Manchester Derby Gave Premier League Fans Hope That The Race Isn’t Over Yet

Mar 12, 2021, 1:28 PM
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Thomas Tuchel, Manager of Chelsea and Carlo Ancelotti, Manager of Evert...
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Thomas Tuchel, Manager of Chelsea and Carlo Ancelotti, Manager of Everton interact after the Premier League match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on March 08, 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 Glyn Kirk - Pool/Getty Images)
(Photo by Glyn Kirk - Pool/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Well, we got what we wanted last weekend (unless you’re a Manchester City fan) as the Manchester derby proved too much for the Citizens hindering their quest to wrap up the title as early as possible and extended their amazing run of 21 wins in a row for all competitions.

United was well organized and pounced superbly on some sloppiness, mind you, it doesn’t hurt being awarded a penalty after just over 30 seconds.

What it gave us was a glimmer of hope that maybe the title race isn’t a forgone conclusion.

Chelsea continued to impress and handled a rampant Everton very well, and West Ham United took care of Leeds whilst not at their best. And I think we might have caught a glimpse at the top four teams come seasons end with both Manchester clubs and Chelsea and West Ham looking good.

Leicester and Everton will continue to push of course.

In other news, it looks like the manager of Sheffield United, Chris Wilder has left the Blades. Last season, their first season back in the EPL Wilder guided them to a ninth-place finish, but this season the wheels have fallen off. Like all clubs, dealing with injuries, COVID, no fans and some signings not panning out have caught up with them and they’ve been rooted firmly at the bottom of the table all season.

I hope he gets another club though as I think he’s genuinely a good coach who has a refreshing approach towards the media.

Leeds United v. Chelsea

It’s the early kick at 5:30 a.m. on NBCSN and Universo, Saturday morning that hold my interested this weekend. Leeds United the entertainers and their gung ho approach, and Chelsea, even at this early stage, completely rejuvenated under Thomas Tuchel.

That new manager bump is truly in effect. Leeds sit in 11th and are looking to stop the run of two losses in a row, and my word will they give it a go. The attacking unit and the way they press and quickly move the ball is one of the most entertaining styles you’ll see in the English Premier League. Yes, they are exposed from time to time at the other end, but for the glory and entertainment, they are a wonderful watch.

Marcelo Bielsa has drilled attacking shape into his players, and it’s now so fluent that you fancy them to create plenty of chances throughout 90 minutes. Jack Harrison on the left-wing has continued to get better and come on leaps and bounds since his NYCFC days in MLS. On the other wing is the Brazilian, Raphinha who has adapted to the EPL almost seamlessly. His arrival from Rennes in France flew under the radar a little bit, talented of course, but his stock has risen so quickly that we shouldn’t be surprised if he moves on again this summer, giving a healthy profit to the Whites.

They are both ones to watch during the match if they start, as they provide speed, key passes and goals. Another one to keep an eye on is Patrick Bamford, a former Chelsea player. Never quite got the break at Chelsea as happens to a lot of promising young players, but looked to have an opportunity to be a solid second-tier player, but his growth and buying into ‘Bielsa ball’ has seen him increase his input at a higher level, currently sitting tied fourth in the scoring charts with 13 goals. They’ll need him to be at his brilliant best though, a player that can link-up play with the midfield, or drop deeper and find other players with a smart pass to have a shot on goal.

Chelsea will come into Elland Road brimming with confidence. Unbeaten since the arrival of Tuchel and almost immediately he got his fellow countrymen in Werner and Havertz looking more comfortable. Along with that Mason Mount has looked like he is living up to his potential, which he was teetering on the edge of showing. And there are a few others that have been brought back into the fold.

Out of all the EPL teams that could challenge Man City squad depth-wise, it’s Chelsea. And I’m intrigued to see them next season with a full preseason under Tuchel. However, at this moment in time, he immediately got them organized defensively, they look sound and efficient.

