Friday, September 17, 2021

Premier League Preview: Week 5

Manchester United will want to quickly put Tuesday’s Champions League loss behind them when they travel to West Ham this weekend. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer received criticism for some of his personnel decisions in the loss to Young Boys and the manager will need to play his best line-up against a strong Hammer squad and one-time Red Devil manager David Moyes. Jesse Lingard, responsible for a critical error in Tuesday’s loss, would love to redeem himself with a good showing against the West Ham squad he played so well for last season. While remaining undefeated, the Hammers will have been disappointed in grabbing just a point from each of their last two matches with Crystal Palace and Southampton. Moyes though will be without the Hammers’ all-time leading Premier League scorer, Michail Antonio, due to a red card suspension.

Spurs play host to Chelsea in a London derby which will be telling for manager Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.

Previously unbeaten Spurs looked highly vulnerable in last week’s defeat to Crystal Palace but, in fairness, the club might well have been undone by missing players to injury, quarantine and suspension. The availability of Son Heung-min, who was injured over international break, remains a huge doubt for the match against Chelsea. The Spurs attack was listless in the Korean’s absence last week as Harry Kane was deprived of a touch in the opponent’s box last week for the first time in his Premier league career. Even with Son, Spurs will be challenged to penetrate a daunting Chelsea defense which has yet to concede a goal from open play this season across all competitions.

Undefeated Liverpool returns home to Anfield to take on a reinvigorated Crystal Palace team. A potentially thin Liverpool midfield will be without the seriously injured Harvey Elliott. Goods news was received this week that Elliott’s ankle surgery went well, and he could yet return this season.

The Eagles have been energized by Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher and newly acquired striker Odsonne Edouard. The Eagles were flying last week in their takedown of an undermanned Spurs team, but the challenge will be much tougher against Jurgen Klopp’s side. Liverpool have won eight straight league matches against the Eagles.

Southampton is winless this season, despite encouraging play by some of its new players, and the Saints’ prayers are unlikely to be answered when they visit the Etihad to face Manchester City this weekend. Manchester City is seeking a fourth straight league victory and comes off a dominant midweek Champions League performance. Will the revamped Saints defense be able to avoid the type of merciless losses Southampton has often suffered at the hands of top clubs in the past few years?

Brighton have won three of four as they host Leicester hoping to notch their first Premier League win over the Foxes. More known for their entertaining style of play, the Seagulls defense is perhaps under rated as the club has allowed fewer goals in the 2021 calendar year than all Premier League clubs but for Manchester City and Chelsea. Leicester have had an indifferent start to their own season, with two wins and two losses, despite a close loss to Manchester City last time out. Kelechi Iheanacho, so vital in a scoring role late last season for the Foxes, has been largely reduced to a substitute role in favor of Harvey Barnes this season.

Aston Villa faces Everton at Villa Park as Dean Smith’s side hopes to regroup after a poor effort at Chelsea. Everton, meanwhile, shocked Burnley last week with a second half goal explosion despite missing Dominic Calvert-Lewin to toe and quad injuries. Aston Villa should have Emi Martinez back in goal and Wil Buendia in midfield as the two players complete quarantine requirements from their international travels for Argentina. Meanwhile, the whereabouts and intent of another south American player, Everton’s James Rodriguez, remains unclear for Toffee fans who are likely becoming less interested in the wayward Colombian’s saga.

Arsenal visits Burnley as the schedule is again kind to them following their first win of the season last week against struggling Norwich. Burnley were poor in a second half collapse at Everton last week as they search for their own first victory of the season. Arsenal’s attack remains a work in progress, but the defense is improved with center backs Gabriel Magalhaes and Ben White back in the lineup and an impressive debut by new right back Takehiro Tomiyasu last week. There was even a Thomas Partey sighting during last week’s second half. Burnley were blindsided last week by an Everton flurry of second half goals as the Clarets lost for a third time in their four matches.

Brentford travels to Wolves for a match between two clubs who have struggled for goals. Brentford has one goal in its last three matches while Wolves scored their first goal of the season last weekend. Both clubs have created chances but have had difficulty in finishing. Ivan Toney, scoring leader in the Championship last season, is finding it tougher going with the step up in class. Wolves’ Raul Jimenez, meanwhile, is still looking for his first goal following his return from the serious head injury he incurred last season.

Leeds travels to Newcastle for a clash of contrasting styles. Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa will pit his wide-open style of play against counterpart Steve Bruce’s normally conservative set up which has frustrated Newcastle supporters. The availability of striker Callum Wilson, recovering from a thigh injury, could be critical for the Magpies to find success on Friday. Newcastle lost both matches to Leeds last season as Leeds scored seven times in aggregate. Karl Darlow could return in goal for the Magpies after his bout with coronavirus. Leeds center back Pascal Struijk is suspended after his red card last week.

Norwich hosts Watford at Carrow Road in a meeting between newly promoted clubs who already look ready for a return trip to the Championship. Saturday’s contest could represent one of the few matches in which Norwich may hope to be competitive. The Canaries lost 14 consecutive Premier League starts dating to their last visit to the topflight, a losing streak exceeded by only one other club, Sunderland, in the history of the Premier League. Watford, meanwhile, showed promise in an opening win over Aston Villa but have disappointed with three consecutive losses in which they have failed to score.  

Premier League In Europe

The more things change, the more they remain the same for Manchester United. Following the elation of Ronaldo’s opening weekend in the Premier League and a goal by the Portuguese striker to open scoring in Tuesday’s match, the Red Devils repeated miscues of the past in falling to Young Boys 2-1 in Switzerland. Aaron Wan-Bissaka drew a red card at the 35-minute mark. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made curious substitutions. Jesse Lingard handed the Swiss side the victory with an errant back pass in match stoppage time. Manchester United suffered a similarly shocking to Istanbul Basaksehir in last year’s Champions League when they failed to advance from the Group stage.
Following closer to script, Chelsea fared better as the Blues took care of business at Stamford Bridge against Zenit. Romelu Lukaku scored his first Champions League goal for the Blues and Chelsea’s defense was again smothering in a 1-0 victory over the Russians.

Manchester City was dominant at home to RB Leipzig. The Citizens posted six goals by six different players in defeating the German squad by a 6-3 final. RB Leipzig, sitting in the bottom half of their domestic table, do not look good under American manager Jesse Marsch.

Liverpool defeated AC Milan 3-2 in a match where the home Reds controlled play for much of the contest and yet had to overcome a first half deficit. AC Milan scored their two goals inside a two-minute span in the last five minutes of the first half after conceding an early own goal to their hosts. Jordan Hendersen ultimately scored the winner for Liverpool after Mohamed Salah had tied matters early in the second half with an acrobatic airborne goal off the side of his foot.
Thursday’s Europa League play saw West Ham emerge a 2-0 winner at Dinamo Zagreb as Michail Antonio and Declan Rice scored for the Hammers. Antonio’s goal was his fifth across all competitions this season as West Ham posted its first group stage European win since 1999.
Leicester squandered a two-goal lead at King Power stadium in a 2-2 final with Napoli. Napoli’s Victor Osimhen scored the 87th minute winner, his second goal of the match. Ayoze Perez and Harvey Barnes had the goals for the disappointed Foxes in a match which dissolved into conflict between supporters at its end with stewards and police intervening.

Injury riddled Spurs also drew 2-2 in their Europa Conference League battle with Rennes. Frustrated Spurs manager Nuno Espirito Santo saw forwards Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn forced to leave the match with injuries as attack options for Saturday’s Premier League match with Chelsea become even more limited for the north London side.

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