Predicted lineups for this weekend’s EPL action

Eden Hazard

It’s FA Cup weekend coming up so there are just five EPL matches to look forward to.

Saturday’s games see Bournemouth host Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United at the Vitality Stadium while Huddersfield Town make the trip to London to face West Ham United.

Brendan Rodgers brings his Leicester team to face Burnley at Turf Moor at the same time. Burnley have lost their last three league games while Leicester won 3-1 against Fulham last time out.

On Sunday, Liverpool travel to meet Fulham as The Reds look to go back to the top of the Premier League, temporarily at least. Everton play host to Chelsea later that day. The Toffees have won just once in their last six games. Chelsea drew 1-1 with Wolves last Sunday.

EPL Weekend Picks – Week 30

tielemansThis weekend’s Premier League action has one or two tasty fixtures coming at a great time, with arguably the match of the round closing out the weekend’s proceedings when Arsenal take on Manchester United at the Emirates in Sunday’s 4.30pm kickoff. Conversely, getting things underway with the Saturday lunchtime kickoff will be Crystal Palace hosting rivals Brighton at Selhurst Park. With the exception of Man City taking on Watford on Saturday and Chelsea hosting Wolves on Sunday, just about every other game sees a top-half side taking on a bottom-half side, and so there could be one or two surprises in store for fans attending a game in England’s top-flight this weekend.

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James Rodriguez to lead Real Madrid summer exodus

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James Rodriguez is set to leave La Liga this summer, with Real Madrid happy for the Colombian international to move on after an unfulfilled five years at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Rodriguez, 27, signed for Los Blancos ahead of the 2014-15 campaign, on the back of an outstanding performance at the World Cup two months before, however his face never seemed to fit at the club particularly under previous boss Zinedine Zidane.

Despite the last two seasons on loan at Bayern Munich, he does not appear to be guaranteed a continued role in Bavaria either.

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Preview: Chelsea v Manchester United

After recent losses to top-tier opposition in Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, both teams will be looking to bounce back in this FA Cup fifth round fixture. 

Chelsea were utterly embarrassed with their performance against Pep Guardiola’s men at the Etihad, which left them outside of the top four and with work to do. Maurizio Sarri failed to show his pragmatic side and was on the receiving end of a humiliating defeat.

Manchester United, on the other hand, might have lost at Old Trafford against PSG, but it was not overly unexpected, even with numerous injuries to the Parisians. Thomas Tuchel had a clear plan in nullifying United’s attacking threats and the injuries to Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial caused a lack of speed throughout the team.

Both clubs are in need of a win and to progress into the quarter finals, as well as giving them the advantage mentally in the race for a top four finish in the Premier League.

The history of Stamford Bridge

For one reason or another, the Red Devils have struggled to beat the Blues at Stamford Bridge since the turn of the century. Remarkably, they have only managed to win twice in 17 years in West London, with none of those coming since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013.

Stamford Bridge has been a bogey ground for United and, no matter what type of form Chelsea are in, the Blues always rise to the occasion and put on a valiant performance.

Gonzalo Higuain is more than likely to start and will have hopes of having more of an impact than he did against United’s across-town rivals. Flanked by Pedro and Eden Hazard, Sarri will be hoping that he has got through to his players in the last week and will see them carrying out his strict instructions.

Manchester United’s weakness is through their full backs, which is why Ander Herrera – as he usually does – will have to double up and help out Ashley Young at right back when facing the Belgium international. The Spanish midfielder did an excellent job a couple of seasons ago when man-marking Hazard, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could ask for a similar job on Monday night.

The Blues are undefeated in their last 10 home matches at Stamford Bridge against Manchester United, showing their dominance against the Red Devils.

Romelu Lukaku’s importance

With the injuries to Lingard and Martial, Solskjaer needs to show his pragmatism in how United play with a severe lack of pace running through the team.

Romelu Lukaku is likely to be brought in to start, just as he did in the last round against Arsenal, and will need to deliver his best performance of the season if his team are to record a result away from home.

Against the Gunners, the Belgian often switched from a central role to out wide, occupying the wing and firing crosses into the box successfully. With the lack of interchangeability with Mata potentially on the right wing, Lukaku is going to have to ensure that his hold-up play is good enough to bring others into play.

There is no doubt about it that Lukaku can punish any team in the country on his day, but he has struggled for confidence this season and looked bulkier than he ever did at Everton. Saying that, there have been glimpses – especially against Unai Emery’s side – where he shone, which is exactly what Solskjaer needs to see against his former club Chelsea.

