EPL Preview: Top Of Table Clash Highlights Weekend Premier League Excitement

January 15, 2022
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January 15, (THEWILL) – On Saturday, the Premier League season kicks off with a highly anticipated top-of-the-table game as Manchester City hosts Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium for a midday showdown. With the postponement of the Burnley-Leicester tie, it leaves English Premier League fans with only five of six games available with the Etihad cracker the pick of the weekend fixtures.

THEWILL Preview looks at these games with a lot of expectations hanging on the difference that Kieran Trippier will bring to Newcastle and the contributions that Philippe Coutinho will make as he rejoins ex-teammate and now manager of Aston Villa at Villa Park.

Manchester City Versus Chelsea – 1:30 pm

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Pep Guardiola’s side presently lead their opponents on the table by 10 points, with another defeat for the Blues likely putting their title bid in jeopardy. The Cityzens have won each of their last seven home games in all competitions, including each of their last five in the Premier League, and despite playing without a recognised striker for much of the season, City has averaged at least three goals per Premier League game at the Etihad.

The Blues have a chance to win the EFL Carabao Cup against either Liverpool or Arsenal next month, but for now, keeping their slim League title aspirations alive is the priority for Thomas Tuchel’s side, who are at risk of dropping 13 points behind City if they lose at the Etihad.

Should Liverpool beat Brentford a day later, the Blues might finish third on the weekend, but they have excelled away from home despite a spate of Stamford Bridge stalemates, winning six of their previous eight top-flight games on rival turf and conceding a league-low six goals.

Newcastle Versus Watford – 4 pm

Newcastle United host Watford at St James’ Park with both teams fighting for their lives near the bottom of the table. Newcastle are currently in 19th place with only 11 points from their first 19 games, while Watford are in 17th place, just two points ahead of their opponents.

Given their newfound cash, relegation for Newcastle this season seems unfathomable, and it would not be surprising to see a few more additions arrive before the end of the January transfer window. Chris Wood has joined Kieran Trippier at St. James, but the latter was unable to assist his side win the FA Cup against Cambridge United last weekend, with Eddie Howe’s side losing 1-0 at home to the League One side in the third round. Yet, they were impressive in their last EPL match, holding Manchester United to a 1-1 draw at St James’ Park, bringing their season total to 11 points.

Watford has not won a game since a 4-1 victory against Manchester United at home on November 20, losing all seven of their games in all competitions since then. Ranieri will be acutely aware of the significance of Saturday’s match at St James’ Park, with the Hornets aiming to prevent their 14th Premier League defeat of the season.

Wolverhampton Wanderers Versus Southampton – 4 pm

Wolverhampton Wanderers and Southampton will at the Molineux in the other evening kick-off. Wolves are now in eighth place in the table, with 28 points from 19 league games, while Southampton are in 11th place, four points behind their opponents.

The hosts have won their last two Premier League meetings with Southampton, including a 1-0 victory at St Mary’s earlier this season, in which Raul Jimenez scored the game’s only goal. Wolves finished 13th in the Premier League last season, but Lage has made a strong impression in his first season in charge, and a win on Saturday would improve their European ambitions.

The Saints have had their problems this season, but they are presently 13 points clear of relegation and only four points behind eighth-placed Wolves, so Saturday’s match is crucial for both teams. The Saints have struggled to find consistency on the road this season, picking up just nine points from eleven games, although they did overcome Wolves in the FA Cup last season at Molineux.

Aston Villa Versus Manchester United – 6:30 pm

When Manchester United travel to Villa Park to face Aston Villa on Saturday evening, they will be trying to get back on track in the EPL. The two played in the FA Cup on Monday, and the Red Devils won 1-0, with Scott McTominay scoring the only goal in the third-round match at Old Trafford.

The defeat aside, manager Steven Gerrard will have been pleased with what he saw from his squad for lengthy periods of the match, with the home side relying on luck to progress to the fourth round of the Cup.

Villa have made their intentions clear by signing Coutinho and Lucas Digne in the January transfer window, and there is little doubt that Gerrard will aim for a top-half finish, despite the fact that the squad is currently 14th in the table after 19 games of the 2021-22 season. The Lions won 1-0 at Old Trafford in the reverse fixture in September, but they have not beaten United at Villa Park in the league since August 1995.

United’s hopes of finishing in the top four were dashed when they lost their penultimate league game at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on January 3. Ralf Rangnick’s team is now seventh in the table, six points behind fourth-placed West Ham United and with two games in hand, but will need to win to remain competitive this season.

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