Jurgen Klopp must resist temptation to rest Liverpool stars against Bournemouth

It has been an unfamiliar week for Liverpool. Prior to last Saturday, the Reds had tasted defeat just three times all season. The first loss came against Napoli in the Champions League, although it did not prevent Jurgen Klopp’s side qualifying for the round of 16. The second came when Klopp sent the club’s team to face Aston Villa in the quarter-finals of the League Cup, with the senior squad taking part in the Club World Cup instead.

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Premier League: Game of the Weekend: Sheffield United 2-1 Bournemouth

There were only 3 games played at the weekend in the Premier League because of the winter break and a storm which was fierce enough to call off the Manchester City and West Ham match. The pick of them ended up being in Sheffield, where Sheffield United going for a European place were taking on Bournemouth who are flirting with the bottom three.

Sheffield United came out 2-1 winners in a lively game that became very nervous for the hosts given that they were the favourites to win. The home side also known as the Blades went back up to 5th place and are only 2 points behind 4th place Chelsea. The victory has given Chris Wilder’s team a belief that not only could they finish in a Europa League position which would be an incredible achievement but also that they could have a chance to stun everyone and qualify for the Champions League. Of course despite such a great win we have to remember that Chelsea and Tottenham do have a game in hand of the Blades.But still there is nothing wrong with dreaming.

As for the game it got off to the worst possible start for the home side when Callum Wilson scored his 7th goal of the season to open up the game after just 13 minutes. The first half looked like Bournemouth would go in in the lead, but Billy Sharp equalised for the home side during injury time and that was certainly a psychological changing point for Bournemouth.

The home side had enjoyed 59% possession in the first half and whilst Bournemouth had managed to score it was telling that their goal was their only shot on target in the first 45 minutes.

In the second half though a United take over of the game didn’t exactly happen and in fairness to Bournemouth it was a very equal second period. With six minutes remaining it seemed like the game was destined to end in a draw, but John Lundstram latched onto a Lys Mossett pass and was able to convert sending the home fans wild with jubilation. It was Lundstram’s 4th goal of the season and possibly his most important.

It’s been widely excepted this season that United under Wilder have a game plan which is to suffocate play and really chase down the balls, and even though the club sometimes start games slowly it has been impressive how they stamp their authority on matches. The Blades will now have an 11 day break and their next game will be at home again against Brighton who are in 15th position and surely they will be favourites to win that game also as they have Chelsea clearly in their sights, the Blues have a tough fixture against Manchester United.

As for Bournemouth they will play Burnley next and Eddie Howe’s team are in real trouble in 16th place and just 2 points above the bottom three. It’s all to play for.

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Premier League: Best 11 Players from the Weekend

The winter break has meant that games are now being staggered across the Premier League which means every team will end up, at one stage, getting at least 2 weeks off. This weekend then there was just 4 games to be played. However bad weather conditions meant that the most anticipated match between Manchester City and West Ham had to be called off.

So only 3 Premier League games took place this weekend and there were nice wins for Everton and Sheffield United who have put the heat on Chelsea to try and stake what many would believe is a shock claim for a top 4 spot. Can both clubs find a nice run of consistency? It might be all it takes.

Below then we take a look at the best players from this weekend, having to select from just the 3 games that were eventually played. Did any of your players play this weekend? And how many points did they get? Let’s take a look.

Formation: 4-4-2:

Goalkeeper: Ben Foster- Watford 0pts

Because of the lack of games and the fact that every goalkeeper conceded this weekend we have ended up with a bizarre situation where the best goalkeeper in the league ends up with zero points. That’s because some dipped into the minus points. Foster conceded as Watford drew with Brighton 1-1, away from home which was a decent result for them and Foster made some very good saves to help earn a point.

Defender: Yerry Mina- Everton 0pts

Yerry Mina played the whole game and conceded a goal which jumped him back down to zero points. Everton beat Crystal Palace 3-1 and Mina now has a total of 19 points.

Defender: Michael Keane- Everton 0pts

Michael Keane hasn’t started many games for Everton but he put in a decent shift in the game even if he couldn’t earn any points this weekend, conceding just 1 goal but his team won anyway.

Defender: Shane Duffy- Brighton 0pts

Shane Duffy played a good game as Brighton drew 1-1 with Watford. He is a bargain at just 1.5m and has earned 12 points the majority of those in the last few weeks,

Defender: Craig Cathcart- Watford 0pts

Watford got a decent result at Brighton with the game ending 1-1 and that was a valued point earned away from home. Cathcart has 21 points and is ranked as Watford’s 2nd best defender so far this season.

Midfielder: John Lundstram- Sheffield United 4pts

Points earned! John Lundstram scored for Sheffield United as they won a vital game 2-1 over Bournemouth who were threatening to take a point from them and the win has sent the Blades into 5th place.

Midfielder: Abdoulaye Doucoure-Watford 4pts

Doucoure scored against Brighton and was able to earn a vital point for his relegation threatened team. He earned 4 points and now has a total of 28, he has been in fine form too and could be worth picking up for the remainder of the season.

Midfielder: Wilfried Zaha- Crystal Palace 2pts

Wilfried Zaha was on the losing side, 3-1 against Everton but the highly thought of player showed a lot of creativity and he assisted in Palace’s goal, which at the time was an important one as the club had just equalised.

Midfielder: Theo Walcott- Everton 2pts

Theo Walcott has upped his game in recent weeks and started to score points. Walcott had an unlucky game as he had to go off injured after just 25 minutes but he still managed to assist in Everton’s opening goal which led the way to their victory at the weekend over Crystal Palace.

Striker: Richarlison- Everton 4pts

Richarlison scored his 9th goal for Everton this season as they swept by Crystal Palace winning 3-1. He now has 38 points for the season and is worth adding to your team as he has really grown in confidence over the last few weeks.

Striker: Billy Sharp- Sheffield United 4pts

Billy Sharp has suffered with some set backs with injury lately so it was impressive of him to bounce back and get a vital goal which helped the Blades to secure 3 huge points and gives them a chance of European football next season.

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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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