The Blues will be tightly marking the Belgian centre forward, which should free up space for Marcus Rashford to go in behind the defence and for Mata to play in between the lines. It is going to be a testing night for Lukaku, but one in which he needs to come through with flying colours.

Prediction

While Chelsea have some world-class players on the pitch, United’s team and confidence under the Norwegian manager should not be undervalued, even if they did lose to PSG.

One loss against a European juggernaut does not make for a bad team, which is why Solskjaer will want to keep morale high and make sure his players leave absolutely everything on the pitch.

This game is likely to be ferocious at times and even end-to-end with both defences haemorrhaging goals this season, which should make it a must watch for fans and neutrals alike.

If Solskjaer is to stamp his authority on the permanent position over his competitors out there, a win would certainly saw the Manchester United board into thinking he is the front runner come the end of the season.

Chelsea 1-2 Manchester United

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From Hazard to Dybala and possibly Neymar Real Madrid need to buy big next season

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By their incredible standards Real Madrid have looked their most fragile and normal for the first time in a good decade. It has been a season of transition for the club who came into this season without Ronaldo and with Zinedine Zidane resigning. It has felt a little empty for a side who have won the last 3 Champions League trophies.

Let’s be honest something has felt off about the club, where was the mega signings? Because look around and you will see that Florentino Perez is still around, he who invented the original galacticos and made sure that Madrid kept signing the very best players- sometimes it worked sometimes it didn’t- yes we all remember Thomas Gravesen.

This season was clearly a breather- so much had happened in such a short space of time at Madrid then everyone needed it. And yet the club find themselves just 6 points behind league leaders Barcelona, are in the semi finals of the Copa del Rey, have won the World Club Cup and have one foot in the quarter finals of the Champions League- things really are not that bad at the club, are they?

Madrid though will be having a summer of upheaval, there is no secret about that. Coach Santiago Solari is only staying if he is able to win a trophy and the Copa del Rey may not be enough for  a side who are used to winning bigger trophies. But it is the players that the club will be bringing in which is raising the most eyebrows.

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Madrid have been flirting with each other ever since the World Cup ended last summer and Hazard has made no secret of where he would like to play next season. With his current club Chelsea looking like they might hit a meltdown under current coach Maurizio Sarri, Hazard may just be able to find the perfect excuse to leave. He is very much expected to leave what ever happens at Chelsea.

Paulo Dybala is another leading candidate to join Los Blancos, it what would be seen as more of a shock move after his successful career at Juventus, but Dybala the class player that he is should be able to fit into Madrid with few problems.

Then there is the real shock move which could happen this summer- the transfer of Neymar from PSG- could it really happen? Neymar would be gold for Madrid and a big loss for PSG. But what about the Barcelona fans? Last time a big name player switched clubs- Luis Figo from Barcelona to Real Madrid fans started a riot ending with a pigs head on the pitch.

Neymar would be the key for Madrid going forward, although Hazard may see Neymar as a threat as he wants to be the shining light at the club- One thing is for certain, this summer will be an incredibly interesting one at the circus that is Real Madrid.

 

Hazard and Higuain’s Huddersfield link-up gives Maurizio Sarri hope in top-four battle

It has been a turbulent few weeks for Chelsea, but fans of the club will hope that Saturday’s 5-0 demolition of Huddersfield Town proves to be a turning point in their season. Maurizio Sarri had come under intense scrutiny following last week’s 4-0 thumping by Bournemouth, a result which allowed Arsenal and Manchester United to move closer to the final Champions League qualification spot, but the manner of their victory at Stamford Bridge has relieved the pressure on the Italian – at least for now.

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Alvaro Morata’s Atletico Madrid move stalls

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Alvaro Morata’s move to La Liga title challengers Atletico Madrid is yet to be completed, with both sides saying they are still some way off an agreement for the 26 year-old.

The Spanish international looks certain to end his stay in West London, but time is running out ahead of the closing of winter transfer window at the end of January.

Atletico have confirmed that they are interested in bringing Morata back to Madrid, where he spent five years at rivals Real Madrid, across two separate spells, however manager Diego Simeone confirmed that nothing is yet agreed between them.

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Five Players to sign in January for Fantasy League Success

It’s that time of year again. The Christmas leftovers are all gone, the decorations are back under the stairs for another year and lots of us are feeling our willpower beginning to weaken in the face of Dry January.

So what we need most of all is some kind of distraction to take our minds off the weather and the general gloom that brings in the start of the New Year. So what better to do than start fine tuning our fantasy football squad in preparation for the rest of the season?

