Burnley 0-2 Man Utd: The Red Devils continue their fine form with a strong victory over the Clarets

With the main focus of gameweek 20 being on how the Premier League table shapes up on both sides of the division, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had the great opportunity of pushing towards the top four positions, as they travelled away to Turf Moor to face Sean Dyche’s Burnley.

Ahead of the game, both managers would have looked well into the squad depth and any other individuals available, given the hectic list of fixtures in December and where nearly all the teams in the league are playing in three games in ten days. The Red Devils were looking to start being consistent when it came to victories whilst the Clarets were hoping to pull off a potential upset.

Overall, the visitors had dominated possession effortlessly and were hardly under much pressure, which isn’t a surprise as the hosts are the type of team that prefers to defend in a deep block and take the opposition on with a more direct and long ball approach. However, there were only six shots on target throughout the game, as both sides had lacked the much needed creativity.

The first half was pretty much a snooze fest, with very little happening on both areas of the pitch as a lack of risks and opportunities were actually taken by the influential players. It took until the 44th minute of the game to see the first goal, which was taken by the away side due to a defensive mistake made by Charlie Taylor, as Andreas Pereira latched onto the ball on the right side of the pitch before placing into to the feet of Anthony Martial, who calmly slotted it into the net.

Following the half-time break, the game began to open up for both teams, especially for the hosts as the likes of Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil and substitute Aaron Gudmundsson were picking up the ball within the advanced areas of United’s half. Because of this, Solskjaer’s men had to be more compact and proactive on the defensive side, as they have been dominated aerially in recent weeks.

There wasn’t much to go into detail or cover of the second half, until what actually occurred in the final moments of the game. As Burnley won a free-kick in a very dangerous area, which led to a counter-attack for United in a couple of seconds thanks to Daniel James and his burst of pace, and it was just about completed by Marcus Rashford as he went past the keeper and his fortunate touch was able to take the ball away from the Burnley player on the goal line and into the back of the net.

With Manchester United leaving Turf Moor with the much needed three points, it pushes them back to fifth-place and just four points behind fourth-place Chelsea, who have started to become quite inconsistent themselves. Meanwhile for Burnley and Sean Dyche, they have unsurprisingly dropped by one or two spots into 13th place, leaving them with just six points above the relegation zone.

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

Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford continue to produce the goods

A lot of questions were rightfully asked at the start of the season, on whether the club will regret letting go of both Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku, especially with no effort being made in replacing the attacking duo. Despite the fact that they were not in Solskjaer’s long-term plans, the side have been better without them, which has to be more down to the brilliance of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who have only started to play again together and have been running riot.

Rashford has been incredible so far this season, having bagged 12 goals and four assists in 20 league appearances, with a number of his goals coming in the crucial matches and he is yet to hit his peak. And with Martial, he has been out with an injury here and there for around two months so far this term and has still managed to hit double figures in goals and assists by the end of December.

Fred has stepped up massively over the last couple of weeks in midfield

When looking at a midfielder like Fred, it’s quite obvious that he doesn’t have the presence or brilliance that makes him to be seen as a standout defensive-midfielder or attacking-midfielder. On the other hand, his personal role is more of making the team tick and being able to break up the opposition’s play to setting the team on the counter, which he is starting to be appreciated for.

Although he needed some time settling into the physicality and high intensity side of the Premier League, the Brazilian international has now gained a better understanding of how everything is set out and what he had to do on his end. Due to his determination and hunger to succeed, he has turned his United career around and has become one of the side’s best players so far this season, having produced some dominant displays against the likes of Brighton, Man City and Spurs.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men picked up a huge victory and have to build on from here

It’s been the side’s second time this season where they have completed back to back victories in the league, which does imply that the ideal consistency is not there in order for the team to convincingly finish in the top four. However, with both Chelsea and Leicester City slipping up slightly in recent weeks, the race for a top four finish could become wide open once the busy fixtures are finally over.

