West Ham have one foot in safety from relegation after a win over Chelsea and draw against Newcastle

For a while there West Ham looked destined to be relegated. There was no shape, discipline or attacking method. Everyone was looking at David Moyes as if to say ‘what now’?

Strange then how just 2 games can change the perspective. The first was against Chelsea where the Hammers were the obvious underdogs and yet not only did they beat the Blues they also put 3 goals past them in a fantastic 3-2 victory.

This match was followed up by a trip to Newcastle, a team under Steve Bruce who were still unbeaten since the restart of the league. The game finished 2-2, the battle was there for all to see. True the Londoners had taken the lead twice and been pegged back as many times but a point away to Newcastle is always a good point.

Those two matches stopped the rot and that was the most important thing for the club who suddenly had a self belief. Led by the inform Michail Antonio his goals have really counted. One could also suggest that Chelsea did the Hammers a favour, it was simply the right fixture at the right time, as West Ham always up their game when they are playing their London rivals.

Relegation can still happen but it feels much more distant now. The club have pulled 4 points clear from both Aston Villa and Bournemouth, only a few weeks ago the only thing saving West Ham from the drop was goal difference.

West Ham now have 31 points and this week they will play Burnley at home. They will be the favourites to win that and if they do they would have taken a huge step for survival this season.

The Hammers remaining games after that is an away trip to Norwich. It’s very possible that by the time they play the Canaries they will have been relegated. This could make the game easier for Moyes’ team. They will then be at home to Watford another game which many would fancy them to win.

Their last two games are against Manchester United away from home and then Aston Villa. It seems like the only tricky tie left for the Hammers will be their trip to Old Trafford as it is very possible that United will be needing a win to qualify for a top 4 spot and thus playing in the Champions League next season.

Even the Hammers final game which is against Aston Villa could be a dead rubber anyway, as the way Villa are playing they are looking like they could be down by then.

West Ham are making a superb recovery just at the right time, and for now all Hammers fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

Manchester United are currently the best side in the Premier League, this is why

With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in charge of Manchester United he makes it very hard for critics to get on his back. One of those reasons of course is that he is so friendly, the guy smiles even after a bad game, just imagine Sir Alex Ferguson doing the same.

But the main reason it is so hard to tear Manchester United apart is that they are not a bad team, or at least not as bad as many would have you think. True Solskjaer has had his downs with the club and some of their form over two periods have merited a few whispers of ‘you’re getting the sack in the morning’. And just when you think everything is going wrong, he motivates the players, gets the best out of them and they start winning games, but by winning that is scoring plenty of goals and going on good 1-2 month runs. United are currently doing that right now.

It could well be that the Red Devils fail to qualify for the Champions League for next season, though they are currently giving that a very good shot. But on form they are the best side in the Premier League- we should expect Solskjaer to be picking up manager of the month anytime soon.

Along with Newcastle they are the only team not to have lost since the league restarted, not many could have predicted that. And United would be in 1st place on form collecting 13 points from 15. They are scoring goals too, 11 in their last 3 games and have just come off of the back of beating Bournemouth 5-2. Whisper it but everything is feeling like Ferguson/United.

But why is this, what has changed at United? Because if they were playing this good earlier in the season they would be where Chelsea are now and possibly challenging for 2nd position.

Here are three key players that have upped their game:

Mason Greenwood

Greenwood has displaced Daniel James and he is scoring goals, setting up play and his pace is fantastic. He is a real find, just look at his solo goal a few days ago against Brighton. Solskjaer had this to say about him: “You can see clearly that he’s maturing and improving. He’s only 18 still so we will see more from him. I’ve said it throughout the year that as long as we can get him faced up in and around the box he’ll create chances for us. But in this game his hold-up play and his link up play and general movement was fantastic as well.” The scary part is that he is only 18. Could be a future legend with the club.

Fred

What a turnaround it has been for Fred in midfield. Last season and at the beginning of this one he was playing so bad that memes were being made of him and cruelly he was becoming a laughing stock. Maybe though all Fred needed was the right manager to guide him and he has been very very good especially this year.

Bruno Fernandes 

Potentially Bruno Fernandes could be Manchester United’s best buy since Cristiano Ronaldo. He has been superb for the club, a new signing and already carrying the team. A born leader and he should be setting the stage alight for many years to come. In just 9 league games for United he has scored 6 goals. It is obvious he will be a regular fixture.

