English Premier League Offers Stacked Plate Of Matches For The Weekend
Feb 11, 2022, 12:59 PM
(Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY – A thoroughly entertaining midweek round helped us see what teams truly accomplished during the transfer market and maybe a taste of things to come.
Newcastle outlasted Everton, and in turn, plunged the Toffees well and truly into the relegation battle; and Newcastle moved above the relegation line. Burnley, Watford, and Norwich make up the bottom three for now.
Spurs were undone 3-2 at home against a fantastic Southampton. Aston Villa and Leeds played probably the most entertaining match of the midweek in a thrilling 3-3 draw. Leeds is just starting to find their feet again after what has been a rough first half of the season.
Villa on the other hand, with the addition of Phillipe Coutinho look destined for a solid table finish and maybe an outside chance of some European soccer.
Manchester United continues to look indifferent, there are certainly some glimpses of positivity, but the defensive mishaps continue to peg them back, as they ended with a 1-1 draw against basement boys Burnley.
Another Aguero hat-trick! 🙌
— Manchester City (@ManCity) February 10, 2022
Man City and Liverpool both ran out 2-0 victors in their respective matches. As well, neither team had to shift out of second gear. And lastly, a good matchup between Wolves and Arsenal saw the Gunners get the win on the road but suffered yet another red card. That said, Arsenal are sat in fifth, just a point behind West Ham, but also have two games in hand over the Hammers.
Chelsea didn’t have a midweek game, nor will they this weekend. The Blues are at the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
You’ll find Norwich on KSL 5, as they host reigning champions Manchester City on Saturday, slated for a 10:30 a.m. kick-off.
Everton vs. Leeds United
Saturday’s 800 a.m. kick on Peacock is our first proper taste of Frank Lampard and EPL action at Goodison Park (yes, I know they had an FA Cup game). His first away game against Newcastle ended in a 3-1 loss, and whilst it wasn’t great, it’s a game under their belt under the new regime. They’ve now had a few more sessions on the training pitch, and if they can bed in the new signings, plus welcoming back a couple of longer-term injured players, you do fancy them getting enough points to pull away from the relegation zone. But Lampard has to work quickly, because if the new manager bump doesn’t happen, they’ll be in the thick of the relegation slog.
A massive plus is that center forward, Dominic Calvert-Lewin is back and although he did not make it off the bench, he will be a welcome sign, not just for Lampard but the Everton faithful. The England target man has only played six EPL games this season and has three goals. The 24-year-old had 16 goals last season and adds a physical and aerial threat that has been sorely missed so far He also opens up space for others and most notably Richarlison took full advantage of his attacking partner’s presence, without him the Brazilian has looked a shadow of his former self and the hope is that the two can strike up their partnership again.
Let's go, Dom! ✊💙
— Everton (@Everton) February 11, 2022
One question is how Lampard will set Everton up. So far, he’s used three central defenders in a mixture of 3-4-3 and 3-4-2-1 and I’m interested in how he moves this team forward as they looked woeful at the back Tuesday. Add that Yerry Mina limped off in the first half (along with Demarai Gray) they might have to revert to a back four, which might allow us to see Donny van de Beek and Dele Alli be afforded starts. Although not defensively minded, it might allow both Gomes and Allan to sit and protect the backline and allow a more attack-minded midfielder to join the attack, this in itself should excite Evertonians.
Leeds has been terrible this season. Some defensive woes have been highlighted this season, more so than last. Along with the horrendous injury list they’ve conceded the third most goals (43) in the league. and whilst they will continue to be open at the back, their starting XI is almost first choice now, although the bench is still thin.
Much like their opponents, they have missed their main striker in Patrick Bamford who has made only six starts this season and scored two goals (two assists as well). He scored 17 last season and added seven assists. It has been a huge loss for them. However, Daniel James will likely continue through the middle for Leeds, the winger got himself a brace against Villa, and his speed will be again something Leeds will want to utilize. Jack Harrison will likely be on the left-wing and Brazilian international Raphinha on the right, the Brazilian will once again be the dangerous man for the Whites, his eight goals and his general creative presence will be something to keep an eye on.
Prediction: Both of these teams can attack, and they can do it at pace. But their defensive play will decide this fixture, if either of them can find a solution then they will run out winners, either way, I think there will be goals in this one, and maybe the home team will just edge it. Everton win.
