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After A Tumultuous Round, EPL Heads Into Round Six With Some Injuries

LEEDS, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 03: Marcelo Bielsa, Manager of Leeds United gives his team instructions during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Manchester City at Elland Road on October 03, 2020 in Leeds, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – My my my, what a tumultuous round five of fixtures. Last week the English Premier League truly had everything.

The games we previewed in last week’s article were both completely insane and for different reasons.

The Merseyside derby had a red card, which should’ve been two, or some retrospective action taken, which didn’t happen, amongst various questionable offside calls. Something VAR is supposed to clear up in order to better the game, but it didn’t. The only thing we were left with after the debacle is that David Coote who was on the VAR controls has been dropped from VAR and Referee roles.

The end result, Everton escaped with a point, Virgil Van Djik has a torn ACL after a reckless challenge from Jordan Pickford, and Thiago looks like he may have escaped serious injury (although left out of the Reds Champions League match midweek) after Richarlison’s red card challenge.

In London, the derby was wild, Spurs strolled to a 3-0 lead in the opening 15ish minutes and looked more than comfortable, but West Ham hung around and kept trying to play and they got their reward in the form of three goals in the last eight minutes capped a wonderful comeback, with Manuel Lanzini’s equalizer already up as a contender for goal of the season.

Onto this weekend’s games.

Aston Villa v. Leeds United

We kick things off on Friday, 1:00 p.m. on Peacock, in this showdown between one of the hottest in the EPL in Aston Villa, and the EPL new boys, Leeds United.

Villa have been full value for their lofty position in the table, and even though they sit second, they’ve only played four games and a win on Friday would see them leapfrog table toppers, Everton for at least 48 hours.

Villa spent really well in the summer, unlike last summer when it felt more of a panic to bring in bodies to cope with the EPL, this season was different. This summer was a lot more calculated. Again, signing a couple of players from the Championship has paid off. Matty Cash from Nottingham Forest, converted to right back a couple of years ago and has not looked back (I don’t know why England produces so many good right backs), he’s very powerful going forward and his delivery, as a former winger, has been a huge benefit to Forest, and now in the early weeks of his Villa career to them as well.

Ollie Watkins suffered playoff heartbreak with Brentford last season, but there was no shortage of suitors for his goal scoring services (26 last season in regular and playoff games). He got his opportunity to shine in the EPL, announcing himself to the top flight with a stunning hat-trick against Liverpool.

The addition of Ross Barkley on loan, might be the most vital. For all their blue-collar, workman-like performances in the engine room, time and again captain Jack Grealish was often the only creative spark. Barkley needed out of Chelsea, a bit part role at best, here he can play, be creative and score goals, just what Villa needed. They are genuinely fun to watch, with Grealish only picking up from his amazing form last season, something that has rewarded him with some minutes with England. There is still the grit and determination to match it with anyone, but they’re a little bit less predictable going forward now. However, they’re coming up against one of the fittest teams in the league in Leeds United.

Leeds has started the season as well as any team, coming up from the Championship is full of difficulties, the biggest one is getting points on the board ASAP as new teams make the jump and adapt to the jump in quality.

Marcelo Bielsa is someone I have a hard time not being biased towards, I could watch his teams for days. His first game in the EPL against the champions Liverpool saw him push them to the absolute highest level to get a win. His teams don’t care about reputation or what you’ve achieved. The relentless pressing and channeled energy is what gives them the platform to produce results. It’s the minimum requirement that players buy into immediately.

Picking up two wins and a draw in their first five games has given the Whites a chance to settle, but there is a huge test on the horizon, and I don’t just mean coming up against high flying Aston Villa. Captain Laim Cooper is struggling with injury, and England new boy Kalvin Phillips is out for up to six weeks with a shoulder injury. There is no one that can quite do what Phillips does, converted from a traditional central box to box midfielder type, to more of a hybrid defensive/deep playmaker. He’s often the catalyst to the counter attacks with his ability to break up play and then find an attacker in space, swiftly.

This is a good match up guys, so many good technical players on show that are outside of your normal big six teams.

Prediction: Villa will keep the good times rolling with the win at the gorgeous old, Villa Park.

Manchester United v. Chelsea

Your KSL 5 premiere match is a cracker to look forward to, with a 10:30 a.m. kick-off.

Old Trafford is the stage as United has bounced back from their thumping at home to Spurs a few weeks back, with a win over Newcastle, and then a midweek win in the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain.

Credit has to be given to the manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has gathered his troops and closed ranks after a difficult start to the season. United looked fresh and full of ideas, which hasn’t been the case at the start of the season, and whilst there is a long way to go, they’ll be looking to get into the top four positions ASAP.

United did well in the transfer window, adding free agent Edison Cavani, and left-back Alex Telles from Porto. Telles adds much-needed competition to the position, and United should see a lot more attacking runs from deep because of him. Cavani is an intriguing one, the Uruguayan, now 33-years-old will provide much-needed options to the central forward core. He is here, for the now, and will put pressure on Martial, more so than current backup #9, Odion Igahlo.

The only issue for Ole is figuring out how to channel Paul Pogba into the great midfielder he is, and not the bit-part player we’re seeing. What we’re seeing from this United team is how comfortable they are in switching between formations and that has to be a tip of the cap to the manager.

Question marks are still swirling around Chelsea, and it might take them and Frank Lampard a little more time to settle in and gel, as the arrivals over the summer were numerous.

On paper, they are all fabulous acquisitions, and when they gel, you feel they’ll be a top-four team. Timo Werner and Kai Havertz were the two signings that made me step back and see how serious the Blues were. Adding to Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount already in the attack, they’ve got numerous options, plus the other attacking addition of Hakim Ziyech, Lampard will have no excuses to propel the big spenders towards a title challenge.

We’ve seen flashes from Chelsea, and I think when it clicks, this could be a really fun team to watch. Both teams are looking up at the top, and both teams are desperate to solidify their title challenges. Over the years we’ve seen some classic and intense encounters between the two teams. Ferguson v. Mourinho. Now it’s two coaches in Solskjaer v. Lampard, that are legends of their respective clubs via their playing careers, and it’s all on the line as they try to bring back the good times.

Harry Maguire is one to look out for, a really solid center back, but had a really torrid offseason, and then start of the season, not only with United but England as well. There were signs of the old center back against Newcastle. However, he’s been prone to lapses in concentration and any of that, around Werner, Pulisic and Havertz, and you expect United to pay for it.

Prediction: After all is said and done, I think United edge this one. They just seem a little more clear in what they’re trying to do. United to take all three points.

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