Weekend Preview

Can Man. City start to gain momentum? Can Arsenal set themselves apart from the rest? Will Leicester keep up the pressure? Who will win, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool or Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United? It’s set to be an intriguing weekend of Premier League football!

Tottenham and Sunderland play in the early kick off, with Tottenham coming into the game off the back of a late defeat to Leicester. Despite that, Mauricio Pochettino’s side have been in good form and sit 4th in the table. Performances from Harry Kane and Dele Alli have been important in their rise up the table, and if they can bounce back straight away with 3 points it could be very handy. But, in their way will be a Sunderland team high on confidence after their vital 2-4 win over fellow strugglers Swansea in midweek, and striker Jermain Defoe, who scored a hat-trick in that game, will be hoping to keep us his good form with a goal against his former club.

Meanwhile, Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth host Alex Neill’s Norwich, and Bournemouth, who have lost their way in recent weeks, could start Lewis Grabban, who rejoined the club he was at last season, and if he were to play, his first game for his new (old) club would be against the  club that he has just left, Norwich! Norwich’s form has been more up and down lately, with wins against Manchester United, Aston Villa and Southampton along with defeats to Manchester City, Tottenham and Stoke, but whatever happens, it is set to be a hugely important game between two of last season’s promoted sides.

One of the most interesting ties will take place at Stamford Bridge, as Chelsea take on Everton. Both drew in midweek, but Everton’s draw would have been more satisfactory as they picked up a point after the 0-0 draw with Manchester City, whilst Chelsea were denied 3 points by West Brom. In form striker Romelu Lukaku will be hoping to continue his form, and Chelsea will be hoping to keep up their unbeaten run under interim manager Guus Hiddink.

Crystal Palace will hardly be going into the weekend with great confidence, as they became only the second team to lose to Aston Villa in the league this season, (the last being Bournemouth’s 0-1 defeat on the opening day,) and now they travel to Manchester City. As for City themselves, Sergio Aguero will be keen to build on goals against Watford and Norwich, and as a result keep the pressure up on Arsenal and Leicester.

Newcastle will come into their game against West Ham with a new hope, after their 3-3 draw with Manchester United in midweek, and new signings Jonjo Shelvey and Henri Saivet could start along with Emmanuel Riviere and Rolando Aarons, who are both back from injury. Looking at West Ham, Dimitri Payet made a huge impact in his first game back from injury against Bournemouth, with a sumptuous free kick, a classy assist and an all round dazzling display helped the Hammers to a 1-3 win.

Southampton host West Brom at St Mary’s, and after their important 2-0 win against Watford on Wednesday the Saints will be hoping to build on that result with 3 more points. New Saints signing Charlie Austin will be watching on as an in form Shane Long faces his former club, whilst Rickie Lambert of the Baggies will be facing his former club also. The match finished 0-0 the last time these two sides met at the Hawthorns earlier this season.

A repeat of the 3-2 thriller at the King Power stadium earlier this season sees Aston Villa host Leicester at Villa Park. The reverse fixture saw Villa go 0-2 up through brilliant goals from Jack Grealish and Carles Gil before goals from Danny Drinkwater, Jamie Vardy and Nathan Dyer turned the game on its head. This time Vardy will be hoping to get his first goal since the 2-1 victory against Chelsea, whilst Villa will be in a much happier mood after just their second win of the season against Crystal Palace in midweek, although there is still a lot of work to be done for the Premier League’s bottom side.

Sunday will see English football’s most famous fixture as Liverpool welcome Manchester United to Anfield, before league leaders Arsenal travel to the Britannia to face Stoke.

The Monday night game will be huge for Swansea after their disappointing 2-4 defeat against Sunderland, and they face Watford, who also lost in midweek. Swansea sit just 1 point outside of the relegation zone and a win today would be crucial.

Who will be top of the table at the end of the week? Who will be in the relegation zone? We’ll have to wait and see.

