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Poor Officiating, Use of VAR Highlights Weekend Premier League Round

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 31: Chelsea players celebrate Alonso's goal and Chelsea's second during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Burnley at Stamford Bridge on January 31, 2021 in London, 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 Julian Finney/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – After a low-key weekend round in the English Premier League, where there were no real shocks, the only thing that stood out was, once again, the below-par performances from referees and the poor use of Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

It seems to be a weekly occurrence and discussion. I’m hoping this off-season a few changes are made to the rules and that referees are held accountable for poor decisions. Pre VAR, there were bad decisions from the referees, and really it was accepted for the most part, but with the introduction of VAR we assumed a lot of these mistakes would be eradicated. But we were mistaken. There seems to be laziness or a sense of apathy that has crept into the game.

It’s time for referee repercussions for the most expensive and most-watched league in the world to be held to a higher standard.

Liverpool v. Chelsea

This is a midweek round that should wet the appetite for the weekend. It’s a Thursday showdown under the lights at Anfield with a 1:00 p.m. kick-off on Peacock TV. Two teams that are desperate in the fight for the Top 4 positions come season’s end for Champions League (CL) qualification.

Liverpool ended a terrible run of losses with a solid 2-0 victory against EPL basement boys, Sheffield United. And, will have, by the sounds of it, a few previously injured players back in the squad. The list of recovered players likely will include Diogo Jota, Fabinho and Alisson Becker, putting some much-needed depth back in contention.

Liverpool have struggled mightily this season as defending champions, and whilst the title defense is long gone, they will have designs on securing qualification for the CL next season; and whilst they’re still in this season’s competition there is still silverware and money to be played for.

In short though, it’s unlikely you’ll see the Reds of the previous two to three seasons until the 2021/22 season. That said, they are only seven points out of second place. And with the players coming back, they might once again hold their own against those around them. But they have to get the front three firing better, Mo Salah has been great for the most part, and you’ve seen flashes from Mane and Firmino; but they’ve suffered greatly from injury woes, which we hope are put quickly behind them.

Chelsea, if still under the stewardship of Frank Lampard might have been a match-up that was more favorable for the Reds, but this is not the case. The appointment of Thomas Tuchel was a really good one. Immediately he has organized the back line, and the attack looks, for the most part, fluid and full of ideas.

Tuchel looks to have Chelsea moving forward, where after all the money that was spent, should be happening. It’s a testament to him as a coach, who has long impressed at Mainz, Dortmund and PSG.

For this battle, it will be about controlling the midfield for both teams. The midfield play could be incredibly special, or it could clog the game and make it a predictable slogfest, as we saw with Chelsea vs Manchester United over the weekend.

In last weekend’s matchup, both teams looked at other fixtures to get up the table, but I might be doing Klopp and Tuchel a disservice. Both managers are front foot types of coaches, relentless in their approach to attack and entertain, and I think for the most part, both teams will look to do so.

They’re both possession-based teams and the battle to win will be intriguing. On the flip side of this, both teams can counterattack and have the ability to hurt teams if the possession isn’t in their favor. I really think this will be a fantastic match and one that entertains even the neutral fans.

Prediction: Tough to pick a winner on this one. Liverpool will be boosted by the return of various players from injury. Chelsea, with the abundance of riches they possess, and how they’ve immediately bought into Tuchel’s methods are going to be a stellar opponent. I’m going with a score draw, which will help neither team in their quest for the Top 4.

I’ll be back later this week to help breakdown a couple of matches for the weekend.