We might not have a full slate of Premier League matches this week, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the action we do get.
12 of the 20 Premier League teams have the weekend off, as the league undergoes its version of a “winter break” in early-to-mid July. While 4 teams played on Saturday, with Brighton drawing Watford 1-1 and Everton beating Crystal Palace 3-1, Sunday might have an even better slate of matches prepared for our viewership.
The early kickoff will see Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side take on the high-flying Sheffield United, while the later kickoff will feature Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City at home against David Moyes’ West Ham United. Both matches feature some interesting storylines, and the first match, in general, has the potential to be an extremely interesting clash of styles. Then again, every Sheffield United match seems to be must-watch football these days, as their already underdog-filled team added a superb Sander Berge into midfield – a player that everyone seems to want to get to know.
Let’s take a deeper look at the double-header…
The early kickoff: Sheffield United vs AFC Bournemouth
Sheffield United have quickly become the surprise team-to-watch this Premier League season, as Chris Wilder’s exciting yet structured team has skyrocketed up the table and stayed there – currently sitting in an impressive 6th place ahead of Manchester United, Everton, Arsenal, etc…
One thing you probably noticed about Sheffield United throughout the season is that they had no star player, which is fine. Their goals have been spread around consistently, with their leading marksmen being John Fleck and Lys Mousset with just 5 each. However, they might have just added a true star player in the transfer window – Norwegian midfielder Sander Berge. It will be intriguing to see whether Wilder gives him the start.
As for Bournemouth, it has been an extremely disappointing season – one that looks destined to end in a relegation scrap. Of course, you would expect Eddie Howe’s side to stay up eventually, especially based on the amount of money they’ve spent in recent years, but you just never know in the Premier League. Nothing is guaranteed.
While Sheffield comes into this match with a healthy squad (the only doubtful player is David McGoldrick), Bournemouth has a full slate of injuries to key players, including Josh King, Charlie Daniels, Chris Mepham, and David Brooks. Jefferson Lerma will also miss the match through suspension.
Bournemouth’s form has picked up a bit of late, with 2 consecutive wins over Aston Villa and Brighton in the league, so don’t count them out of this one.
The late kickoff: Manchester City vs West Ham United
Pep Guardiola has already conceded in the title race.
The Manchester City manager has strongly implied that the team will now focus simply on Champions League qualification, and of course doing well in the Champions League itself this season, as Liverpool are running away with the Premier League title. In truth, the Premier League doesn’t hold too much value for this team at the moment – they are 14 points clear of 5th place, which means they have top 4 pretty much on lock, and they won’t win the title.
This might be encouraging for a team like West Ham, who know they aren’t coming up against the unbeatable Manchester City of 2017-18 or 18-19. This team is vulnerable, and as inconsistent as West Ham are, they do have the tools to do some damage.
In truth though, West Ham are an awful football club at the moment, sitting in the relegation zone with no wins in their last 5 Premier League matches, despite having a statement 4-0 win over Bournemouth on New Year’s Day – which everyone expected to turn into a run of form.
The addition of Jarrod Bowen on deadline day was a big capture for West Ham, and his first start for the club could very well be in this difficult fixture.
Manchester City will still be without Leroy Sane, but Raheem Sterling will also join him on the sideline. Aymeric Laporte and Benjamin Mendy are doubtful for the fixture.
West Ham are also a bit thin in the attacking department, with Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson both out till later on in the month. Jack Wilshere is also out with a longer-term injury, although that’s becoming more a norm than news, unfortunately.
Of course, it’s very likely that Manchester City get themselves a rather comfortable victory in this match, especially at home. West Ham are a team in trouble, and if they don’t fix up soon they could be facing the unthinkable – relegation.