It could be that your team’s already riding high in which case you may not need this advice. But if you really want to move up to a higher level then we’ve picked five players who could bring success whether you’re a relative fantasy football novice or a seasoned pro.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

When the captain of the Gabonese team signed for Arsenal just within last January’s transfer window it was for a record-breaking £56 million. Now, a year later, he’s certainly proved to be a good buy as he heads the list of Premier league scorers with a total of 14 goals to his name, many of them snatched from inside the box. With 10 goals scored last season no-one’s betting that he won’t double that total for this one.

Leroy Sané

For a 23 year old the winger and attacking midfielder Leroy Sané shows incredible maturity for his age and he has already gained experience in Germany as well as for Manchester City. His early days for the latter were beset with reported breathing difficulties but he seems to have put all that behind him now. As well as regularly assisting goals he also knows just when to score them with his 72nd winner against league challengers Liverpool being a case in point.

Eden Hazard

With Chelsea enjoying a very good season, secure near the top of the table, much of that has to be down to Hazard. Now in his sixth season at Stamford Bridge he’s part of the furniture, and what a valuable part too. Not only is he well up with the League’s leading goal scorers, he also tops the list of assists too with 10 to his name after 22 matches played.

Richarlison

The Brazilian stated his professional career in 2015 with Fluminense but a series of outstanding performances saw Watford’s Marco Silva snapping him up for £11.2 million.

A year later, Silva brought him into the Everton set-up where he’s continued to thrive, albeit with the occasional lapse of discipline. As an out and out forward, he’s never far from the action and there’s every reason to suppose that he’ll be adding to his 9 goal tally so far the season.

Alisson

No matter how many goals your fantasy league team may be scoring, it can all be undone without a safe pair of hands between the posts. And few are safer than the Brazilian Alisson. When Klopp paid the thick end of £70 million for him there were a few raised eyebrows but the number of clean sheets Liverpool have seen since his arrival is testament to his value. He won’t be cheap for you either, but he’ll almost certainly be worth it.

Of course, you may have your own favourites to add to your squad to see you through the rest o  the season so don’t take our selection as definitive. Just try to create as balanced a squad as possible and remember, past performance is never any guarantee of future performance. So you have been warned!

Eden Hazard the perfect fit for Real Madrid

Eden Hazard

Earlier this week, Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri told reporters ‘it is time to decide’ the future of star player Eden Hazard. The Belgian international has been influential for the Blues this season while he netted his 100th and 101st goals for the club in the Boxing Day victory at Watford.

The playmaker has continually stated he is ‘happy’ at the West London club and all indications suggest he would not cause disruption in his push for an exit. Yet for the best part of 18 months he has continually flirted with Real Madrid, fluttering his eyelashes in their direction on any occasion he is quizzed about his future. Continue reading

Eden Hazard’s move to Real Madrid could become very complicated

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In the past few weeks the major transfer talk has been of Chelsea star Eden Hazard possibly moving to Real Madrid. On the face of it the deal could make perfect sense for both clubs. But the transfer could end up becoming a saga with many complications involved.

Let’s begin with Hazard himself who is becoming a club legend at Chelsea and at 27 has played 7 seasons with the west London club. There is the option for Hazard to simply remain with the Blues something that he is assured of for at least the next four seasons. He will win trophies with Chelsea, but he clearly wants to win silverware with the likes of the great Real Madrid and add the team to his resume.

The question remains when will Hazard join Real Madrid? On the face of it January looks out of the question as Chelsea will be challenging for major honours including the league. Hazard himself has ruled out a January move. And yet he may have very little say on the decision. The problem is that Hazard’s contract with Chelsea runs out in 18 months time and as the time ticks down so will his transfer fee.

For example Chelsea could demand £100m for the player in January but wait until the summer and that fee could be around the £80m mark. There is also the complication of Real Madrid’s finances at the moment which are not good. For example 300m euros is still owed in debt and the club want to invest up to 500m euros to upgrade their stadium, which when done will look like a spaceship.

Real Madrid face the question of should they dive in for Hazard in January or wait? Their problem is that the team are simply not performing at this time and this season could well be a write off after the big time departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane. The fans are clearly crying out for a big name signing, something that oddly deserted them this summer, which just goes to show Madrid’s financial state at the present time.

Hazard has been linked to Real Madrid as far back as 2010 when Zinedine Zidane commented that he would take Hazard to Madrid with his eyes closed- he was that good. It’s been a long time coming and it looks almost guaranteed that 2019 will finally be the year that Hazard becomes a Real Madrid player.