SOCCER

Week Two Of English Premier League Features Season Debuts From Manchester Clubs

Sep 18, 2020, 2:47 PM | Updated: 2:48 pm

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Reece James of Chelsea scores his sides second goal during the Pr...

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Reece James of Chelsea scores his sides second goal during the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Chelsea at American Express Community Stadium on September 14, 2020 in Brighton, England. (Photo by Peter Cziborra/Pool via Getty Images)

(Photo by Peter Cziborra/Pool via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Well, week one was fun! English Premier League has burst back to our screens. Week two is even more intriguing, as both Manchester clubs make their season debuts.

We were treated to a high scoring affair as the EPL reigning Champions, Liverpool just about edged out EFL Championship winners, Leeds United in a game that you couldn’t take your eyes off. Of the three promoted teams, Leeds already (despite the loss) look the most equipped to survive this season. Fulham were dreadful and West Bromwich Albion weren’t too far behind. Thankfully for all three, there are 37 more rounds to get back to what made them successful last season.

Manchester City and Manchester Utd were given an extra week off as they were in European competition until mid-August. And as we have a full slate of fixtures this weekend, I think it’s worthwhile taking a look at the bigger of the two, Manchester United, this weekend.

Manchester United v. Crystal Palace

Saturday, 10:30 a.m., kick on Peacock. I picked this matchup, not because it was Manchester United’s first match, but more to do with how they finished last season. Looking well off the pace as the January transfer market opened in 2020, the arrival of Bruno Fernandes shifted the Red Devils into another gear. It remains to be seen if they can sustain a full season playing at that same intensity but all the signs were positive as they climbed into the Champions League qualification places.

United have been relatively quiet in the transfer market this summer, but, with the window closing on October 5, there is still plenty of time before it slams shut. Donny van de Beek’s arrival from Holland’s Ajax has been the only arrival so far. With the squad quite big they’ll probably look to shift some bodies along with adding some quality. United will be under a little bit of pressure to close the gap on Man City and Liverpool, and for the record, I think they will close the gap points-wise but it is probably too soon for a sustained title bid.

There are some intriguing battles this season within the squad. For example, David De Gea the first-choice goalkeeper could be going up against Dean Henderson who spent two seasons on loan at Sheffield United. The young English stopper recently signed an extension and has his sights set on an inconsistent De Gea’s starting role.

At the opposite end, you have Rashford, Martial and Greenwood who will once again provide a handful for any defense in the league. Speed, goals, movement and creativity are fed by the likes of Pogba (a doubt to play Palace due to a positive COVID test, but is now back in training after a 14-day quarantine) and Fernandes, this could be as exciting a start to a new season since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Palace is a team with question marks surrounding them. Roy Hodgson is a manager that has successfully kept his teams safe. They weren’t amazing against Southampton the opening weekend, but Wilf Zaha got the all-important winner. Defensively they keep themselves very organized and sit deep to soak up pressure and try to use Zaha and Townsend to hit teams on the break. If that fails, they’ll go a little more direct if Christian Benteke starts as the point man upfront. Benteke is a physical forward who will hold the ball up and look to feed Zaha and Andros Townsend in the wider areas.

Palace, over recent seasons, have kept their transactions at a minimum, but keep an eye out for former QPR attacker, Eberechi Eze. I’ve long thought he should’ve been playing in the EPL and now he has an opportunity, and along with Michy Batshuayi (on loan from Chelsea) to show their capabilities consistently at the highest level.

I expect United to have the majority of the ball, particularly as the home side, and the ball movement will be swift but this Palace team is stubborn, and with a couple of games (Carabao Cup game midweek) under their belt. Fitness-wise they might be in a little more rhythm. That said, United’s power will eventually shine through, as they battle to victory.

Prediction: Manchester United, 2-0

Chelsea v. Liverpool

Sunday’s matchup on Peacock is a 9:30 a.m. kick-off. And by far the biggest game of the weekend. Our first supersized match up of the season. Chelsea has finally been able to spend some money, as they waited patiently (partly due to a transfer ban) to spend the Eden Hazard money from last summer, and boy did they spend well.

Yes, there are still question marks about the mentality of this team and I’d be surprised if they didn’t add another goalkeeper. Last week against Brighton (if you haven’t seen Reece James’ goal, go find it *Heart eyes emoji*), they were good, not great. That’s okay. This team (although all of them didn’t play) has made five first-team signings this offseason, and all five will be long-term starters.

It’s going to take a few months for this team to really click, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be competitive, far from it. I just expect some inconsistencies as they figure it out and ultimately gel. Having the likes of Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz join the likes of Mount, Pulisic, Abraham, Giroud and Hudson-Odoi to the attacking ranks, can only mean good things…and ultimately… goals.

Liverpool were pushed to the absolute limit in their first game against Leeds. Mo Salah scored a hat-trick, and my word they needed him at his best to get all three points. With a target firmly on their back, the likes of their hosts this Sunday will be looking to close the points gap from last season.

In the two games last season, they were both entertaining affairs with Liverpool out on top. The arrival of former Barcelona and Bayern Munich playmaker, Thiago Alcântara do Nascimento will help with ball movement, and he is completely different from who the Reds currently have.

Liverpool needed different options, to go along with their blue-collar work ethic. They will once again rely heavily on the front three who have given them so much over the last 3+ seasons but true depth will be tested this season, so after Thiago, I expect another arrival, maybe even two more arrivals before the transfer window shuts.

The Redmen will need to cope with the demands and expectations of their fanbase. Liverpool at times last week looked slick going forward, but at other times, looked a shadow of the dominant defensive unit we’ve seen since the arrival of Virgil Van Dijk. I expect Chelsea to come out all guns blazing, pushing to put the champions immediately on the back foot. This has all the makings for goals, goals, goals! But as the midfield battle ensues, I think they’ll eventually cancel each other out.

Prediction: 1-1, draw

Until next week (and maybe a few more player acquisitions to talk about) wear your masks.

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Week Two Of English Premier League Features Season Debuts From Manchester Clubs