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

Two defeats in a row mean that Lazio have blown the Serie A title

For 20 years Lazio have been in search of the Serie A title and they will most likely have to wait until year 21. The Roman outfit emerged this season as the unlikely title contenders, but in the final straight it looks like they have blown their chance.

In truth everyone expected Juventus to win their 9th title in a row, but Inter Milan looking their best since the Jose Mourinho years in 2010 took up the challenge for the majority of the season often trading 1st place with the old lady. And then in the 2nd act came Lazio, who not only overtook Inter with ease but gave Juventus something to think about too.

But life moves quickly in football and Lazio’s latest form has suffered. At this stage of the game you can’t lose 3 games in your last five and that includes losing their last two in a row. AC Milan beat them convincingly a few days ago 3-0 and that was at the Stadio Olimpico just to rub it in. They followed that up by losing to Leece 2-1 who were in the relegation zone at the time, but that win has now taken them out of it. Leece’s seventh win of the campaign could not have been sweeter as they were trailing 1-0.

So as it stood Lazio were now trailing Juventus by 7pts, so later that night when Juventus went 2-0 up against AC Milan, everyone was believing that the league was done and dusted. Not quite for Milan staged one of the best comebacks of the season scoring 4 second half goals to win the game 4-2.

Now on one hand that was good news for Lazio but on the other it was a huge opportunity lost. Had they won against Leece the gap would be just 4 points with everything to play for. Sure there are 21 points on the board to play with, but being over two wins in front Juventus are in the driving seat and it feels unlikely Lazio will have the quality and speed to take them over.

This could be unfortunate for Ciro Immobile who has been outstanding for the club. He is the leading scorer in Serie A this season with 29 goals and could become only the 11th player to break the 30 goal marker which will surely just be a matter of time. He currently has 126 points in the fantasy rankings which not only makes him the best player in Serie A but based on the points, the best in Euro Fantasy League rankings overall.

Can Immobile still fire Lazio to glory? He can but they will need a few more surprise defeats from Juventus before that happens.

How well do you know Italian football? Want to challenge the best Serie A Fantasy Managers? Play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

Cristiano Ronaldo breaks more records with Juventus as he stakes his claim as one of the greatest players of all time

What record is there left for Cristiano Ronaldo to break? When he was younger he said his dream was for a football fan to open up the record books of football and that his name would be on the first page. He may have to share column inches with Lionel Messi, but yes Ronaldo’s name will be there.

Ronaldo has added another record to his ever growing tally and it happened this weekend when Juventus beat Torino to go 7 points clear at the top of Serie A.

Ronaldo scored his 25th goal of the season. The remarkable feat is that no player who has played for Juventus since the 1960s has managed to score 25 or more league goals. That’s quite a fact that wouldn’t be out of place in the quiz game Trivial Pursuit but it is a fact. Not even greats such as Michel Platini or Alessandro del Piero were able to get that many goals in a league season.

In 2016 Gonzalo Higuain who was a goal scoring machine in Italy managed 24 goals but couldn’t crack the special 25. It is testament to Ronaldo who at 35 has scored so many goals for the club who are surely on their way to winning an 8th successive scudetto title.

The record for the old lady was achieved in 1961 and what was bizarre was that Ronaldo’s goal came in the 61st minute. If you’re wondering who had held the record for the past 59 years it was Argentine legend Omar Sivori who finished the season with 25. Though the season before that he scored 28 goals, so Ronaldo now has another record to chase.

It was only a few weeks ago that Ronaldo broke another record, which was the most goals scored by a Portuguese player in the colours of Juventus. That record had been held by Rui Costa.

With 8 games left in the league Ronaldo has plenty of time to add to his goal tally, and he will be after getting on the 30 goal marker, only a few players have achieved this in Serie A history. In fact the 30 goal marker has only been reached 10 times in the whole history. The current record holders are Gonzalo Higuain and Gino Rossetti who scored 36 goals each. Rossetti set the record in 1929 and Higuain equalled it in 2016 whilst playing for Napoli.

The 30 goal mark has also been reached just twice this century by Higuain and Luca Toni who scored 31 goals in 2006 for Fiorentina.