Mourinho misery! Round up #2

It was the weekend of Premier League football we’d all been waiting for, and despite not being quite the classic that many people had hoped, the situation is beginning to become much clearer, and what place better to start than the game at Upton Park on Saturday.

Mourinho’s Chelsea went into the game knowing that West Ham were no slouch – of course they had already beaten Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City this season, and key players such as Dmitri Payet & co were firing at all cylinders. But the game couldn’t have started any worse for Jose – they went behind after 17 minutes due to a powerful strike by Mauro Zarate.

And it got worse for the blues as holding midfielder Nemanja Matic was sent off for two yellow cards inside nine minutes going into the break. At that point, you what have been forgiven for thinking that the interval would do Chelsea good, but Mourinho didn’t help their cause, after he went to speak to referee John Moss, and was sent to the stands for the remainder of the match as a result.

But it didn’t seem to matter when defender Gary Cahill pounced on an opportunity to level the score after 55 minutes, and it looked like Chelsea could push on and go for the winner until the 79th minute, when substitute Andy Carroll, who has suffered from many injuries in the past, headed home the winner, to complete Mourinho’s misery.

Elsewhere this Saturday, Aston villa lost yet another match, this time at the hands of Swansea,when despite leading through Jordan Ayew , goals from Gylfi Siggurdson and Andre Ayew (Jordan’s brother) turned the game on it’s head, and this result eventually lead to the sacking of manager Tim Sherwood. The away team also prevailed at Carrow Road where Salomon Rondon bagged another three points for West Bromwich Albion, and goals from Troy Deeney and Almen Abdi secured a win for Watford at the hands of Stoke.

Also on Saturday, Premier League top scorer Jamie Vardy continued his hot streak for Leicester by making it ten goals for the season and seven games in a row in which he has scored, therefore resulting in a very good three points for the Foxes against a strong Crystal Palace side. Finishing 1-0, Leicester had finally pulled off a clean sheet for the first time this season, and they can now enjoy their pizza.

In the late kick-off, an impressive Arsenal side saw off Everton after goals from Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny gave them a 2-1 win, which temporarily resulted in them going top of the table, before the exciting Sunday fixtures took place.

We began with the Wear-Tyne derby, as Sam Allardyce incredibly carried  on a run of four Sunderland managers to face Newcastle in their second game in charge. What wasn’t set in stone though, was the fact that the other three managers had all won the derby in their second game in charge, but, after the disappointing defeat to West Brom last week, Big Sam didn’t let us down, with a comprehensive 3-0 win against their bitter rivals, just like when Paulo Di Canio took over. The big moment came in first half stoppage time when Fabricio Collocini fouled Steven Fletcher and therefore conceded a penalty and was sent off by referee Robert Madley. The decision to award a penalty for Collocini’s shoulder barge seemed fair, but Newcastle could argue that it did not warrant a sending off as it appeared that Steven Fletcher looked unlikely to win the ball ahead of goalkeeper Rob Elliot. Nevertheless, Newcastle were down to ten men and Adam Johnson confidently converted the penalty, making that his fourth goal in a Wear-Tyne derby. Later on in the second half, Billy Jones made sure of Yann M’Villa’s shot to extend their lead, before an exquisite pass by of all people, centre-back Younes Kaboul set up Steven Fletcher to seal the win.

