Premier League – The Champions League Effect
The Champions League started in earnest this week, and much has been written about the effect that playing in it has on the Premier League performances of the top English teams. In truth, it’s hard to pin down whether the top teams are all affected by having play a midweek Champions League match extra match, whether they had to travel abroad or not.
Therefore, it may be best to consider each team’s individual circumstances when trying to determine how they’ll fare back in the Premier League this weekend. Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham are all playing on Saturday this weekend, with Manchester City away at Cardiff, Liverpool entertaining Southampton, Manchester United hosting Wolves, and Tottenham playing away at Brighton.
Cardiff vs Manchester City (Saturday 3.00)
Matching last season’s record-breaking Premier League campaign was never going to be easy for Manchester City, especially as manager Pep Guardiola’s main target this season was always going to be winning the Champions League.
However, after being drawn in what looked the easiest Champions League qualifying group of all, not many would have predicted Man City would have lost their opening home game to Lyon. In defeat, Man City failed to land odds of around 1/6, odds that the bookies have again priced Man City up at for their away match at Cardiff on Saturday. Of course, Man City have won four of their five Premier League games this season, notching up easy wins against Arsenal, Huddersfield, and Fulham. However, they made hard work of beating Newcastle 2-1, whilst beating Wolves on their travels proved beyond them. What should be in Man City’s favour, is Cardiff have been poor at home this season, drawing 0-0 with Newcastle, whilst losing to Arsenal, and losing to Norwich in the Carabao Cup.
Cardiff have at least found the net in their last three games and, with Man City having failed to keep clean sheets in four of their last five games, the best bet could be Man City to win and both teams to score.
Liverpool vs Southampton (Saturday 3.00)
Liverpool’s 3-2 over PSG on Tuesday night was a strange game, with Liverpool dominating possession for long periods and having nearly twice as many shots as the French Champions. However, it took a 91st minute goal from Robert Firmino to settle the tie after PSG had fought back to 2-2 having been 2-0 down. What was noticeable though was Jurgen Klopp’s tactics to bench Firmino for much of the game, probably with an understanding that the Brazilian will be a key figure in a long season in which Klopp will be hoping Liverpool will be fighting on many fronts.
Having Daniel Sturridge fit again could also be a big help, as it means Klopp may be able to rest last season’s dynamic trio of Firmino, Salah, and Mane when needed, even if Sturridge still has to prove he’s anything like as good a player as he was a few seasons ago. Klopp’s players just seem to love to play for their enthusiastic manager though, who again resisted the urge to pair together Jordan Henderson and Naiby Keita in midfield, though he’s probably right to with a long season ahead and with James Milner having started the season in great form.
Whatever team Klopp goes with on Saturday, it could spell trouble for Southampton, especially as Liverpool won both of last season’s Premier League games between the two sides to nil, and betting on a similar result could pay dividends.
Manchester United vs Wolves (Saturday 3.00)
Much has been written about Manchester United and Jose Mourinho already this season. However, after Premier League defeats to Brighton and Tottenham, three wins on the bounce have silenced those that think Mourinho’s brand of football isn’t right for United, at least for now.
Romelu Lukaku seems to have got over his World Cup hangover after goals against Burnley and Watford, and his ability to finish off the non-top-six teams will be paramount in maintaining United’s title challenge this season. More importantly, after much speculation about Paul Pogba’s future at Manchester United, Mourinho will have been delighted to see Pogba step-up to the plate on the Champions League stage with two goals against Young Boys of Berne. A goal for Anthony Martial also suggested that, like Lukaku, both Pogba and Martial may be ready to have tremendous seasons after getting France’s World Cup win out of their systems.
It’s therefore a bit of a surprise that Man United are available at 3/5 to beat Wolves with some bookies for this Saturday’s match. Of course, after their draw with United’s neighbours Manchester City, Wolves have gone on to win their next two games against West Ham and Burnley. However, both those wins were gained by 1-0 scorelines, and Wolves may have to score more than once if they’re to get anything out of this match with United.
United have scored at least two goals in five of their last six matches. Therefore, this should be an interesting test for both teams at this stage of their respective seasons, but United are preferred at reasonable odds.
Brighton vs Tottenham (Saturday 5.30)
Mauricio Pochettino must surely have felt like ripping his hair out after his now experienced Tottenham side threw away a 1-0 lead against Inter Milan with five minutes to go before losing to a 92nd minute sucker punch. It’s a loss that’s unlikely to be good for Tottenham’s fragile confidence, especially as that’s now their third straight loss in a row after defeats to Watford and Liverpool in their last two Premier League games.
Harry Kane hasn’t hit the net in any of those three defeats, whilst Dele Alli’s ability to link Tottenham’s play together has been much missed due to his absence in the last two games. Therefore, Brighton may well sniff a chance to gain a second league win of the season. The Seagulls are undefeated at home in their last five Premier League games (including last season), a run that includes two victories over Manchester United and a draw against Tottenham. Brighton also had the eighth best home record last season in the Premier League, and odds of around 4/1 may underestimate their chances.