Still records could go this season because Ronaldo with his 25 goals is only 2nd in the goalscorers chart. Ciro Immobile has the most goals so far with 29 to his name and looks set to have the most this season. If Immobile continues to score on his average rate for the season he could well reach 36 goals.

So one eye will be on Immobile and one eye on Ronaldo, we know that the Portuguese star has the quality to score 3 or 4 goals in one game and he won’t be giving up the chase just yet. Whilst the league may be winding up, the goalscorers chart and records will, evidently, not.

How well do you know Italian football? Want to challenge the best Serie A Fantasy Managers? Play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

 

 

Tottenham fall 12 points behind a Champions League position and will have to accept defeat this season

This past weekend confirmed that Champions League football will not be present in Tottenham’s new stadium next season.

Tottenham lost 3-1 to Sheffield United whilst Leicester and Chelsea recorded wins and that means that the London club have now fallen 12 points behind. There is no way back considering still the teams between Tottenham and 4th place.

Jose Mourinho was brought in back in November to salvage a season where the club at that time were mixing with 11th place. But presently the club are in 10th and so on the face of it one could conclude not much has changed under Mourinho. Of course they do have a game in hand which they will play on Monday night against Everton at home. Win that and they would go 8th.

Should Tottenham fans be concerned though that Mourinho often touted as one of the best managers in the world has not been able to improve the side this season? Currently his win rate for the club stands at just 41% this is the lowest of his managerial career and it has been steadily declining since his days in charge of Real Madrid.

Mourinho himself would want to be cut some slack given a new set up, such a change of club and also he has been dealt quite a few injuries. Ideally a manager wants to start from the beginning of the season, but clearly there have been performances and results that have seemed underwhelming whilst he has been in charge.

It is interesting to see that in Mauricio Pochettino’s first 12 games of the season before he was sacked he earned 14 points with the club. Mourinho’s first 12 games brought back 17. It isn’t much of a difference.

Look at some of the points that have been dropped too? Did anyone expect losses against Southampton and Sheffield United? Or dropped points against the likes of Watford, Norwich and Burnley? Had those 3 draws been converted into wins Tottenham would have 51 points and be in 7th place hunting down Wolves and Manchester United.

It hasn’t been a disaster for Tottenham and Mourinho but maybe one was expecting a bit more magic in the dug out and with tactics. Mourinho will be more judged on what happens next season. For now confirmation that Tottenham won’t play in the Champions League and at least challenge for a top 4 spot has to be a blow for the fans.

In the end the club were simply not consistent enough either with Pochettino or Mourinho in charge.

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

Have Barcelona just conceded the La Liga title to Real Madrid?

Real Madrid are now the odds on favourites to win La Liga after Barcelona drew 2-2 at home against Atletico Madrid in an entertaining match.

Barcelona are looking at a hat trick of titles but their fierce rivals Real look like they will stop them. Barca have dominated in Spain of late winning 4 of the last five, in the last decade they have won 7 titles alone.

Whilst Real Madrid have dominated on the European scene in the last decade winning 4 Champions Leagues, including three in a row they have failed mostly on the domestic front. Though in 2017 they broke the Barca stranglehold by winning the title which is, up to this point, coach Zinedine Zidane’s only managerial league title.

At the beginning of the season with Zidane coming back and the soap opera of Gareth Bale will he won’t he leave it was thought that Real were going to experience a season of transition, however they look stun to set everyone if they can wrap up the title this season. It could well go amongst Zidane’s very best achievements of his glittering career given that many thought Madrid could be playing second fiddle to not only Barcelona but Atletico Madrid also.

As it stands Real are top by just one point but they have a game extra to play which takes place on Thursday, July 2nd. It is a home game against Getafe which they will be expected to win with ease.

Win that and they will go 4 points clear with just five games left to play. Barca have been a mess lately where they have drawn 3 of their last four games and dropped vital points. In the game against Atletico there was 3 penalties, one for Lionel Messi but Saul converted 2 goals from the spot for Atletico and that was enough to take 2 points from Barcelona. Indeed Atletico then had a chance to win the game and put even more misery on Barca.

If another clasico remained between the two clubs then the league would not feel as over as it does now. At least then Barca could stake their claim and give it one last try. But the two teams have already met each other. Real’s remaining games all look winnable and yet of course you never quite know what will happen. Lose to Getafe tomorrow and everything changes again. But for now it looks like Real are in the driving seat to win their 34th Spanish title.

