Friday, September 25, 2020

Match Week 3 Preview: Liverpool Versus Arsenal Headlines this Weekend; Leicester Faces Test from Man City

Top of the Table 

This weekend features three games pitting undefeated teams. Liverpool plays host to an Arsenal team which has now extended its unbeaten streak in all competitions to six which includes FA Cup and Community Shield trophies.  Arsenal has won its last two matches against Liverpool including the recent Community Shield win in penalties.  Unfortunately for the Gunners Liverpool is unbeaten in 60 home matches and Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are off to a flying start, combining for five goals in the Reds’ first two Premier League wins this season.  This weekend’s match will be a stern test for an Arsenal squad which was troubled by West Ham last week before putting the Hammers down late.  Kieran Tierney is expected back fit for Arsenal which will be helpful against a Liverpool team which may feature new acquisition Thiago adding creativity to its midfield corps.  

Current table leaders Leicester play Manchester City in a step up from the competition they faced in their opening two victories over West Brom and Burnley.  The Foxes do not match up well with Pep Guardiola’s team and have fallen in the last three matches between the clubs, five of the last six in all competitions. Worse still, Leicester has lost the last four played at the Etihad.  If the Foxes can reverse that trend, they will achieve their best ever start to a Premier League season after three games.  Jamie Vardy, with five goals in his last eight appearances against Manchester City, will likely need to shine in any positive result for Leicester this week.  Leicester defensive presence Wilfred Ndidi will be missing due to injury against the Man City attack. Manchester City has several injuries as well but should have more than enough to juggle the top table rankings. Citizen Striker Gabriel Jesus has scored in four of his last five games against Leicester. 

A surprising top of the table match sees Everton travel to Crystal Place on Saturday.  Crystal Palace scored its second victory last week with a well-earned win at Manchester United.  Wilfried Zaha, who has three goals this season, and a well-organized defense remain the keys to Eagles hopes.  Everton is perhaps easier on the eyes than the Eagles with a stylish attack under second year manager Carlos Ancelotti.  Striker Calvert-Lewin leads the Premier League in goals and the newly acquired James Rodriguez has settled nicely into the Toffee midfield. 

Mid Table

Spurs play host to Newcastle following a smashing win over Southampton and the recent high-profile acquisitions of Gareth Bale and Sergio Reguilon.  Son Heung-min’s four goals and Harry Kane’s four assists overwhelmed a Southampton defense playing a high line.  Look for Newcastle Manager Steve Bruce to set his defense far more conservatively to avoid the sins of the Saints last weekend. The Magpies were disappointing in a loss to Brighton last week and face an uphill challenge in London. Spurs could be weary, however, from a Thursday Europa league qualifying match in North Macedonia and their counter attacking offense could be blunted against a tightly packed Newcastle defense.  New Spurs acquisition Christian Bale is not fit for the game while fellow transfer Sergio Reguilon may make his debut in the Spurs defense.  

Chelsea travels to West Brom with hopes that high priced transfer addition Kai Havertz can find his Premier League form following a hat trick performance in Carabou Cup action this week. New acquisitions Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva may make their debuts on Chelsea’s back line.  That back line should not be overly challenged by a West Brom side which has been held scoreless in its last four matches against Chelsea.

Brighton and Hove Albion looks more dangerous this year in manager Graham Potter’s free flowing offense as they prepare to host Manchester United this weekend. Ironically, starting Brighton midfielder Yves Bissouma is suspended but will likely be replaced by Pascal Gross who has troubled the Red Devils in past games, providing a goal or assist in each of his last four appearances against Manchester United.  

Leeds travels to Bramall Lane Sunday to face Sheffield United in a Yorkshire Derby.  The wide-open style of Leeds will contrast sharply with a Blades team which allowed the fourth fewest goals in the Premier League last season while also being among the bottom six teams in goals scored.  Leeds is tied for the most goals scored in the Premier League this season and has been an enjoyable watch in both its loss to defending champion Liverpool and its win over newly promoted Fulham. Patrick Bamford has played well up front for Leeds which is still waiting to see production from Valencia transfer Rodrigo.  

Aston Villa enjoyed a man advantage in defeating Sheffield United last week on a set piece goal by defender Ezri Konsa.  Recently acquired forwards Ollie Watkins and Bertrand Traore are hoped to provide more punch in attack and may benefit facing a Fulham defense which has shipped seven goals in its opening two games.  

Wolves continue to reshape themselves with the recent purchase of Barcelona defender Nelson Semedo and the sale of midfielder Diego Jota to Liverpool.  Semedo, who had some problems while at Barcelona, is thought to be a good fit for wingback in the Wolves system.  The team travels to troubled West Ham Sunday with an excellent opportunity to rebound from a loss last week at Manchester City.  The Wolverhampton club have won their last four matches against the Hammers without conceding a goal. 

Bottom of the Table

Manchester United, looking up at the competition in these early days, seek their first victory of the season when they travel to Brighton and Hove Albion Saturday and hope to quiet the storm of criticisms which followed their home defeat at Crystal Palace last week. The Red Devils have won their last three against the Seagulls.  Eric Bailly is reported healthy for the game and it would be unsurprising to see Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insert him in the lineup at center back for the struggling Victor Lindelof.  

Southampton travels to Burnley having looked far worse than expected in their opening two games and could prove a welcome opponent for a Burnley squad currently racked by injuries.  Burnley has never allowed more than a goal to a visiting Southampton side in topflight competition.  A game time decision on the fitness availability of star Burnley defender James Tarkowski could influence the outcome here.  

Sheffield United has yet to score in its two Premier League matches this season.  That will need to change against a Leeds squad tied with Leicester for the most goals this league season.  

Winless Fulham returns home to Craven Cottage this weekend having shown some signs of life in scoring the final two goals in a 4-3 defeat at Leeds last week.  The Cottagers match against Aston Villa, winners over 10-man Sheffield United in their only fixture, should provide a better read on both these teams.   

London Stadium will be missing both fans and a manager Sunday with David Moyes having fallen victim to COVID-19.  The Hammers have been challenged both on and off the pitch this season with comments by owner David Sullivan this weak which depicted a bleak transfer market outlook doing nothing to improve the mood of fans.  A relatively decent effort in a loss to Arsenal last week will be quickly forgotten if the Hammers lose badly to Wolves at home.  

West Brom faces Chelsea this weekend having conceded more goals than any other Premier League team this season.

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