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Premier League’s Manchester Derby Is The Best Way To Start The Weekend Round

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)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – After a flurry of midweek matches, we reach a decisive part of the season as the top two teams, Manchester City and Manchester United go at it on Sunday.

Qualification for Europe will once again resume for the chasing pack and there are two massive fixtures involving teams near the bottom, as the survival battle heats up.

Manchester City v. Manchester United

The Manchester Derby, we couldn’t start the weekend off any other way, surely? All eyes will be on the Etihad Stadium on Sunday as the top two teams go at it on NBCSN at 9:30 a.m.

United looking to dent City rivals title challenge in the hope they can peg them back and potentially cause City a mini-crisis. The reality is, and even over the last few weeks, City looks unstoppable.

United coming off a poor result midweek (0-0) against Crystal Palace doesn’t help their cause. The Red Devils though have been a tough opponent for teams in the top six. They will approach the match a lot more conservatively, but that won’t hurt City, they come up against it every week and will look to dominate. There has to be a change in Solskjaer’s approach because the gap between the two is 14 points and right now they’re the only real challengers even though it’s an outside chance.

United have relied heavily on their counterattack, but when that doesn’t work, Bruno Fernandes is often left frustrated as United struggle with their identity. They are a tough team, a big team and one that can dominate. But they have more to give, and they will have one eye on the teams below them, as Champions League qualification is a minimum requirement.

City on the other hand are on a ridiculous run of 21 wins in a row in all competitions. The soccer is great, and still they have become a lot tougher, their defense is one of the best, if not the best City have had statistically since Pep Guardiola took over. The rotation of players that the Citizens have been able to use over the last few matches is unrivaled. The squad looks fresh and 2 or 3 changes here and there doesn’t disrupt them, as you’d expect from an expensively assembled squad, and because of that the depth is phenomenal.

As with all derby’s, form can go out of the window. There is an emotional edge to these games, with or without fans. Bragging rights around the city are fun and what soccer is about. But United can’t put the type of performance they put in midweek, it was poor, slow and predictable. I just don’t see poor performance in this dearby from United. As for City it’ll be business as usual, a relentless approach to ball possession and attacking. It promises to be the biggest game of the weekend.

Prediction: United will look to slow things down and clog up the middle of the park, can they cope with City’s slick approach? It’s about fine margins (look at Liverpool v City) and if United can cut out needless mistakes then they’ll have half a chance, I just can’t see the hosts giving up their amazing winning run come Sunday, as they look to potentially move 17 points clear come the end of the round.

Chelsea v. Everton

NBCSN has the Monday kick-off at 11:00 a.m. and what could be a thoroughly entertaining affair. Both teams are aiming for a top-four finish and both fanbases and the money spent on their respective squads warrant European soccer for next season. Chelsea have been really good since the arrival of Thomas Tuchel, and it’s only looking up for the Blues with the German in charge. His ability to explain his philosophy and tweak his tactics have not gone unnoticed.

Chelsea play with a clear purpose and style, they are an aggressive side that is very organized at the back and pretty fluid in the attack. I can only imagine what they’ll be like after Tuchel has a preseason under his belt with the lads, and the ability to bring in a few players he’d prefer. But for now, they move the ball quickly down the flanks and press extremely well whilst also looking to hold on to the ball and make opponents chase, gradually wearing them down. Once again, if they play N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic could feature heavily in the center of the park as they work tremendously hard on both sides of the ball, providing protection but also moving the ball quickly forward with driving runs, or slipping the ball out wide to the wingbacks. Once again, this is a tip of the cap to Tuchel and his ability to improve teams and players through his outstanding coaching methods.

Talking of outstanding coaching methods, Carlo Ancelotti is starting to get his Everton side challenging for a top-four spot, this match is huge in their quest to be amongst Europe’s elite. The team is tough as nails and will go toe to toe with anyone in that regard. Will they out possess you? Do they have an attractive style? Not overly, but that’s not to say they haven’t been very good, because they have. Using their physicality to bully teams, their organization at the back to stifle opponents and their ability to hit teams on the counter-attack to deadly effect.

The players they have at their disposal have gone up a notch since Ancelotti took over, but it remains at the feet of Carlo and his ability to adapt his style to the preferences of the players he has. I think he is one of the best coaches in the world to do that. He is a deep thinker, and utilizes the players at his disposal to the maximum of their ability. What this has led to is a well-rounded team that if you don’t get to grips with, will leave you battered and bruised. Add the in form Richarlison who seems to make everyone around him better, they have the ability to make something out of nothing. Add the imminent return of James Rodriguez, if they can keep them both fit for the run in, then they’ll have a great chance for European soccer next season.

Prediction: Tough one to call, you’d probably give the edge to Chelsea, but the Toffees will be no pushover. Chelsea’s added quality or Everton’s brute force? Tuchel or Ancelotti? I’ll sit on the fence and go with a score draw.

Until next week, make sure you keep an eye on Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund on Saturday which is nearly always a cracking affair 10:00 a.m. kick off on ESPN +. And on Sunday is the Madrid derby! With huge title repercussions on the line. Atletico nursing a five-point lead over city rivals Real Madrid and the other Spanish powerhouse Barcelona. An 8:15 a.m. kick-off on Bein Sports.

 

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