September 18, 2018

EPL FREE KICKS: Reds and Blues headed towards clash of 100-percenters

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Can you feel that? It’s the anticipation building for a true clash of the titans in two weeks’ time.

September 29: Liverpool at Chelsea.

Here’s hoping that both teams will keep their 100% records intact next week and we get a true battle for the top of the table.

This weekend we saw Liverpool pass its first true test of the season, going to London and beating Spurs 2-1, with Eric Lamela’s goal of little consolation in second-half injury time.

Chelsea actually went down 1-0 to Cardiff before coming back to pound the Welsh side. Eden Hazard continued his terrific form, scoring a hat trick, while Willian had a goal and assist in just 22 minutes.

These are two teams that are no joke. Even when you look for flaws on either side, it’s really nitpicking at best. You can point to Alvaro Morata not playing up to snuff or Alisson’s footwork flub two weeks, but nothing has slowed these two sides yet.

But we are about to get a little degree of difficulty thrown into the mix with Champion League group stage play starting on Tuesday.

Finding a balance between European fixtures and domestic ties is one of the hardest tasks for managers and squad depth can really be put to the test. The Reds may be in a better spot for this as Jurgen Klopp has had much more time to assemble his squad while Maurizio Sarri has only really brought in Jorginho and is dealing with the roster he was given.

Oh, and don’t forget that Chelsea is coming to Anfield next Wednesday for a Carabao Cup game. While we’ll certainly expect some backups to play that fixture, it could be a sign of things to come.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

When you score a hat trick, it’s kind of hard to ignore you for this spot.

Hazard was his usual brilliant self this weekend, running his season total up to five goals to go with two assists. He has had a hand in at least one goal in all five games.

Sarri has also said that he wants to see the Belgian not worry about wasting energy tracking back as much, which is music to any fantasy players’ ears. It’s also a far cry from the Jose Mourinho days at Chelsea, when the Special One benched Hazard in favour of Willian and Pedro, who were more apt to defend.

Tottenham Hotspur’s Toby Alderweireld (left) was noticeably missing the club’s crest on his jersey this weekend. (GETTY IMAGES)

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Burnley has conceded 103 shots in 5 games, which is on pace to set the record for a season by 46 … All it took Leroy Sane was two minutes into his first start of the season to bag a goal. I guess Pep Guardiola’s motivational tactics worked … Apparently, Pep wasn’t too happy with his team despite picking up a 3-0 win. He cancelled a planned day off on Monday and had his charges in training … We’re all for bigging up your teammates, but keep it within reason. Asmir Begovic said this week that Bournemouth’s front three of Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and Josh King were as good as Liverpool’s vaunted trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah – who is up for FIFA’s player of the year. Settle down, Asmir … Alexis Sanchez has yet to score this season and has just three goals in 22 games since joining Manchester United. If something doesn’t change, he could go down as one of the biggest busts in Premier League history … Leicester City is in trouble. In the Foxes’ past 19 games (a half-season sample), they’re just 5-10-4. The dream could be coming to an end … Wilfried Zaha once again showed just how much he means to the Crystal Palace, scoring the only goal in its away win vs. Huddersfield … You’re not going to believe this, but Jack Wilshere is hurt again and will miss six weeks after undergoing ankle surgery … Granit Xhaka’s long-distance free kick was one of the goals of the week, you have to check it out … Is everybody ready for badge-gate? Speculation about Toby Alderweireld’s future with Spurs is rampant after the defender played the entire game without a badge on his shirt. We’ve seen reports that it wasn’t a wardrobe malfunction, but we’d also wager that’s the safest bet. If it is legit that he wants out of Tottenham, that’s one of the most subtle transfer requests we’ve seen.

THE LAST WORD

We should sell this space to teams that need a reversal of course.

After recently writing about West Ham’s putrid play and Watford’s stunning run to the top, both went in the opposite direction this week.

The Irons beat Everton at Goodison Park to pick up their first points of the season while the Hornets fell at home to Manchester United.

Of course, these are two mid-table teams and parity is inevitable for both sides, but we just didn’t expect that quickly of a turnaround.

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