Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Premier League in Europe

Following a weekend of respectful inactivity, most Premier League club involved in European competition return to the pitch this week. Arsenal is the exception as their Europa League home match against PSV Eindhoven, originally scheduled to take place in London on Thursday, has been postponed due to concerns surrounding adequate policing numbers as Britons gather in the capital city in advance of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral. The status of next weekend’s Premier League matches still bears some uncertainty, particularly for matches occurring in London. 

Champions League

Champions League matches involving all four Premier League participants are scheduled to proceed in midweek. Chelsea, somewhat surprisingly given the cancellation of the London based Arsenal Europa League match, is on the docket to play at its west London home against RB Salzburg on Wednesday. New Manager Graham Potter will be in charge for his first match at the helm of Chelsea. Potter has no prior experience with Champions League and Salzburg may not be an easy opponent. The Austrian side, competing for a fourth consecutive year in the prestigious tournament, advanced to the Champions League knockout stage last year and drew 1-1 in their opening match with reigning Serie A champion AC Milan last week. Much attention will be focused on Potter’s lineup selections and tactical set up for his maiden match for the Blues. Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy has been missing training and could be an injury doubt for the Salzburg match.

Liverpool is home to Ajax on Tuesday as the Reds hope to rebound from their humiliating loss to Napoli in their opening fixture. Liverpool has never lost its opening two matches of a Champions League campaign. Manager Jurgen Klopp’s club faces numerous challenges to regain its form. Mohamed Salah is slumping badly, and the absence of Sadio Mane appears to be having an even greater than anticipated impact on the front line’s productivity. Liverpool’s midfield is riddled with injuries but there is also frustration that the club has not adequately invested in that area of the pitch. The defensive has featured poor performances across most of the back line. Virgil van Dijk is not playing well while center back Joe Gomez, pushed into the lineup due to injuries, suffered an embarrassing display versus Napoli. Attack oriented fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are being caught out with the center backs unable to cover for their venturesome mates. Robertson is expected to miss Tuesday’s match due to injury. Ajax had no problems is defeating an overmatched Rangers side 4-0 in their opening Champions League match and the Dutch champions remain formidable despite the defection of Manager Eric ten Hag and several of the club’s key players key players to Liverpool rival Manchester United.

Tottenham Hotspur are at Sporting Lisbon on Tuesday. The Portuguese side surprised Eintracht Frankfurt with a dominant 3-0 victory in their opening match. Spurs, meanwhile, eased past 10-man Marseilles 2-0 on two goals by Richarlison as the Brazilian is making a strong push to steal minutes from Dejan Kulusevski in the Spurs lineup.

Champions League action wraps up on Wednesday with Manchester City’s Erling Haaland welcoming his former club, Borussia Dortmund, to the Etihad. Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 appearances for this former employer. Despite prevailing in their opening Champions League match over Copenhagen, Dortmund has struggled in recent Bundesliga losses to Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig, failing to land a single shot on target in Leipzig. Haaland, meanwhile, has continued his goalscoring ways, storming to 10 goals in the Premier League so far and finding the net twice in the Citizens’ Champions League win over Sevilla.  

Europa League

While Arsenal’s home match is postponed, Manchester United journeys to unknown territory Thursday to face FC Sheriff in Transnistria. Transnistria is an unrecognized breakaway state from Moldova and Sheriff plays in the Moldovan domestic league. The previously little-known club gained notoriety last year with a group play win over eventual Champions League winner Real Madrid. Manchester United Manager Eric ten Hag will be keen to avoid a similar fate as Madrid, particularly after his club dropped their opening Europa League match. 

Europa Conference League

West Ham travels to Denmark to face Silkeborg in a Europa Conference League match on Thursday. Silkeborg have failed to win any of their previous nine matches in European competition. The Hammers will be without the injured Maxwel Cornet for the match but should have more than enough firepower to put down the Danes. 

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