Warne: Premier League’s Match Of The Season Coming This Weekend
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – After a solid set of results over the weekend there are three teams at the top, Manchester United, along with Chelsea and Liverpool. Chelsea and Liverpool remarkably have identical records!
Man United got a hard-fought win at West Ham, with injury-time heroics from David De Gea, saving a Mark Noble penalty to give the Red Devils all three points. Liverpool won 3-0 against Crystal Palace, in which Sadio Mane broke an EPL record. Scoring against Palace for the 9th game in a row, breaking Robin van Persie’s record of 8 straight against Stoke.
Chelsea strolled to a 3-0 win over London rivals, Spurs. It wasn’t even close really as the Blues comfortably toyed with Spurs. There is no KSL 5 premiere match this Saturday. You’ll find golf’s Ryder Cup coverage there instead.
Chelsea v. Manchester City
The early morning kick-off on Saturday will be worth the early wake-up call. Two of the big spenders in the EPL go head to head at 5:30 a.m. on NBCSN. These two will be in the hunt for a title come May next year. The solid and powerful unit in Chelsea and the free-flowing Citizens will show off contrasting styles.
Both are highly effective, both score a lot and neither concede very much. But they have different ways of achieving the same goal. This is the first time we see both teams battle since last season’s Champions League final in which the Blues were the winners. In that game, Chelsea were tactically spot on, and ran out worthy winners.
Thomas Tuchel’s approach is to stifle spaces for the opponents, making them turn the ball over and swarm forward, using their wingbacks to provide width and it allows their wide forwards to pinch in a little more and play off the impressive Romelu Lukaku. Whilst they have flair, they are defensively extremely organized and rigid, which provides a platform for the attack. Usually well marshaled in the center of midfield by Jorginho and N’Golo Kante, who are more hybrid type defensive midfielders, with Italian Jorginho really being the playmaker and Kante providing the engine to drive Chelsea forward. It means they are an effective unit on both sides of the ball, and one of the more attractive teams in the EPL.
City will come into Stamford Bridge a little banged up defensively and could be missing a couple of players, most notably John Stones. That isn’t an excuse, and Pep Guardiola won’t accept it as an excuse either. He knows he has one of the deepest teams in the EPL, and demands that whoever lines up carries out his instructions. City love to possess the ball, they are brave on the ball all over the pitch and because they move with the ball so quickly it puts teams on their heels. Those that go toe-to-toe have to be disciplined, and because Chelsea close down spaces quickly it means City have to be extremely precise in their passing game.
This will be a close one. With the personnel and styles on show, I think it could be the game of the season to date.
Prediction: It’s a tough one to call, I think it will be close. But with a few people missing for the Champions I can see Chelsea getting the win. Lukaku will be the danger man leading the line. But, if he starts, Kai Havertz could well be the difference-maker, as he picks the ball up in spaces slightly deeper in the attack. He almost floats around the attack causing problems and creating space for others. And for this reason, I give the home team a slight advantage.
Arsenal v. Tottenham Hotspur
Sunday’s 9:30 a.m. encounter for the North London Derby (NLD) is one a lot of people will have eyes on. NBCSN will carry this for your viewing pleasure.
Arsenal are hoping to add to their two wins in a row to truly get their season up and running. They sit in 13th and are still trying to figure out their identity. I’m sure Mikeal Arteta has an idea of how he wants his lads to play, and this is a work in progress. But progress is at a snail’s pace. They have some good players, but not enough to truly move forward, which is a little alarming seeing as they spent heavily over the summer. However, spending heavily doesn’t mean they spent well, which has been a huge issue for Arsenal since Arsene Wenger left in 2018.
At times, the Gunners can be defensively naive, and then in attack, they can be wasteful. They aren’t quite a cohesive unit yet, so the NLD could actually be a timely match, offering them additional motivation to be victorious. The NLD rivalry is often frantic with loads of full-blooded challenges, and usually settled by a moment of brilliance. A desire to not lose out to your bitter local rivals provides extra drive and incentive.
Spurs started the season with a win over EPL Champions Man City, but since then, they haven’t really shown their quality. I’m sure some of it is the squad still getting used to Nuno Espirito Santo’s ideas. The late start to the season for marksman Harry Kane hasn’t helped either. He’s a bit of a slow starter when coming in from preseason, add the fact it was a very short preseason for him after the Euro’s, it’s not time to hit the panic button yet. But, the lack of chances created is a cause for concern, they were woefully short against Chelsea last week.
The fact is, both of these teams will be up for it. In flashes, they can both counter teams quickly. What they need to do is cut down on the mistakes and poor turnovers. Spirit and fight should be there in abundance. It does mean some players can overstep the mark, but that is needed. It can’t be said enough how a crunching 50/50 tackle can influence a team just as much as a goal, particularly for the home team. It will be a white-hot atmosphere at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. It might lack some quality, but this one is about desire and grinding out a result, and most definitely not losing against the bitterest of rivals.
Prediction: This one is very close and it’s mostly down to form, both teams still finding their feet. This is game number six and there are more questions than answers for both teams right now. That said, home advantage will play it’s part. But mostly the result will be influenced by who can heat up, be brave and not turn the ball over in dangerous areas. I can’t quite separate them, but it should be a thunderous occasion.
That’ll do it for this week. I’ll be back next week as we creep into October. Already!