SOCCER

Premier League Fixtures Charge On As Storm Eunice Rages

Feb 18, 2022, 1:38 PM
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 13: Antonio Conte, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur reacts during the Premie...
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 13: Antonio Conte, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur reacts during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on February 13, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – COVID-19 makeup games are starting to be played and the league table is starting to really take shape.

With Spurs in a bit of a nosedive right now, their initial top-four hopes have taken a hit. It’s the first tough test for the brilliant Antonio Conte, and he made a pointed remark at Spurs’ recruitment during the January transfer window. With four players out the door and only two coming in he feels his Spurs team is weaker.

Newcastle made it three wins in a row but suffered the bad news that outstanding right-back Kieran Trippier fractured a metatarsal. He’s undergone surgery and they do believe he’ll be back before the season is over, which could be vital in their pursuit for survival.

It should be noted that Storm Eunice is raging across the British Isles and Friday’s Championship game between AFC Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest has been called off. Hoping the weekend fixtures aren’t affected.

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Saturday’s 10:30 a.m. kick-off on KSL 5 should be the game of the weekend. What can we say about City? They are in control when it comes to the EPL title race. Reigning champions that hold a nine-point lead at the top of the table, and even if Liverpool win their game in hand, the lead will still be six points.

City has been great, thundering along and opening up teams on a regular basis. A fast possession game that is at times suffocating for opponents, and even if it doesn’t click or they cannot find that final pass to open up the most stubborn of low block teams, there is more often than not a moment of brilliance that allows them to score and keep their momentum. Against Norwich last week they hardly had to shift out of second gear as they ran out comfortable 4-0 on the road, with Raheem Sterling getting into double figures (10) in EPL goals this season with a very good hat-trick. Young superstar Phil Foden grabbing the other.

You can’t help but admire City. Yes, they’ve spent a lot of money and it’s a well-used argument, but what Pep Guardiola has put together along with his philosophy on the pitch is such a joy to watch. A typical formation of 4-3-3. Ederson in goal is one of the best in the world, and his distribution and vision play a huge part in how things start. The protection Rodri (or Fernandinho) provides allows the other two central midfielders, usually a mixture of İlkay Gündoğan, Kevin De Bruyne, and Bernardo Silva. Their movement, vision, and execution when it comes to passing is extraordinary. You now throw in the movement of the front three and you see defenses pulled everywhere.

Tottenham after a bright start under Antonio Conte have been struggling. Conte has always prided himself on having his teams defensively sound. And last weekend they gave up some awful goals against Wolves, stuff that managers can’t coach out. Wouldn’t surprise me if changes are made during the summer. Conte also loves experienced players so don’t be surprised if he brings in an old head at some point. Right now though I don’t think he entirely trusts his back three, but their decision-making and reactions need to be sharper. What they do have though is goals, and they’ll need to do a better job of getting the ball forward to the danger men. Harry Kane will once again lead the line with Son Heung-min to the left and maybe Lucas Moura to the right. The central midfield is a little bit confusing as well. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg was on the bench for the last game, and Harry Winks along with new man Rodrigo Bentancur were in the heart of the midfield. I still think Danish international Højbjerg is the way forward, and Conte could even switch from his 3-4-3 to a 3-5-2 to add some stability; but then that likely takes away from the attacking options. The wing-backs have rarely impressed at Spurs this season. That said, if Conte can get the defensive shape right, and if the players are intelligent enough to adhere to their manager’s tried and tested style, they could well shoot up the table.

Prediction: Spurs are talented. On any given day they can be a handful for even the best teams, but they are inconsistent. They have game-winners, but less options since the transfer window closed. So City, the home team, playing at the top of their game with the options available should win this. For Spurs, a tiny victory would be seeing their defensive unit actually look like one.

That’ll do it for this week. We’ll be back next week to finish off the month.

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Premier League Fixtures Charge On As Storm Eunice Rages