The control in the midfield has been key as well, once again N’Golo Kante will be one to keep an eye on. His drive from midfield is so good, it allows others to be better and on the flip side of that, his ability to get back in position and help out defensively makes him one of the best players in the league, no question. Chelsea’s attacking core has become a lot more calculated. Blessed with speed and also a fluid interchanging of positions that makes them entertaining. If you want to be entertained, this one is worth getting up early for.

Prediction: Regardless of the result, you’re going to get Bielsa ball next season, and come season’s end Chelsea will be in the top four. A game that should create chances at both ends, but the Blues’ ability to be tighter at the back makes them favorites to get all three points.

Arsenal v. Tottenham Hotspur

A North London Derby to savor on Sunday that you can catch on NBCSN and Telemundo Deportes, with a kick-off at 9:30 a.m. Tenth against seventh, I know, it’s hardly a table topper, but one that I’m pretty excited about. This fixture is usually hotly contested regardless of where the teams are at or the run of form they’re in.

Spurs won the reverse fixture in December 2-0 with Son Heung-min and Harry Kane with the goals. Note, Kane is the all-time record goalscorer in this derby with 11 goals.

Arsenal have looked a little better over recent weeks. Particularly in the attack. An assist for Willian (5A) and a goal for Aubameyang (9G) against Burnley is something we thought we’d see more of this season and maybe as the season wears on we’ll see these two fire a little more regularly. Defensively they aren’t the finished article and still give away some bad goals, but statistically, they are in really good shape, with just 28 conceded this season and only bettered by Man City and Chelsea. And they have conceded the same amount as Spurs. I think has been a huge blessing that Mikel Arteta has been giving the younger players minutes, it might not be fun for the fans that became accustomed to regular EPL title challenges and Champions League nights, but the rebuild is in motion.

How long that takes is another question entirely, but the likes of Saka, Smith Rowe, Nketiah and Martinelli have the potential to save the Gunners tens of millions in the transfer market. They play the game in a way that is fearless and the academy (Saka, Smith Rowe and Nketiah) has produced top talent once again. Fast ball movement with precise short passes and good movement off the ball. It was the Arsene Wenger way and the ripple effects will last for many years to come. In short, Arsenal can at times play some really good soccer, easy on the eye and smooth, but it is hugely inconsistent. They’ll need a solid midfield to protect that backline and deal with the power Spurs possess.

Mourinho is loving life at the moment. He finally got Gareth Bale on the team and Dele Alli looks to be well and truly back in the fold. Add Kane and Son, who have been brilliant all season and you’re now looking at a world-class attacking four that might, although an outside chance, sneak a top four place.

Just five points out of fourth place and a game in hand, we could see the race for the CL places really go into overdrive with it all to play for. Spurs have been predictable at times. Soak up the pressure and hit teams on the counter and it serves them well as both Kane and Son continue to perform well above their expected goals (xG) especially Son. I still believe that Harry Kane has gone up another level under Mourinho, he has 16 goals in the EPL this season and 12 assists. He is without doubt the best out and out #9 type forward in the EPL. And, in my opinion, only second to Robert Lewandowski in Europe. Spurs need this, they’re further in their journey and rebuild than Arsenal. And that is why it makes this match one to watch.

Prediction:Β Tough one to call as both teams are stingy at the back. Of course, Spurs are better throughout the midfield and forward line, but the loan of Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid has sparked the attack a little more for Arsenal. It’s finely balanced, and it’s hard to write either team off. Spurs have the edge, but how brave will Mourinho instruct his lads to play? I just think Kane’s ability to create something from nothing if asked will ensure that Spurs leave the Emirates with a point at the very least.

That’ll do it for this week. Make sure to keep an eye on Celtic versus Rangers on Sunday. Rangers already confirmed champions might be getting a guard of honor from their bitterest of rivals Celtic.

Also, on Sunday, the following games are on ESPN+. You’ll find PSV Eindhoven versus Feyenoord. In Italy the Serie A title race is close, where AC Milan will be looking for a favor from Torino as they take on table-toppers Inter Milan. Then AC Milan will go up against Napoli.


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Manchester Derby Gave Premier League Fans Hope That The Race Isn’t Over Yet