EPL Player of the Week – Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

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When a player stands out head and shoulders above the vast majority of the rest, there will always be suggestions that there will be a big money move in his not-too-distant future. The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham have seen it while in the Premier League, while Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane experienced similar things during their respective times in La Liga and Serie A. The modern day equivalent to those transfer rumblings would have to be the not so curious case of Eden Hazard, whose performances in recent months have once again sparked speculation that he could be on his way out of Chelsea this summer. One thing Hazard has in common with all of the aforementioned players? Real Madrid.

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Neil Warnock is right to be angry with officials as Cardiff Premier League survival hopes are hit

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With just minutes left Cardiff were beating Chelsea on Sunday in what would have been a massive result for the Bluebirds, and a result they would have deserved after a toothless display by Chelsea. But when the final whistle was blown Cardiff had lost the game 2-1 and manager Neil Warnock was left shocked.

Chelsea grabbed their equaliser through Cesar Azpilicueta but the goal was painfully offside and wasn’t even close. It was a beyond poor decision from the officials and something that could end up costing Cardiff their Premier League status. To add salt to the wounds a returning Ruben Loftus-Cheek got a winner for the Londoners which silenced the city of Cardiff on Sunday night.

At the final whistle Warnock calmly walked up to the officials by the centre circle and just stared at them. Face like red stone, they did what they know best and walked past him as if he wasn’t there. Warnock said that his team play in the best league in the world but he couldn’t say the same thing about the officials, and that he was ‘sickened’ by the match.

It’s easy to have sympathy with Warnock and why VAR has been delayed for a season in the Premier League is the real shocker. There have been many decisions where the officials have got it wrong. True human error will happen, but at these critical moments they can punish a team who have done little wrong at precisely the wrong time. Had VAR been in use it would have flagged up an offside- or at least so we hope, and the score would have remained 1-0. Indeed one could fathom that Chelsea got a new wind after the equaliser and a wrong decision is why they went on to win the game.

VAR will be implemented next season in the Premier League but at the same time one has to question the current rule that we must live by. If everyone in the ground knows a goal to be offside therefore it should never have counted why can’t the FA act after the game. If so Cardiff would have at least got a point yesterday.

As it stands Cardiff look like the favourites to be relegated alongside Huddersfield and Fulham. They are 5 points from safety and their next game is away to Manchester City- yikes! After that they face a massive game away to Burnley, the team directly above them, and lose the City game and the Burnley one and Cardiff could be virtually down. Warnock’s side still have to face Liverpool and Manchester United before the season ends and it does look increasingly like they will be playing Championship football again, was this Chelsea loss the defining moment? It seems so.

EPL Player of the Week – Diogo Jota (Wolves)

jotaIt is not really creating any headlines to say that Premier League new boys Wolverhampton Wanderers have impressed many a neutral this season. The club have been in the Premier League before, of course, and have experienced football as low as League One in the intervening years, but this time they have played their top flight football at a level which seems assured to keep them among England’s elite for the forseeable future. While things can change in the blink of an eye, of course, Wolves have some real quality among their ranks – chief among them is this week’s EPL Player of the Week, Diogo Jota.

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EPL predicted lineups for this weekend

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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)

Predicted lineups for this weekend’s EPL fixtures

Premier League predicted lineups

It’s time to look ahead to this weekend’s Premier League action as we predict the starting lineups for each EPL game.

Cardiff City v Watford

Cardiff XI: Etheridge, Peltier, Manga, Bamba, Bennett, Paterson, Gunnarsson, Arter, Murphy, Cordova-Reid, Niasse

Watford XI: Foster, Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Masina, Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra, Sema, Deeney, Deulofeu

Questionable: Ashley Darel Jazz Richards (Cardiff)

Out: Sean Morrison (Cardiff); Holebas, Kiko Femenia (Watford)

Remembering Nantes and Cardiff player Emiliano Sala

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Late last week we were all told of the news that we already knew, although this brought it home to us that the Argentinian player Emiliano Sala had died in a plane crash. This tragic news is of course beyond comprehension and at only 28 years old with his whole football career and life still ahead of him, Sala has lost that opportunity to shine even more than he already has.

Sala’s plane went down back on January 21st as the player had just agreed terms with Cardiff City to join the Premier League strugglers from Nantes in a deal wort £15m. On reflection this looked like a stunning deal for Neil Warnock and Cardiff and a bad one for Nantes. Sala had already scored 14 goals this season, and it seemed bizarre that Nantes would sell their star striker in the January transfer window. Alas Nantes needed the funds and Cardiff needed the player.

What happened next is incredibly sad. Sala’s plane went missing. There was of course some hope that he would be found in some kind of miracle rescue. But as hours turned into days and days turned into weeks that hope had faded. Everyone knew that he and pilot David Ibbotson had perished in the most horrific way possible. That confirmation hit the world of football hard at the end of last week.

Sala was a versatile player and was on the cusp of making the Argentina national squad, true his great form and scoring ability had started late in life but he had shown over the past 18 months at Nantes that he was developing into a proper centre forward. He would have been the perfect player for Cardiff, and would have saved them from the relegation battle that they face now in the Premier League.

But football of course has to take a step back, when life comes first and it is sad to think of all the great opportunities that Sala will now miss out on. Of course he reached and achieved his dream of being a professional football player but at the same time he was about to make that step up and play in the most competitive league in Europe.

While Sala’s family have at least some sort of closure with his body being recovered the poor family of the pilot Ibbotson do not have that joy, with his body still missing somewhere presumed in the sea.