Following this game was an even bigger game that everyone had been waiting for, but unfortunately it didn’t live up to the billing as a good defensive display from both teams resulted in the game finishing 0-0, and Manchester City regaining their spot at the top of the table in the derby with Man United. Due to David Silva and Sergio Aguero’s absence, Pellegrini deployed Wilfried Bony as striker and Yaya Toure ahead of Fernando and Fernandinho, with Raheem Sterling on the left and Kevin De Bruyne on the right. One of the possible reasons why this game finished 0-0 (other than the solid defensive performances) was that neither of their inform  players shone, De Bruyne unable to get much success against Marcus Rojo and likewise with Sterling against Antonio Valencia. It seemed as if the pair were crying out to be swapped, as Rojo’s intelligence allowed him to deal with De Bruyne, and Valencia was just as quick as Sterling, but Valencia isn’t as intelligent and therefore would have struggled to deal with the classy Belgian and Rojo lacks as much pace, and also wouldn’t have to been able to deal with Sterling. Pellegrini acted on this and sent De Bruyne out to the left and brought on the fresh legs and pace of Jesus Navas, but while the out of form Spanish winger struggled on the right, Louis Van Gaal countered the threat of De Bruyne by replacing Valencia with Matteo Darmian.

Going forward themselves United lacked creativity, but Anthony Martial had a positive performance on the left, and substitute Jesse Lingard hit the bar late on as the biggest chance of the game went begging.

Finishing off the weekend were Liverpool at home to Southampton, and Bournemouth vs Tottenham. In the game at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp’s men drew once again with the score 1-1, and the point for each team at the end of the game seemed fair. Christian Benteke looked to have given Klopp his first win as Liverpool boss with a superb header from James Milner’s cross, but their lead was cancelled out when Sadio Mane bundled the ball across the line after Gaston Ramirez’s header. Mane was later sent off for two quickfire yellow cards and will miss Southampton’s game against Bournemouth this Sunday as the match finished 1-1.

Finally in the game down on the South coast, despite taking an early lead through Matt Richie after just 49 seconds, goals from Moussa Dembele, Erik Lamela and a much needed hat-trick for Harry Kane eventually saw the game finish 1-5 to the visitors.

So, there you have it- City are still top of the table but Arsenal are following closely behind, things are getting worse for Jose Mourinho and Chelsea, and the two sons of Abedi Pele scored against each other at Villa Park as Tim Sherwood became the third managerial casualty of the season!

The Race for Jurgen Klopp

With not long to go in the Premier League now as we pass mid April, the race is hotting up for the charismatic manager of Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp. As it looks certain that the likes of Jose Mourinho and Louis Van Gaal will stay at their clubs for the 2015/16 season, there are strong chances that Manuel Pellegrini could well be sacked and there could be the slightest, slightest chance that Arsene Wenger may finally chose to retire as Arsenal boss, and after strong showings last season from their clubs, safety isn’t wrapped up for Mauricio Pochettino and Brendan Rogers. Therefore, all four sides will be closely keeping an eye on the German.

Klopp started out his career as a manager in 2001, taking charge of FSV Mainz 05 up until 2008. During his 7 year reign he lead them into the Bundesliga for the first time, and even guided them to qualification for the 2005-2006 UEFA Cup. Unfortunately, the following season  they were relegated from the Bundesliga, and after failing to gain promotion after that Klopp resigned as head coach.

Shortly after in May 2008 he was approached by Borussia Dortmund and signed a two year contract with a club. He got underway in style by defeating rivals Bayern Munich to clinch the Supercup, and after last seasons disappointment under Thomas Doll in which they finished 13th, Klopp improved their position by 7 places, leading them to finish 6th. There was also steady improvement the next season as they finished 5th before successive league titles transformed the club in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012. In 2012-2013, Dortmund had begun well known around the world  and their fan base was increasing, and despite only managing to finish second behind Bayern Munich, a fantastic run to the Champions League final including to victories against Real Madrid saw them come agonisingly close to just their second ever European Cup title, (after their win against Juventus in 1997) as they lost 2-1 to Bayern again after Arjen Robben’s late winner. The next season was not quite as thrilling as the finished second in the Bundesliga again and despite winning the second leg 2-0, crashed out in the quarter finals of the Champions League to Real Madrid in a 2-3 aggregate defeat. This season however has been a lot, lot worse, as after 29 games, they sit just 8th and went out to  Juventus in the round of 16 of the Champions League, and after this poor year, on  the 15th April, Klopp announced that he will be leaving Dortmund at the end of this season.