Most importantly, Solskjaer and United will have to focus on their own games and begin to pick up the three points week in and out, and then depend on other results in the league to go their way. If the momentum can shift into their favour and they get down to business in the January transfer window, then the side’s chances of seeing Champions League football next season increases massively, especially when the first half of the campaign has been quite forward and backwards.

Is Manuel Pellgerini’s time up at West Ham?

Ask West Ham fans at the beginning of the season if Manuel Pellegrini was the right man for the job and they would just have stared at you as if you were missing a few brain cells. Of course he was the man.

At that time Pellegrini had just overseen a difficult season with the Hammers finishing in mid table, and having some good spells along the way. But Pellegrini was given a pass by the fans because A- he was likeable and B- they realised that most of the team he wanted to play were out with long term injuries.

In the summer he brought in some prospects like Pablo Fornals from Villarreal and Sebastian Haller up front, who had done so well the season before with German side Eintract Frankfurt. Both have been utterly disappointing. Haller did score a few at the beginning of the season but has gone off the boil and Fornals has been very poor often now starting from the bench and not getting much game time.

But fans have become frustrated with Pellegrini’s tactics, which remain the same no matter which club they play and that means the opposition know exactly how to read them and do so. Some fans have claimed that their club is ‘the gift that keeps on giving’, largely in part due because if your team is in poor form don’t worry you will play and beat West Ham.

Pellegrini has now emerged as one of the favourite managers in the Premier League to be sacked and that was hammered home (pardon the pun) when the club lost 3-0 away to Burnley at the weekend. It all felt so predictable and it is true that very little has changed for the club who look to get between 40-50 points every season.

The Burnley defeat was the clubs 5th of this season and they have only won 3 games. The Hammers have dropped to 16th place and have 13 points and recent form is one of the worst in the league picking up just 1 point from their last available 15.

The problem that West Ham have is firstly if they sack Pellegrini who do you bring in that will improve the club? There doesn’t seem many managers around at this time that can recover the situation for the club. Also what are their ambitions with the players they have this season? Surely an overhaul is needed, and the club don’t seem or don’t want to give much money away. And money is a key issue here given that Pellegrini is the 3rd highest paid manager in the league, that in and of itself feels like a bad joke and he would have to be paid quite a pay off sum.

The future prospects for West Ham look very bleak indeed. Some players will have to step up, but it feels very questionable if they will.

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Predicted lineups for this weekend’s English Premier League fixtures

It’s time for gameweek six of the 2019/20 English Premier League season.

Here’s a look at all the predicted lineups for the ten fixtures over the coming weekend.

Southampton v Bournemouth

Southampton XI: Gunn, Bednarek, Yoshida, Vestergaard, Soares, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Djenepo, Ward-Prowse, Boufal, Adams Continue reading

Manchester City have Sergio Aguero to thank for their Premier League campaign

Sergio aguero

Just how important may Sergio Aguero’s goal against Burnley be for Manchester City come the end of the season. The Argentine’s decisive goal has placed Pep Guardiola’s side back to the summit of the Premier League above Liverpool, with just two games remaining. Continue reading

Chelsea’s top 4 finish is likely over but hope remains for Europa League glory

HAD

If Chelsea do indeed end the Premier League season outside of the top 4 then they went out of the battle with a whimper after a 2-2 draw against Burnley at Stamford Bridge.

It was a game that the Blues fought hard for in the first half as they went behind in the early exchanges and by the 25th minute mark the game had already had 4 goals, echoing the excitement of the recent Champions League fixture between Manchester City and Tottenham. But while both of those teams should finish top 4- City is guaranteed of course, Chelsea look like they have blown that chance.

Chelsea are level with Tottenham on points which is all well and good but Tottenham have a spare game which they will play tonight, at home against the bottom club Huddersfield, in what should be an inevitable, comfortable win. There is also the case of Arsenal making that top 4 charge and it looks like both Chelsea and Manchester United will be the teams to miss out on Champions League football next season.

