Liverpool must unleash Salah, Mane and Firmino to hold off Manchester City


Liverpool Klopp Salah Firmino Mane

Jurgen Klopp needs to unleash Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to get Liverpool to the title.


As Liverpool smashed Watford at Anfield on Wednesday night, there was a sense of the old Liverpool coming back to the fore. Two 0-0 draws inside a week had some concerned about the Reds.

They were particularly worried about the form of their front three. More than one claim that trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino haven’t been the same this year. In the numbers alone, that seems a strange argument to make.

Salah has 20 goals in all competitions and is the top scorer in the Premier League. Mane has 15 to his name and in some parts of the campaign has been near on world-class. Firmino, meanwhile, has chipped in with 11 and continued his rise to the best false nine in Europe. Continue reading

EPL predicted lineups for this weekend


There is another full list of Premier League fixtures this coming weekend with all games being played over Saturday and Sunday.

Spurs v Arsenal

Spurs XI: Lloris, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Aurier, Sissoko, Winks, Rose, Eriksen, Kane, Son

Arsenal XI: Leno, Sokratis, Koscielny, Mustafi, Maitland-Niles, Ramsey, Torreira, Xhaka, Kolasinac, Lacazette, Aubameyang

Questionable: Jan Vertonghen (Spurs); Lars Koscielny, Stephan Lichtsteiner (Arsenal)

Out: Dele Alli, Eric Dier (Spur); Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)

Injury updates and Romero talks potential Juventus move


Cristiano Ronaldo was limited in training yesterday due to a knock on the ankle he got in the Bologna game. The initial tests revealed no structural damage and he was able to practice fully today, so, barring a precautionary measure, he will be good to go against Napoli. Douglas Costa is currently not expected to come back this week as he is dealing with a bruised calf on top of a quad hematoma he has not been able to absorb. According to Tuttosport, Juventus could get some positive news from Sami Khedira, who has stayed in Germany after the heart procedure, but will soon come back in Turin for a new round of examinations and is hoping to be cleared sooner than the announced one-month timetable. Continue reading

Real Madrid still haven’t stepped out from under Ronaldo’s shadow

There was a sense of confusion, bafflement, around the Santiago Bernabeu as the full time whistle blew on Real Madrid’s 3-0 home defeat to Barcelona, on their 2018/19 Copa del Rey campaign, on Wednesday night. The home supporters had seen their team ragdoll their fiercest rivals for the majority of the 90 minutes, yet it was they who ended up on the wrong end of the emphatic scoreline.

Indeed, the statistics at full time made for bemusing reading. Real Madrid managed 14 shots on goal compared to Barcelona’s four. What’s more, many of those efforts from Real Madrid were high quality chances. Vinicius Junior in particular was presented with a number of opportunities to find the net.

Cristiano Ronaldo

When it mattered most, Real Madrid lacked cutting edge. They had been in good form coming into the Copa del Rey semi final. Their first leg draw at Camp Nou set them up nicely to make the final of a competition they haven’t won in five years. And yet Barcelona showed them up when the pressure was on.

This is where Cristiano Ronaldo was so important for Real Madrid in years gone by. The kind of performance turned in by Los Meringues on Wednesday night wasn’t especially unusual, it’s just that previously they had Ronaldo to drag them through, to get them over the line.

Nine months after his departure to Juventus, Real Madrid still haven’t stepped out from under the shadow of their former Portuguese forward. A few weeks ago, it seemed that Karim Benzema was filling the void, scoring six goals in a run of five games, but that streak has since come to a halt.

Vinicius has widely been labelled the Ronaldo replacement at the Santiago Bernabeu, and with good reason. The emergence of the Brazilian teenager was a turning point in Real Madrid’s season. He has given them a forward thrust that they had been previously lacking. Many of their attacking moves flow through him.

However, Vinicius is still a teenager and there’s only so much he can do on his own. The majority of the opportunities he spurned on Wednesday night were of his own making. Relying on him to create and score is not a sustainable plan for Real Madrid in the post-Ronaldo age. The defeat to Barcelona exposed the problems that they are still facing.

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Monchi’s Biggest Hits & Flops at Roma



In many ways hiring Monchi was a statement of intent for Roma- they were telling the world they were essentially forced to continue using the business model they had been following since 2011 under his predecessor Walter Sabatini.

