SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Last weekend saw the much anticipated new ownership group in St James’ Park to watch Newcastle United versus Tottenham. The Magpies flew out of the traps so ferociously, and a Callum Wilson goal in the first two minutes, you could be forgiven for thinking that a new era was fully underway, even without the money that will be pumped into the squad.
The roar in the stadium was amazing, something that was missing under the previous ownership. Of course, there will always be question marks about the new group led by Yasir Al-Rumayyan. They are well documented with regard to human rights violations, but the takeover is done, and my only hope now is that with a continued spotlight on the EPL, and what Newcastle do every step of the way that they have to do better and be better to humans wherever they are.
The league also needs to do better and scrutiny should be on the league and potential new ownership groups alike.
As for soccer matters, well. It was coming, wasn’t it? Steve Bruce was relieved of his duties a few days ago. The blistering start against Spurs didn’t last and was well beaten in the end 3-2, but regardless of the result, you always felt this was going to happen and that talks between interested parties were happening and just waiting for something positive to emerge before putting the wheels in motion for a coaching change.
Brighton and Hove Albion v. Manchester City
Saturday’s matchup between 4th and 3rd is quite an intriguing encounter. The KSL 5 encounter will kick off at 10:30 a.m. and should produce some slick soccer. Brighton has, under the stewardship of Graham Potter, played some excellent soccer since he took over the Seagulls, something the owners wanted when he took over.
They’re attractive to watch and move the ball well and go through the gears so smoothly. They’re well drilled and organized defensively, but not physically imposing. They’re more about style rather than implementing a defensive low block approach, believing they can achieve the same results with a better and more entertaining style. It’s a style that has got Potter’s name linked with other jobs, but just rumors of course. Brighton likes to have the ball, they want to pass you to death and move you around to try and create gaps that they can exploit. Yes, the issue of putting the ball into the back of the net is still an issue with just eight goals scored, but they’ve only conceded five. They’re unbeaten in the last five league games but come into this contest off the back of three straight draws. As you’d expect, Frenchman Neal Maupay is Brighton’s top goalscorer with four. German midfielder, Pascal Groß leads them on the assists chart with two.
They’ll come up against a City team that just feels like they’re starting to find their stride fully. Even though they might’ve been rocked a little by the news that Raheem Sterling made public his desire to play more often, even if that meant leaving. They have in truth been buzzing along nicely and playing some of the most attractive soccer. The movement between the front three makes even the viewer a little dizzy at times…I promise that is a good thing.
Much like defensive teams that are well drilled, City does the same in the attack and it doesn’t matter who starts, there doesn’t seem to be a drop-off in quality or individuals knowing their role. Phil Foden is coming of age and quickly becoming the most vital part of this star-studded attack. His vision and execution are of such high quality that you can see him dominating opponents for the next decade. Kevin De Bruyne will once again pull the strings and drive Man City forward. And then you have the aforementioned Foden, Sterling, Jesus, Mahrez, and the 138 million dollar man in Jack Grealish. The depth they have in attack is why they will compete on all fronts this season.
Prediction: I expect a slick game, with two teams that try to play the game the right way, in my opinion. They are entertainers, and yes with vastly different playing budgets. I do, as you’d expect think City will come out on top, but I expect Brighton to push and probe the reigning champions. And if they can limit City in the attack, they will cause problems at the other end, they just need an addition or two to be more ruthless in front of goal. City win, as they continue their conquest for English and European domination.
Manchester United v. Liverpool
It’s the big one that rounds off the EPL weekend. Sunday’s 9:30 a.m. kick-off on NBCSN. It’ll be the 208th time they’ve met in all competitions. One of the fiercest rivalries’s not just in England, but the world. However, form often goes out of the window on these occasions. And a lot of the time the soccer isn’t of the highest quality either, it can often be fast-paced and volatile which in itself is thoroughly entertaining. The Old Trafford crowd will be in full voice to make it loud and intimidating.
United is in a strange run of form. They’re well placed in the Champions League group, and in a solid position in the EPL. Yet, the manager is under a little pressure, and it’s most likely to do with the performances they’ve put together. I’ve said this a lot, and I don’t want it to turn into a United bashing article, but, until Ole Gunnar Solskjaer really figures out how he wants his team to play, and goes after players that’ll benefit the team in key areas then I think United will continue to be what they are, a top 4 team without really challenging closely. Bringing on plenty of talent to rescue a game is a tactic I suppose, and it’ll work plenty, just not enough to where United wants to be. The current issue is one that haunts a lot of teams if they don’t get it right in the middle of the park. United doesn’t work hard enough on the defensive side of the ball higher up the field, which means they get overrun in the central areas, however, they are explosive in the attack, especially when they can get in behind. We know the danger men they possess, and, unlike teams who sit deep and cut down space, Liverpool plays a higher line giving United space to do what plays to their strengths.
Liverpool has been solid so far this season. Unbeaten. And with a hot Mo Salah, they have one of, if not the best player in the world right now. Liverpool’s strength is that they are fast, they strangle the midfield areas and they’ll be no different come Sunday as they try to overload the United central midfield two. Giving the likes of Sadio Mane and Salah opportunities to be one on one as they cut in from their respective flanks.
For all of United’s shortcomings, I fully expect them to be dangerous and tough competitors. As both teams go end to end.
Prediction: I think it might be a bit of a messy game with a stop-start flow to the game, chances will be created at both ends, but clear-cut chances will be at a premium. For Liverpool, it’s imperative that Fabinho starts to give them much-needed balance and protection. For United it’s about who starts in the central areas, and where does Pogba play? If it’s in the central engine room I think it might hand the initiative to Liverpool, but we’ve seen him on occasion, especially in the big games start in a wider role, and whilst it’s not ideal or his best position, he has been extremely good, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see that. A real back and forth affair, Liverpool are likely to be slight favorites, but it’s United at home and a manager fighting for his long-term future. An entertaining draw.
That’ll do it for this week in the EPL, but keep an eye on the rest of Europe with some massive fixtures over the weekend. On Sunday you can catch Barcelona Vs Real Madrid on ESPN +. Also on Sunday will be Inter Milan Vs Juventus on Paramount +. Ajax Vs PSV Eindhoven on ESPN + and then in France, you can watch Marseille Vs PSG on Bein Sports.
We’ll be back next week.