EPL PREVIEW: Key clash with Liverpool may be too soon for Chelsea's recruits

Chia Han Keong
·4-min read
Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool v Chelsea - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - July 22, 2020 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah in action with Chelsea's Marcos Alonso, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Pool via REUTERS/Phil Noble EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  Please contact your account representative for further details.
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (left) in action with Chelsea's Marcos Alonso during the two sides' English Premier League clash last season. (PHOTO: Reuters/Phil Noble)

SINGAPORE — What are the key matches and storylines to look out for in the next round of English Premier League (EPL) action? Yahoo News Singapore lists the top three:

WATCH: The Centre Circle, a weekly EPL preview show by Tampines West CSC

Chelsea v Liverpool (Sunday, 11.30pm Singapore time)

The defending champions meet the ambitious challengers. The problem is, two weeks into the new season may be too early for this key match-up.

Chelsea may have made the most significant off-season signings among the title contenders, but as last week’s unconvincing 3-1 win over Brighton showed, the Blues will need some time to bed in all their new players.

This is perfectly natural, and so this home match against title-holders Liverpool may be too soon for them to set a psychological marker for the season. With new signings Ben Chilwell and Hakim Ziyech still not fit enough, manager Frank Lampard would most be likely looking primarily at fending off Liverpool’s attack.

Yet, if he plans on hitting the Reds on the counter-attack, the champions’ defence has recently been less imperious than during their title run last season. While they beat newly-promoted Leeds in last week’s opener, they shipped three sloppy goals in their 4-3 win. It could tempt opponents into taking their chances to go on the attack.

Nevertheless, Liverpool’s knack of finding a way to win a match could prove decisive in this tight encounter, and they may just pull out a narrow victory.

SCORE PREDICTION: Chelsea 1 Liverpool 2.

Manchester United v Crystal Palace (Sunday, 12.30am)

Manchester United begin their EPL season buoyed by a strong finish to last season, which saw them vault from sixth to third after the COVID-enforced break.

Can they maintain their form to start off this season? They face a Crystal Palace who have seven first-team players out with injuries, but still managed a 1-0 win over Southampton on the opening week.

The Red Devils have had a comparatively quiet off-season, although their lone signing, Dutchman Donny van de Beek, is highly-rated and could be a solid addition to their midfielder alongside Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes.

With Pogba still not fully fit after suffering from coronavirus, van de Beek should be starting alongside Fernandes, who has proven to be manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s most astute buy. The Portuguese adds energy and intensity in linking up with the Man United frontline, and will need to show that he can consistently produce the goods for the whole season.

SCORE PREDICTION: Man United 1 Palace 0.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester City (Tuesday, 3.15am)

Like their crosstown rivals, Manchester City will also begin their season this weekend, after their involvement in the Champions League. It will be a tough opening assignment – away at Wolves.

After a 2019/20 season in which they missed out on the two major trophies – the Premier League and the Champions League – Man City will be under pressure from their Abu Dhabi owners to get back to their dominant ways.

Yet, with Liverpool proving to be a massive obstacle in their EPL title quest, could they be distracted by their obsession on winning the Champions League for the first time in their history? Furthermore, manager Pep Guardiola is in his final year of his contract and has never stayed past his fifth year with any of his previous clubs. Could he also be under pressure to deliver the Champions League?

It seems plausible that, if City do not start out well in the Premier League, they could very well shift their focus to Europe again. So all eyes would be on them as they face a strong Wolves side, with newcomers Nathan Ake and Ferran Torres looking to make a quick impact.

Wolves had completed a long 2019/20 season, but fared well in both the Premier League and the Europa League. They have made several intriguing additions in Fernando Marcal and club-record signing Fabio Silva, and will look to challenge for Europa League qualification again.

SCORE PREDICTION: Wolves 1 Man City 1.