Newcastle United v. Aston Villa
There is a glut of great fixtures on Sunday, but this matchup at 7:00 a.m. on Peacock might well be the pick of the bunch. It could be the fixture of the weekend actually.
Newcastle chose to only start three of their January signings on Tuesday, Kieran Trippier who joined earlier in the window already has a handful of games under his belt and certainly made the right-back position his own, getting his first goal for the club as well with a cracking freekick late on to kill off the game against Everton in a solid 3-1 win. Matt Targett, on loan from Aston Villa also started, so will not be playing against his parent club.
What you might see is Trippier switch to the left-back role in Targett’s absence, something he has done for England on numerous occasions. And then Javier Manquillo or Emil Krafth come into a familiar right-back role. New Zealand international Chris Wood also started, he joined in mid-January and made his third for the Magpies. Center back Dan Burn stayed on the bench while Brazilian, and one of the top transfers during the winter window, Bruno Guimarães got a late run out in front of the St James’ faithful. Whilst it wasn’t a great performance on Tuesday, there was plenty of grit and determination in their approach, and then we’re also able to rely on the brilliance of Allan Saint-Maximin. The Frenchman once again wowed the crowd with his pace and trickery. Driving forward to create opportunities for himself and teammates, working in tight areas and occupying multiple defenders.
Steven Gerrard provided plenty of fitness updates during his pre-match press conference this afternoon. 🗣️ #NEWAVL
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) February 11, 2022
If Newcastle do avoid relegation, it will be nothing short of him putting this team on his back. But, in fairness to Eddie Howe, he has the team somewhat set up, and you’ll see them utilize 4-3-3 and 4-1-4-1 on and off the rest of the season. Defensively they still look a little shaky, and with the introduction of Guimarães, we might see him take over that role from Jonjo Shelvey, who can play a little further forward in the central midfield and has a little more creativity in that role.
Villa have been great, and the arrival of Phillipe Coutinho on loan from Barcelona has created a real buzz around the EPL. He made an instant impact. In three games so far, he’s notched up two goals and two assists. And one player in Jacob Ramsey seems to have struck up a great understanding with the Brazilian. The youngster benefited from the two assists Coutinho has made, in the 3-3 draw with Leeds. And it is something the Villa academy product has shown since he broke through to the first team. An attacking instinct, popping up in dangerous areas. In his 20 starts this season (four sub appearances), he’s joint top scorer with five goals and one assist.
For all of Villa’s excellence going forward, they have not scored as many as they would like, something I assume will improve in the second half of the season because of the Coutinho arrival. They have had problems at the back. Villa has scored 31 goals in the EPL this season but let in 35. Not the worst defensive record, but something to keep an eye on, because if the goals do not come, they do struggle to keep opponents out. The hope will be that center forward Ollie Watkins starts to benefit from the attackers around him. Since coming to Villa the Englishman has been in and around the England squad, and whilst it has not been a great season for him in terms of goals (five) and one assist, compared to last season’s return of 14 goals and five assists. His tireless running, pressing, and movement continues to put defenders on their heels. He will be vital once again to create space for others in the attack.
Prediction: This should fully entertain, one team fighting off relegation and the visitors looking to chase down the possibility of European soccer next season. Goals almost feel inevitable, but I do expect Villa to be the more settled of the two teams in the attack, their issue will be the fact that Ezri Konsa will be suspended after his red card. Calum Chambers will likely slot in, but his partner will be the one they’ll hope has a better game. Tyrone Mings is a mainstay at the heart of the defense, and it’s a bit of a head-scratcher for me. He is liable to make a mistake or give up a big chance nearly every game, and if Villa truly have desires to make the next step, he will need to be upgraded in the summer. Villa win, and it should be a cracking affair.
That will do it for this round but keep an eye on soccer around the world, most notably the Club World Cup Final between Chelsea and Palmeiras on Saturday which you can catch on Fox Sports 2 at 9:30 a.m.
In Italy, it’s second placed Napoli hosting first placed Inter Milan on Saturday. A 10:00 a.m. kick can be found on Paramount +. Lastly on Sunday it will be the local derby in Spain, as Espanyol host Barcelona at 1:00 p.m. and you can watch that on ESPN +.