Friday, September 18, 2020

Match Week 2 Preview: Chelsea v. Liverpool Headlines the Weekend

Top of the Table

Stamford BridgeSunday features one of those games which supporters and neutrals live for. Chelsea, having expensively upgraded their title hopes with transfer spending this window, play host to defending champion Liverpool. In its history, Chelsea has faced no other team more often than Liverpool with this being the 125th meeting between the clubs. In Premier League competition, Liverpool holds a slight edge at 22 wins versus 20 for Chelsea in 56 matches. Back in July, the Reds swept by Chelsea at Anfield 5-3. A high scoring affair might be anticipated as the two teams aggregated seven goals between them on the season's opening weekend. Christian Pulisic remains a health question for Chelsea while Liverpool's Mohamed Salah is coming off a three-goal performance last week versus Brighton.

Another highly anticipated game this weekend sees Manchester City travel to Wolves on Monday. Pep Guardiola's squad begins its season still seeking to solidify its back line. The club continues to try to secure a central defender with Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly the most rumored target. While a defeat to Lyon in the Champions League has drawn criticism, it needs to be remembered that Manchester City outscored its Premier League opponents 21-1 in its last five fixtures last season.

Leicester plays host to Burnley at King Power Stadium as Brendan Rogers seeks to become the fourth fastest manager to notch 100 victories in the Premier League. Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Jurgen Klopp hold the first three marks with Guardiola having achieved his first 100 victories in only 134 matches. Saturday's match for the Foxes could see the return of play-making midfielder James Maddison to the starting lineup as he continues his return from injury.

Arsenal hopes to continue their fast start as they host a beleaguered West Ham squad in a London derby. Gunners star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finally signed his new three-year contract with the club this week, putting an end to retention concerns. Granit Xhaka is hoped to be recovered from an ankle injury suffered last week for the match with the Hammers. 

Everton looks to build on an impressive opening week showing as it hosts West Brom at Goodison Park in the early game Saturday. Everton had an eleven-game unbeaten streak at Goodison before a loss on the final day of the 2019/20 season. Maintaining their momentum will be key for the Toffees as they hope to vie for a European position. The success of their new acquisitions last week may bolster Ancelotti's case to ownership to add another defender this window. 

Old Trafford will see Manchester United open its season by hosting the Eagles of Crystal Palace. While Jaden Sancho rumors have dominated transfer conversation for the Red Devils, an actual acquisition in the form of Donny van de Beek will make his debut this week. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be happy to see his team returning to the pitch after a brief off-season marked with less than optimal behavior by some key players.

Mid Table

Wolves play host to Manchester City on Monday hoping to build on the solid performance they displayed versus Sheffield United last week. While a worthy challenge, Wolves have notably defeated Pep Guardiola and his charges in their last two league matches. 

Spurs was in the news this week with rumored transfers of Gareth Bale and Sergio Reguilon from Real Madrid. The Spurs visit Southampton this weekend with a great opportunity to remove the bad taste of last week's loss to Everton.

Newcastle, impressive in its opening 2-0 win over West Ham, will now hope to break a six-year winless drought in opening home matches.

Sheffield United travels to Aston Villa this week hoping to find some goals. A mid-week Carabao Cup loss in penalty kicks to Burnley will not help the outlook for a team which struggled in a 2-0 loss Wolves last week.

Burnley visits Leicester this week hoping striker Chris Wood can extend his consecutive match goal scoring streak to four. The visit to King Power Stadium is unlikely to be fruitful, however, for the financially pragmatic team which has done little in the transfer window but to replace its second-choice goalkeeper. 

Beyond its normally disciplined defense, Crystal Palace will hope for performances against Manchester United from striker Michy Batshuai and midfielder Eberechi Eze to help star Wilfried Zaha in the final third for this goal challenged team.

Bottom of the Table

Brighton travels to Newcastle Sunday with greater prospect for success than they faced versus Chelsea last week. The Seagulls are unbeaten in their last six matches with the Magpies. Brighton will hope to continue the form they showed in the Carabao Cup earlier this week in their 4-0 victory over Portsmouth. 

Southampton did not look good last week at Crystal Palace and the challenge becomes much greater this week when they face a Spurs team sure to have gotten an earful from their manager Jose Mourinho following their loss to Everton last week. Insult was added to expected injury this week as rumors swirled that Spurs were seeking to acquire Southampton striker Danny Ings. The loss of Ings would be devastating for a Saints team which earlier this window sold midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, also to Spurs.

Leeds returns home from an impressive, if losing, effort at Anfield. Fulham should provide opportunity for Leeds to begin their points accumulation on Saturday. The swarming Leeds attack, which scored three goals against Liverpool, faces a Fulham defense which looked vulnerable in conceding three goals to Arsenal in the opening weekend. Fulham's last visit to Elland Road in June of this year resulted in a 3-0 defeat to Marcelo Bielsa's squad. A similar outcome might be expected Saturday based on what the teams showed in their openers last week.

David Moyes may juggle his West Ham lineup following last week's desultory loss at Newcastle as he seeks his first managerial win away at Arsenal. The Hammers have won only one of their last eleven visits to the Gunners. 

Aston Villa opens its season on a high note, having just signed Jack Grealish to a five-year contract and having secured the services of former Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. 

West Brom should find no joy in Merseyside this weekend versus Everton but did make a move this week to acquire former Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic. The Baggies also added young midfielder Conor Gallagher on loan from Chelsea.

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