 

 

From Manchester City to Arsenal who can win the FA Cup this season as the quarter finals get under way?

It may have been easy to forget that amongst the Premier League restarting and we having staggered games as the league tries to finish by the end of July, there is also the FA Cup to complete. England’s oldest prize gets off and running again this weekend and we are at the quarter final stages.

Let’s take a look at the matches due to be played, which is interesting given that every team is from the Premier League, its has been 14 years since we have seen this occurrence.

Norwich v Manchester United (June 27th)

Manchester United will start as favourites and despite focusing on the league and trying to get a top 4 spot they will be taking this game very seriously. The club would love to win some silverware this season. As for Norwich they look certain to be relegated this season and so might as well give everything in this game. Expect goals, but we expect Manchester United to go through.

Sheffield United v Arsenal (June 28th)

A few weeks ago you may have said the Blades would have been too strong for Arsenal. But United have started the league again poorly, not really on the money. Arsenal lost their first 2 games but were impressive and professional against Southampton. This could be Arsenal’s biggest game of the season and they should be ready to squeeze through to the semi-finals.

Leicester v Chelsea (June 28th)

This should be a very fascinating game as 3rd in the league is against 4th. Leicester have not started the continuation of the season well, getting draws and they have seen their gap to Chelsea cut to just 1 point. The Blues have been brilliant and have just beaten Manchester City so they won’t fear any team. This will be another close game but you look at the quality in this Chelsea team and you can see them powering through here.

Newcastle v Manchester City (June 28th)

With the league now over Manchester City will go for this cup and try to beat Newcastle. The club easily have the superior team and will be odds on favourites to win this game. However nothing is a given and Newcastle have shown some qualities of their own lately. There is always one surprise in the rounds, and this could be the game where that happens. After all let’s face it City have actually had quite a miserable season overall. The big egg for them so to speak will be in August when the Champions League kicks off again. We could well see a shock in this game.

 

 

 

What now for PSG star Neymar after the fall out of Covid-19 has hit football?

Neymar has returned to Paris for training and played on a football pitch for the first time in 3 months. And seeing images of him brings up the story of what exactly will happen to Neymar post Covid-19?

Had the pandemic never happened many people believe that this was going to be Neymar’s last season with PSG. It was inevitable that after he would rejoin Barcelona. There have been many rumours that the Brazilian is craving to go back to his former job and hook up with the likes of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann.

Whilst Neymar has been a success at PSG he has also missed some key games due to injury and there is a feeling of unfinished business in Paris. After all PSG didn’t make Neymar the world’s most expensive player at over 200 million euros just to win a series of Ligue 1 titles? they were doing that well before he joined.

For PSG recruiting Neymar, much like what Juventus have done with Cristiano Ronaldo was supposed to be the key, the final puzzle and the missing link in winning the Champions League. In that PSG have been unlucky given Neymar’s usual injury flare ups have come at a time when they have been playing in the quarter finals of the competition only to be missing him and getting dumped out of it.

This year seems very different. Many expected Borussia Dortmund to get the better of PSG, not so and PSG were able to knock the German team out and reach the last 8 of the competition. Now all eyes are on PSG, and yet that is when the Covid-19 really struck.

The good news is that football is back and the Champions League will resume in Lisbon, with all games played there in August. And what about PSG and Neymar, they have had lots of time off, can Neymar provide PSG with what they really want and need? What a send off it would be, if Neymar is to leave the club. But no win and he might find himself playing another season in Paris. Win and it is possible to think that PSG and Barcelona could come to an arrangement.

Forget about Barcelona breaking the bank to get him, that won’t happen. And football will be financially affected for years. True big money purchases are still going to be made between the big clubs, but we can and should expect transfers to drop significantly.

Right now Neymar seems a happy person and in a happy frame of mind, that couldn’t be said at the beginning of the season. What we do know is that the next two months will be dedicated to PSG. He has two cup finals to play and then the return of the Champions League- will the fire still be in his eyes?

