Friday, September 24, 2021

Premier League Preview Match Week 6: Chelsea v Manchester City; North London Derby; Villa Hopes For Better at Old Trafford; Seagulls Visit Eagle’s Nest; Salah Enjoys London; Chance for Norwich?

The marquee game of the weekend takes place at Stamford Bridge when reigning Champions League titlist Chelsea hosts reigning Premier League champion Manchester City. Chelsea defeated the Citizens in last year’s Champions League final and has won the last three meetings between the clubs. A win on Saturday would make Chelsea the first team to defeat a Pep Guardiola side in four consecutive matches while Guardiola’s eight defeats to Chelsea are already more than he has suffered at the hands of any other club.

Chelsea and Manchester City have each allowed only one league goal to opponents this season, the goal conceded by City leading to their opening week defeat to Spurs. Manchester City’s attack has been inconsistent with two five goal outbursts and only one goal from their three other matches. Chelsea’s twelve goals have been scored by ten different players. Edouard Mendy remains questionable to return in goal for Chelsea.

Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur face off in a north London derby meaning little but local bragging rights. Spurs sit seventh in the table after losing two consecutive matches after three narrow victories to open the season. Arsenal is on a more positive trajectory, winning their past two league matches, but have achieved their success against two squads currently residing in the relegation places. The 13th place Gunners have scored only two goals this season but are improving defensively with midfielder Thomas Partey’s return to action providing additional protection in front of a back four which has been bolstered by the return of Gabriel at center back. Spurs have failed to score in their last two matches as Harry Kane, the leading scorer in north London derby history, continues to chase his first goal of the season.

No Premier League club has accumulated more wins against an individual opponent than Manchester United has versus Aston Villa. The Red Devils hope to continue their torture of the Villans as Aston Villa visits Old Trafford hoping to win for only the second time in their last 35 visits there across all competitions. Aston Villa are far from road warriors, with only Southampton having suffered more 2021 away defeats. Villa will be without the injured Leon Bailey while on loan defender Axel Tuanzebe is also unavailable to play against his parent cub. Manchester United will hope to quickly rid itself of the taste of Wednesday’s Carabao Cup loss to West Ham. Jesse Lingard, who scored versus West Ham in a league victory last weekend, is looking to score in a third consecutive Premier League match. The Red Devils lead the league in goals scored this season with 13.

Brighton and Hove Albion are currently enjoying the rarefied air of a top four position in the table. The Seagulls, winners of four of their five matches, travel to London Monday for an M23 derby with rival Crystal Palace. The two clubs have a rabid dislike for each other despite the lack of any geographic proximity. While the Seagulls have been flying high, Crystal Palace has avoided the early season disaster many predicted as the club has captured five points from as many matches while incorporating eight new players and a more aggressive playing style under new manager Patrick Vieira.

Former Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard could receive his first Premier League start in front of the home fans at Selhurst Park.

Brentford will hope to draw on the energy of its home fans when the Bees play host to visiting Liverpool. The promoted side has surprised many observers with early success in the league, conceding only two goals in losing just one of their five matches. No Premier League club has been relegated after taking eight points from their first five matches, as Brentford has done, in a promotion season. Liverpool will be facing the Bees in a topflight match for the first time since 1947. The undefeated Reds are currently second in the table to Chelsea despite growing concerns in their midfield. Following the gruesome injury of Harvey Elliot earlier this season, Liverpool will also be without midfielders Thiago and Naby Keita due to injury for Saturday’s match. Mohamed Salah will attempt to match Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool record of 13 Premier League goals scored in London when he visits the Bees.

Leicester hopes to shake its early season doldrums when Burnley pays a visit to King Power Stadium. The Foxes have lost three of five as questions arise over manager Brendan Rogers’s relegation of last year’s scoring sensation, Kelechi Iheanacho, to bench duty. Defense has also been subpar for the Foxes who are hoping Jonny Evans will be healthy enough to make his first start of the season against Burnley. The Clarets seem an opportunity for the Foxes to get back on track. Winless Burnley are next to bottom in the table, above only poor Norwich. The threadbare roster of manager Sean Dyche has forced the manager to use the fewest players in the league this season. Combined with the oldest average player age in the league, Dyche could be seeing the end of Burnley’s Premier League run.

Leeds is also looking for their first win of the season and will be without striker Patrick Bamford when the Whites host West Ham. Opponents have launched a league leading 35 shots against a porous Leeds defense which has contributed to manager Marcelo Bielsa’s failure to win in five consecutive league matches for the first time in his Leeds tenure. Michail Antonio returns from suspension for the Hammers, hoping to score his first goal versus Leeds after nine scoreless efforts. West Ham is looking to end a current three match league winless streak.

Southampton welcomes Wolves to the south coast. The Saints have been decent, though not heavenly, so far this season, picking up a point in each of their last four matches. Southampton manager Ralph Hazenhuttl is once again receiving plaudits for the Saints’ play as the club adjusts to the transfer window loss of star striker Danny Ings. Wolves, meanwhile, have lost all their matches but for a defeat of newly promoted Watford. Worse yet, the Wolves have been toothless with just one goal from open play. It has been a particularly frustrating welcome to the Premier League for new Wolves manager Bruno Lage whose club has tasted little success despite conceding the second fewest shots and taking the third highest number of shots in the league.

Newcastle travels to Watford as the Magpies search for their first win of the season and first ever win at the Hornets’ Vicarage Road home. Newcastle’s chances of emerging from the relegation places this weekend will be hurt by the absence of injured striker Callum Wilson and midfielder Joe Willock. Watford, winners in 13 of their last 15 league (Premier and Championship) games at home, already have won two matches this season as they fight to survive in their promotion season.

Norwich travels to Everton with a chance to earn the Canaries’ first victory of the season as Everton is crippled with injury. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison are missing in attack and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and defender Seamus Coleman are similarly absent at the other end of the pitch for the Evertonians. Norwich manager Daniel Farke is also returning to the site of his only Premier League away victory. Unfortunately, the Canaries are still terrible as they are amidst the second longest losing run in English topflight history. 

Carabao Cup

The Premier League owns 12 of the final 16 berths remaining in England’s Carabao Cup competition. This week’s third round results matching Premier League squads saw Manchester United eliminated by West Ham, Norwich suffer defeat to Liverpool, Wolves go out on penalties to Spurs, and Aston Villa similarly be eliminated on penalties versus Chelsea. More embarrassing losses to clubs from lower divisions were incurred by Watford, which was eliminated by Stoke, and Everton, which fell in penalties to Queens Park Rangers. Winning against lower division foes were Manchester City, Burnley, Leeds, Brentford, Leicester, Arsenal, Southampton, and Brighton. In addition to Stoke and QPR, Preston and Sunderland join the remaining Premier League clubs in the next round with the Round of 16 matches slated for October 26th. 

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