Sala’s memory will live on and the great cities of Nantes and Cardiff will now be forever connected in this way.

Cardiff 1-5 Manchester United: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men kick off in winning ways

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Following the departure of Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has taken over as the interim manager of Manchester United with the likes of Kieran McKenna, Michael Carrick and Mike Phelan as his coaches and assistant manager. Given with how the season has gone so far for the club, they will be looking to regain their confidence and footballing style to end the campaign on a high note.

The Cardiff fixture came at a good time, where the visitors were able to control and dominate the game whilst scoring a number of goals and picking up the much needed three points. Meanwhile, the hosts will surely be looking back at the poor defensive display they produced and will aim to improve on both sides of the pitch, especially if they want to finish above the relegation zone.

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

United can confidently score a number of goals

Before today, you would have to go back to Sir Alex Ferguson’s final match as the club’s manager in May 2013, in order to remember the last time the side have scored five goals in a league match. Between then and now, the likes of David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have failed to set their team up in an attacking mindset, which is the reason to why the goals have dried up.

When being managed by a defensive-minded manager or a coach that prefers to constantly counter-attack, the team spend less time in the opposition’s penalty box and it leads to only a couple of shots on target. However, the Saturday evening fixture away at the Cardiff City Stadium, evidently showed that the squad is filled with a number of attacking players, but they have to be provided with the ideal freedom to play in their own way which would follow on with the number of goals per game.

Jesse Lingard comes up with the goods in the final third

A lot of Manchester United supporters have began to question what Jesse Lingard offers to the side over the last couple of weeks, mainly due to the fact that he is comfortable in playing within a number of positions but has not started consistently in one role. For instance, he has been utilised as a right-winger, central attacking midfielder and as part of a three-man midfield so far this season.

On the other hand, the 26-year-old produced a relentless performance as he completed two goals and one assists for when his side needed him the most. Not only that, but he was one of the side’s best players of the evening if not the best, as he was constantly roaming around Cardiff’s half of the pitch whilst helping the team to progress the ball forward at a high tempo and at lightning pace.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should not be judged anytime soon

The current focus is without a doubt on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a former Manchester United player who is now living the dream of managing a football club that he had won the league with on seven occasions and also delivered the winning goal in the 1998-99 Champions League final. Since his arrival back at the club, he has instantly helped the squad to start playing towards their potential and with the qualities they have in midfield and attack.

Overall, it’s quite early to judge if he has had a positive or negative effect on the side and it would be ideal to review the matter once he has managed the team for seven matches. At the end of the day, the Old Trafford faithful will assume that a top four finish is out of cards and the chances of winning the Champions League is highly unlikely, so the aim from now till the end of the season is to revive the side’s attacking and thrilling football before the board and Ed Woodward chooses the club’s next permanent manager.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can’t lose as manager of Manchester United

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Manchester United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer so utterly famous for his last minute goal against Bayern Munich in 1999 that won Manchester United their first ever Champions League has been named as caretaker manager of the club.

The decision seems like the perfect one. United need a warm hug not trophies right now as the Red Devils will look to try and stabilise themselves throughout the remainder of the season. Whilst some have said that sacked manager Jose Mourinho could talk down to players, Solskjaer is the opposite. Indeed the main reason he is the perfect pick isn’t because he is a successful coach but because he is in love with the club where he won a multitude of trophies over 11 glorious years.

The board love him, the fans love him, will the players? The ones that don’t if that is the case will perhaps be highlighted as the very same ones that gave Mourinho problems. But there has to be some hope that Solskjaer is the man that United need at this moment in time.

For the Norwegian it isn’t a surprise at all that he accepted the clubs offer to join them when they came calling. He has often been quoted at his club Molde for talking about the good old days at United and still refers to Sir Alex Ferguson as the boss. His time with the club left something dear in his heart. Plus let’s be honest here Solsjaer can’t lose.

Initially he will be at the club until the end of the season, when United as expected will hire one of the top coaches in European football. In that time what can Solskjaer do wrong? The club should pick up momentum and Solskjaer is the very opposite of Mourinho, he will inject confidence in the players and tell them what they want to hear, that should project back onto the football pitch, because make no mistake United do have a good team underneath that black cloud.

So this appears to be a win-win situation for the former club legend. Look at the evidence. If the bad to average form continues, Mourinho may well feel vindicated and Solskjaer can say, “what me?” This is the former manager’s fault and I’ve just arrived. But if United perform better then he has just as he did as a player made that super sub piece of magic work once again.

Football is filled with irony, and it will come back this weekend for Solskjaer. United will play Cardiff away from home. The same club and only won in Britain that he has managed before. He will be looking for some sweet science from United’s best players to get off to the best possible start.

Plight of Cardiff & Huddersfield suggests there’ll be no relegation battle this season

On the first of May this year, with between two and three Premier League games left of the 2017/18 season, it was genuinely possible for any club in the bottom half of the division to have be relegated within a fortnight. Just six points separated Southampton in 18th from Crystal Palace in 10th, and the extra game left to play for everyone from 18th to 14th meant nobody was safe.

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Sarri’s Blue Belgian Puts Cardiff to the Sword

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After an exceedingly exciting weekend in the Premier League, only Chelsea remain as unmatched as Liverpool. But while the ladder faced a tough away match at Wembley, the former enjoyed a day out in the sun at Stamford Bridge tearing Cardiff City apart.

Maurizio Sarri’s front three of Willian and Eden Hazard led by Olivier Giroud  all finished the game with success, but it was the Belgian who claimed our Player of the Weekend – finishing with Man of the Match and a tidy hat-trick. Continue reading