The Premier League has turned into a two horse race between Manchester City and Liverpool

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What, where when? Just when we thought a few weeks ago that there were at least four teams capable of winning the Premier League, everything has all of a sudden opened up. After the midweek games which was the 15th round of matches in England two teams have emerged as possible title winners. The first and in top place is champions Manchester City, the second is Liverpool who have yet to win a Premier League title and have not won England’s top division since 1990.

So how did Chelsea and Tottenham suddenly fall away from contention? Maurizio Sarri’s side have won just 1 game in their past four matches and yet up until the 12th game of the season he had an unbeaten side at his disposal. But first they were exposed by Tottenham at Wembley, easily losing 3-1. They bounced back against Fulham in the west London derby only to lose to Wolves, which was seen as a shock result given how poor Wolves have been in the past month.

Chelsea are now 10 points behind City and are clinging onto 4th place only on goal difference to Arsenal. Tottenham in beating Southampton are back in 3rd place after being dislodged in the top 4 over the weekend when they lost to eternal nemesis Arsenal by 4-2. But Spurs have bounced back well. But they are still evidently a few levels below City and Liverpool, they have 33 points and are 8 points behind the league leaders.

All of this means of course that the league has turned into a two horse race before Christmas, although the flurry of fixtures could well shake that up. Manchester City will play Chelsea away next and a win for Pep Guardiola’s side will surely signal the end of Chelsea’s title hopes. Games follow against Everton, Crystal Palace, Leicester and Southampton. It is fair to think that from all of those matches City could expect 13 points which would put them on 54 before the year is out.

As for Liverpool who are the romantics choice of league winners giving how it has been 28 years since they won the league they will have to play Bournemouth, Manchester United, Wolves, Newcastle and Arsenal. The Reds seem to have a tougher run and could end up with 11 points which would put them on 50.

It is possible then that only 4 points will separate the two teams. And you can guess which fixture comes after the new year- that’s right these two teams will meet and it will be Manchester City who will be at home in what could be a big step to deciding the title. Still there are plenty of games to be played before then and like a typical Premier League campaign there will be plenty of twists and turns that is for sure.

Why a shift to 4-2-3-1 could solve Chelsea’s midfield woes

In truth, last Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Tottenham Hotspur flattered Chelsea. The gulf in class between the two teams at Wembley was much vaster than a two-goal margin would suggest, as Spurs comprehensively outplayed their London rivals to climb above them and into third place in the Premier League table.

Chelsea were exposed defensively against Mauricio Pochettino’s men, with David Luiz particularly shaky up against a lively front three of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min. The post-mortem has focused more on the makeup of the Blues’ midfield, though, after Jorginho was effectively shackled by Alli and N’Golo Kante again looked uncomfortable in a No.8 role.

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Three Quality Chelsea players to include in your Fantasy Team

One of the most important things to consider when compiling your fantasy team is which big club players you are going to include. These are players which come with higher price tags than most and thus reduce your spending power. This is why it is crucial that you include only those players which you feel will yield the maximum possible points per round.

It is even better if you include players from top clubs which you feel have lower price tags than they should. In this case you profit on the same player twice. First by bringing him in to your team and then by paying less than his real value.

There is a similar concept in football betting and it is called a value bet. This is a bet which you feel certain about, but the bookmaker, for reasons only known to him, has given it much higher odds than he should have.

We will try to do something similar in this article as we will try to find the best value players for your fantasy team playing for Chelsea. These are players who don’t come with overinflated price tags, but still manage to yield quite a lot of points per round.

Antonio Rüdiger

Antonio Rüdiger is probably the last name that you think of when it comes to including someone from Chelsea’s back four. This is because Marcos Alonso scores a lot of goals and provides lots of assists, Azpilicueta pitches in with an assist here and there, and David Luiz puts in a lot of quality balls in the opposition box which might also result in an assist. On top of that, all of them get additional points for keeping clean sheets.

However, out of all of these four players, Rüdiger comes with the lowest price tag and has decent points output as well. He is regularly involved with corners and free kicks and he is Chelsea’s main threat in dead ball situations, which translates to more goals. Furthermore, he is much fitter than Luiz which means that he will start more matches than the Brazilian.

Ross Barkley

Snapping Barkley before the season started was the smartest thing that you could have done. However, you probably didn’t, and now you can hope for the next best thing and that is to snap him as soon as possible.