The club’s owner James Pallotta was still dealing with the enormous debt left from the previous administration which caused them to have to deal with strict Financial Fair Play parameters. Dealing with Italian bureaucracy, which was tougher to unlock than the BBC defense in their prime, also made getting the green light for the new stadium rather complicated.
So the best solution was to find a sporting director known for discovering cheap talents in hopes of keeping the team in the Champions League while making large plusvalenze down the road to keep their balance sheet in order. So how has Monchi performed since arriving in Italy’s capital? Now that we’ve gone three full transfer windows on his watch, we have a fair sample size to evaluate him properly
Biggest Hits 
Nainggolan/Zaniolo deal
I thought the Nainggolan to Inter deal was very good for Roma on day it happened. The Belgian international’s lifestyle made him feel much older than his actual age and it made perfect sense for the giallorossi to remove Serie A’s most notorious bad boy from a locker room featuring many young and up and coming players.
Zaniolo had the reputation for being one of Italy’s best prospects based on his performances on Inter’s Primavera and the Azzurri’s youth teams but safe to say no one could have expected him to break out the way he has this season. While the comparisons to Francesco Totti are unfair and dangerous, it is appropriate to compare him to the version of Paul Pogba we saw under Antonio Conte at Juventus. If Zaniolo continues to play this way, anyone will always be able to defend Monchi’s tenure in Italy’s capital by pointing to this deal.
Cengiz Under
While the Turkish winger hasn’t performed nearly as well this season compared to the 2017/18 campaign because of injuries and coaches learning how to contain him, he was instrumental in Roma’s run to the Champions League semifinal (which brought substantial revenues) and will bring in a very big plusvalenza should he be sold in the future.
Aleksander Kolarov
Bringing in the former Lazio left back wasn’t the typical Monchi signing since he isn’t a young player with upside, but the Serbian international has been a great leader, a true professional and very valuable player for Di Francesco. While he has shown his age at times, he has also been very dangerous on free kicks and has been one of the giallorossi’s leading scorers this season.
Biggest Flops 
Javier Pastore 
If you’re an Inter fan, the best way to criticize the disastrous Nainggolan deal is to point to fact Roma essentially reinvested the cash part of the deal on the former Palermo offensive midfielder. Pastore is one of the highest paid players on the team and his injury opened the door for Pellegrini to shine in the trequartista role and Cristante playing in a position that suits him better. There’s still hope Di Francesco finds a suitable role for Pastore but spending so much on a player that doesn’t contribute much is especially painful for a club in Roma’s financial situation.
Not signing an adequate partner for Manolas

While Federico Fazio vastly exceeded expectations in his first season in Italy, he has been a massive liability since. Monchi tried to find an alternative with two Bosman signings in Hector Moreno (who was sold after a six months) and more recently Ivan Marcano, but the results have been underwhelming. Not signing another center back during the recent January window may end up costing Roma a Champions League spot when you consider how much Milan improved by bringing in Paqueta and Piatek.





More Will Be Revealed 
Rick Karsdorp 

The former Feyenoord defender was supposed to the opposite of Kolarov since he’s a young speedy wingback with the potential of seeing his value considerably improve on the transfer market. But two injuries cost him his first season in Italy and the lucrative long term deal given to Alessandro Florenzi makes it harder for him to nail down the starter’s role. On the bright side Karsdorp has played rather well in 2019 and there’s hope he can fulfill expectations in Italy’s capital.




 Steven N’Zonzi

Just like Pastore, the French midfielder was an expensive addition with little to no future resale value. On the bright side the World Cup champion has been able to at least be a consistent starter and has helped Di Francesco navigate through Daniele De Rossi’s injury.



Juventus v AS Roma - Serie A 
Patrik Schick 

After failing a medical at Juventus, the Czech striker arrived at Roma in one of the most expensive deals ever for the giallorossi. After a disastrous first season and a half, there was talk that he would be sent back to Sampdoria on loan, but after hiring a mental coach Schick has shown why he was compared to Ibrahimovic in his first season in Serie A. There’s legitimate hope he won’t come close to being an Iturbe like flop.

Bryan Cristante 

The former Milan youth team product got off to such a slow start that many (including yours truly) labeled him as the latest example of Atalanta fool’s gold- a player who could only strive in Gasperini’s system. But in the past three months Cristante has been one of the best box to box midfielders in Serie A and along with Zaniolo and Pellegrini looks like someone who can also help Mancini on the Azzurri.

Chelsea demonstrate old-school resilience to see off Tottenham and ease pressure on Sarri

Maurizio Sarri badly needed that.

A much-improved performance in Sunday’s League Cup final defeat by Manchester City was overshadowed by an embarrassing debacle which saw goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga ignore instructions from his manager and stay on the field despite substitute Willy Caballero being lined up to replace him ahead of the penalty shoot-out. That incident was the big talking point coming out of the Wembley showpiece, so much so that Chelsea’s overall display had largely been forgotten by the time Tottenham Hotspur rocked up at Stamford Bridge for a pivotal London derby on Wednesday night.

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Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 26


Salvatore Sirigu: Torino have kept five clean sheets in a row, four straight at home, against opponents that are much more equipped than Chievo and the Flying Donkeys have scored in just one of the last four road games.

Danilo D’Ambrosio: Cagliari’s offensive output has been rather pedestrian in the last two months, so picking an Inter defender could be a smart choice even though they are on the road. The right back is also occasionally able to put his name in the scoresheet.

Jens Larsen: Bologna are definitely friskier after the coaching change, but the Udinese wing back has been able to rack up bonus points in four of their last five home fixtures.  Continue reading

EPL Player of the Week – Gerard Deulofeu (Watford)

deulofeuThe date was October 18, 1986 and Watford – managed by legendary boss Graham Taylor – beat visiting Aston Villa 4-2 at Vicarage Road. Little did anyone know at the time, but that match would go on to live long in the history of Watford Football Club. For in that game, Hornets striker Mark Falco netted a hattrick. He also scored against Villa the following year, before an unbelievably barren run saw Watford fail to even score against Villa again until late 2015 when they would win 3-2 at Villa Park – some 28 years later. The match in question however, until very recently indeed, held another record – it was the last time a Watford player had scored a hattrick in the top flight.

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Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 26


Cagliari-Inter: the Sardinians are coming off a 0-1 loss to Sampdoria, where they were offensively challenged, and have prevailed just once in the past seven games, where they have been beaten five times. Inter had a crazy one with Fiorentina last week, where they were pipped at the post due to a questionable penalty. They had defeated Parma and the Blucerchiati in the two previous fixtures and need point to stave off Milan and Roma’s comeback. The Rossoblù have found the net in just one of their last five games and only with one player, Leonardo Pavoletti. Continue reading