Prove you have what it takes to challenge the best French Fantasy Football managers here www.fantasyligue1.com 

Why Frank Lampard is not happy with 4th place as Chelsea look to finish in the top three

You’ve just beaten Manchester City 2-1 and you know you have a very good team, normally you’d be very happy in the press conference after the game. So why wasn’t Frank Lampard? The Chelsea manager looked almost angry at the questions he was being asked and yet there was this focus and desire in his eyes.

You get a sense with Lampard that nothing is better than winning. Make no mistake he would have been delighted to get a win over Pep Guardilola’s City side. It was only a short time ago that City were beating Chelsea 6-0 and a lot has changed at Stamford Bridge since then.

Chelsea have played two games since the Premier League restart and have two wins both resulting in the same score line of 2-1. The first match over Aston Villa was impressive given that they went behind and it took until the 60th minute to find an equaliser even though they were far the better team. But that game summarised this Chelsea team. They will play you down, play at their pace and make enough attacks, that they actually make the opposition tired.

There is no doubt about it that this current Chelsea side are a reflection of what Lampard expected as player, no short cuts, hard work and a winning attitude. Much has been said of the lack of quality of British managers in the game, and Lampard might just be able to step out of that shadow.

For most of the season Chelsea have been in 4th place, finish there and they play Champions League football next season. This would be a success given it is Lampard’s first season with the club in the dug out. But now there is a feeling of 3rd place especially after beating Manchester City.

You almost get the feeling that after having Manchester United, Wolves and Sheffield United breathing down their necks trying to take the last Champions League place that Lampard has had enough. Why settle for that battle when they could go one step further and take 3rd from Leicester?

At one time that didn’t seem possible- Leicester were a good 3 wins away, that isn’t the case now there is just 1 point in it, and if you were a betting man you would probably be tempted to say that Chelsea could take 3rd this season.

So the press conference wasn’t about Lampard being angry about the result obviously not. It was about him knowing that he has achieved nothing at the club. Beating City is fantastic, but this season the objective will be a deep run in the FA Cup and getting that 3rd place.

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

 

Liverpool are Premier League champions but who were their best players this season?

Finally after 30 years Liverpool are the champions of England after Chelsea beat Manchester City 2-1 last night. It meant that City could no longer catch Liverpool. Of course in reality with such a huge lead in the league it was always going to be a matter of time before Liverpool won the title, but the joy has been immense in and around the city of Liverpool.

The players and manager Jurgen Klopp have been stunned and emotional and who could blame them after the club have had to wait so long to see a league title. So far Liverpool have lost just 1 game this season and one game in the last 18 months in the league. It has been simply incredible and they could still beat Manchester City’s record haul of 100 points also.

As it stands Liverpool are the World, European and domestic champions, and not even Covid-19 which threatened to ruin their title run in could stop them. Congratulations to Liverpool and with Klopp as manager one could think that this could be the beginning of a dominating era for the club.

But who has stood out for them this season? Who has made that all important difference? Below we look at the 5 best players according to euro fantasy league’s rankings:

5) Andrew Robertson 80pts

Robertson is probably seen as the unsung hero, but he has been superb in defence for the last two seasons now and is indispensable for the club. He has been a part of a team that has kept 13 clean sheets and he has also assisted in 8 goals.

4) Virgil van Dijk 83pts

One of the truly best defenders in the world and only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo stopped him from capturing the best player awards. Confident, commanding he is like a rock and has really rose to his challenge in the back four. He has been involved in 5 goals and has helped keep 14 clean sheets. A towering presence.

3) Sadio Mane 94pts

Sadio Mane is a perfect example of a player that just gets better and better with every passing season. He is so competitive and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Not only has he scored 15 goals this season but has also assisted in another 7. A growing legend at the club.

2) Trent Alexander-Arnold 98pts

Proven to be perhaps the best defender this season for Liverpool, Still so young his best years are in front of him and yet he is a champion everywhere. He has kept 14 clean sheets and assisted in an incredible 12 goals- the most of any Liverpool player so far this season.

1) Mohamed Salah 107pts

Out in front is the Egyptian international. If some players are said to get better like a fine wine, then Salah is like the most expensive and elegant Champagne on the market. The striker is full of speed and his goals are simply magnificent, a world class player who has gotten better under Klopp. He has scored 17 goals this season and assisted in 7. That means he has been involved in 24 league goals for Liverpool from the 70 they have scored. That works out at almost a 35% contribution. Impressive.

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.