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Warne: Thoroughly Entertaining Soccer To Be Played In Weekend Of Premier League

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: James Maddison of Leicester City battles for possession with Mohamed Elneny of Arsenal during the Carabao Cup third round match between Leicester City and Arsenal at The King Power Stadium on September 23, 2020 in Leicester, England. Football Stadiums around United Kingdom remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Tim Keeton - Pool/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Week two provided some eyebrow-raising moments as both Manchester clubs started their season. City got to work, and for stretches against Wolves, looked unstoppable. Some wobbly moments at the back reminded us that for all City’s brilliance going forward, there are still question marks about the defensive unit.

United looked well off the pace against Palace, which was a little bit of a surprise for me. I thought their power would eventually shine through, but the balance in central midfield wasn’t there and it was obvious to see. If they don’t dip their toes into the market, I think you might see another season of fighting for the top four again (I do expect them to be better). The exposure between the central midfield and back four was too great, and will need to be addressed before October 5 when the transfer deadline passes.

Our first mammoth encounter was at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea were looking to show Liverpool that they were genuine contenders, and for the most part, in the first 44 minutes, it was a tightly contested battle, until Blues defender, Andreas Christensen decided to haul down Sadio Mane, who was about to break free, with a tackle you’d see on Sunday afternoons in the NFL. The Danish international was rightly (despite what Chelsea manager Frank Lampard thought) shown a red card, and that ended the contest, as Liverpool strolled to a 2-0 success.

We did get to see Thiago Alcantara get 45 minutes under his belt when he replaced the Reds captain, Jordan Henderson, who picked up a slight knock. Monday’s match between Liverpool and Arsenal is one to keep an eye on this round, along with West Bromwich Albion versus Chelsea on KSL 5 match on Saturday, 10:30 a.m. kickoff, you can catch the other weekend games on NBCSN and Peacock.

Crystal Palace v. Everton

This fascinating matchup between two unbeaten EPL teams is definitely one to keep an eye on. Kicking off at 8:00 a.m. Saturday on NBCSN. It might be the unfashionable choice, but these two have impressed immensely. Palace aren’t a particularly possession-based team, relying heavily on their defensive shape, soaking up pressure and then hitting teams on the counter-attack. They’ve done that well in their opening two games.

Rumors are that Wilfried Zaha is still on the lookout for a move away, but really, he is the focal part of everything that is good for Palace. Three goals already under his belt, and a Palace team that is set up to compliment his strengths, and whilst I have no issue with players looking to better themselves or even to earn more money, I just think Palace, and manager Roy Hodgson get Zaha, understanding his character and temperament. At 27 he’s coming into his prime, and has started the season hot, and playing as the second forward has helped. In a more traditional 4-4-2 formation, Everton will have their work cut out breaking down a stubborn Crystal Palace.

The Toffee’s have the wonderful Carlo Ancelotti in charge. They have spent this summer bringing on talent, some a risk, as players like James Rodriguez haven’t really played recently, but the attacking talent is there for everyone to see, then Brazilian international, Allan, brought in from Napoli, who was vital to everyone he played under. More importantly, both of these players have played under Ancelotti before, and they add much needed technical ability to the attack and midfield. Richarlison at times was the lone bright spark for Everton in seasons past, and forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin continues to benefit the most from Richarlison’s talent. The young English forward hit a hat-trick against West Brom last week, and netted the winner against Spurs the opening weekend, with it only being a matter of time that he is called up regularly to the full England setup.

Both teams are proving to be hard to break down, but it’s Everton who is now more fun to watch, with multiple players able to deliver on any given (sun) day. You can expect goals, you can expect a physical battle all over the pitch. Most importantly, you can expect a barnstorming 90 minutes of action, as both teams will be hell-bent on keeping their 100 percent record intact.

Prediction: A thoroughly entertaining draw.

Manchester City v. Leicester City

This is one of many great encounters this weekend, but Sunday’s 9:30 a.m. kick off on NBCSN is something that we all want to kick back to. Two teams that have clear philosophies to attack first, moving the ball with pace. The visitors made it two from two in the EPL, an opening weekend where they eased to a comfortable 3-0 victory against local (ish) rivals W.B.A. and then thumped Burnley, 4-2. They transferred Ben Chilwell to Chelsea in the summer, and that left a massive gap on the left side of the defense, but James Justin moved over from the right and slotted in quite well. Part of the fee they received was immediately spent to acquire the services of Belgian international, Timothy Castagne, from Atalanta in Italy, and he’s proving to be almost an instant hit. At times he looks like a winger, such is the comfort he shows with the ball at his feet.

Much of the talk will be about Jamie Vardy, the current holder of the golden boot after topping the scoring charts in the EPL with 23 goals. James Maddison is another who gets hyped because of his playmaking ability, the fact is, the Foxes midfield is very good and well balanced. Keep an eye out for left-sided attacker, Harvey Barnes. He’s developing into hot property, and if he can continue to add goals and assists, he is going to be a huge asset this season, as the counter-attack won’t be solely on the shoulders of Vardy to get in behind the backline. The only thing for Leicester this season is to somehow find a way to not fade away so badly like last season, which resulted in them missing out on Champions League football.

As for City, an extra week off because of their European excursions. They were given a stern test against Wolves, one they overcame. Question marks remain about their backline. And we can reserve judgment for after they’ve got a few more games under their belt. One thing that didn’t particularly skip a beat was the attack. Kevin De Bruyne, once again pulling the strings. With Raheem Sterling they have one of the best attackers in the league, constantly making defenders nervous. Gabriel Jesus, looking well-rested and leading the line as they wait for the return of Sergio Aguero to fight for the #9 role. Much like Harvey Barnes, the emergence of Phil Foden is another player to keep an eye on. He really is fulfilling his potential after being given huge praise by his manager, Pep Guardiola. This can only mean good things for City and England.

This should be a cracking match. Leicester will be working all week on their shape without the ball, as they’ll have long stretches without it. Barnes, Vardy and Perez will be vital for Leicester to get all three points, stopping the beauty of City’s attackers going forward is something that is almost impossible, and for that reason, City will have the intact record at the end of the 90 minutes.

Prediction: Manchester City’s dominant ball retention will be too much for Brendan Rodgers’ men.

Until next week, wear your masks. I’m excited for the day we can all get back into the stadiums to watch our sports in person.

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