The talented box-to-box midfielder has been going from strength to strength and you get the feeling that with each next match his numbers will get even better.

Olivier Giroud

Picking Giroud is somewhat of a wild card, especially as Sarri seems to prefer Morata. However, Morata’s consistency has often been a problem and sooner or later he will start misfiring again.

When this time comes, it will be the much cheaper Olivier Giroud who will take his place, and unlike Morata, he doesn’t needed to be cuddled and comforted to score. In fact, he has shown that even when everybody thinks that he is past it, he can still produce the necessary assist or goal.

Who will strike first for Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembélé?

Promised by many as the next big thing, Ousmane Dembélé appears to be at a crossroads in his career at the tender age of 21 years old.

Signed by Barcelona for an eye-watering £105 million from Borussia Dortmund last summer, the France international has been a visitor rather than a difference maker for the Spanish giants. Dembélé has failed to make a lasting impact so far and his off-field distractions, such as gaming, has landed him in trouble on more than one occasion with the leaders of Barça.

There is no denying that Dembélé is a generational talent, with his quick feet, dizzying runs and raw ability, but unless he hones it with discipline and improves his work ethic, there is a possibility that Barcelona might cut ties with him so early on in his career. Reports are already coming out suggesting the La Liga giants are considering allowing the Frenchman to leave as early as January.

The facts are that Dembélé has only featured in 16 appearances this season, scoring seven times and assisting on two occasions. While his overall game has been largely disappointing, he does continue to help Barça come up with late finishes that saves games – just as his most recent goal salvaged a point against Atlético Madrid.

In truth, the move to Spain with Barcelona in particular was possibly too soon in his career. He made the right decision to leave France for Dortmund, where he was excelling, but it was too short of a period for Barça to launch that type of money at him. Of course, no player is going to reject a move to one of the biggest clubs in the world, but it was always going to be a risk given how raw he was and still is.

If the reports are to be believed and Barcelona are truly open to either loaning him out or selling on a permanent transfer, Dembélé will not be short of suitors. The most obvious destination would be England, but which Premier League club will strike first?

England

The Premier League has a number of clubs who can not only afford the fee should Barça be inclined to sell permanently, but also his wages, which are considerable to say the least.

Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and even Arsenal would all make room to sign the France international, which puts Dembélé in a very strong position indeed.

Pep Guardiola’s City have a whole host of mercurial talents on their books and it is slightly difficult to understand where Dembélé would fit into his side; however, that has not stopped the Spanish manager before when recruiting and if Dembélé is available, the Citizens are likely to be joining the queue. It goes without saying that they are in a position to cover any proposed deal financially.

The Red Devils have been crying out for a right winger for multiple years and so this could be a blessing in disguise. With Dembélé’s nationality being French, he would settle well into the first-team with the likes of Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba by his side, along with other French-speaking players in the dressing room.

Man United find themselves off the pace so far this season and Dembélé could well provide the spark needed to reinvigorate their season and qualify for the Champions League next year. It will be a hard sell convincing him to join over other clubs who can offer immediate success, but as seen with Alexis Sánchez, money sure does go a long way to helping make a decision.

Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea would be open to the idea of the Frenchman coming to Stamford Bridge, but only if they manage to sell Willian. It was no secret that Barcelona were willing to sign the Brazilian last summer before they opted for Bordeaux’s Malcom, and so a swap deal might be on the cards if Ernesto Valverde’s team are still open to that idea.

Liverpool will probably be the most difficult sell for Dembélé due to their front three already being at an elite level with no glaring gaps. Mohamed Salah plays on the right, so there is little to no chance of the former Rennes player leapfrogging the Egyptian, while Sadio Mané is on the left and Roberto Firmino through the middle as a false nine. The Reds would possibly sell the idea as a first substitute, but for the type of money being talked about, it’s likely they’ll look elsewhere as they did with Xherdan Shaqiri.

Arsenal are the other frontrunner in landing Dembélé due to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s close relationship with the France international. Friendship does not always materialise in transfers, but there is no chance that Unai Emery would not be interested in signing him to bolster the right-hand side of Arsenal’s forward line.

Arsenal’s Director of Football, Raúl Sanllehí, used to be one of the leading members on Barcelona’s board a few years ago, and so can use that relationship to harness any potential deal for Dembélé.

Italy

While England seems the obvious choice given the money involved, Italy might not be so abstract given Juventus’ new, £88 million signing in Cristiano Ronaldo.

