Thursday, December 17, 2020

This Week in The Premier League: Battle of Anfield; Chelsea Stall, Everton Ball; Baggies Say Bye to Bilic; Weekend’s Best

Liverpool v. Spurs

Wednesday's match at Anfield featured managers who both have Premier League and Champions League titles to their name.  The two managerial legends continued jousting after Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat of Spurs.  Mourinho’s post game claim to Klopp that the “better team lost” has sparked debate.  Despite only 24% possession, Spurs perhaps had the better chances with both Steven Bergwijn and Harry Kane missing golden opportunities.  In a game of tight margins, Liverpool’s opening goal from Mohamed Salah, the eleventh for the Egyptian striker, found the net only after a wicked deflection off the foot of Spurs defender Toby Alderweireld.  Son Heung-min’s eleventh goal of the season for Spurs could have been ruled offside.  A late header from forward Bobby Firmino captured the three points for Liverpool.  In the end it was a tactical masterpiece between the pressing style of Liverpool and a defensively solid Spurs side dangerous on the counter.  Liverpool will value the three points over style points.  The defending champions again top the table and create some space between themselves and second place Spurs.


Chelsea's high-flying attack has been grounded in recent matches as the Blues now find themselves sixth in the table.  The Blues suffered a second consecutive defeat when falling to Wolves on Tuesday.  The Hakim Ziyech injury seems to be weighing heavily on the team’s creativity.  Christian Pulisic continues to wrestle with hamstring issues.  Timo Werner has cooled, and Kai Havertz has yet to heat up.  Despite an impressive nine game unbeaten run prior to the two losses, Chelsea is yet to beat a team in the top half of the table this year.  


The Toffees registered a second consecutive win as they defeated Leicester just four days after their victory over Chelsea.  Everton posted clean sheets in both contests, the first clean sheets by their defense since the opening match of the season.  The Toffees, rising to fifth in the table,  are back in the top four discussion as they have proceeded to lose just once in their last five matches following a three-match losing run.

West Brom Managerial Change 

West Brom has replaced Slaven Bilic with Premier League survival specialist Sam Allardyce.  The Baggies will hope for Big Sam to continue his track record of keeping teams up, including rescuing Crystal Palace and Sunderland in recent seasons.  Allardyce becomes the fourth manager (Allardyce, Hodgson, Pardew, Pulis) to manage both Crystal Palace and West Brom in the past decade.  West Brom parted ways with Bilic following a 1-1 draw with Manchester City.    Ironically, the Baggies played perhaps their best match of the season against the Citizens.  Bilic had joined West Brom in June 2019 and guided them to promotion to the Premier League.  The Baggies, however, began to show some cracks towards the end of their promotion season in the Championship and this year have leaked more goals than any Premier League club.    Despite their poor season to date, the Baggies are just two points from safety. 

Top Games Coming This Weekend

Manchester City hopes to continue its march up the table when they visit St. Mary’s to face third place Southampton.  The surprising Saints have lost only one match since two season opening defeats.  Liverpool will need to avoid letdown after their big victory over Spurs when the Reds pay a visit to Crystal Palace this weekend.  While Liverpool has won on its last six visits to Selhurst Park, the Eagles have lost but one of four home matches this season.  Spurs return home to face a  fourth place Leicester side looking to rebound from this week’s loss to Everton.  The Toffees will look for a third straight win when they face struggling Arsenal. Chelsea’s London derby, versus seventh in the table West Ham, provides them opportunity to end a two-match losing run and record their first win this season over a top half club.  Manchester United will be playing on only one day’s rest when they face a Leeds squad which notched five goals versus Newcastle in their last outing.  Sam Allardyce makes his Premier League return as West Brom faces Aston Villa in a West Midlands derby.

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