SOCCER

Warne: It’s A Make Or Break Weekend In EPL

Apr 30, 2021, 3:51 PM
Liverpool vs. Newcastle United...
Allan Saint-Maximin of Newcastle United is tackled by James Milner of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Newcastle United at Anfield on April 24, 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 Newcastle United/Newcastle United via Getty Images)
(Photo by Newcastle United/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – As we move to round 34 it is now or never time in the title race, and the top four.

With Man City in pole position to wrap up the title, they could feasibly do it this weekend, if they beat Palace, early on Saturday morning and Man United loses to Liverpool on Sunday.

It’s been a strange season again, and without fans, it’s been a little flat. The hope of fans coming back at some level before the season is finished can’t come soon enough. 

Chelsea vs. Fulham

Saturday’s matchup between these London neighbors has so much riding on the line. The 10:30 a.m. MDT kick-off on KSL 5 is well worth the watch, with the Blues currently sitting in the fourth and final Champions League spot, with West Ham on their tails. On the other side is Fulham, desperate for maximum points because they could almost be out of games if they don’t.

The arrival of manager Thomas Tuchel once again looked to confirm his appointment was the correct one. A good performance mid-week against Real Madrid in the Champions League makes them favorites to make the final, and the momentum they’ve had since Tuchels arrival is for all to see.

Chelsea fans must be excited to see what he can do with a full preseason under his belt because I think they’ll be EPL title challengers next season. Christian Pulisic looks to have found favor in recent weeks and Chelsea has been rewarded.

N’Golo Kante is on a different level to anyone on this Chelsea team. He is a phenomenal talent that works so hard on both sides of the ball.

N’Golo helps Chelsea dominate the midfield spaces, which in turn, allows the attackers to perform and gives the defenders protection. He is the first name on the team sheet and has played a pivotal role that has helped Chelsea.

They are a well-rounded unit, that is defensively organized, comfortable in possession, and moving the ball quickly through the midfield into the attack. Imagine Timo Werner and Kai Havertz hitting the levels they hit back in Germany with this team. There is nothing but positivity (minus the Super League nonsense) coming out of Chelsea right now.

Fulham started slowly as they returned to the EPL, then got a bit of traction that made you think they might pull off the impossible, but over recent weeks they have struggled again as Scott Parker seems to have run out of answers. Sitting seven points from safety, the writing is on the wall.

I like Parker, he comes across like he wants to learn and his team to play attractive soccer, and they did for a while, but there were moments of extreme naivety. This team is better than their position, and there will be no shortage of suitors for their talent if they chose to leave.

What Fulham has are pieces that can move with speed and in tight spaces, they have plenty of dribblers that can hurt back lines. They’ll once again look to Ademola Lookman and Josh Maja to provide speed and creativity with the likes of Bobby Decordova-Reid playing slightly deeper.

They haven’t always received the reward for their efforts, and with just 25 goals scored you can tell what the issue has been all season long. They will cause Chelsea problems, but is it a reliable threat?

Prediction

With local derby’s you can say that the extraordinary can happen, but not on Saturday as Chelsea take all three points, tightening their grip on the top four and pushing Fulham to the brink. A professional performance from the Blues is on the cards.

Manchester United vs. Liverpool

One of the most-watched games in the world of soccer. Sunday’s matchup has massive repercussions. A 9:30 a.m. MDT kick off on NBCSN that could see Manchester United keep their slim title hopes alive and all but end Liverpool’s top-four chances; or Liverpool, put pressure on the teams above them and try to close the gap on West Ham and Chelsea, and potentially end United’s title long shot. Either way, both sets of fans will be delighted at the other’s demise.

United has been great over recent months, with the only blip coming last week in the 0-0 with Leeds United. But the relentless power they’ve shown this season will give them the base to put together a title challenge next season.

The nucleus of this squad is title challenge worthy. They are big and physical at the back and in the heart of the midfield, and then they have some really great attacking talent, a mixture of speed, guile, youth, and experience.

It’s as good as anything in the EPL. The vital cogs in the attack for the rest of the season, for me, is Bruno Fernandes who has pretty much carried this team on his back and woken the Red Devils from their slumber.

Goals or assists…it doesn’t matter, he’s got all fingers and toes in everything good that United has done and I expect will do going forward. The other is the crafty and deadly Edinson Cavani, the Uruguayan at 34, is the point man of this attack, I believe, a position that if his club had got him in earlier and maybe his manager trusted him sooner, United might be closer to Man City in the title race. Of course, hindsight and all that. 

Liverpool comes into Old Trafford clearly as the underdog and that hasn’t been the case over the last couple of seasons. But their season hangs on a knife-edge. An abysmal title defense, that wasn’t just down to the injuries they suffered. Certainly will need to be addressed in the off-season. Mo Salah will be the main threat from Liverpool. His EPL record is phenomenal and he has been one of the very few bright spots for the Reds this season.

He has been consistent, something Liverpool were renowned for in the previous few seasons, that has gone for the most part from others, but the Egyptian has carried on regardless. One thing Liverpool will need is the ability to move Fabinho back to midfield, he’s once again had to fill in at the back and been sorely missed in front of the back four. If not, it could be a long afternoon for them. He allows Thiago to set the tempo and Gini Wijnaldum to provide the engine for midfield, without him it changes the dynamic completely. 

Prediction

For me, there is only one winner, United. Whilst the title will be just out of reach, the foundations they continue to put in place will allow them to add another piece to what they’re building. It will be a close affair and Liverpool will have their chances and will likely have more possession, but Salah can’t do it alone. The supporting cast is woefully off the pace.

I can’t even think about next week’s fixtures, as this weekend could make or break teams at both ends of the table.

Soccer

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Warne: It’s A Make Or Break Weekend In EPL