Monday, December 6, 2021

The EPL returns as Manchester City seek to break their Anfield hoodoo against Liverpool

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The English Premier League returns this weekend after taking break for the FA Cup and as usual, there are some mouth watering ties to look forward to. During the short break, Mark Hughes, who managed to escape the hammered from Stoke during the very hectic festive schedule, was finally let go by the Potters, thus becoming the first managerial casualty of 2018. His sacking wasn’t such a big surprise for most of us because we had seen it coming due to the terrible run of form that his team was on, losing eight of their last eleven matches. That was the major talking point in the EPL during the FA Cup break and our attention will now be turned towards football proper as action resumes this weekend. Out of the ten fixtures that will be taking place this weekend I’ll be previewing three that are sure to generate a lot of interests from fans of the league.

This is unarguably the marquee tie of this round of matches as Pep Guardiola will take his Manchester City team to their least favourite ground to visit in the league, Anfield. Manchester City have faced Liverpool in the league at Anfield twenty times and in that period, they have lost fourteen, drawn five and won just once. In fact they suffered a 6-nil hammering at Anfield in October 1995 and their solitary win there came fifteen years ago with a 2-1 win in May 2003.

However, If there’s any City side that is capable of breaking the jinx and getting the club’s second win at Anfield in the Premier League era, it should be this City side. Pep’s men have only dropped four points all season out of the twenty-two games they’ve played, winning twenty, drawing two and losing none. They also inflicted a 5-0 defeat on Liverpool the last time these teams met in the league and that has already set the tone for this game as a grudge match for Liverpool, who have strengthened their backline with the addition of Virgil Van Dijk for seventy-five million pounds, a world record fee for a defender. The Reds have shored their defense during this January transfer window, but have also lost some creative impetus in their team as Phillipe Coutinho has left the team for Barcelona and Liverpool will definitely miss his offensive contribution to the team.

Since that hammering they took from City in September, Liverpool have lost just twice and not at all since October and could climb to third or find themselves in fifth come full-time depending on the result and results elsewhere. They will also be buoyed by the fact that they have beaten the Cityzens the last four times they have met at home in the league. Mohamed Salah is expected to recover from a groin injury that kept him sidelined for the Merseyside derby last time out, while for Manchester City, David Silva may miss out due to personal reasons. This should be a thriller and could swing either way.

Spurs will host the toffees at Wembley on Saturday and both teams have sort of under achieved so far this season as it can be argued that neither team has met the expectations they had at the start of the season. The Toffees invested in a lot of players before the start of the season, hoping to seriously challenge for a top four place, but their investments have not paid off at all as they are currently miles away from the battle for the European positions. This trip to the capital isn’t coming at the best of times for the toffees as they are currently on a three game losing streak in all competitions and ending such a poor streak against Spurs will be a big ask.

Tottenham, on the other hand were on a three game winning streak in the Premier League, before playing out a 1-1 draw with West Ham United at home in their last league match. Mauricio Pochettino’s men just three points behind fourth-placed Liverpool and a win here will pull them level on points with the Reds, who will be facing Manchester City at home twenty-four hours later. Harry Kane, who has been outstanding yet again this season, grabbed a brace last weekend as Spurs defeated Wimbledon 3-nil at Wembley. The English striker currently tops the league’s goalscorers chart with eighteen goals to his name and would love to add to his tally this weekend against the Toffees.

The last time these two teams met in the league was at Goodison Park, the home ground of Everton, in September and Harry Kane bagged a brace as Spurs beat Everton 3-0. The signs do not look too good for Everton as they are winless in their last ten meetings against Spurs. Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose are both ruled out for Tottenham, while Harry Winks is a doubt with an ankle issue and Victor Wanyama is back to full fitness. For the vistors, Maarten Stekelenburg and Michael Keane will both face late fitness tests to determine if they will be part of the action, while Cenk Tosun is in line to make his debut for the Toffees after his big money arrival from Besiktas in this transfer window.

The reigning champions will host the former champions at Stamford Bridge this weekend and will be looking to return to winning ways after playing out three draws consecutively in all competitions. Two of those games were against city rivals Arsenal in the league and in the League cup and the league game was one of the most interesting Premier League ties of the entire season. It could have easily gone either way, but the Blues were much closer to grabbing the victory at the end. They conceded a late Hector Bellerin equalizer before Davide Zappacosta hit the bar and Morata missed a one-on-one situation with Petr Cech.

The Spanish forward had a nightmare in that game, failing to convert three one-on-one chances in front of the Gunners’ goal and would be looking for some sort of redemption against Leicester, who have conceded eighteen goals on the road in eleven league matches. However, Claude Puel’s men have also scored the same number of goals away from home and their dynamic duo of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have combined for a total of 16 goals so far this season and they should cause a few problems for Chelsea at the Bridge. The Blues have won their last four games against the Foxes, including a 1-2 win earlier in the season at the King Power.

Chelsea have also bagged 12 goals in their last four encounters against Leicester City and have lost only 4 of 41 meetings against the Foxes at Stamford Bridge. Antonio Conte doesn’t have any injury concern and could even have new signing Ross Barkley available, while Danny Simpson is ruled out for the Foxes and the duo of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth will both miss out. The Foxes will also have Christian Fuchs available, while Adrien Silva and Vicente Iborra are also over their injury concerns.

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