EPL: Premier League Predictions for Week 36

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Have Manchester City taken a step closer to winning back to back EPL titles? City beat Manchester United in the derby in midweek to move 1 point clear of Liverpool with the same games played in a much needed win.

Liverpool will play on Friday night where they can reclaim top spot, but City will get a chance to get that back yet again on Sunday as the champions of the league look like going down to the wire.

We take a look at what should be a very exciting weekend in the Premier League with some brilliant fixtures taking place below.

Liverpool v Huddersfield

The Premier League kicks off on a Friday night where Liverpool will be the massive favourites to beat the already relegated and bottom club Huddersfield. Liverpool are unbeaten at home and with Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have the quality to not just win this match but score lots of goals. Liverpool to beat Huddersfield

Tottenham v West Ham

Tottenham are looking good for a top 4 place now after their last gasp win against Brighton has moved them 3 points clear of 4th place Chelsea. They will need to get the job done against West Ham. But all focus will surely be on their Champions League semi-final match against Ajax and we expect to see a surprise match where the team end equal. Draw

Crystal Palace v Everton

Palace have been in decent form and pulled off a superb result last week to beat Arsenal 3-2 at the Emirates. They have crept up the league well. Everton are in good form but still look questionable away from home and Palace could get a win. Watch out for Christian Benteke who was brilliant last week against Arsenal. Crystal Palace to beat Everton

Fulham v Cardiff

Fulham are down but they proved the other week against Everton in a 2-0 win they are not out. There is still a lot of fight in Cardiff who have a belief they can still survive this season. Whoever is more hungry will surely win this game, and that could rest with the away side here. Cardiff to beat Fulham

Southampton v Bournemouth

There is still the smallest of chances that Southampton could get involved in a relegation dog fight. But they have got some decent results under their belts the last few games and should be too much for their opponents watch out for Shane Long who appears to have his goal scoring boots back on. Southampton to beat Bournemouth

Watford v Wolves

A really great clash here as the two surprise teams of the league season go head to head. Both are chasing 7th place and this should be  a very close game. Wolves got a fantastic result beating Arsenal 3-1 in midweek. Draw

Brighton v Newcastle

Newcastle will put everything into this game because they have some tough fixtures to end the season and it won’t be easy for many more points. Ayoze Perez is on fire for the Magpies after his hat-trick in their last match. Brighton are in real trouble and could well be relegated. Newcastle to beat Brighton

Leicester v Arsenal

Leicester keep on battling and have been strong and came back to make it 2-2 away to West Ham in their last game. Arsenal have crumbled with losses against Crystal Palace and Wolves. Arsenal have the Europa League semi-final on their mind, but with a little luck can come away here with a scrappy victory. Arsenal to beat Leicester

Burnley v Manchester City

Burnley have been back to their 2017/18 form in the past few weeks and the general theory is that they can give Manchester City a game here. But take out their 2-2 draw at Chelsea and they have not been beating quality teams on their good run. This match could be close but City are several levels from where Burnley are and they should continue their fantastic run. Bernardo Silva is in excellent form for City. Manchester City to beat Burnley

Manchester United v Chelsea

There is a lot of pressure on United to perform and start winning games after losing against Everton and then Manchester City. This match in theory represents their final chance at a top 4 place. Chelsea are a quality team but United if they want to play to their potential can get all the 3 points. It’s about time Romelu Lukaku showed up though. Manchester United to beat Chelsea 

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EPL Best XI – Week 35

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With the Premier League season continuing whittling itself down to what seems destined to be a thrilling conclusion, nothing more was decided during this past weekend’s action. The battle to avoid being the last side to be relegated from the top flight this season remains far from over, while various intricate races / challenges at the top of the table appear nowhere nearer to being resolved. Liverpool remain two points ahead of Man City at the top of the league with City having a game in hand, Everton impressed many by beating Man Utd 4-0 at Goodison Park and Crystal Palace pulled off a great 3-2 win over Arsenal at the Emirates. With all that said, let us now adopt a 4-3-3 formation and take a peek at which players performed the best this weekend.

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Benteke slump endures as Palace slip to third consecutive defeat

When Crystal Palace were awarded a penalty in the closing stages of last season’s meeting with Leicester City at Selhurst Park, the home supporters began to chant the name of Christian Benteke. The Eagles were already four goals to the good when referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot in the 90th minute, and the majority of those on the terraces wanted to see the Belgian striker experience a rare high towards the end of a season of lows.

