It was the greatest night in the history of Chelsea Football Club. Not for the first time during their Champions League run in 2011/12, the odds were stacked against the west Londoners heading into the final on 19 May: not only did they have to face a formidable Bayern Munich team stacked full of world-class players, they had to do so at their opponents’ own stadium, the Allianz Arena. Yet the Blues once again dug deep and found a way to win, becoming the first team from London to claim the continent’s biggest prize.
By almost any measure, Maurizio Sarri has done a good job in his first season as Chelsea manager. A scoreless stalemate at Leicester City on Sunday, together with Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-2 draw with Everton, secured a third-place finish in the Premier League. The Blues also reached the final of the EFL Cup, which they were a little unfortunate to lose to Manchester City on penalties, and are one game away from winning a European trophy for the fifth time in the club’s history. All things considered, it has been far from a bad campaign.
The Premier League season draws to a dramatic close this Sunday. All 20 teams are in action, playing out their final game of the 2018/19 campaign.
If Manchester City can take all three points at Brighton, then they will be crowned Premier League champions for the second consecutive season under Pep Guardiola.
If City lose or draw and Liverpool win at home to Wolves then Jurgen Klopp will have delivered the first league title to the Merseyside club for 29 years.
It’s all to play for.
Here are our predicted lineups for those EPL fixtures so have a read in preparation for another EPL fantasy football round. Continue reading
Basking in the glory of the win over Barcelona, it’s fair to say Jurgen Klopp’s standing has been higher. Victory over Messi and co confirmed the Liverpool manager’s status as one of the best in world football.
Look around Europe’s top five leagues, and there is an argument there is nobody better than he. Pep Guardiola is the obvious rival, He continues to shine with Manchester City and is one of the greatest coaches of his generation. Yet, his team are only one point ahead of Liverpool in the Premier League. They lagged far behind them in the Champions League. Klopp has matched and outperformed Guardiola at times this season. The win over Barcelona was another example of the world-class coach he is. Continue reading
Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Now deep into his 11th year at Manchester City and with over 33 years spent on this earth, Vincent Kompany is still able to defy the odds when they are stacked against him.
With 70 minutes on the clock and Leicester City proving to be well-organised and almost a match for the defending league champions, the home team needed some magic.
They needed an inspirational captain to step up and take charge. Kompany didn’t disappoint. City’s number 4 released an unstoppable drive from all of 30 yards. It flew past Kasper Schmeichel’s outstretched arms and into the top corner. Continue reading
When you are still in the race for a league title, the pressure is of course on. At this late stage of the season, with a single point deficit and an away day to consider, one could be forgiven for feeling a little added pressure on your day job. When you are Liverpool, with the weight of the expectations of millions of fans across the globe resting heavily on your shoulders and facing an uphill battle to reclaim the crown once so familiar, an away day at Newcastle United is one of the last things you would fancy. That is not a knock on Newcastle at all, of course – but with such a rich history of clashes between the two sides, and with reining champions Man City watching on with interest, anyone connected with the Reds could be forgiven for feeling somewhat pressured.
The curtain is almost down. The business is almost done. With just a single round of games remaining in the Premier League, the relegation battle is finished but the title race remains very much alive. With the final game of the season being the time that this year’s Premier League champions will be identified, there is still plenty to play for at the summit of England’s top flight. With that said, let’s adopt a 4-3-3 formation this week and see which players performed the best for their clubs this past weekend.
The anticipated sprint to the finish line became a crawl. At times in recent weeks it has appeared as if no one beyond Manchester City and Liverpool wants to play Champions League football next season, but the two final qualification spots have been decided ahead of the final day. Almost in spite of themselves, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur will be representing English football in Europe’s principal club competition in 2018/19.
Arsenal may yet join them if they emerge triumphant from their Europa League campaign, but their domestic collapse suggests that they could easily throw it all away on the continent too. After their 2-0 victory over Newcastle United at the start of April, Unai Emery’s side moved into third spot and two points clear of Manchester United in fifth. Their run-in looked by far the most straightforward on paper, with no big-six opposition left to play. A Champions League spot was the Gunners’ to lose.
And lose it they did, with a dismal run of results which brings into question whether Unai Emery really is the right man to life Arsenal back into contention at the top of the Premier League tree. That aforementioned success against Newcastle was followed by a 1-0 loss to Everton; although the north Londoners bounced back to narrowly beat 10-man Watford by a goal to nil a week later, they then proceeded to lose consecutive matches against Crystal Palace, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City. Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion, opponents who had nothing to play for after Cardiff City’s prior defeat by Palace secured their survival, was the final nail in the coffin for their top-four chances given Tottenham’s vastly superior goal difference.
United are not quite as guilty as Arsenal of throwing away a position of strength, but they too failed to capitalise after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had hauled them back into contention. Defeats by Arsenal, Wolves, Everton and Manchester City proved costly for the Red Devils, with the 1-1 draw with Huddersfield Town at the weekend another example of the major surgery that needs to be done at Old Trafford ahead of next term.
In truth, it was down to their rivals’ failings as much as their own successes that Chelsea and Spurs squeezed over the line to secure a place in the Champions League for 2019/20. Maurizio Sarri’s side were convincing in Sunday’s 3-0 dismissal of Watford, but that was their first win in four top-flight assignments. The ex-Napoli head coach has done a good job at Stamford Bridge this term given the circumstances, but even in that triumph over the Hornets there was unrest on the terraces. On the face of it, it would be harsh to dismiss the Italian this summer – even more so if he lifts the Europa League trophy later this month – but it is equally difficult to envisage this becoming a long-term relationship given the level of antipathy towards him from those who follow the club.
Tottenham, meanwhile, can thank a combination of their form in the first half of the campaign and the end-of-season incompetency of others for their top-four finish, which is guaranteed barring a final-day folding of epic proportions at home to Everton. At the turn of the year Mauricio Pochettino’s men were still being spoken of as title contenders; that now seems like a distant memory, with Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by Bournemouth – albeit in difficult circumstances following the harsh dismissal of Son Heung-min in the first half – making it just one win in four in the Premier League. Even that victory was not the most convincing, with an 88th-minute Christian Eriksen strike required to get past relegation battlers Brighton and Hove Albion at home.
There is a comprehensible argument that the unprecedented performance of the top two has skewed perceptions this season; that is to say, Liverpool and Manchester City’s consistent excellence is raising our expectations for those four teams below them. Nevertheless, the collective collapse at the business end of the campaign points to the need for improvement at Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United this summer; even at this early stage, it is hard to envisage any member of that quartet getting close to Liverpool and City next term. The crawl to the finish line in the ‘battle’ for the Champions League places is sufficient evidence for that.
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This weekend sees the penultimate round of Premier League fixtures taking place before the season draws to a close on Sunday, May 12th.
Here are our predicted lineups for those EPL fixtures so have a read in preparation for another EPL fantasy football round.
Everton v Burnley
Everton XI: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Zouma, Digne, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Bernard, Calvert-Lewin
Burnley XI: Heaton, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor, Hendrick, Cork, Westwood, McNeil, Barnes, Wood Continue reading
As a club, Leicester City has had more anguish to deal with this season than most.
Back in late October, the club’s 60-year-old Thai owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, along with four others, including the pilot, died when his helicopter crashed to the ground shortly after takeoff from the King Power Stadium.
Srivaddhanaprabha had just watched his team draw 1-1 at home to West Ham United before then attempting to make his usual helicopter trip back to his home in London.
A grey cloud covered the club over the following weeks with the playing staff all attending their previous owner’s funeral in Bangkok. Continue reading