Title Race Heats Up In EPL Heading Into Weekend
Feb 25, 2022, 3:36 PM
(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY – We’ve got a title race on our hands ladies and gentlemen. With Man City losing a thrilling game against Spurs 3-2 at the weekend, and Liverpool coming back to beat Norwich 3-1 and then finally playing their game in hand in which they thumped sorry Leeds 6-0.
After both teams have played 26 games, City now just have a three-point lead at the top. Liverpool does have a bigger positive goal difference though, and if the title race does come down to fine margins? Then that is something to keep an eye on over the next few months.
Liverpool and Chelsea face off in the League Cup on Sunday at Wembley Stadium with a 9:30 a.m. MT kick off on ESPN+.
You can catch Everton vs. Manchester City on Saturday on KSL 5 TV, 10:30 a.m. MT. Can Everton bounce back? How does City react to their loss against Spurs?
Leeds United vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Saturday’s early kick off at 5:30 a.m. MT on USA Network finds two managers under a little pressure, maybe? Marcelo Bielsa is adored at Leeds. The man, although an enigma at times, doesn’t falter from his way of doing things.
Man marking all over the field with high intensity with or without the ball. The issue is, his squad is quite small, and then having three key players out long term has made Leeds pushed to their limits.
The spine of the team is suffering with the loss of captain Liam Cooper, organizing everything in front of him at the heart of defense. Kalvin Phillips still missing in the middle of the park is a massive blow, his ability to protect the back four has been sorely missed, also his ability to drive forward with the ball and then his excellent passing range and vision have hampered the attack.
Lastly, Patrick Bamford’s goal threat has hurt the team. His 17 goals last season made Leeds a formidable attacking threat and they ended their first season back in the EPL safely in mid-table. Leeds is still playing the same way pretty much, with a lot of pace going forward with Jack Harrison on the left, Raphinha on the right and then Daniel James as the point man. However, without Bamford’s hold up play, and without the gaps being created by the faster players for Bamford, the attack is toothless.
⏪ Previously against Leeds United…
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) February 25, 2022
Last week, Spurs beat leader Man City, 3-2 on the road, and they were brilliant. Organized defensively, disciplined in the midfield and absolutely ruthless up front as Harry Kane looked every inch one of the best center forwards in the world. Roll on a few days and a 1-0 loss to the basement boys, Burnley, had manager Antonio Conte tearing his hair out.
What happened in his post-game presser was a man that almost willed his employers to fire him. Frustrated at his players, frustrated at the recruitment during the last window. From going through the highs of the weekend and looking to kick on, to the lows of previous weeks of getting unfavorable results.
It’s clear that Spurs are probably three players short of getting to the Pochettino days (I still believe Poch would’ve turned it around before he was fired) where you felt they were building something special. I still maintain that Spurs have one of the best attacks in the league, Kane is as natural a No. 9 as he is a No. 10.
Finish or create, it’s of a very high standard. Son is as good as any left-sided attacker around. The third option has been up for grabs, but the arrival of Dejan Kulusevski on loan from Juventus seems to be the man to fill the role. He’s a versatile player that can play on the wing like he is now, or the ability to play more centrally in a couple of areas. The one thing that he’s built a reputation on is his ability to work extremely hard, consistently over 90 minutes. He’s a constant thorn in the side of defenders, and at just 21 years-old, he has a big future ahead of him. If he starts on Saturday, he will be one to look out for.
Leeds showed some real fight against Manchester United last weekend, coming from 2-0 down to make it 2-2 shortly after the second half started, only for them to run out of steam, and the Red Devils quality showed through. Midweek they started brightly against Liverpool, only to get walloped. Losing 3-0 at the time, they gave up three more goals in the last 10 minutes to lose 6-0. Fatigue once again playing it’s part.
For me it’s for Spurs to lose, the attack, if it clicks, could come away with a tidy result. Either way, I’d be surprised if any of the managers lose their jobs.
West Ham United vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
To round out the weekend for us, we’re interested in this matchup that you can catch on Sunday. A 7:00 a.m. MT kick on the USA Network. Two teams that are in the thick of the battle for fourth place in the EPL, and at the very least both will be wanting some kind of European soccer next season.
West Ham who sit in sixth, just a place and two points of seventh placed Wolves. The Hammers possess one of the brightest English attacking talents in the Premier League, Jarrod Bowen. The winger has eight goals and eight assists so far this season. 16 goal involvement this season, only bettered by Mo Salah.
Bowen has come on leaps and bounds since his move to West Ham. Of course he looked very good in the Championship at Hull City, and it seemed like a good move when he arrived in January of 2020, but what he’s done to adapt physically and his constant improvement has seen West Ham boosted and become genuine top four challengers.
Of course there is a lot more to the Hammers, but the way this squad has been built, and the improvement of players has been a testament to manager David Moyes approach. Using a core in the squad, and only changing things when injuries come, but making minimal adjustments otherwise.
— West Ham United (@WestHam) February 25, 2022
It’s a solid unit that is built to set deep, with two central midfielders that protect, and then using good pace in the final third to burst forward. The likes of Bowen, Fornals and Antonio are able to spring forward and either keep going or pull wide and then allow a few others to join the quick attack.
It’s something Moyes hard perfected during his second spell at the club. It shows in the stats column, with West Ham fourth in the table when it comes to goals scored (45).
Wolves are quietly going about their business in the league. A change of manager during the summer allowed Bruno Lage to take over a team that had struggled the previous season. But Lage got his claws into the team quickly, building one it’s most used three defender system. He made them even harder to beat. They’ve conceded just 20 goals this season so far, that’s good enough for the joint third-best record in the EPL.
Of course, goals at the other end haven’t been flying in either, with just 24 scored. The majority of the season Lage used Raul Jimenez, Daniel Podence and Kwang Hee-Chan in the front three, but the return from injury of Pedro Neto after a long 10 months without him after a knee injury.
He’ll certainly add a much-needed option, and potentially more goals to an attack that should maybe fire a little more consistently. The midfield though is Wolves superpower.
Ruben Neves once again catching the eye this season, with his array of technical skills, passing range and hard work alongside compatriot Moutinho, allows the back three to be protected, and the wingbacks that overlap know that if they’re caught up field that those two are intelligent and disciplined enough to slide over. They are a massive reason Wolves are so hard to break down.
They might as well just cancel each other out, but don’t let that distract you of the midfield battle that’ll ensue. Soucek and Rice of West Ham, and most likely Neves and Moutinho (Dendoncker might come in) of Wolves, throw in some pacey counter attacks, and it should be well worth your while.
We’ll be back next week. Make sure you tune into Major League Soccer this weekend. Real Salt Lake will kick off their season Sunday on the road against Houston Dynamo. A 5 p.m. kick that you can catch on KSL Sports.