The return of the Premier League for another season left us with plenty to talk about throughout this week. We’ve set the stage for the full slate of matches here. I’d like to use this space, however, to dive deeper into some of the bigger picture storylines.
A Championship Battle Renewed
In last week’s duel of defending Champions, Leeds United made a statement. After 16 years, their return to the top flight was a siren call to the rest of the league. There’s no doubt they opened some eyes, not just against Liverpool.
Some of the buildup to Leeds’ return will be tempered by the lack of fans at Elland Road. No doubt, not having the faithful in the stands will be disappointing, especially after such an extended absence. The Whites will look to continue their attacking style. Their willingness to engage and take the game to their opponents led them to have the greater share of the possession against Liverpool – which is no easy task. When they take the pitch for this match, they’ll hope to be welcoming back an important piece of their lineup. Liam Cooper, who missed the Liverpool match due to a calf strain, hopes to be fit for this clash. If he can take the pitch, it’ll be a huge boost for the squad.
The visitors bring a degree of familiarity into Elland Road that the Reds of Liverpool didn’t have last week. Unlike Liverpool, Fulham has a much more recent history with Leeds. That could make for a much tighter match than the attack fest at Anfield. Scott Parker, the Fulham manager, will no doubt feel three points are achievable against the familiar foe.
Despite the drastically different performances these sides offered last week, they both came away empty in the points column. In the recent history of this fixture, the home team has benefitted, winning each of the last 8 encounters. Will that trend continue? I think it’s in the cards that Leeds will come away with the points, even if it does prove a more reserved game overall.
An Early Season Title Fight
In what is likely to be the game of the weekend, Liverpool will travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea. Their recent form against the defending Champions is not inspiring for Chelsea. They’ve won only 2 and lost 5 out of their last 10 meetings. However, this is a different Chelsea squad.
Even without many of their new faces, this team is primed for a run at the title. Timo Werner’s showing against Brighton will inspire confidence, and have Chelsea fans everywhere salivating for what will come over the course of the season. He’ll be even scarier as he develops chemistry with his new teammates.
Of course, the other side of that coin is the defense, and more importantly – the goalkeeper. Brighton didn’t provide much of a test for Chelsea, though they did put one behind Kepa. That only kept the speculation going about whether or not Lampard was looking to replace the current #1 backstop. The attackers in this fixture will prove a much tougher test for the embattled keeper. If he has a good showing, it could serve him well and help silence the critics.
After their exhilarating match against Leeds to open their title defense, Liverpool will want to make things much less stressful for themselves. Their newest signing, Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara, will be available for Klopp’s squad. It remains to be seen if he’ll see the pitch in this match. Given the 7 goals between them in matchweek 1, I expect there to be plenty of fireworks at the Bridge on Sunday. I’m not going to make a firm prediction for this one, because I don’t want to hear it from any of my colleagues who have rooting interests in this game. The only thing I am looking forward to with this matchup is being entertained. I expect another back and forth that could set the stage for what may be a see-saw battle at the top of the table all season long.
Turf Wars A-Plenty
Speaking of my colleagues and their allegiances – this week sees three different matches pitting our staff against each other:
Justin v. Myself
While I’ve been a Red Devils fan for quite some time (man, I miss the Sir Alex days), Justin is still relatively new to the EPL. His adopted team, Crystal Palace, will travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United. They are making their season debut in this match. I am fairly confident that I’ll have bragging rights in this one. However, in typical United fashion, they may stress me out before the final whistle blows.
Kevin v. Ryan
I was lucky enough to be having lunch with Kevin during Thursday’s match between Spurs and Lokomotiv Plovdiv in the Europa League. Talk about stress! It was tough watching Kevin try to remain calm as it took his Spurs almost the full 90 minutes to pull out the victory, helped by the fact that their opponents were reduced to 9 men for the final 10 minutes or so. Granted, not all of their regulars made the trip, but still – the match shouldn’t have been as tough as it was for Spurs. That could explain how we ended up still being at the bar in time for last call.
Ryan, another relative EPL newcomer, has adopted Southampton as his club. To his credit, he’s become a superfan almost instantly. The back and forth in our workspace is entertaining, and I’m certain that the game itself will be as well. It should be a fun watch, and as a neutral for this matchup, I’ll just be sitting with my popcorn, watching the fireworks.
Christian v. Katie/Wilhelm
For weeks now our workspace has been flooded with excitement from our resident Chelsea supporters (Katie and Wilhelm). Every day it seems like we wake up to the news of another player being added to the squad. They seem to be spending money left and right. Christian’s Liverpool side hasn’t been quite as active in the transfer market. Of course, that could be mostly because they don’t want to change what worked to bring them a title TOO much. Regardless of the outcome, I don’t think any of these three will have much to complain about.
- / 1 year ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.