SOCCER

Warne: Manchester City’s Chase For A Title

Feb 12, 2021, 3:26 PM
Manchester City...
Phil Foden of Manchester City celebrates scoring the fourth goal with Oleksandr Zinchenko and John Stones during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield on February 07, 2021 in Liverpool, 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 Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – As the games rumble on, Man City’s dominance is starting to show as they get a grip on the title race.

We witnessed a somewhat close affair between the leaders, City and the reigning champions, Liverpool, last weekend. If not for a couple of howlers by Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson it might have been a closer score. But City showed no mercy and walloped the Reds 4-1. It’s now, in my opinion, the Citizens to lose.

United stumbled against Everton in a thrilling 3-3 draw, but they still look good to push City and secure a top 4 finish.

Leicester City Vs Liverpool

A top 4 encounter that will go a long way in establishing who has the ability to chase down the Manchester clubs and maybe launch a late title charge, depending on results and form above them. Liverpool (4th) visit the Foxes (3rd) looking to get their stuttering season back on track. And the Foxes are looking to tighten their grip on Champions League qualification for next season. You can see these two in the early Saturday morning kick off at 5:30 a.m. on NBCSN.

Leicester are in good form, and the soccer they’ve produced at times this season has been some of the best in the league. It’s mainly why I’ve picked this game for the ones to watch. They’ve produced results against the bigger teams this season and look a more consistent team. Defensively they look even more robust, and they continue to build that platform for the attackers to produce at the other end. The media have lauded the impressive displays of Harvey Barnes on the left wing and James Maddison in central midfield. But one to keep an eye on is Youri Tielemans who plays just a little behind Maddison. He is a great two-way player, and his calmness on the ball keeps the Foxes ticking over. He has great balance and can hold possession up in tight spaces. And with all the media attention aimed at Leicester, I think he slips under the radar a bit; but I feel like he’s developed into a vital cog in the Brendan Rogers possession based and quick moving midfield. They are slick moving forward and incredibly organized in defensive situations. They will also look to get an element of revenge back from the 3-0 loss earlier this season. With 3 points separating the two, the Foxes will be looking to make it a 6 point gap and strengthen their grip on the race for next season’s Champions League, and money that will be even more important during a pandemic.

Liverpool have been inconsistent this season. Disrupted by injuries, like every team, but this seems to have affected them worse than any other team in the league. Is it a mentality thing? They’re looking to stop the rot of two losses in a row, which in itself is foreign to them over the last couple of seasons. The title looks an impossible chase, but until it is mathematically impossible they’ll look for solutions to their issues. The fluidity and explosiveness is something that hasn’t clicked consistently enough, and it’s made the Reds look like a shadow of the heavy metal football team we’ve been accustomed to. For all of the issues, Mo Salah still leads the scoring charts. And we might see one of Jordan Henderson or Fabinho move back into a more familiar midfield role where there is a strong possibility of young Turkish international, Ozan Kabak, making his debut in the defense after his arrival from Schalke in Germany. The three central defenders Liverpool have lost have had a knock on effect and whilst they haven’t conceded a lot of goals, the midfield balance has suffered and in turn the forward line has also struggled. This game will still entertain us, but Liverpool might be a little more pragmatic about their situation. And Leicester as we’ve seen over the last couple of seasons have been overpowered. But it will be closer on Saturday. I expect a solid midfield battle, with both teams looking to hit each other on the break. The Foxes will likely be happy to give up possession a little and try to counter….And Jamie Vardy.

Prediction

I really believe this game will have goals, and I think if Liverpool get one of the midfielders that have been filling in at the back, it might swing them to slight favorites.

Manchester City Vs Tottenham Hotspur

This game has major repercussions hanging on it, and you can tune in to KSL TV for the Saturday premiere that kicks off at 10:30 a.m.

Man City will look to maintain their five point gap, with their game in hand it very much puts them in the driver’s seat. As we’ve seen, their attack is clicking at the right time and they have done it without Sergio Aguero and Kevin DeBruyne for the last little bit. They’ve been hugely impressive, with Raheem Sterling taking the captains armband and looking every bit the leader, provider and goalscorer. Pep, for all the money spent over the years, finally has a defense that gives him a platform to perform and I think ultimately succeed. Could it be their year in the Champions League?  As they attack Europe the EPL and both domestic competitions I can absolutely see a clean sweep from them. The style of Soccer continues to be relentless. Possession based and attacking, they are exhausting in their approach. And break nearly everyone in their path. This unbeaten run could go on for some time. Ilkay Gundogan looks like a different player after he’s played a little further forward in the midfield three, the goals are flowing for the German international. Add the addition of central defender Reuben Dias to the backline and he’s looking more and more like a bargain, such has his introduction been a catalyst to City’s stingy defense.

Spurs are struggling. They’ve looked slow and predictable and Harry Kane’s timely return will help get the Londoners firing again. But even before he went down with an ankle injury, Spurs didn’t look like a good team. The counter attack is all well and good, but, in my opinion, having no plan b has hurt them. It’s pretty much been one way all season long, and opposing teams have caught on quickly and closed down spaces that Son would usually get in behind regularly with. Now more than ever they need Kane’s ability to drop deep and be a creative force, and the elephant in the room….Getting Dele Alli back involved and to his best. An in-form Dele makes Spurs tick and arguably their best attacking midfield outlet. But can Jose Mourinho do it? He always seems to have a problem with someone wherever he goes. There is an argument to be made that he’s improved Son and Kane as overall players, so it’s not all bad. But, in other areas it doesn’t feel like he can adjust to compliment others to thrive. This stubborn and rigid approach carried him so well for so long, making him one of the greatest coaches to grace European soccer. And whilst he can still be competitive, I think he needs to freshen his approach and I felt Spurs was an ideal club for him to do that. Spurs will once again look to tighten things up at the back and make themselves a difficult to break down. That has to be the focus and the platform to launch Spurs back up the table. To do it against City is a tough ask, but if it’s to work, you’ve got to do it against the best. Spurs also beat City 2-0 towards the start of the season. They know how to do this, but I just can’t see a repeat this weekend.

Prediction

I think this will actually be a cracking match. But City are absolutely ruthless, they look the complete team and what Pep has been working towards since his arrival in England. I think they are close to the finished article, finally. Another solid win for the Citizens, leaving Jose Mourinho starting to feel the heat on the hot seat.

Until next week, enjoy all the soccer on offer around the world.

Soccer

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Warne: Manchester City’s Chase For A Title