After much speculation it seems as if he may be going to the Premier League and Manchester City are currently the favourites to land the crazy manager, but expect this one to go right down to the wire; and the question is, where will Jurgen Klopp be next season?

Biggest Top Four Race in Years

After the recent midweek matches, the top end of the table makes for interesting reading. And I’m not talking about Chelsea and Manchester City. I’m talking about how there is a 5 point gap between 3rd place and 7th. This means that, in theory, in two weeks time, Liverpool, who haven’t been near the top four position-wise all season, could jump from 7th to 3rd. That is how tight things are in the race for the Champions League at the moment. 5 or 6 teams are all vying for a spot in the biggest competition in Europe, and every single team has a chance. No team ever seems to be safe when they have reached the top four this season though, with West Ham being a classic example. Not so long ago this season, the hammers were in the top four and things were looking very cosy, but, within just 2 or 3 defeats, they were down to 8th, 4 points away from 7th place. That shows how if you want to be a top team you’ve got to keep on winning, which is what teams like Arsenal and Manchester United are capable of doing. But that doesn’t mean we should rule out Southampton.

They have shown that when the team is fit and firing at all cylinders, they can beat anyone on their day, but injuries and key players not performing at times this season has lead to them sliding down the table very quickly. But one, credit to them for one getting this far, and two showing that they will only be satisfied with European football, and even 6th place will be a disappointment. But, their midweek draw once again proves that even  the tiniest of slip ups, like missing one good chance (in their midweek game against West Ham) can affect your season massively.

In terms of Manchester United, they are the favourites to come 3rd, and will be tough to beat, so a good run of games could put them in a great position and leave it to the rest of the teams to battle for 4th. But they need to be wary of the other sides, as one or two slip ups could cost them, and Arsenal, Southampton, Tottenham and Liverpool will be ready to pounce.

All 5 teams have their strengths and weaknesses,  and Harry Kane is definitely one of Tottenham Hotspur’s strengths. The 21 year-old is likely to be selected for England the next time the chance comes, and in 2015, has scored as many league goals as Lionel Messi (8), and double as many as Cristiano Ronaldo (4). He has also already in this year won the January player of the month, and won the North London derby with two goals to beat Arsenal.

So, with 13 games left this season, it is still all to play for. But, the question is, who do you think will make the top four?

Derby Day

On another dramatic and exciting Saturday of English football, two huge derbies took place, both significant in each teams season, and their pride. In the early kick-off, we saw Tottenham turn around a 1-0 deficit to go on and win the match 2-1, thanks largely to their 21 year-old wonderkid Harry Kane. In the later kick-off however, in a tight game at Goodison Park, the score finished at 0-0. Elsewhere at the 3o’clock kick-offs, a late winner from Sadio Mane secured a 1-0 win at QPR, a 1-1 draw between Hull and Manchester City, a 2-1 victory for Chelsea against Aston Villa, a 1-1 draw between Sunderland and Swansea and a win for Crystal Palace over struggling Leicester.

Looking at the North-London derby between Spurs and Arsenal, after Ozil had opened the scoring with a nice finish for his third goal in three games, 21 year-old Harry Kane kept up his fine record in front of goal this season with two great goals, further encouraging his possible selection for England. Roy Hodgson was of course in the crowd to see, and he would have been very impressed with Kane’s second goal in particular, a stunning header to beat David Ospina at the far post. His fighting spirit and technical ability to score goals, the English youngster is starting to become a Robin Van Persie style penalty box predator.

In yesterday’s other games, there was a bit of hope for Aston Villa, with there first goal in 10 hours and 59 minutes surprisingly came against the mighty Chelsea of all teams. Other moments of note would be Jermain Defoe’s second goal since returning to the Premier League, and Sadio Mane’s cool finish in the 93rd minute to seal a hard fought win for Southampton over QPR at Loftus Road.