Benteke made no mistake from 12 yards to put the icing on the cake of what was one of Palace’s best performances since their promotion to the Premier League in 2013. It was a particularly significant moment given what had happened five months earlier, when the ex-Aston Villa and Liverpool centre-forward disobeyed managerial awards to take a stoppage-time penalty in the 2-2 draw with Bournemouth, which opposition goalkeeper Asmir Begovic comfortably saved. It was a decision which could have proved costly in Palace’s battle against relegation, and one which did not exactly endear Benteke to his team-mates or the club’s fans. Continue reading

Best Strikers in the Premier League – Week 18

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With this weekend’s round of football producing little in the way of surprises as far as the top of the Premier League goes, we will be taking a look at which strikers did the job for their club the best.

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EPL Attacker Review – Wonderful Welbeck, Kane the Corker and Blundering Benteke

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If you are a striker who is on the books at Man United, with some first team experience, and a club like Arsenal come along, there is certainly a decision to be made. In the case of Danny Welbeck, it seemed an easy one. Continue reading

Andre Silva shines as Portugal secure comprehensive victory

Euro 2016

For a second successive 2018 World Cup qualifier, Portugal won 6-0, as Andre Silva scored a first half hat – trick to inspire his team to a comprehensive victory over the Faroe Islands in Torshavn.

In an entirely dominant display the Euro 2016 winners amassed 23 shots, 11 of which were on target, whilst Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 66th international goal before Joao Moutinho and Cavaco Cancelo enhanced Selecao’s margin of victory.

Prior to beating the Faroe Islands 6-0, in their previous qualifier Portugal overcame Andorra by the same score line courtesy of four goals from Ronaldo, whilst Cavaco Cancelo and Silva also scored.

Victories for Hungarians and Swiss

In the process of recording successive 6-0 victories, Portugal climbed to second place in group B, three points behind Switzerland, who beat Andorra 2-1.

After Fabian Schar and Ahmed Mehmedi gave Switzerland a 2-0 lead Martinez Palau set-up an interesting finale as the 18-year-old scored in the last minute for Andorra, who produced a vastly improved performance from the one which they delivered against Portugal.

One of Fernando Santos’ side’s Euro 2016 group stage opponents also occupies their 2018 World Cup qualification group.  Hungary, with whom Portugal drew 3-3 at Euro 2016, beat Latvia 2-0 away from home with Adam Gyurcso and Adam Szalai scoring for Bernd Storck’s team.

Benteke scores hat-trick in comprehensive Belgian win

Just as Portugal secured a 6-0 away victory so too did Belgium, with Christian Benteke scoring a hat-trick against Gibraltar.  The Crystal Palace striker influentially helped his country to a second successive comprehensive win, following a 4-0 home victory over Bosnia Herzegovina, who recovered from that loss by beating Cyprus 2-0 courtesy of a brace by Edin Dzeko.

With the game goalless entering the final two minutes, the Manchester City striker scored twice.

One of the 30-year-old striker’s Roma teammates Kostas Manolas also enjoyed a successful international appearance whereby the central defender helped Greece to a 2-0 victory over Estonia, as Michael Skibbe’s maintained a 100% record to sit atop of group H alongside Belgium.

In the process of winning their first three qualification games, Roberto Martinez’s team have scored 13 goals without conceding, to make an extremely positive start to their bid to reach Russia in 2018.

Sweden on form in Group A

Another team to do that is Sweden, who won a second successive qualifier, since after a 1-0 away victory over Luxembourg, they then beat Bulgaria 3-0 in Stockholm.  Whilst Ola Toivonen gave Janne Andersson’s team the lead, Oscar Hiljemark and the Benfica defender Victor Lindelof scored to ensure Sweden are now level on both points and goal difference at the top of group A.

France’s fine form continues

Whilst Sweden won comfortably, France was forced to work considerably harder for their victory, as Les Bleus defeated the Netherlands 1-0 in Amsterdam.

After half-an-hour, Paul Pogba scored the winning goal with a fine long range effort.  The Manchester United’s midfielder along with each of his French compatriots delivered an accomplished display, as Didier Deschamps’ side continued to recover from the disappointment of losing the Euro 2016 final to Portugal.  Specifically their win over the Netherlands followed an emphatic 4-1 win over Bulgaria, who occupy fourth place in group A, ahead of Belarus and Luxembourg who drew 1-1.

