SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Wow. That might be the only word that can describe this week in the world of soccer.
News of a European Super League broke on Sunday sending shockwaves around the world. Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur from the EPL announced they were part of the breakaway along with Spanish teams Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid and Italian teams Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan.
The fallout and general disgust from fans along with respective leagues and associations, governments, television and media companies were loud and clear, calling the participants in the European Super League greedy.
Mind you, if the media companies along with UEFA and FIFA do not start looking after the fans regarding their ticket pricing and media subscription pricing, then I take their arguments against the Super League with a pinch of salt; and if anyone has seen the new Champions League format then you should understand my point.
The Champions League set for 2024 has plans to add more matches to bring in more revenue, it comes down to money. Why is it greedy for prominent teams to seek more revenue, but not be greedy for current leagues to go after more money as well?
After a little over 48 hours, the Super League was in tatters, and as of the time this article was written, just Barca and Real Madrid are still in. Statements followed, and groveling apologies from team owners came shortly after.
But this is not the end of it, and whilst I do not believe punishments need to be handed out because the remaining 14 EPL clubs know that they get huge sums of money because of the profile of the ‘Big 6.” I do believe the clubs and organizations need to figure out a better way of doing things.
The thought of Leicester and West Ham missing out on qualifying for the top European competitions after their stellar seasons (if they finish in the top four) because a big name will be there year after year seems unjust to them and quite frankly, meaningless when it comes to your domestic league final position.
Whilst this was all happening, the Spurs sacked Jose Mourinho on Monday. Such was the uproar about the ESL Mourinho’s dismissal almost went under the radar. Which is crazy! What is next for the Portuguese manager?
I do not think there will be a shortage of suitors, but at the same time, I think he needs to adjust his philosophy as his approach feels a little outdated. Former Spurs player Ryan Mason took over the reins for the rest of the season and got off to a winning start with a 2-1 victory over Southampton.
Man City overcame Aston Villa 2-1 after going down a goal after 20 seconds and a John Stones first-half red card, and Leicester walloped West Brom 3-0.
This Sunday you can catch the League Cup Final on ESPN +, coverage starts at 8:30 a.m. MDT, and kick-off set for 9:30 a.m. MDT
EPL Action starts on Friday as Arsenal take on Everton with a 1:00 p.m. MDT kick-off that you can catch on NBCSN.
West Ham United vs. Chelsea
Saturday’s match on KSL 5 is your premier EPL match of the weekend, kicking off at 10:30 a.m. MDT. With a top-four spot on the line for both clubs. West Ham coming off a shock loss to Newcastle last weekend will be looking to bounce back as they hunt down European soccer next season.
I will not say that this game will be the Jesse Lingard show, but all eyes will be on the Manchester United loanee as he has been in phenomenal form for the Hammers and looks set to get a good move come summertime if he truly is unwanted at Man Utd.
David Moyes has done a really good job at establishing a style of soccer that matches his players’ skill set and compliments them. Tough to break down and well organized defensively they can soak up pressure for any team in the league, counter with pace using the likes of Lingard, Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals, Saïd Benrahma and Michail Antonio (unfortunately out injured).
They also maximize set pieces, with Tomáš Souček and Craig Dawson (suspended for a red card at the weekend) being real threats. But all in all, they are a fluid side. Well-structured and if they can keep the players they have now and maybe add another two or three pieces in the transfer window, we could see them legitimately push for a place in European soccer in the foreseeable future.
As for Chelsea, they came off a lackluster performance at home against Brighton midweek and were lucky to get a point. It was, in my opinion, probably something to do with the emotional weekend, coming through an FA Cup semifinal win against Man City, and probably the ‘Welcome’ they received from angered Chelsea fans outside of Stamford Bridge, pre-match against Brighton.
In fairness though, Thomas Tuchel has this team, for the most part, playing like the expensively assembled squad it is and I think next season they are already a lock for the top four. That is how good this team and manager are.
Yes, there are a few players that have not reached the heights they may have been expected to, but that is something that can be worked out in time or they will be moved on. Since his arrival, Tuchel has laid the foundations of what he wants stylistically, possession of the ball and move the ball wide and do it quickly.
Now that they are into the Champions League semi’s, I think they have a great chance of making a final. Even though they will come up against Real Madrid, I think over two legs it will be an extremely exciting matchup.
But this match against West Ham is going to be a belter, one that is a must-win. Two teams that will go for it, and the reason being is that lots of teams can still get into the last two CL places; and with games running out, the pressure and desire to get as many points as possible means that for 90 minutes it’s likely to be high drama. Just what we want as EPL fans!
Chelsea has what it takes to get all three points, they’re better from top to bottom, but……West Ham are a well-oiled machine, yes, they have a couple of players missing, but everyone knows their roles. They are dangerous, they have momentum and are brimming with confidence. Chelsea edges it for me, just.
Leeds United vs. Manchester United
Long time bitter rivals match kicks off on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. MDT on NBCSN. I expect a thoroughly entertaining affair. Leeds will be looking to get their own back after getting walloped by the Red Devils 6-2 just before Christmas.
They are in fine form though, with Leeds beating Man City 2-1 a couple of weeks back and then getting a more than deserved point against Liverpool on Monday taking them to five games unbeaten. Yes, they give up chances, they do ride their luck at times, but, when they spring forward, there is no finer sight in the EPL.
They play the game in a way that is easy on the eye, rampant and energetic, and philosophy of “If you score 3, we’ll score 4”. It is a refreshing approach for a newly promoted team as they have attacked the league.
Key players such as Kalvin Phillips, who sits deep in midfield offers some protection to the back four, but his primary role is to launch attacks, with the likes of the excellent Raphinha also creating higher up and the consistent No. 9 in Patrick Bamford, the supporting crew has been an impressive unit that can cause problems for any opposing team.
Man Utd is rolling along nicely, and dominating teams. They run their attacks through Bruno Fernandes, he has been impressive all season, but I feel that since Martial went down with an injury and now that Edinson Cavani is getting regular starts they look more lethal and efficient in front of goal, and they will look to put pressure on the league leader, Man City once again.
This team has been a machine in recent weeks, credit to Ole Gunnar Solskjær, who has kept his players focused and going flat out, something I think they will do for the rest of the season.
Mason Greenwood is finally finding some goalscoring form, that is not only good for United but England as well. Widely regarded as United’s best finisher, I genuinely believe this kid is destined for the very top.
It has taken a while, but this team is gelling nicely. Again, I still do not think they are always attractive to watch, but the dominance they have shown recently, and their relentless approach have been really good to see.
They need a couple more wins to secure second place, and I think they will breeze it. With the announcement of Ed Woodward stepping down later this year, if they get the right appointment, you could see a well-run club, finally. This would mean other teams around them should be worried.
This should be a fun occasion, the all-out attack of Leeds and the power of Man Utd. Leeds is looking to chase down a Europa League spot as they are well and truly out of the relegation worries that so often hangs around newly promoted teams, however, Man Utd are in a different zone right now. Powerful throughout and ruthless upfront. I just think the Red Devils will be too much for Leeds on Sunday.
See you again next week.