EPL Wrap-Up

Chelsea 2 – Liverpool 1

Getting results against the top teams on the road is the true test of a champion. It may be early, but Chelsea are beginning to look invincible.

Earlier this season, Chelsea went to the Etihad and got a result against the defending Premier League champions. Chelsea visited Old Trafford and nearly took all three points against Manchester United a couple weeks back. And now, they’ve gone to Anfield and earned a win against Liverpool.

Brendan Rodgers rested many starters during the week versus Real Madrid in preparation for this match but still, Chelsea came away victorious, 2-1 on the road.

The league leaders, however, conceded first. An Emre Can strike hit Gary Cahill en route to goal, stunned Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and found the back of the net just over eight minutes in.

Cahill made amends five minutes later. Off a Cesc Fabregas corner kick, Costa nodded the ball towards the goal and John Terry’s noggin. Simon Mignolet denied the initial attempt, but Cahill pounced on the rebound to even the game at 1-1.

Responses like that take mental toughness.

“It think it’s the mentality. It’s not in the legs because players who did not play during the week have more energy in the legs than people who played. That’s obvious. So I think what makes the difference is inside,” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho told The Guardian and media after the match.

Costa had been battling a hamstring injury for weeks, only returning last week after missing two EPL games, and likely needs surgery to correct the problem.  He suited up nonetheless and scored his 10th EPL goal of the season in the second half to clinch the win for Chelsea. That’s 10 goals in nine league games for Costa.

On Monday morning’s The Football Show, ITV Commentator Peter Drury told Neil Barnett and Charlie Stillitano that Chelsea are “head and shoulders above the rest [of the league].”

Even when they’re not at their best, Chelsea are finding ways to win. Through 11 EPL games, Chelsea has nine wins and two draws. A favorable upcoming schedule bodes well for that unblemished run to continue.

Southampton 2 – Leicester City 0

Before everyone hands the EPL title to Chelsea, don’t look past Southampton. Four EPL wins in a row. Four shutouts. The Saints are hotter than the seat Manuel Pellegrini manages on.

Ronald Koeman’s side dominated the game on a rainy Saturday afternoon, downing Leicester City 2-0.

Southampton squandered multiple opportunities through the first 70 plus minutes of the game, but thanks to their stingy defense – they have allowed just five goals through 11 EPL games – that didn’t matter.

Graziano Pelle, a revelation in England this season, set up their first goal with some great hold-up play in the box. He collected the ball about 15 yards from goal, held off two defenders and left it in front of Shane Long, who came charging into the box and slotted the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.

Four minutes later, Long bagged a second, converting a one-on-one with Kasper Schmeichel.

How high can the Saints fly? They haven’t faced any of the traditional powers in league play since Week 1. Southampton lost to Liverpool at Anfield 2-1 that day. After Thanksgiving, there’s a brutal three-game stretch involving Manchester City (home), Arsenal (road) and Manchester United (home). We’ll know if they can truly contend for the EPL or even a European spot after those matches.

Don’t underestimate a side that plays with zero pressure.

Manchester United 1 – Crystal Palace 0

In just three weeks, a draw at the death versus Chelsea felt like a win, a loss to Manchester City while playing with 10-men for most of the match felt like a draw, and now a win over Crystal palace didn’t really feel like a win at all.

What’s going on with Manchester United? Miguel Delaney laid out the start for Louis Van Gaal compared to David Moyes after 10 games last week.

The numbers suggest United fared better under Moyes. Moyes didn’t get much help during the transfer window and lasted less than one season. Van Gaal was able to spend $200 million to form the most expensive Manchester United side of all-time.

This was their chance to let it all out facing a porous Palace defense that was allowing nearly two goals a game through the first 10. United possessed the ball for almost 75 percent of the game; the star-studded offense mustered a measly five shots on goal.

Van Gaal called upon Juan Mata to save the day, and a burst of inspiration was all that United needed to seal the win.

“When you come off the bench you try to change the game and that what was in my mind when I was warming up,” Mata said after the game to Stuart Mathieson of the Manchester Evening News and rest of the media. “It was probably one of my most important goals.”

Van Gaal is asking for three years to get Man United back to where they “belong.” He’ll need to string together a few more W’s before his future is secure.

Newcastle United 2 – West Bromwich Albion 0

While Manchester United sits in seventh place, perhaps feeling as if that’s the relegation zone, Newcastle United must think eighth place is like the top-four.

Ayoze Perez headlined another victory for Alan Pardew and the Magpies. Newcastle has won five games in a row across all competitions after a 2-0 win over West Brom on Sunday.

Pardew’s bunch took the lead just before the stroke of halftime on the goal of the weekend. Daryl Janmaat took the ball down the left-hand side of the field and played it across the top of the 18-yard box into a crowd of players. The ball was just behind Perez. No worries. Perez stretched out his right foot and flicked it behind his body and into the net. A simple touch. A sublime finish.

Janmaat set up the second goal for Newcastle as his arching cross found the head of Fabricio Coloccini in the 62nd minute. West Brom could not respond, and Newcastle now finds itself level with Manchester United on 16 points and just two points out of fourth place.

Queens Park Rangers 2 – Manchester City 2

Manuel Pellegrini said Manchester City was in a “crisis of confidence” following their UCL loss to CSKA Moscow. A 2-2 draw with QPR over the weekend didn’t do the defending champs much good in that department, save perhaps Sergio Aguero, whose brace gave him 12 goals through 11 games, tops in the EPL.

Charlie Austin put the home side ahead in the first half, sneaking in front of the defense, avoiding the offsides call and directing the assist from Mauricio Isla by Joe Hart in the 21st minute.

Eleven minutes later, Aguero corralled a long feed in the box, and his composed finish between two defenders leveled the match.

Austen’s cross forced an error and own goal by Martin Demichelis in the second half to give QPR another lead. But once again, Aguero saved City. He chested down a long-ball by Yaya Toure and maneuvered his way past Charlie Green and a couple other defenders to find enough space for the equalizer.

Man City sit in third place but much like their cross-town rivals, appear to be out of sorts. Where would they be without the services of Aguero? No one is having a better campaign this club season; not even Diego Costa.

I’d put Aguero’s goals up against anything Cristiano Ronaldo has done for Real Madrid. Aguero has accounted for 55 percent of Man City’s goals this season – 12 of the 2. Compare that with Ronaldo’s 18 goals out of the 42 that Real Madrid have scored, or 43 percent of their goals. Plus, Madrid have outscored their La Liga opponents by 31 goals through 11 games. They’d be fine without Ronaldo. Aguero? He’s the early season most valuable player in my book for the EPL.

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