SOCCER

As COVID Disrupts EPL, There Are Still Great Matches To Watch

Dec 29, 2021, 9:55 AM
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Reece James of Chelsea is tackled by Matt Targett of Aston Villa...
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Reece James of Chelsea is tackled by Matt Targett of Aston Villa during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park on December 26, 2021 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – As COVID-19 once again disrupts the festive English Premier League fixtures, teams and managers are left sweating about who is available and who is being pushed towards the red line as the number of games and minutes test even the strongest and fittest of players.

Chelsea v. Brighton and Hove Albion

Wednesday you can catch the 12:30 p.m. kickoff on Peacock Premium, as the last few games of 2021 round off what has been a highly entertaining year.

Chelsea as we know has struggled a bit lately with covid and injuries disrupting them. A solid win against Villa at the weekend got them back on track, and they’ll want to really push on now as they look to have some more players available. Sadly, Ben Chilwell won’t be. The England international left-back suffered a knee injury a little while ago, and it’s now decided that the best course of action is surgery, and thus ending his season.

Chelsea’s strength has been tested recently. Their defensive shape and stingy numbers of goals allowed have suffered. Of course, there are ups and downs during the season, but Chelsea is built from the back, and for large parts their three center backs led by the veterans in Silva and Rüdiger are very well organized. And their wing-backs in Marcos Alonso on the left and Reece James on the right provide good overlapping width for the attack and then drop back to make a five-man defense. Keep an eye on Italian international Jorginho, while he pulls the strings deep in the central midfield areas as he looks to connect the likes of Mason Mount, Hudson-Odoi and Pulisic in the attack.

One man that will be desperate for a start and add to his substitute appearance from the bench is big money man Romelu Lukaku. He grabbed his fourth EPL goal of the season against Villa, and made Villa center back Tyrone Mings, who had been relatively at ease prior to Lukaku’s introduction, much more worried and the big Belgian bullied the England international for the rest of the game. Chelsea will hope that his stop-start return to the Blues will finally gain some traction as he looks to fire them back into the title race.

Brighton ran out 2-0 winners on Boxing Day against Brentford, sat in 11th on 23 points, this win was their first since September 19th. After such a bright start to the season for the Seagulls their form dropped off as they failed to convert chances. Graham Potter has his lads playing impressive soccer, they move the ball well, but they have an issue that has plagued them for a few seasons now. They need a good finisher. Someone who can help Brighton’s style be more ruthless and compliment Leandro Trossard, and although Neal Maupay leads the way with seven goals for Brighton, he can be erratic at times. Brighton in full flow is actually more attractive to watch than Chelsea, but Chelsea has this powerful element that nullifies even the best attacks, they suffocate and then look to counter using pace and power, using either width or narrower, it’s a good unit that Tuchel has made his own.

Prediction: I’m expecting a really fun match between these two, don’t be surprised if Brighton get a hold of the ball and play some great possession soccer. Ultimately, they’re a little toothless and if they don’t take advantage of the chances they create, I do fully expect Chelsea to be much more clinical, and I think Lukaku could well be the match-winner.

That’s it for the midweek game, we’ll be back Friday as we preview the first games of 2022!

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As COVID Disrupts EPL, There Are Still Great Matches To Watch