SALT LAKE CITY – We have a title race on our hands ladies and gentlemen. With Man City losing a thrilling game to Spurs 3-2 at the weekend, and Liverpool coming back to beat Norwich 3-1, then finally playing their game in hand in which they beat sorry Leeds 6-0.
After the two teams have played 26 games, City are now just three points clear at the top. Liverpool have a bigger positive goal difference though, and if the title race comes down to nice margins? Then it’s something to watch over the next few months.
Liverpool and Chelsea face off in the League Cup on Sunday at Wembley Stadium with kick-off at 9.30am MT on ESPN+.
You can watch Everton v Manchester City on Saturday on KSL 5 TV, at 10.30am MT. Can Everton bounce back? How are City reacting to their loss to Spurs?
Leeds United v Tottenham Hotspur
Saturday morning kickoff at 5:30 MT on USA Network puts two managers under pressure, perhaps? Marcelo Bielsa is adored at Leeds. The man, although enigmatic at times, does not weaken in his way of doing things.
Man scoring all over the pitch at high intensity with or without the ball. The problem is that his squad is quite small, and having three key long-term players has pushed Leeds to their limits.
The backbone of the team is hurting with the loss of captain Liam Cooper, setting everything before him in the heart of the defence. Kalvin Phillips still missing in the middle of the park is a blow, his ability to protect the back four sorely missed, his ability to drive forward with the ball and then his excellent passing range and vision hampered the attack.
Finally, Patrick Bamford’s goal threat hurt the team. His 17 goals last season made Leeds a formidable attacking threat and they ended their first EPL season safely in mid-table. Leeds still play much the same way, with plenty of pace with Jack Harrison on the left, Raphinha on the right and then Daniel James as point-scorer. However, without Bamford’s heist and without the gaps created by Bamford’s faster players, the attack is toothless.
Spurs beat leaders Man City 3-2 on the road last week and they were brilliant. Organized defensively, disciplined in midfield and absolutely ruthless up front as Harry Kane watched every square inch as one of the best centre-forwards in the world. After a few days and a 1-0 loss to basement boys Burnley, manager Antonio Conte pulled his hair out.
What happened in his post-match presser was a man who almost wanted his employers to fire him. Frustrated with his players, frustrated with recruitment in the last window. From going through the weekend highs and looking to start, to the lows of the previous weeks to get unfavorable results.
Clearly Spurs are probably three players short of getting to the Pochettino days (I still believe Poch would have turned things around before he was fired) where you thought they were building something special. I still maintain that Spurs have one of the best offenses in the league, Kane is as natural a No.9 as he is a No.10.
Finishing or creating is at a very high level. His is as good as any left side striker. The third option was in play, but the arrival of Dejan Kulusevski on loan from Juventus appears to be the man to fill the role. He’s a versatile player who can play on the wing like he does now, or the ability to play more centrally in a few areas. The one thing he’s built a reputation on is his ability to work extremely hard, consistently for 90 minutes. He is a constant thorn in the side of defenders and, at just 21, he has a big future ahead of him. If he starts on Saturday, he will be one to watch.
Leeds showed a real fight against Manchester United last weekend, going from 2-0 to 2-2 shortly after the start of the second half, only for them to run out of steam, and the quality of the Red Devils came forward. In midweek, they started brilliantly against Liverpool, only to be crushed. Losing 3-0 at the time, they conceded three more goals in the final 10 minutes to lose 6-0. Fatigue plays its part again.
For me, it’s Spurs to lose, the attack, if it picks up, could end up with a neat result. Either way, I’d be surprised if one of the managers lost their job.
West Ham United v Wolverhampton Wanderers
To complete the weekend for us, we are interested in this match which you will be able to see on Sunday. Kicking off at 7:00 a.m. MT on the US Network. Two teams who are at the heart of the battle for fourth place in the EPL, and at the very least both will want some kind of European football next season.
Sixth-place West Ham, just one place and two points from seventh-placed Wolves. The Hammers have one of the brightest English attacking talents in the Premier League, Jarrod Bowen. The winger has eight goals and eight assists so far this season. 16 goals this season, only bettered by Mo Salah.
Bowen has come a long way since moving to West Ham. Of course, he looked very good in the Championship at Hull City, and it seemed like a good move when he arrived in January 2020, but what he has done to adapt physically and his constant improvement has allowed West Ham to strengthen and become real top four challengers. .
Of course, there’s a lot more to the Hammers, but the way this team has been built and the improvement of the players is a testament to manager David Moyes’ approach. Use a core in the team and only change things when injuries occur, but make minimal adjustments otherwise.
They’re a solid unit that’s built to go deep, with two central midfielders protecting and then using good pace in the final third to explode forward. The likes of Bowen, Fornals and Antonio are able to leap forward and carry on or walk away and then allow a few more to join the fast attack.
It’s something Moyes honed hard during his second spell at the club. This can be seen in the stats column, with West Ham fourth in the table when it comes to goals scored (45).
Wolves are quietly going about their business in the league. A change of manager during the summer allows Bruno Lage to take over a team in difficulty the previous season. But Lage quickly put his claws into the team, building the most widely used three-defender system. He made them even harder to beat. They have conceded just 20 goals this season so far which is good enough for the EPL’s joint third-best record.
Of course, the goals at the other end didn’t fly either, with only 24 scored. The majority of the season, Lage used Raul Jimenez, Daniel Podence and Kwang Hee-Chan in the front three, but Pedro Neto returned from injury after 10 long months without him following a knee injury.
He will certainly add a much-needed option and potentially more goals to an attack that perhaps should be shooting a bit more regularly. The midfielder is Wolves’ superpower, however.
Ruben Neves is attracting attention again this season, with his range of technical skills, passing range and hard work alongside compatriot Moutinho, allowing all three backs to be protected, and overlapping wingers know that if they are caught on the ground than those two are smart and disciplined enough to slip. They are one of the main reasons why wolves are so difficult to take down.
They might as well cancel each other out, but don’t let that distract you from the midfield battle that will ensue. Soucek and Rice from West Ham, and most likely Neves and Moutinho (Dendoncker could come in) from Wolves, are launching fast counterattacks, and it should be worth it.
We will be back next week. Be sure to tune in to Major League Soccer this weekend. Real Salt Lake will start its season Sunday on the road against Houston Dynamo. A 5 p.m. kick that you can find on KSL Sports.