While the Bianconeri are unlikely to be interested given their wealth of talent within their stable, but a team like Inter might well be. A loan deal is the only feasible nature of this given Financial Fair Play is burdening the Milanese club, but if Barça prefer to only send Dembélé out for a year, then Inter might well be the perfect destination.

Napoli and Milan will be interested, but with club president Auerlio di Laurentiis favouring Edinson Cavani as their wage buster and Zlatan Ibrahimović returning to the latter, both remain unlikely destinations.

Germany

The only realistic option for Dembélé is Bayern Munich given the lack of funds elsewhere in the division. While Niko Kovac is struggling this season and a player of Dembélé’s quality could help him magnificently, Karl-Heinz Ruminegge has never been one to splash an absolute fortune on players and with a manager whose position is uncertain, it’s unlikely that tune will change.

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In conclusion, they most likely outcome is that Dembélé will come to the Premier League, should he be given the green light, with Manchester United and Arsenal leading the way to land him. With his technical ability and direct approach, the French star will be an asset to either team and should add real quality where it has been lacking.

Game of the Weekend – Tottenham deliver masterclass on the big stage

Dele Alli

Much has been made of Tottenham’s reported lack of preparation for this season – an almost unprecedented summer of no new signings was expected to result in a team lacking ideas, struggling when injuries arrived, and without the fire-power to challenge for the top 4. Add to that the uncertainty over the continually delayed move to the new stadium, which itself was meant to create an unsteady atmosphere where the layers never felt truly at home. However, the Spurs players and manager Mauricio Pochettino, have decided not to stick to that narrative.

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Unai Emery’s Arsenal are losing pace with the favourites in the Premier League

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There is no doubt that there has been such an uplifting feeling at Arsenal this season, in with the new and out with the old, has seen fans feeling super refreshed about their team. This campaign has already seen the Gunners claim a 10 game in a row batch of wins and the club have remained undefeated in any competition since August. Under new manager Unai Emery the good times seem to have returned to the Emirates, or have they?

After tearing up the league table and claiming a succession of away wins, something that Arsenal under Wenger really struggled for last season the club seem to have hit a wall. Slipping back down to 5th place and currently out of a Champions League position they have drawn their last their last 4 games in all competitions and their last three in the Premier League. The Gunners last win came against Leicester when they won the game 3-1 on October 22nd.

These recent draws have knocked the stuffing out of the team and they are 3 points behind Tottenham in 4th and a massive 8 points behind league leaders Manchester City. Whilst it is true that nobody was realistically expecting Arsenal to challenge for the league, the question should be why not? As we have seen from Maurizio Sarri- also his debut season in the Premier League and yet Chelsea are in 3rd place, just 4 points behind the current champions.

This isn’t to discredit Emery, who has done a fine job after a tough and shaky start that saw his tenure at Arsenal start with 2 losses. But that can be overlooked given that they had to play the last 2 champions of the league in Manchester City and Chelsea. Fans can point to their recent and decent 1-1 draw against Liverpool of proof that this side are getting better and playing better than Arsene Wenger’s team last season.

But of course football is all about moving forward and to do so and keep your job you have to do it rapidly. After 12 games this season it is interesting to see that Arsenal have 24 points. Last season under Wenger at the same amount of games they had won 22. So yes there is an improvement of sorts but for now it is so minimal.

The good news is that the team are playing a different kind of football and are playing with much more confidence, in the long run if Emery is given the time this is a great sign. For now though it might be better if some fans and press in the words of a certain Larry David, curbed their enthusiasm.

Richard Scudamore’s reported £5 million Premier League payment is wrong on all levels

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The CEO of the English Premier League Richard Scudamore is leaving his post after what has been 19 glorious years at the helm. But Scudamore has come under pressure after it was announced that he will be receiving a £5 million golden handshake goodbye.

The payment will be made by all 20 Premier League clubs, contributing £250,000 each but the question that has to be asked is how is this allowed to happen?

Let’s be clear in the fact that Scudamore has done a quite terrific job promoting the Premier League over the last two decades. When he entered the job, the Italian league- Serie A was still the greatest league in Europe if not the world. This was quickly taken over by the Spanish league and La Liga. But the Premier League has risen up to become not only he most competitive league at least in Europe but also the most exciting and most watched.

