All Eyes Should Focus On Wolverhampton Game Against Leicester City
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – As Storm Ciara batters the British Isles (and Northern Europe) one game was called off. Manchester City and West Ham United chose fan and player safety over encouraging thousands to travel up and down the country. They will find time later in the season to play this match. Hoping that everyone is safe and dry in the motherland, we enter the second half of the split 26 round, as teams enjoy a staggered mid-season break.
Last week’s first half of round 26 saw Sheffield United come back to beat Bournemouth 2-1 (I finally predicted a correct score!). Bournemouth is looking over their shoulder as the teams they are scheduled to play are probably the toughest out of all the teams facing relegation. This schedule includes trips to Liverpool, Man United, Man City and Wolves. Plus, home games against Chelsea, Spurs and. Everton thumped Crystal Palace 3-1, and Roy Hodgson must me on the hot seat. The other previewed game between Brighton and Watford ended in a draw which I also called correctly (just not the correct score) predicted.
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Leicester City
Love is in the air as two old foes, battle it out for local (ish) bragging rights. Fifty-five miles separate the two cities, but the midlands is densely populated and loads of soccer teams are around. These two are just the ones that are both playing the best brand of soccer around that area (Sorry Aston Villa, Birmingham City, West Bromwich Albion, Walsall and Coventry fans). This is my game of the weekend.
A Friday kick off at 1:00 p.m. MT will start your Valentine’s Day off right as we watch soccer that will no doubt be easy on the eye…. Wetting the appetite over at Molineux Stadium see’s ninth against third. Wolves have been great this season and it’s incredibly tight, points wise with just four points separating fifth through ninth. Nuno Espirito Santo has put together a solid season for his Wolves, as they’ve juggled EPL and Europa League football successfully. Raul Jimenez should once again lead the line for them, as he’s been a handful for most defenses this season scoring 20 goals in all competitions (11 in EPL).
Then flanked successfully by Adama Traore and Diogo Jota, the fluid three have vastly different attributes that seem to make the attack click. Much like Sheffield United, Wolves employ the three central defender system and with wing-backs Matt Doherty and Jonny Otto providing natural width, in defense and attack, they’ll use every blade of grass to pull teams open to provide channels for their attack to exploit.
In the second-half of the season, Leicester has been a little less than impressive. It was always a risk as the dark days of winter approached and the games were coming thick and fast. They are still sitting pretty on 49 points, just two behind City. Brendan Rodgers has done a great job since his arrival. Jamie Vardy has found a new lease under him; and the likes of talented younger players James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, Ben Chilwell and Youri Tielemans have all flourished. The soccer has benefited as well. And they are now as entertaining, and possibly more entertaining, as when they won the EPL a few years back. Capable in either possession or on the counter attack, they flick the switch to lure teams on to them and if Ndidi is fit, they have a pivot that will break up opponents attacks in his defensive midfield role and then find his conductor in Maddison, who is the main ball carrier to stretch teams with Barnes and Ayoze Perez on either side and Vardy over the top.
You really should be excited! This match could go either way. Both teams wanting to play soccer the entertaining way, both going about it differently but effectively. This is why it’s my game of the weekend. As for a winner? It could honestly go either way. But today I’ll go with a home win.
Prediction: Wolves 2, Leicester 1
Norwich City vs. Liverpool
Here is your KSL 5 Premiere EPL match kicking off Saturday at 10:30 a.m. MT at Carrow Road. A lopsided match up? Or a potential banana skin? Either way both teams must win. First place Liverpool will come in to Norwich’s manor, who are rooted to the bottom of the EPL. A win for Liverpool gets them one step closer to a first title in 30 years, one game closer to a record points haul, and one game closer to an unbeaten season.
A win for the Canaries gives themselves a glimmer of hope that a miracle could happen (they need one). Norwich are six points away from 19th placed Watford, and seven points away from safety. It’s not a massive gap, especially with 12/13 games to go. But it does feel like there is an air of realization that they’ll be playing Championship football next season. Norwich have done themselves proud…I should say the manager, players and fans have done themselves proud. I don’t know the financials of the Canaries, but I think the board needed to support the manager a little bit more in the transfer market. Ultimately making stronger changes during the transfer window might not have made a blind bit of difference to their position, but at least they could go down swinging?
