The Premier League relegation battle is taking shape and Norwich City look doomed

Norwich City look like they will be playing next season in the Championship as they were slaughtered 4-0 against Manchester United in a match that was largely one way traffic from the first whistle.

The Canaries latest defeat which is their 14th of the season from 22 games leaves the club rock bottom with 14 points. Later today 19th plays 18th as Bournemouth take on Watford in what should be a fascinating match but Norwich look doomed whatever the outcome. Currently the club are 7 points from safety, that’s basically a month’s worth of football and it would take an almighty set of games to put things right.

Of course Norwich could look to Watford for some inspiration. The Hornets have climbed from the bottom of the league, themselves being six points adrift. They are 19th but have gone 4 games unbeaten and could climb out of the bottom three with a win today. The difference though is that to get here Watford had to sack their manager-indeed in Nigel Pearson they are on their 3rd manager this season alone.

Appointing Daniel Farke as manager was always going to be risky for Norwich, in part because he had no top flight managerial experience. Although he was appointed in 2017 and helped the club gain promotion to the Premier League, in that sense perhaps Farke’s ambitions lie away from the Premier League. In it Norwich have huffed and puffed this season, they stunned the champions Manchester City beating them 3-2 and have in general played some good football against the top teams. But motivation has been a problem against bottom half clubs and teams around them, and it does look like Norwich will be going straight back down again.

As for the rest, it is quite an open book. One would think that Watford will simply surge forward. They have been outstanding under Pearson, and even if they do face a set back there is a clear objective and belief in the club to do well. This puts pressure on Bournemouth, Aston Villa, West Ham, Burnley and Brighton who look like the likeliest to struggle. Two of those teams look like going down at this time, and all have faced misery in recent years regarding relegation.

Aston Villa after Norwich are the next favourites to go down according to the bookmakers. But perhaps one should keep an eye out for West Ham. They are being quoted at 3/1. The Hammers have some very difficult games coming up, including quite a few away games, They will have to face the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea in close succession.

There are still 16 games to play and anything can happen, but for almost certain we know that one of the teams going down this season is Norwich. The question remains will the club react and sack Farke, or will they take a gamble on him?

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Best 11 players from the 3rd round of the FA Cup

The 3rd round of the FA Cup took place in England at the weekend and this is the round where most football fans see it as the beginning of the cup competition when the big teams from the Premier League enter it.

Below we take a look at the best 11 players from the 3rd round who showed commitment and passion and caused a few upsets. The FA Cup has given managers the chance to play some of their younger players and that is reflected in this line up.

Goalkeeper: Adrian- Liverpool

Adrian got a foot in the door at Liverpool when Alisson was injured at the beginning of the season and he impressed. Manager Jurgen Klopp has opted to play him in the FA Cup and he came under a lot of pressure against Everton and yet was on hand to make vital saves and kept a clean sheet as Liverpool won 1-0 with a fairly young team.

Defender: Jayden Bogle- Derby County

Bogle was at the heart of everything as Derby playing in the Championship caused one of the biggest upsets of the 3rd round as they went to Premier League side Crystal Palace and won 1-0. Bogle’s confidence will grow as he was able to keep a clean sheet.

Defender: Rob Holding- Arsenal

Arsenal played Leeds United and this was never going to be an easy game as Rob Holding was shifted into central defence. He was the key man that the back 3 were and goalkeeper were looking too as he held his nerve and had a superb assured game.

Defender: Osaze Urhoghide- Sheffield Wednesday

Urhoghide looks like Sheffield Wednesday’s future as he had a brilliant game in defence and helped his side to a 1-0 win away to Premier League team Brighton in a shock win. The young defender stole the headlines after with his happier than happy interview that went viral.

Defender: Neto Williams- Liverpool

Williams has put a case down to manager Jurgen Klopp to be a part of Liverpool’s defence in the coming years with a superb display that saw Liverpool field a young side and yet beat a full strength Everton one in the crunch derby. It was also impressive that they kept a clean sheet in a 1-0 win and Williams was at the heart of keeping Everton quiet in the 2nd half.

Defender: Taylor-Harwood Bellis- Manchester City

The 17 year old centre back made just his 7th appearance for Manchester City and really impressed as manager Pep Guardiola gave him the chance. City won beating Port Vale 4-1 and Harwood Bellies made some great tackles and kept his head.

Midfielder: Pedro Chirivella- Liverpool

Chirivella was one of Liverpool’s best players as they stunned Everton 1-0 in the FA Cup even though Liverpool had a young and inexperienced side playing. The midfielder earned praise from former player Lucas on social media, and he looks like one to watch for the future.