Scudamore has been the engine behind an incredible revamp that has seen hooliganism evaporated, safe stands, and hundreds of millions of pounds injected into the 20 top clubs. This has led to the Premier League having some of the greatest players in this era to grace the game playing week in and week out. Also stadiums have improved, so much so that it should be a formality for England to be holding a World Cup very soon. Various Champions League finals have already taken place in the UK.

So from that point there is little to complain of, Scudamore has done an excellent job- although one must remember that he was once quoted saying that it didn’t feel like a job since he was having so much fun. The problem with this payment is that Scudamore is paid a reported £900,000 a year to do his job and also can receive seven figure bonuses each year. And that’s the biting point- why do clubs deem it necessary for him to be paid almost five times his salary as a bonus?

From a clubs point of view the answer is easy, Scudamore has made them tens of millions. This is there everlasting thank you to him. The problem is that the payment is not justified on a wider scale. How many jobs would pay out a 5x salary bonus because you did well? The story stinks and just shows how far football is now removed from the common fan.

No doubt Scudamore will now be under pressure to give some of the money away. Investing it in some charities would be nice, or even grassroots football, giving something back in a nutshell. But that isn’t what football at the very core is sadly about.

Which unbeaten Premier League title challenger will lose first?

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For the first time in the history of English football’s top flight, three clubs remain unbeaten 12 games into a season.

Premier League holders Manchester City currently lead the way at the top of the table with 32 points (W10 D2), while Liverpool (30 points, W9 D3) and Chelsea (28 points, W8 D4) have put themselves in serious title contention after impressive starts to the campaign.

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EPL Best XI – Liverpool players dominate

Mohamed Salah

The 12th weekend of the 2018-19 Premier League season saw Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea maintain their unbeaten starts, while struggling Cardiff and Newcastle picked up their second victories of the campaign. Let’s take a look at the top EFL Fantasy points scorers from the weekend’s games…

GK: Alisson, Liverpool – seven points
Liverpool ran out 2-0 winners against Fulham on Sunday, meaning Alisson kept yet another clean sheet. He now has 49 points for the season, making him the Reds’ highest scorer.

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Who will blink first in race for Premier League title- Manchester City or Liverpool?

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A glance at the Premier League table has champions Manchester City where we all thought they would be in 1st position. In 2nd is Liverpool and in 3rd place is Chelsea. There is just 4 points between the top three, with all of these teams yet to be beaten after 12 games. But just who is emerging as the new champions?

It might be controversial to take this stance but perhaps we can rule out Chelsea for this season. This has nothing to do with having a new manager in Maurizio Sarri, since Antonio Conte won the league with the Blues in his debut season. It’s just that this Chelsea side have more competitive teams around them than they did a couple of seasons ago.

Chelsea have been drawing too many games lately and losing precious points, especially at home and this was underlined this past weekend with a 0-0 draw against Everton.

Manchester City with their superb 3-1 derby win against Manchester United on Sunday pulled 4 points clear of Sarri’s men and it seems evidently clear that City’s main rival this season will be Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. But just who will blink first and start to drop points when it matters?

In some ways City hold the slight advantage. Not only are they 2 points clear of Liverpool but they have played them at Anfield and came away with a draw which was 1 point gained for City and in theory 2 points dropped at home for Liverpool.

It is worth taking a look at each clubs fixtures up to the end of the year. After the international break City will travel to West Ham. Whilst they should get all three points, the Hammers have already proven that they can step up a few gears when playing the best sides in the league and have already drawn with Chelsea at London Stadium and beaten Manchester United.

Next for Pep Guardiola’s team is Bournemouth at home and away to Watford before a crunch match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Then they are at home to Everton, face Palace at home, away to Leicester and then again away to Southampton. At least 20 points can be acquired by City in those matches which would take them to 52 as we welcome in 2019.

For Liverpool the importance of course is staying with City- can they do it? Their fixtures kick off against Watford away and then they face the derby at home to Everton. Two away games come up next against Burnley and Bournemouth. Then in mid December is a massive game at home against Manchester United. Then a trip to tricky Wolves and two home games to round out the year against Newcastle United and Arsenal.

On the face of it Liverpool have a much harder run in. 15 points could be gained, anymore and Liverpool deserve to be genuine title contenders. In theory then at the end of the year Manchester City could have 52 points compared to Liverpool with 45. A 7 point gap to a Pep Guardiola team seems to much to give, and it is Liverpool that may be blinking first as we head into the final straight come January.