As we edge closer to the official return of the Premier League, the players and coaching staffs of the clubs are hard at work to ensure they are ready for the challenge both physically and mentally.
Some of the leading EPL squads were put to the test over the weekend and in this piece, I share a brief overview of the exhibition matches they played and what were the main aspects to take away from their respective performances.
Ole Gunnar Solskajer and his staff opted to stage a game between two 11-men squads made up of the first-team players.
Harry Maguire captained the side wearing red, while Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes was captain of the “away” team.
There’s not a lot to say about the game itself. The tempo was a bit low and there weren’t too many thrilling moments but United fans will be happy to know that both Paul POgba and Marcus Rashford looked fit and will be returning to the side once the action restarts.
A lot will depend on these two players so having them back and looking sharp will give Solskjaer a big bonus ahead of the reboot. Juan Mata, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and Anthony Martial were also on the pitch, so the Red Devils look ready to continue their quest of returning to the Champions League.
Frank Lampard took a similar approach and lined up 22 players from his first team to take a part in a behind closed doors game at the club’s training ground in Cobham.
The peculiar thing was that it was the manager and his staff who officiated the match which means that Lamps is trying his best to keep his tactics and his players’ current form under wraps.
The positive thing was seeing Ruben Loftus-Cheek back playing after 13 months on the sidelines. Not only that but the promising midfielder was arguably the best player on the pitch and scored the goal which saw his team win the game.
There were also positive outings for Mason Mount, Willian, Pedro, and young sensation Tammy Abraham, who was also nursing an injury during the lockdown.
There are a lot of conondrums ahead of Lampard but this first experience for his team was a success and the Blues will be feeling confident they can latch onto their Champions League spot during the remainder of the season.
The Gunners took a different approach and invited London club Charlton Athletic for a friendly game at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal did show some problems on the defensive end which Mikel Arteta will definitely need to address but their offensive force turned on the style.
Alexandre Lacazette opened the scoring with a thumping volley from the edge of the box and star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameymang also got on the scoresheet with his trademark curling shot.
Chalrton did look menacing at times but their overall conditioning dropped in the second half and that allowed Arsenal’s attackers to run riot in and around their box.
Joe Willock scored with a beautifully placed shot in the top corner and there was a hat-trick from poacher Eddie Nketiah.
Things still look shaky in defense but having Aubameyang and Lacazette in top form can do a world of good for the Gunners and with bright performances from the young kids, Arteta can rest assured that he can rely on depth when his main pieces need a rest.
The league leaders were back at Anfield over the weekend and Jurgen Klopp decided to stage multiple short-format 11v11 matches.
You can always count on the German specialist to come up with something different and I believe he will be happy with what he saw.
The nature of the games wasn’t too competitive but all the main pieces like Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah looked sharp and the overall feeling was that the squad is ready to continue with its high-octane style.
The Reds have done the hard part and will just need to keep their focus for a few games to clinch their first Premier League which will probably happen before the end of the month.
Newcastle’s takeover is still not finalized but there was a lot of interest in their exhibition match that took place over the weekend.
The Magpies followed the same approach as Chelsea and Manchester United and lined up two teams from their first-team squad to compete at St. James’ Park.
Some of the players looked a bit rusty but Steve Bruce will be pleased to see Joelinton score a goal.
Since his arrival at the club, the striker has been found lacking in that department and if he can go on a good scoring run after the restart, this will definitely help the team’s chances of going up the table.
The other highlight was a scorching effort from outside the box by January signing Nabil Bentaleb which leveled the scores.
The Algerian who came on loan from Bundesliga outfit Schalke 04 has a point to prove, as his stay with Tottenham was labeled as a complete failure.
He has definite quality and skill and it will be interesting if Steve Bruce can get the best out of him.