Friday, January 12, 2024

Abbreviated Premier League Slate This Weekend; Chelsea Stumble In Carabao Cup

The Premier League executes its form of a winter break beginning this weekend. The league will play five matches this week and then five matches the following weekend, thus providing some time off for each individual club. Two of the clubs competing this weekend will be coming off Carabao Cup disappointments.

Chelsea is host to Fulham after both clubs dropped the opening leg of their cup semifinal this past week. Fulham were losers at Liverpool in a predictable outcome. Perhaps also predictable, but disappointing nonetheless, was Chelsea’s latest stumble as the Blues fell to Championship level Middlesbrough. Chelsea’s lower tier opponent is currently 12th in the Championship table but outclassed the Premier League club. Middlesbrough Manager Michael Carrick outcoached Mauricio Pochettino. The goal came through victimizing Levi Colwill, a natural center back, as he clumsily attempted to play fullback  in Pochettino’s setup. Chelsea did nothing with 80% possession in the second half as the Premier League side displayed no hint of how to attack the Middlesbrough defense.

Liverpool needed a second half comeback to put away Fulham but realistically the outcome was only to be expected as Premier League leading Liverpool seeks to win its 10th English football League Cup. Chelsea and Fulham will get second chances in a couple of weeks in the second leg of the semifinals.

In the meantime, the Cottagers and Blues meet in a Premier League match at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Chelsea prevailed 2-0 when the sides met at Craven Cottage in October. Former Chelsea man Timo Werner could make his return to the Premier League when Tottenham Hotspur travels to Manchester United on Sunday. The German has participated in training for Spurs this week and could be rushed into the line-up with Son Heung-min having left the London club to compete for South Korea in the Asia Cup. Spurs are still without the injured James Maddison and Werner could potentially provide a spark. Werner’s speed should be a good fit for Manager Ange Postecoglou’s attack as the German joins the club on loan from RB Leipzig with an option to buy. Heading the other direction is disaffected Manchester United winger Jadon Sancho who is going back to Borussia Dortmund on loan. Sancho previously enjoyed success at the Bundesliga club before his ill-fated Manchester United career.

Manchester City has Kevin De Bruyne back available and that’s bad news for Newcastle as the Magpies host the Citizens on Saturday. Erling Haaland remains doubtful for the match in the northeast, but he is getting close as Manchester City revs up for another title bid. Manager Pep Guardiola’s men are currently 5 points behind table leader Liverpool. Newcastle, meanwhile, has played terribly of late, losing five of their last six Premier League matches.

The most impactful match of the weekend could be the one occurring on Friday at the bottom of the table when Luton Town travels to Burnley. Luton Town has performed better than expected this season and a win at Turf Moor could enable them to escape the relegation zone this weekend should Everton fail to win versus Aston Villa. A Burnley victory, marking just a second home win of the season, would bring the Clarets within a point of the Hatters and deal a nasty blow to Luton Town’s survival chances.

Everton is currently safe by virtue of a one-point advantage over Luton Town. The Toffees face a difficult matchup as Aston Villa comes to Goodison Park on Sunday. Aston Villa is second in the Premier League table and has lost just twice in its last sixteen league matches. Everton did receive good news this week when Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s three match suspension was overturned, meaning the striker will be available for the match versus the Villans. 

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