Father’s Day Weekend Is Full of English Premier League Treats
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – With 90 games in the next six weeks, the English Premier League is most definitely cram-packed for action.
With a full slate starting on Friday and going through Monday, fans around the world will be glued to their televisions. Some of us will be flicking through EPL, Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga all weekend.
In Germany, Bayern Munich needed just one more win to be crowned the Bundesliga champions, they got that midweek in a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Werder Bremen.
In Italy, they’ve been back for the Coppa Italia for little over a week, but Serie A starts this Saturday with Juventus holding a one-point advantage over Lazio.
In Spain La Liga returned to play last week, with the two big guns in Barcelona and Real Madrid both running out convincing winners. Barca holds a slim two-point cushion over Real Madrid. The only downside is that they’ve both played each other twice already and that would have been an epic coming together for a potential title decider.
On Friday the EPL opens back up with two fixtures, one of which is our first preview.
Tottenham Hotspur v. Manchester United
What a great start to the weekend to have EPL action on NBCSN, 1:15 p.m. MST kick-off, eighth against fifth. Before the pandemic halted soccer in England, Spurs were in a below-average run of form. To be honest, the entire season has been a let down for fans. The hangover from the Champions League final loss last year was evident. The hasty decision to relieve Mauricio Pochettino of his duties hasn’t worked out as much as Spurs hoped.
Yes, the appointment of Jose Mourinho wasn’t awful, but it’s not given the jolt in the arm that was hoped for. Some of that is due to captain, Harry Kane’s struggles with injuries. Various other injuries and some of the newer signings taking longer than expected to settle in means the jury is still out. What we do know is, now the Spurs are at full strength. Apart from Dele Alli who will be suspended due to a post on social media.
It seems so long ago that Spurs could say that they have a full squad to choose from. Kane is back and ready to go. Ben Davies and Moussa Sissoko are also available after absences.
We’ve seen flashes of Spurs this season and a sustained period with Son, Kane and Alli in the starting XI together, will be vital for Spurs to make the push of climbing into the Champions League places. For their opponents it’s a similar feel, the jury is still out on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s ability to lead this team back to the very top.
United haven’t played a particularly entertaining brand of soccer. However, with Paul Pogba rarely featuring, Marcus Rashford suffering a serious back injury in January, and then the later winter transfer of Bruno Fernandes; we might’ve not seen fully what United could offer.
Fernandes took to the EPL like a duck to water and made an immediate impact for a team that was crying out for a creative midfield spark. Pogba is back, and because of the delayed finish to the season, so is Marcus Rashford (side note: when he finally retires I think he should seriously consider a career in politics after the expert handling of his platform to help underprivileged children).
This is what United fans have been waiting for, and to be honest, I’m hugely intrigued to see how they gel together. For this match though, it’ll be more about battling qualities. At times the soccer will be very direct, it might not be pretty, but there are enough superb attackers on both teams to put the ball in the back of the net. This has all the makings of a classic, with United edging it for me.
Prediction: 2-1, United
Wolverhampton Wanderers v. West Ham United
After three months of no EPL soccer on KSL 5, it makes it’s long-awaited return to our local channel. The Saturday 10:30 a.m. MST kick-off is an interesting match up. Wolves, very much, like Sheffield United, have had an outstanding season. Sitting in sixth position just two points behind Man Utd.
Nuno Espírito Santo, the head coach of Wolves, has had decent money to spend in his time at the club, and he’s spent it very well. The players he’s brought in to compliment his squad have, for the most part, added to the team brilliantly, switching between 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 systems fluidly. It’s been breathtaking at times watching them, and they’ve played a proper game.
Right now, Santo, along with a few other coaches across Europe, has incredibly high stock, and as jobs become available I expect him to be in the mix. One of the more interesting stories developing at Wolves is Spanish winger, Adama Traore who is starting to attract interest from other clubs. After leaving Barcelona, it was obvious he was talented but hugely inconsistent, he bounced around a bit showing flashes of brilliance. His hard work along with the coaching of Espirito Santo has made him one of the most consistent wide players in the EPL, his strength and pure speed is a nightmare for defenders.