A win was expected against Sean Dyche’s Burnley and perhaps this match where Chelsea are playing a bottom half team at home summarised the clubs season in that they have stayed within their comfort zone and only looked like the team that coach Maurizio Sarri has a vision for when playing in the Europa League.

The Europa League has clearly become a priority for the club and they have been brilliant in a very tough competition. Beating Slavia Prague and scoring 5 goals past them in both legs was superb given how Prague had knocked out Europa League specialists Sevilla in the previous round.

Winning the competition is one major trophy and it is also a gateway into the Champions League even if the club do finish 5th or 6th, so there is all to play for. Chelsea will meet Germans Eintract Frankfurt, who are superb at home but wasteful away and the Blues will be favourites to advance to the final where they would meet either Valencia or a mouth watering clash against fellow Premier League team and Londoners Arsenal. Perhaps the neutral wants the all English final but football has never been that easy to predict.

As for the league, one wonders if the egos of the club have the fight left in them. Chelsea’s next match is away to Manchester United in another potentially explosive game as both will be rolling the dice, perhaps for the final time to reach a top 4 spot. In between their Europa League semi-final they will play Watford at home and round up the season with an away match against Leicester.

It’s very conceivable that Chelsea won’t win another game this season and it is very clear that all of their eggs are in the Europa League basket.

 

EPL Best XI – Week 34

fosumensah

With the Premier League now very much entering the business end of the season, and with just a few matches remaining to decide the respective fates of several teams, there was a full schedule of games in England’s top-flight this past weekend. Once again, the spread of fixtures was great with Newcastle winning at Leicester on Friday night, six games taking place on Saturday, title challengers Man City and Liverpool winning their respective games on Sunday and Arsenal travelling to Watford on Monday. Results this weekend meant that both City and Liverpool are guaranteed to finish first and second in either combination. With that in mind, let’s take a look and see which players performed the best in their position, using a 4-3-3 formation.

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EPL Weekend Picks – Week 34

wes-morgan

This weekend’s Premier League will see the season continuing to take shape as, with just a few games to go, there is still a wide open title race and only one relegation spot left to fill. Liverpool leapfrogged Man City back into top spot last weekend, but the Citizens have a game in hand – just how much of a say will Chelsea and Crystal Palace have on Sunday against the top two? Palace host City while Chelsea travel to Liverpool and so there could well be more twists and turns in this title race yet. Towards the bottom of the table, already-relegated Huddersfield and Fulham both have tricky fixtures, with the Terriers at Tottenham while Fulham host Everton. Let’s take on a 4-3-3 here and see which players will fancy their chances.

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EPL Best XI – Week 33

chriswood

With another reduced number of teams in Premier League action this weekend due to the ongoing FA Cup competition, there were only a few sides to select from for this week’s “Best XI” – though there has been a nice spread of action, with games on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Everton continued their impressive performances against the big teams this season when they beat Arsenal 1-0 at Goodison Park, while Burnley earned a hugely impressive – and vitally important – away win at Bournemouth. Leicester and Crystal Palace also picked up wins on the road at Huddersfield and Newcastle respectively, while Liverpool’s Friday night trip to Southampton also saw them take the points. Let’s go for a 4-3-3 and see which players performed the best!

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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 Best XI – Week 32

MilivojevicAt this late-ish stage of the season, Premier League clubs do of course start gaining games in hand over some of their rivals. At the time of writing, for example, league leaders Liverpool have played 32 games, while second-placed Man City have featured in 31 and Arsenal (in fifth) are on 30. Of course, Monday evening games play a part, but so too does the progress of different teams in different competitions. Liverpool now have a two point lead at the top of the table, though City have of course played that one game less. It is now time to look at which players performed the best for their clubs in this past weekend’s round of games, adopting a 4-4-2 formation here. For simplicity, we are calling this week 32 but that may not apply to all teams of course.

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