Midfielder: Callum Hudson-Odoi- Chelsea

As good as Hudson-Odoi is he rarely gets a start at Chelsea, but he got just that as the Blues ran out 2-0 winners over Nottingham Forest and Hudson-Odoi scored and looked dangerous throughout the game. He has laid down a marker now for manager Frank Lampard to play him every week.

Midfielder: Philip Billing- Bournemouth

Bournemouth ran out 4-0  winners over Luton and the team who have been struggling in the Premier League got a much needed win. Billing was the hero of the day and scored a brace. Still only 23 Eddie Howe seems to have a really good player on his hands.

Forward: Adam Idah- Norwich

Everyone had nothing but praise for Adam Idah who scored a superb hat-trick as Norwich beat Preston North End 4-2. The Irish player is just 18 and was so impressive. His confidence at this age shows he could be around for a very long time and a pivotal figure.

Forward: Alex Mighten- Nottingham Forest

True Mighten was on the losing team as Forest lost to Chelsea but he had a very good game. Scoring a disallowed goal, getting involved in VAR and coming close on a few other occasions. He gave Chelsea something to think about, and he could be getting scouted very soon for the top tier.

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Bournemouth 1-0 Man Utd: Solskjaer’s men lacked the creativity and quality to overcome the Cherries

Although the main focus of gameweek 11 was to see how the table is beginning to shape up on both sides of the league as we are only a few weeks away from the busy December period, Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had an important fixture of their own as they faced difficult trip away to Bournemouth. This was the perfect chance for the side to show consistency in front of goal and in terms of going on a winning run, however, they were unable to overcome Eddie Howe’s men.

In terms of the game as a whole, it was quite balanced between both teams as they were able to see a good amount of possession and had a few opportunities here and there to create some decent chances. Though, most of the action came in the second half, with Joshua King’s well-taken goal just before the half-time break had allowed the game to be more open and entertaining for the neutrals.

To be fair to Solskjaer’s side, they had seem quite tired and lethargic, assuming it has been difficult in containing all the recent matches as well as the long trips in the Europa League. But focusing back onto the Bournemouth match, Ole’s in-game management will have to improve soon or later, as his timing of the substitutions are really poor and it could possibly cost him his job before he knows it.

In the end, the Cherries were able to pick up the much needed three points and their second league victory at home this season as they go up to seventh-place in the table. Meanwhile, the Red Devils drop down to the middle of the table, as they have achieved only three victories in 11 league games, leaving them closer to the relegation zone rather than the top four area of the Premier League table.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

Andreas Pereira and Fred are simply not good enough

Given the lack of midfield quality and squad depth that is offered to Solskjaer this season, it leaves him with no choice but to utilise Andreas Pereira and Fred on a regular basis. For sure, the Brazilian duo show some work rate and passion on both sides of the pitch, but other than that, they are unable to control and dominate the midfield battle to help the team to consistently win games.

With neither of the pair having the ability to play as a box-to-box midfielder or as an advanced playmaker, it does leave the cold question of what do they bring and offer to the team week in and out. If they are not able to make a breakthrough like Scott McTominay has done so over the last 12 months, the United supporters will be desperate in wanting Paul Pogba back from injury or a new midfielder in the January window, as the quality in the middle of the pitch is not good enough.

United’s defensive issues are beginning to rise once again

In the first weeks of the season, it had seemed like United’s defence were really hard to breakthrough and difficult to get passed, thanks to the arrivals of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire. However, in the recent fixtures, the feeling and presence of the backline has instantly turnaround, as the opposition have been able to be effective with their physicality and pace.

The criticism of United’s back-four has increased from time to time, as the Old Trafford faithful are starting to point out many weaknesses in each individual, such as Maguire’s decision making and lack of pace, Ashley Young’s incapability to defend and attack or even Victor Lindelof’s difficulties in facing forwards who are superior in height and acceleration. And if this begins to continue, the team may find themselves in a defensive dilemma which they have experienced over the last few years.

The lack of creativity and urgency is what had let the side down  

Manchester United finished the defeat at Bournemouth with zero big chances created, one decent counter attack and 15 shots with four of them being on target. On that note, the attacking figures produced by the Red Devils at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday afternoon were really below-par, especially for a side that are aiming for a top four finish in the league and have an expensive squad.

