Sunday 18 February 2018 / 09:31 PM


Highlighting the crucial points and what to look for in the upcoming weekend of EPL action.

Match of the Week – United v Spurs

The stakes don’t get much higher than this, the biggest matchup of the EPL season this far. Tied at 20 points and statistically fairly even, the title of second-best team in the league – as well as an important buffer in the chase to catch up to City – is on the line come Saturday.

Tottenham’s surprising tactical diversity has broken the mould of their bogged-down offence, and even revealed sides to them we didn’t expect: last week’s 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool with less than 36% possession would seem impossible if described a month or so ago. They’ve found different personnel to rotate and carry out their system that’s kept them fresh whist doing the thing that has sunk other title hopefuls — addressed and fixed their flaws (looking at you, Liverpool).

We get a better grip on the Spurs every week, but conversely, we still don’t know what to make of United. It’s hard to put a finger on what exactly separates them from being elite, and their last two outings against Huddersfield and Liverpool started to realise some of our doubts around the dependability of their style. This is their chance to return to the forefront of the chasing group by displaying an identity that can carry them through these types of match-ups, and avoid losses like last week.

Feeling Blue

The jury is still out on Chelsea. We doubted them early, saw glimpses of a terrifying, physical unit that was overpowering opponents and deadly on the counter, only to watch their form dip and suggest that the inconsistencies might be more apparent than their strengths.

Last week was a course correction, a confident win over a solid Watford team, but we need more. Bournemouth, especially in comparison to Chelsea, aren’t a good team, and they need to put them to the sword to hold serve with United and Spurs, especially with the chance to make ground on one or both of them, results pending.

Most importantly, they cannot drop points here. With their disastrous efforts against Palace and Burnley still in the rearview, a repeat will set them back significantly, and make us contemplate their place in the race.

Does Huddersfield have another upset in them?

The Terries’ effort to beat Man U was the stuff of legend. Determined, gritty and constant, they outworked their heavily-favoured counterparts and took their chances when they came. If any of the top sides are susceptible to that type of game-plan, it’s their opponents this week, the much-maligned Liverpool.

Being totally outplayed by yet another title contender should have them searching for redemption, but as we’ve detailed all season, if you beat the Reds in the midfield battle you gain access to one of the most vulnerable backlines in football. If they’re too eager and overstep their mark early, or fail to truly win the midfield battle, Huddersfield have the tools to take advantage.

Toiling in 9th spot, and little time to waste, this is a huge game for Liverpool.

New coach, new luck

Leicester has won two straight and haven’t lost in their last four since sacking Craig Shakespeare, helping lift them out of the feared relegation zone. Everton, on the other hand, have parted ways with Ronald Koeman in hopes of a similar rival after falling into the bottom three themselves. Two new managers will sit on either bench again as the Foxes landed on Claude Puel to take the reins full-time and Everton will trust David Unsworth with the coaching duties until they find a successor.

What does this all mean for their upcoming match? Well, who knows what to really expect. The tactics could be identical, or differ drastically from their recent choices, and the form guide is rendered useless. From a personnel point of view, if Leicester look to play on the counter, Everton’s lack of speed will open up some opportunities going long.

The two biggest disappoints of this season will put together a fascinating game, even if it’s not the best football.

Keep an eye on….

  • Brighton’s form: Dominant against West Ham and secure enough in their identity to give Southampton plenty of trouble, the Eagles could jump into the top 10 with another win
  • Where Deli Ali is used against United: He’s slid between joining Kane up front and playing deeper in the midfield, but looked most comfortable as a true attacking-mid last week.
  • If Arsenal can be interesting enough to make me write about them. Whilst the other mid-tier teams fluctuate in form and tactics, they continue walking the same path. Same actions, same results….
  • Watford have been the best of the rest so far this season and have looked strong in finding their way to sixth. A victory over Stoke would be a nice way to solidify their separation against the mid-tier.
    • If you’re going to watch one extra game this week, watch Burnley-Newcastle. United and Spurs get match of the week due to the stakes, but this could be the most entertaining of the lot.

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About the author

Brayden Issa

Brayden is a Sydney-based sports management student and sports fanatic, specialising in rugby league, basketball, football and cricket. He is concerned with everything related to professional sports performance and management.

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