Daniel Farke has built this team to be blue collar with the ability to play out of the back. A philosophy I admire, but it may be a little naive. However, if (because they aren’t down yet) they do go down, I can see four to five of their players still playing EPL soccer next season. There is talent, and they’ve produced some thoroughly entertaining moments. Mostly thinking back to the match at home against reigning champs, Man City. With academy product Todd Cantwell announcing himself to EPL fans.
A good performance in the last match away to Newcastle saw a team battling away gainfully and thoroughly deserved their point. If they can get Emiliano Buendia and Todd Cantwell firing and Teemu Pukki a little more support, I think they could well close the gap at the bottom and make a real fight of it.
Liverpool rolls in, and their thundering quest for EPL glory shows no signs of slowing down. For the first time in ages they have a fully-fit squad. If you think motivation is an issue or any kind of disrespect towards Norwich might come in to play, think again. This team has taken on their manager, Jurgen Klopp’s consistent message of “one game at a time”.
If you’ve watched them closely over recent weeks then you’d notice that Sadio Mane has at times put this team’s attack on his back, you’ve seen Roberto Firmino do the same, and then recently, Mohamed Salah has also been taking care of things. The supporting crew behind them continues to be spectacular. I’ve always been a little harsh on captain Jordan Henderson, but over the last couple of months he, for me, has been a true captain. Lifting trophies is all well and good and obviously the end goal. It’s the dark days mid-season when players are exhausted that he’s shown his true worth. The standards set by the manager have been carried on to the field by the captain. And that for me is my biggest compliment. It’ll be same thing Saturday as well, and Liverpool will once again keep the red machine rolling.
Prediction: Norwich 0, Liverpool 3
Chelsea vs. Manchester United
Last game of the weekend will be Monday’s 1:00 p.m. MT kick off at Stamford Bridge. Now you get to enjoy your Presidents Day even more. Revenge will be in the air as Chelsea will look to put things right from their previous EPL match up in August. United ran out 4-0 winners, a slightly misleading score line, but a win nonetheless and a positive vibe around Old Trafford. Little did we know that it would be fourth against eighth, and a strange season unfurled for both teams as they try everything to find some consistency. Chelsea off the back of a 2-2 draw away to Leicester are probably the favorites, but United come in to the match with a decent record against teams above them.
The recent history of this fixture when Mourinho and Ferguson were fighting for titles was tremendous. Maybe this rivalry isn’t as intense as back then, but the fans don’t forget, and you’ll feel the passion of two enemies going up against each other, even over the television.
I’m still of the opinion that the transfer ban that was imposed on Chelsea will be a long-term blessing. One of the most extensive academies in the league has been put to the test with the likes of Fikayo Tomori, Reece James, Andreas Christensen, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham all seeing lots of minutes. Next season you expect to see a stronger Chelsea squad of course; but they have saved themselves millions with these youth products coming through, and they will make millions when some of these players eventually leave.
The soccer hasn’t been all bad either. Willian is the main man for me, even with the question marks regarding whether he will sign a new contract hanging over him, he has played superbly this season. Still a speedster in the attack with a vicious shot and can pick a pass as good as anyone on the team. When things aren’t going quite to plan, it’s Willian who has the ability to make something from nothing.
United comes in to this match with a little hope. Signing Bruno Fernandes is a big deal. I’d love to eventually see him with Paul Pogba, but I have a feeling the Frenchman might be off in the summer. However, you give me a three-man midfield of Fernandes, Pogba and Scott McTominay (just returned to training) with some time to gel, they could be a real handful. Marcus Rashford being out is a massive blow and you saw that in the last match against Wolves. United don’t have a like for like replacement for Rashford, and I think this will hurt United whilst he is out. It’s not all bad for United. Some key additions this off season, and a new manager that can attract players to a well thought out project will make all the difference. For all the praise of the Fernandes signing, they could only attract a transfer deadline day loan of Odion Ighalo to add fire power. A solid forward, yes. Manchester United caliber? Not for me personally.
This match could ignite United and will suit them if it is fast paced and frantic. Keep it messy and disjointed so Chelsea can’t find a rhythm. Then hope for Fernandes to spring Daniel James or Anthony Marital in behind. It’s a big ask for United though, and for me I think you’ll see two teams huff and puff their way to an entertaining draw.
Prediction: Chelsea 1, United 1
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