If the team are looking to create more chances and complete more shots on target, they will need to start getting both Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford more into the game, which they were not able to do as Daniel James had become to go-to-man in recent matches. With the attacking options being limited, United have to work around the movement, pace and the quality of the front three, who have the potential to create chances out nothing and could prove to be deadly on the counter.

EPL Best XI – Week 37

townsend

The curtain is almost down. The business is almost done. With just a single round of games remaining in the Premier League, the relegation battle is finished but the title race remains very much alive. With the final game of the season being the time that this year’s Premier League champions will be identified, there is still plenty to play for at the summit of England’s top flight. With that said, let’s adopt a 4-3-3 formation this week and see which players performed the best for their clubs this past weekend.

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EPL Weekend Picks – Week 36

eriksen

With only three or four games left in the Premier League season depending on which side you are following, things are starting to get serious! The title race looks all set to go down to the wire, while the relegation battle appears closer than many thought possible just a few weeks ago. Cardiff and Brighton appear the two sides most immediately in danger of claiming 18th and the final relegation place, though Southampton are not yet mathematically safe. Title contenders Liverpool and Man City both have games where you would fancy them to win, with City’s arguably the slightly tougher game. With that said, let’s go for a 4-3-3 again and see which players are worth keeping an eye on and including in your fantasy squads this weekend.

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Predicted lineups for this weekend’s Premier League action

Firmino and Salah

The FA Cup semi-finals take place this weekend in England. As a result, there will be only six Premier League fixtures played between Friday and Monday.

St Mary’s is where the action starts with the meeting of Southampton and Liverpool on Friday night. It’s a huge fixture in the Premier League title race with Jurgen Klopp’s Reds looking to go back on top with a win.

At the other end, Burnley will be hoping to take something from their game at Bournemouth as they look to shake off Cardiff City in the battle to survive relegation.

Arsenal and Chelsea are the only two teams from the top-four battle who are in league action over the coming days. Continue reading

EPL Weekend Picks – Week 33

HiguainThere is quite a bit of Premier League football to see this week, with games every day bar Thursday. For the purposes of this week’s list we will be looking more at the matches taking place between Friday 5th and Monday 8th, so Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s fixtures won’t be considered too heavily here. Friday sees Southampton hosting Liverpool in what should be an entertaining game, while Saturday’s best match sees Newcastle welcoming Crystal Palace to Tyneside. On Sunday, Arsenal travel to the blue half of Merseyside to do battle with Everton, and Chelsea host West Ham on Monday. With that in mind, let’s adopt a 4-3-3 formation this time around and look into our crystal balls to see which players could be worth your consideration.

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EPL Best XI – Week 31

nobleThere was only half a round of games in the Premier League this past weekend, what with FA Cup action also going on, and so with just ten teams taking part picking a best XI may be slightly different to usual. Sunday’s action was fun-packed, as Everton raised some eyebrows by beating Chelsea 2-0 at Goodison Park – their first home victory since mid-January – putting a big dent in Chelsea’s top-four ambitions. Liverpool were tested more than many will have been expecting at Craven Cottage, a late James Milner penalty putting them top of the table with a 2-1 win against Fulham. On Saturday, Bournemouth played out a 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle, Leicester won 2-1 at Burnley and West Ham beat Huddersfield in a 4-3 thriller.

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Predicted lineups for this weekend’s EPL action

Eden Hazard

It’s FA Cup weekend coming up so there are just five EPL matches to look forward to.

Saturday’s games see Bournemouth host Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United at the Vitality Stadium while Huddersfield Town make the trip to London to face West Ham United.

Brendan Rodgers brings his Leicester team to face Burnley at Turf Moor at the same time. Burnley have lost their last three league games while Leicester won 3-1 against Fulham last time out.

On Sunday, Liverpool travel to meet Fulham as The Reds look to go back to the top of the Premier League, temporarily at least. Everton play host to Chelsea later that day. The Toffees have won just once in their last six games. Chelsea drew 1-1 with Wolves last Sunday.

EPL Weekend Picks – Week 31

vardyWith a reduced run of fixtures in the Premier League this coming weekend owing to FA Cup Sixth Round action, there are only ten teams from which to take this week’s weekend picks. The pick of the upcoming fixtures is arguably Everton hosting Chelsea in the 4.30pm kickoff on Sunday, while Bournemouth host in-form Newcastle on Saturday. Burnley do battle with Leicester and West Ham take on Huddersfield in Saturday’s other games, while Sunday’s earlier game sees Fulham welcome Liverpool to Craven Cottage. Taking all of that into account, let’s adopt a 4-3-3 this time and see which players could be set to work their way into fantasy management consideration.

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