EPL preview: Mikel battles Musa as Iwobi, Iheanacho set to take scoring form to clubs
The English Premier League resumes today after the International break and our attacking duo of Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi would love to take their scoring boots from the National team to their club sides as both youngsters were on target for the Super Eagles in the World Cup qualifier against Zambia.
For Iheanacho and his Manchester City side, they will host Everton as they try to quickly recover from their first loss of the season which they suffered against Tottenham on match-week 7. The Citizens have had an unusual dry run, picking up just one point from their last two games in all competitions after starting the season with nine straight wins. Pep Guardiola will be slightly worried about Sergio Aguero’s form as the striker has gone four games for club and country without scoring, while the Spaniard will also be sweating on the fitness of talisman Kevin De Bruyne, who has been out of action since the 24th of September.
Ronald Koeman has seen his Everton side also hit a dry patch after a run of four straight wins, picking up only one point from six. His mood will be boosted by the news that Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka and Romelu Lukaku are all fit for the trip to the Etihad as he will need every help he can get to stand a chance of getting something from the Citizens.
Alex Iwobi’s Arsenal will host Swansea and their new American manager, Bob Bradley at the Emirates this afternoon with the hopes of securing a victory that might put them at the top of the table if other results go their way. However, they would have to be wary of the Welsh side who have picked up only one point from their last six games as the players would want to impress their new manager with a convincing display against the gunners. The Swans have a great record at the Emirates, winning two and drawing one of their last three games there. The gunners will do well not to take them for granted.
Arsenal have been in scintillating form, with five wins on the bounce in the league and are a team brimming with confidence, it will be hard to see past a victory for them in today’s game.
Other Nigerians might be in action in the EPL this weekend. In the day’s first kickoff, Super Eagles Captain, John Mikel Obi’s Chelsea will host Ahmed Musa’s Leicester City, while on Sunday, Odion Ighalo and Isaac Success’ Watford will be guests of Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.
Chelsea returned to winning ways in their last game before the International break, beating Hull City 0-2 on the road, after they had suffered back to back losses. Antonio Conte and his men know that a victory in this game would be huge for them as not only would it be morale boosting(their two losses came against two of the top four teams from last season), it would help put them on the edge of the top four, albeit temporarily.
This Leicester team seem to be a shadow of the side that took the league by storm last season, playing swashbuckling football built from a resilient backline to a razor sharp attack. They are currently 12th in the league table, with 8 points, four below Chelsea and their away form has been dreadful. They rank last on the table on away games played alone as they have lost all three away games and have conceded a whooping ten away goals, scoring only three. They need a victory to get their title defence (if that is still a possibility) back on track. The last four meetings between these two sides in all competitions have seen both teams scoring at least a goal so we should expect a thrilling game.
Isaac Success’ header helped Watford grab a point against Bournemouth in their last league game before the break and he would be hoping to get a starting shirt when they take on Middlesbrough tomorrow.
Watford are decent travelers and have garnered four points from a possible nine on the road and would be hoping to add to that tally. Odion Ighalo, who scored fifteen league goals last season has only managed to find the net once in seven league game this season and this match would be a good opportunity for him to re-discover his scoring boots.
Middlesbrough have been terrible at home, picking up just one point from three games at the Riverside this season. They are on a five game winless run and would hope to stop the rot with a victory over the Hornets.
The biggest fixture in England and probably Europe this match-week will take place on Monday night at Anfield, where Liverpool will host Manchester United in what promises to be a cracker.
Liverpool will go into this match three points ahead of their most hated rivals and would want to put more distance between both clubs. The Reds are the top team in the land in terms of chances created and goals scored in the Premier League this season, with Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane causing all kinds of problems for opposition defences.
However, Jurgen Klopp has some injury concerns, especially in the midfield with duo of Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum doubtful for this game. Firmino has shone as Liverpool’s false nine, but Klopp encourages his players to interchange positions when they are on the attack, making them very fluid. Firmino tends to drop deep in order to drag the centre-backs out of position, creating space for his team-mates to exploit behind them. To counter this, Manchester United will need their holding midfielder, whoever it is on that day to pick up Liverpool’s roving false nine in order to allow his central defenders hold their positions at the back.
José Mourinho has lost only three of his 10 visits to Anfield, with the last coming in the 2007 Champions League semi-final and the Portuguese would desperately want to avoid a fourth defeat there. He would also like to improve on his head to head record against Jurgen Klopp, whom he has beaten only once in five meetings while suffering three defeats.
Manchester United scored three times from corners in their 4-1 thrashing of Leicester before the international break, and against Liverpool’s zonal marking system, they could exploit the Merseyside’s well-documented issues with defending set pieces. Zlatan Ibrahimovic hasn’t scored in three league appearances, his worst run in league competition since January 2015 (four in a row for PSG) and wouldn’t want to match that. However, he would have the full attention of Liverpool’s Joel Matip, who has been excellent this season.
This clash has seen 16 red cards shown in the Premier League, only Everton v Liverpool (21) has produced more dismissals, so we should be expecting a very feisty encounter.