Series of action packed qualifiers

Ultimately another series of entirely entertaining qualification games unfolded, which was particularly notable for the superb hat-tricks scored by Portugal’s Andre Silva and Christian Benteke, whose first goal in just 8.1 seconds was the fastest ever scored in a World Cup qualifying campaign.

Whilst Belgium and Portugal greatly enhanced their prospects of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, so too did the quartet France, Sweden, Switzerland and Greece as the race to reach Russia intensifies with each passing qualifier.

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Liverpool’s Christian Benteke impresses on his home debut

Liverpool striker Christian Benteke scored the only goal of the game on his home debut to earn his new side all three points against AFC Bournemouth on Monday night.

The Belgian international created more chances (4) than any other player on the pitch, and showcased his aerial dominance with 10 duels won over the course of the evening. He proved to be a useful out-ball when Liverpool were forced to go long in defence, and even hit the woodwork late on to wrap up the win.

Benteke had brief moments of clever interchanges with the likes of Philippe Coutinho, and was full of running for the side too. Often the 24-year-old peeled off a Bournemouth defender to hold the ball up down the channels, allowing Liverpool to regain their shape and build an attack. Manager Brendan Rodgers was delighted with the striker’s performance.

“He gives other options in the game, when teams try to press us high. I thought his hold-up play was excellent. You can see his feet – he’s got a good touch and awareness for a big guy and, of course, naturally when the ball comes into the box he’s a big threat. He deserved his goal and will be disappointed he didn’t get another, but it was a good night for him,” said the Liverpool boss.

Benteke himself admitted his excitement to have finally got off the mark for his new club, saying: “I think it’s a great day, for myself and the team. The more important thing tonight is the three points, but I should have scored (the effort that hit the woodwork).

Signed from Aston Villa for around £30M this summer, question marks were raised at the lofty asking price given the goal droughts and lacklustre performances have been prevalent during his time with the Midlands outfit, but Benteke temporarily silenced critics with a strong debut showing in a Liverpool shirt.

His goal earned the Reds their second win in an many Premier League games this season, and will have given confidence to Rodgers that he can be a useful option when injury-prone Daniel Sturridge is out of action. Benteke’s goal was a wrapped in controversy, with Philippe Coutinho influencing the play from an offside position, but the Belgian took his chance when it came to him, and will be hoping to replicate his debut season at Villa Park (19 Premier League goals). He’s certainly got off to an ideal start.

Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke once again putting himself in the shop window

Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke scored the winning goal in the Villans’ 1-0 away win against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. The Belgian international, 24, has scored eight goals in his last six games for Tim Sherwood’s team. Now boasting a tally of 10 goals from 21 starts in the Premier League this season, Benteke is once again attracting interest from a host of clubs.

The 24-year-old has found his scoring boots, and is brilliantly spearheading the attack as he was back in 2012. Benteke struggled for large parts of the season under predecessor Paul Lambert, but Sherwood has worked hard to get the best form out of him. His goals have become crucial in Aston Villa’s fight to avoid further trouble in the Premier League table. By finding the goal on a regular basis, Benteke has also taken giants steps towards restoring his reputation in Europe.

“Benteke is prolific. Give him a chance and he will score. His responsibility is to hurt the other team and score goals – he’s doing that. The shackles are off. If you create chances for them they’ll score. Now we are playing it to Benteke a lot earlier, keeping him in the game is key. It stretches the opposition,” said manager Tim Sherwood.

Tottenham were one of many sides linked with Benteke’s services last season, but the Londoners instead opted for former Valencia hitman Roberto Soldado. However, the Spanish international failed to prove his worth in the Premier League, forcing manager Mauricio Pochettino to find a suitable alternative.

Aston Villa value the Belgian striker at around £20 million, yet his value might rise further if he continues to impress. It is quite extraordinary to think based on his current form that Benteke is the same player who scored just three goals in all competitions up until March.

Signed from Belgian Jupiler League club Genk for £7M in the summer of 2012, Benteke has provided an impressive return of goals. He has not matched his debut season of 19 Premier League goals, but has scored in double figures in league play in each of his three seasons in England. There should not be a shortage of interest in the summer as a result, with Liverpool and Tottenham desperate for a striker of Benteke’s ilk.

So has the Belgian international put himself as a worthy transfer candidate ahead of this summer?