SOCCER

Premier League Has Super Stars On Display This Weekend

Sep 17, 2021, 2:51 PM | Updated: 2:52 pm

Cristiano Ronaldo - Manchester United...

Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United jumps for a header with Jamaal Lascelles of Newcastle United during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old Trafford on September 11, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – As the EPL heats up, there were no real surprises last round outside of the 3-0 walloping Spurs took against Crystal Palace, as the last team with a 100 percent record went down to a very new look Palace team that, given a little more time, could be one of the teams to look out for.

They made a manager change in the off-season, and this change was in part to become a little more attacking and entertaining. This could be it. And it’s all part and parcel of what will be an enthralling season.

The two-goal return of Cristiano Ronaldo for Manchester United, not only sent the Red Devils fans into a frenzy but EPL fans in general. It was a timely reminder (as if we needed one) that Manchester United is a contender for this season’s title race.

As the games keep rolling and the introduction of the Champions League and Europa League during the week we might see a little more rotation within squads as managers and staff manage the strain put on players.

This week, the games that I’m keeping an eye on are all on Sunday. However, don’t miss out on Aston Villa Vs Everton on KSL 5 on Saturday, with a 10:30 a.m. kick-off, which promises to be a solid watch.

West Ham United v. Manchester United

A 7:00 a.m. kickoff on NBCSN this Sunday will be worth the early start. Two unbeaten teams clash at London Stadium. West Ham sit 8th with two wins and two draws and will be without talismanic attacker Michail Antonio as he serves a suspension for a late red card against Southampton last week.

That won’t stop the Hammers from being what they are, a tough and organized unit that’ll break at pace. A vital cog is missing in Antonio. However, the guys that manage to spring the attack should be on show, Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals and Said Benrahma will be vital to West Ham’s fortunes, and you might see a mixture of all three instead of a point man, but other options to throw in the mix are Ukraine Andriy Yarmolenko, Argentine Manuel Lanzini and then new boy, Croat, Nikola Vlasic.

Another thought is that Alex Kral makes his debut and West Ham pad the central midfield areas to try and clog their opponents with Kral alongside Tomas Soucek and vice-captain Declan Rice will protect the back four, add bite and discipline to the midfield and drive the team forward.

Man Utd have all the attacking pieces to take any team apart in the league, and depending on how brave West Ham are will dictate if the Red Devils can tactically maneuver the Hammers around, or if they’ll be relying on a moment of individual brilliance.

The arrival of Ronaldo and Sancho, adding to the likes of the phenomenal Bruno Fernandes means the challengers from Manchester have options all over. It’s still early days, and at times it’s hard to understand what their plan is, but Man Utd are a better team than last season.

I still think they’re a touch light in the midfield (defensive side of the ball) and that might be their ultimate undoing. But the reality is they’re going to score a fair few goals and they’re going to be explosive about it. This is the first real test for them this season. And although not great against Wolves or Southampton, United got results. But this West Ham team is well drilled and well organized.

Prediction: This is Man United’s to lose. West Ham though are a tough outfit. And the Red Devils will have to go toe to toe with the Hammers. It might take a moment of brilliance but that is what we want. See a West Ham side show their credentials and find out if Man Utd are truly title contenders. A really exciting matchup.

Tottenham Hotspur v. Chelsea

Rounding out the weekend is an all-London affair and Tottenham Hotspur stadium. 9:30 a.m. on Peacock TV.

Spurs had a good start to the season and Nuno Espirito Santo settled in, implemented his ideas with what seemed relative ease. Santo also handled the fanfare of the Harry Kane “Will he, won’t he leave” the entire transfer window with smart and honest responses. An opening day win against the champions, where Spurs showed some steel and organization made a few people raise an eyebrow. But the same eyebrows were raised after a 3-0 drubbing by Crystal Palace, the early injury didn’t help and then the red card midway through the second half. This team could be special, it really could.

But a couple of injuries that happened midweek could also hamper Spurs this weekend. However, this team has so many options going forward that no one in the EPL can take their eyes off them. They are clear in the way they play, using the wide areas to pull and push the defenders around, creating little pockets of space for Harry Kane to pick up, and be what he is, one of the most ruthless finishers in world soccer. Of course, the attacking and flair players get a lot of love in my articles, not many people tune into see defenders (although there are some truly world-class options on show in the EPL), but a key member of Spurs, and arguably the man who provides defensively and then offensively is Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. The Danish midfielder has gone to another level at Spurs after his move from Southampton in the summer of 2020. He not only adds bite to the central midfield areas, but he is disciplined to protect and his immense passing range allows Spurs to counter-attack with accuracy and speed. He will be the man who will make Spurs tick, and imperative to get a result against high flying Chelsea.

The Blues might just be the most well-equipped squad to steal Man City’s Premier League crown. After a phenomenal introduction to Thomas Tuchel midway through last season, the German coach got the talent they’d splashed out on in the previous summer to click, the finished Top 4 (even though they fell away a little in the league towards the end). But a Champions League trophy wasn’t a bad way to end the season, eh?

This season they’ve fired out of the blocks and with Romelu Lukaku settling in immediately they have the finisher they’ve been missing. The 3-4-3 formation allows the wingbacks to provide width, and the two of Kante (should be back from injury) and Jorginho in central midfield is as formidable as any two around Europe. A mixture of tenacious closing down and power from Kante, and then excellent positioning and passing from Jorginho means Chelsea have a balance to move swiftly through the gears when defending and then into the attacking phase.

The speed at which they play is exciting. Picking a lineup is difficult to predict as they have so many options, and if it doesn’t quite click, Tuchel isn’t scared to make changes early to get his team carrying out his instructions. Truly, the depth at Tuchel’s disposal is mind-blowing.

Prediction: This is the weekend in a nutshell for me. Two London rivals that’ll go after each other, the crowd will be in full voice. But, Chelsea’s know-how will for me edge the day. Either way, turn the volume up and drink in the ferocious atmosphere.

That’ll do it for this week. I hope you enjoy the games on offer all around Europe. But especially from the home of football.

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Premier League Has Super Stars On Display This Weekend