Warne: After Strange Midweek Round In EPL, Weekend Fixtures Get Exciting
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – What a strange midweek round in the English Premier League.
Manchester United walloped Southampton 9-0 with Saints getting a red card (ended the game with 9 men) within 2 minutes.
Brighton shocked Liverpool in a calm performance at Anfield, running out deserved 1-0 winners. Manchester City just keep winning, and it’s starting to look ominous as they tighten their grip on lead at the top. Arsenal went down 2-1 at Wolves, and the Gunners also finished the game with 9 men.
KSL 5 has a decent game that’ll kick off 10:30 a.m. on Saturday between Fulham and West Ham. Fulham fighting off relegation and London rivals, the Hammers flying high. I think there will be some good attacking soccer, and it’ll be well worth tuning in.
Now we’ve got a cracking couple of matches coming up this weekend.
Manchester United v. Everton
We couldn’t pick anyone else could we? United blasted an undermanned Southampton 9-0, so everyone will have eyes on the follow-up match and Everton are the visitors. Saturday’s match at Old Trafford is a 1:00 p.m. kick, on NBCSN. The ruthless Red Devils once again tightened their grip on a top four finish, and gave a none to gentle reminder to their City rivals that they will not go away quietly.
An absolutely ruthless performance, where they took full advantage of the early Southampton red card. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer urged his players on to keep running the score up. Shades of Sir Alex Ferguson, in the way United were relentless. They have their sights fully set on a title charge, and rightly so.
The soccer might not be as smooth as we’ve seen from recent EPL champions, but the power and counter-attacking prowess is something to be admired and enjoyed. Once again (and I feel like I say this most weeks) Bruno Fernandes will be the man who will pull the United attacking strings. The entire team is different when he’s in the starting XI, the drop off in quality and creativity is alarming when he’s not.
Let’s not dwell on the negatives right now, as the fast-paced and powerful performances are keeping even the neutrals engaged. Marcus Rashford. Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood will once again fight it out for three attacking spots that will allow them to be served by Fernandes. His aggressive nature not only drives the team forward, but puts opponents on their heels, as he is the ultimate double threat. Fernandes can score from anywhere, and if that is not on he can weigh a perfect defense splitting pass to the attackers in front of him.
Everton come into Old Trafford as clear underdogs. A weekend loss to Newcastle was followed by a very good away performance against the high pressing Leeds. Everton are a little inconsistent, but on their day they are a tough and robust opponent. What they need though, is an injection of good form for their star Brazilian, Richarlison. He’s been a shadow of his brilliant best. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is going through a dry spell in front of goal, and James Rodriguez can’t seem to stay healthy. But that front three is as good as anything outside the “big 4”. Carlo Ancelotti will look to keep things tight, try to nullify the counter-attacking threat United rely heavily on. They’ll make United try to break through them, flipping the script almost, as they try to counter attack themselves. Both teams are tall for the most part, and set-pieces could be vital when it comes to goals.
Prediction: For all of Everton’s ability, I can only see the hot Man Utd getting all three points. This will be an entertaining one, though, so strap yourselves in for a gritty game.
Liverpool v. Manchester City
The leaders come into Anfield, looking to claim three points and effectively end the defending champions title defense. A 9:30 a.m. kick off on Peacock, for your Sunday showdown. Games between the two over the last few seasons have been of the highest quality. With some of the most ferocious atmospheres to go along with it, sadly no fans will be in the stadium again, so they will miss this spectacle first hand. Thankfully we get to kick back and watch.
Liverpool put in a tired performance against Brighton midweek, a long way short of the performances we saw the week before. The injury bug has ravaged the champions, there is no doubt about that. But they’ve looked a shade slower and a little more predictable this season, something that can only really be assessed in the summer, a full squad and knowing their in’s and outs.
City on the flipside of this, aren’t overly attractive in attack, but they have shored up their defense, so much so that they continue to win, relying on a strong and organized defense to see out games. It’s a different approach for Pep Guardiola, who is well known for his gung-ho approach to attacking and maintaining possession during the game. Until last few seasons, his City team toyed with the EPL. It wasn’t until Jurgen Klopp got the Reds up and challenging that the Spaniard finally had a nemesis. Liverpool pushed City and both teams coming just shy of 100 points is unheard of. Liverpool and City are two teams that have dominated the last couple of years with extraordinary numbers and totals being achieved.
For most of the season Liverpool has played with a makeshift defense, and on the other side, for the most part, City has played without a focal point type central forward. It’s been an intriguing season so far, but one that shows a different side to the Citizens, they feel tougher, look meaner. Liverpool will try to impose their game on City who has more points, but will likely give up some possession as they try to utilize the counter-attack. Some of this depends on Mo Salah getting in goalscoring positions, and potentially Sadio Mané returning from injury. If not then I think Liverpool will be huge outsiders. They will compete, but City’s relentless approach to possession and ball movement, make them favorites for me. A lot is on the line, as the Reds try to close the gap and keep a finger in the title race, if they draw it’s not the end of the world, but I just can’t see the Blue half of Manchester dropping many points between now and the end of the season.