Explosive EPL games at Elland Road, Anfield

There are two mouth-watering fixtures taking place this afternoon on day two of the Week 9 Premier League fixtures, which resumed yesterday after the two-week international football break


The 37,792-seater Elland Road is the venue for the first of the matchups with new kids on the block, Leeds United hosting Premier League ‘old timers’ Arsenal in a game in which many Gunners’ fans will be harbouring fears of another disappointing outing from their side.


Before the international break, they had watched stunned as their team was dismantled at home 3-0 by Aston Villa, just a week after they had put on an impressive display in beating Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford.


And in truth Arsenal’s victory was no fluke as they completely outclassed the home side in finally ending a 14-year wait for a win at the Theatre of Dreams. But rather than build on the Old Trafford win they had no answers for the non-stop attacking play of the Villans and this is the kind of game they are going to face again this afternoon at Elland Road.


Although Marcelo Bielsa’s side may currently be lying 16th on the table (before yesterday’s games), the Argentine taskmaster has built a team which only knows one way of playing the ‘beautiful game’ – which is attacking. In their match up early last month, when many other sides would have played a safety first game against Manchester City, Bielsa’s team went toe-to-toe against them and justifiably nicked a point in a 1-1 draw.


Unfortunately, Leeds’ lack of a plan B means they have also been on the end of some heavy defeats including two 4-1 loses to Leicester and Crystal Palace. Ironically, The Peacocks thumped Aston Villa 3-0 when they met on the road on October 23 – a clear indication of what Bielsa’s side can produce when they are on top of their game.


The Leeds’ boss will quietly be fancying his chances against a side that has blown hot and cold in equal measure with four wins and four defeats in the eight league games played. Arsenal’s biggest weakness has been their inability to find the net having only scored nine goals this campaign!


However, speaking after the chastising defeat to Villa, Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta said: “I take full responsibility. I am responsible to make the team perform on the pitch and today we were not a team and it is my job – it is why I am standing here.” He will be hoping that his team talk and tactics are spot on this afternoon if he is to avoid another setback against a side that takes no prisoners.


Sadly, the mood of the 38-year-old Spaniard would not have improved following the indiscretion of his Brazilian, Willian, who is under investigation for travelling to Dubai during the international break.


According to reports in the English media, the 32-year-old, who was not called up to Brazil’s national squad rather than remain at home, instead spent time in Dubai, despite the UK’s current lockdown restrictions, which means the former Chelsea star will be unable t o return to training until he provides a negative COVID-19 test.


The reports further say that Arsenal are still “trying to establish the full facts” regarding his decision to leave the country.


During his trip, the player visited the Nusr-Et steakhouse where he posed for a picture with its owner ‘Salt Bae’. Willian has failed to register an assist since Arsenal’s 3-0 victory over Fulham in their opening match of the new campaign.


And in the second big game, it’s a third versus top clash at Anfield when Liverpool welcome the team from the King Power Stadium, Leicester City to their 53,394-seater ground.


Leicester, shock winners of the title five seasons ago, are sitting pretty on top of the table after an impressive run which saw them secure three straight wins before the international break and Brendan Rodgers will be praying that his side has not lost their momentum due to the break.


On the other hand, although they have not lost since that unbelievable 7-2 hiding by Aston Villa, Jurgen Klopp’s side is yet to find the consistency which made them so formidable in their title winning run last season, which means that have dropped points in two of the four matches played since last month’s debacle.


Klopp may decide to start his new ‘boy wonder’ Diogo Jota who has hit the ground running since making the switch from Wolves over the summer as he tried to out gun the Foxes and keep his title defence alive.


Although Liverpool is adversely affected by the absence of a number of key players including first choice defensive pair, Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk, others on the treatment table are Thiago Alcantara, Trent Alexander- Arnold, Mohamed Salah and skipper Jordan Henderson. Rodgers also has injury woes of his own with Ricardo Pereira (rightback), Caglar Söyüncü (centre-back), Timothy Castagne (right-back) and Wilfred Ndidi (midfield) all unavailable.


He is also sweating over the fitness of Kasper Schmeichel, after he picked up a horrible head injury on international duty in Denmark’s win over Iceland on Sunday. The 34-year-old son of former Manchester United great, Peter, is the undisputed number one at Leicester and will be given as much time as possible to prove if he will be available or not.


Also standing in the way of a possible Leicester upset is a formidable unbeaten home record spanning over three and a half years dating back to April 23, 2017 when Crystal Palace secured a shock 2-1 win – 63 games ago!


Leicester has to go back 20 years to May 3, 2000 for the last time they were able to get the better of Liverpool at Anfield in 2-0 win. But these are not the only games taking place today, the schedule kicks off with seventh placed Everton away at Fulham; with Carlo Ancelotti desperate to end their unwanted record of three straight defeats.


And in the second game, last season’s surprise package, Sheffield United, currently marooned bottom of the table, face a difficult outing when they host 12th placed West Ham United.


Week 9 games conclude on Monday with the final two games, with 19th placed Burnley home to Crystal Palace, which is eighth and ends with Wolverhampton Wanderers hosting Southampton.


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