While 2021 represents a new year in the Premier League, the long-lasting effects of 2020 are still very evident.
All clubs are now back to playing behind closed doors, while recent fixtures postponements between Everton and Manchester City, as well as Fulham’s trip to Tottenham, highlight the diffilcuties that still underpin this campaign.
Despite this however, football fans can at least look forward to watching the action from the comfort of their own home in what looks like being one of the most competitive seasons in recent memory.
Premier League Match of the Round: Manchester United vs Aston Villa
With question marks over the Manchester City’s trip to Chelsea, it’s their neighbouring rivals that look forward to one of the standout games of the round, with huge implications should they win.
Following their late win over Wolves last time out, Manchester United now find themselves with the opportunity of going level on points with league leaders Liverpool should they claim the three points, following a run of seven win in their last nine league games (D2).
Thanks primarily to their away form, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows his side’s form at Old Trafford must improve if they’re to win their first league title since 2013. A 6-2 win over a naive Leeds United in their last home game could be the catalyst for an upturn in form on their own turf, but know Aston Villa won’t be quite as avant-garde as the previous visitors.
The Villains’ improvements this season have been well-documented, with their away form putting them amongst the best in the division when it comes to travelling. Only Manchester United and Leicester City (both 19) have accumulated more points on the road this season than Villa (16), and when you realise they they won just 11 points in away games throughout the entire of the 2019/20 campaign, the development is there for all to see.
They’ve only conceded three times on their travels this season – a league-best – while the counter-attacking capabilities of Anwar El Ghazi, Ollie Watkins and captain Jack Grealish makes them a significantly trickier prospect than last season; while the added incentive of a win moving them above Midlands rivals Leicester into third makes for an intriguing fixture.
Rest of the Round
2021 begins from Goodison Park when West Ham United travel to Everton, before the aforementioned encounter at Old Trafford.
Saturday begins with another mouthwatering tie between Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham against Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United, as differing styles and philosophies collide.
Crystal Palace then host a Sheffield United still searching their first win of the season, while Brighton & Hove Albion take on Wolves and West Bromwich Albion welcome Arsenal to the Hawthorns.
Sunday will hopefully begin from Turf Moor, with Burnley scheduled to face Fulham, while Newcastle United host Leicester City.
The issue with the day’s opening fixture resonates with the day’s final final, with Chelsea set to take on Manchester City should the game go ahead.
Round 17 concludes from the south coast, as defending champions Liverpool travel to Southampton, as they look to address their indifferent away form that has seen them draw five of their eight games (W2 L1).
Premier League Player to Watch: Bukayo Saka – Arsenal – £1.54
Undoubtedly one of Arsenal’s best players this season, it says a lot that they have had to rely upon a 19-year-old, but more that Bukayo Saka has stepped up during a difficult league campaign.
Whether he meant his last league goal against Chelsea or not, it capped a fine display that could be the turning point for the Gunners, who made it back-to-back league wins for only the second time this season with a win over Brighton, with Saka providing the assist for Alexandre Lacazette‘s winner.
West Brom represents a great opportunity to make it three wins on the bounce, and should they do so, Saka will have likely played a big part in doing so.