What to Watch: Matchday 2
Jonathan Slape is hiding in the mountains this week with no access to the internet. I am attempting to fill in for him by highlighting some of the games that he might miss out on if he does not get back to civilization in time.
Matchweek 2 lets you sleep in on Saturday to shake off the Thiago celebration hangover, but you better get to bed early and set the alarm for Sunday matchups!
Manchester United vs Crystal Palace
Saturday 11:30 CDT
Manchester United takes on Palace at Old Trafford, where they normally struggle against teams who like to sit back and look to counter. Wilfried Zaha’s matchweek 1 performance looked more like his pre-pouting days. Zaha should be a dangerous weapon for the visitors, who surely will look to hit the shaky United defense on the counter. United has the weapons going forward, but have dropped a lot of points in the last few seasons against teams who do not leave space behind the defensive line. Will Bruno Fernandes be able to continue his performance from last year and help United solve those issues? More importantly, how many penalties will United need to get the three points? On an otherwise average Saturday lineup, this will be an intriguing matchup to keep an eye on.
Southampton vs Tottenham
Sunday 6:00 CDT
Rise and shine, as we get to see how the Spurs react to their loss at home during matchweek 1. Tottenham were busy in the transfer market this week, and it will be interesting to see how the team reacts to their new signings as well as the disappointment from the Everton loss. Jose will be on the sidelines making faces as usual – having watched some of the documentary series on Amazon, I would even favor a picture-in-picture where we get to watch Jose react to the game that is happening on the pitch.
Southampton also suffered a loss in their season opener with an identical scoreline, but they will be under less pressure compared to the visitors. I am intrigued to see how the Spurs handle this mentally, as the new signings have brought a lot of uncertainty to the rest of the squad. Additionally, the Spurs will know that falling significantly behind after two games are likely an early exit to any title hopes. Manchester City and Liverpool have set the bar high when it comes to points and pace required to win the title – while the point totals this year might be less due to the congested schedule, no team can afford to fall behind six points this early in the season.
Chelsea vs Liverpool
Sunday 10:30 CDT
Liverpool is always a must-see for us LFC fans, but this is definitely the top matchup for any neutral Premier League fan. I also suspect Chelsea to be a regular must-watch team, as we watch to see if all their signings live up to expectations and deliver results. This match will be a battle of two teams: an established champion in Liverpool vs. a team on the rise attempting to close the gap with expensive signings. This will be a great early test for Chelsea to prove themselves, but also a great opportunity for Liverpool to show that they are still the team to beat.
Liverpool was able to beat Chelsea much more comfortably last time out than the score (5-3) would indicate. The Reds built a three-goal lead twice before the Blues closed the gap to one goal, though I can understand the difficulty for players to focus while there are fireworks in the air, and you can hear the celebrations commencing outside Anfield. Christian Pulisic came on to bring some energy and took advantage of a Liverpool team who had let their guard down temporarily. The Lampard temper tantrum with the Liverpool bench adds some additional spice and drama to this week’s match.
Timo Werner will be keen to show Liverpool what they missed, while the Liverpool defense will look to improve on last weekend’s mistakes and quiet their doubters. This may be the best time to face this Chelsea team trying to make the new pieces fit together. Getting three points from one of our tougher away matchups would be a great boost for Liverpool as we start going into a busy period with games every few days.
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester City
Monday 14:15 Central
Monday Night Football, baby! Well, it will be afternoon for us in the USA, but this is a great matchup and an early opportunity for City to drop points. Wolves were a nightmare for City last year, doing the double over them, and I do not see that changing this year. Will new defender Nathan Ake be the missing piece to that City defense that was suspect against counter-attacking teams? If City drop points this early, would that damage the psyche of this squad who could potentially start the season well behind Liverpool again (albeit with a game in hand)? The result from Sunday will definitely affect the mindset of players, which makes a win against Chelsea even more important for Liverpool.
Overall, this is a very difficult match for Manchester City to have as their season opener. The intensity of a game cannot be simulated in practice, and they will be playing their first game (no preseason friendlies). The first 15-20 minutes will be very interesting to watch and see if City have changed anything in their tactical approach for this season. Let’s hope this test will be one that City fails, so our Reds can have a little early-season boost!