It’s his end product that has gone through the roof, four goals and seven assists so far in 28 games, compared to one goal and one assist in 29 games the season before. Imminent EPL champions Liverpool are rumored to be looking at him as their Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri edges closer to the Anfield exit.
West Ham United are bang in trouble, they’ll come into Molineux Stadium almost relieved that the season was paused, purely for sporting reasons. They’ve picked up just four points in their last six matches and sit outside the relegation zone on goal difference.
A change in manager has not helped the situation and it just seems a cluster, the move to the old Olympic stadium, the changing of managers, some of the players brought in. They just need a good cleanse. Is there any hope for them? Of course, they do have players that can, on their day, open teams up. With a three-month break, maybe these players will have settled.
Felipe Anderson is a prime example, when over at his former club, Lazio in Serie A he was breaking into the Brazilian national team, which prompted the Hammers to shell out 36 million pounds for his services. They were rewarded with nine goals and four assists in his debut season.
This season though? One goal and four assists, of course, he’s only played 22 times this season, compared to 36 matches last season, but still, the performances haven’t been consistent enough. This example is similar to the problems across the squad.
In general, everyone’s performance has been well below par. The break might’ve done both teams the world of good but the style and substance of Wolves should see them over the line.
Prediction: 2-0, Wolves
Everton v. Liverpool
Last but not least for your KSL Sports EPL weekend preview, is the Merseyside derby, which KSL 5 will also have for you, Sunday, noon kick-off. What a father’s day treat eh?
Liverpool is in pole position to win their first title in 30 years. Everton, their bitter city rivals will be going all out to delay the inevitable.
Everton under Carlo Ancelotti has made some minor progress, currently sitting in 12th, 10 points above the relegation zone and eight points off the pace for a Europa League place, things seem to have settled in an unspectacular season. Ancelotti gave the squad the shot in the arm it needed, and with a few additions and a full preseason under his belt, you’d expect Everton to jump up the table.
For now, I expect them to stick where they are and have enough quality not to be dragged into the relegation dog fight. Unfortunately, Everton has been knocked by injuries this season. Jean-Philippe Gbamin just got back into training and then went down again and will miss the next six months. It’s been a hugely frustrating debut season for the Ivorian, managing just 135 minutes of game time.
Andre Gomes and Theo Walcott will also be missing. Gomes should be available soon, along with Morgan Schneiderlin. There is good news on the injury front, Seamus Coleman and Bernard are available. Most of everything that has been positive for the Toffee’s this season has come from their main attacking threats in Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 13 goals, and Brazilian attacker Richarlison, 10 goals and three assists.
They will be a handful on Sunday, aerially or on the deck, with plenty of movement they’ll look to disrupt the Reds with their physical approach. Everton fans can be optimistic about the future with Ancelotti at the helm. If Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison are kept at the club they have a true platform to build a challenge for some sort of silverware.
Liverpool restarts the season in a slightly surreal position. A large lead in the table, but right before lockdown they lost their first EPL game of the season, and were knocked out of the Champions League and FA Cup. The season has been amazing, but that two-week period before the lockdown saw the Reds struggle to maintain their lofty standards.
The dog days of the season, where it becomes more about grinding results out, then style, finally seemed to have caught up with them. They’re chasing a Premier League record of total points, they can reach 109 if they win out. They can also win the league by a record margin and without the distraction of other competitions, they’ll look to charge to the title as quickly as possible and break records.
Mo Salah (16) and Sadio Mane (14) are still chasing a golden boot for the EPL top scorer award, something they shared with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last season as they all finished on 22 EPL goals.
As the season wore on, Liverpool’s high press was relentless but exhausting. Whilst injuries haven’t played a huge part this season, fatigue has. So the break just might have charged the batteries to allow Liverpool to restart and maximize their ability to win the final nine matches.
On paper, the Reds are huge favorites, but the unknown of how teams are going to perform after the COVID-19 lock-down, and even though it’s behind closed doors at Goodison Park, it is the Merseyside derby, one of the biggest games around the world. Players will be left in no doubt how important this fixture is, and the winning fans will make sure to let their neighbors know all about it.
Prediction: 1-0, Liverpool
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