 2-0 by relegation-threatened Southampton.

The biggest change I’ve seen in recent weeks is that Chelsea aren’t as quick in transition as they were earlier in the season. It’s proof that the juggling of fixtures around this time of year is one of the most difficult things to navigate (see Liverpool last season).

This young attacking team is exciting to watch and the games they are playing now will do wonders for Chelsea’s long-term future. I do think this team will get the result on Sunday as well. I’m expecting a cracking game, but the Blues to come out on top as Arsenal start to adapt to their new philosophy.

Prediction: 2-1, Chelsea

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English Premier League Double-Header Provides Treat For Fans, Challenges For Coaches