Manchester City can’t afford to be complacent against Wolves

Manchester City v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group Stage - Group C

With nine dropped points in December, Pep Guardiola will be eager to keep the pressure on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool when his Manchester City welcome Wolves to the Etihad Stadium on Monday night.

Being labelled as giant killers, the visitors have recently beaten Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool and so Guardiola will warn his team against complacency, despite coming into this fixture on the back of a morale boosting wins against Rotherham (7-0) and Burton Albion (9-0) in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup semi-final. Continue reading

Bernardo Silva: His importance to Manchester City

Bernardo Silva

Manchester City’s Portuguese magician Bernardo Silva put in a performance of a lifetime against Liverpool to keep their Premier League title hopes alive on Thursday night, just months after he was almost shipped out after struggling during his first season in Manchester. Continue reading

Manchester City gear up for busy Christmas period

Pep Guardiola is expected to make changes ahead of Manchester City’s Premier League clash against Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon as the reigning champions enter their Christmas period which includes nine games in December alone.

Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva all face a race against time to be declared fit and will undergo a late fitness test while Kevin de Bruyne remains on the sidelines with a knee injury he picked up in early November, with Manchester City’s match against Bournemouth coming too soon for the Belgian. Continue reading

Is Jose Mourinho on a losing battle with Manchester United’s stars?

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Manchester United somehow and finally qualified for the knock out stages of the Champions League as a last minute goal from Marouane Fellaini was enough to see out Young Boys a team that at Old Trafford United were expected to score 3 or more goals against and ease into a victory.

Instead and yet again United underwhelmed and yet a victory is a victory and Mourinho punched the air with delight. He didn’t mind a 1-0 win, but there has to be serious doubts over this United team. One does get the feeling that Mourinho is trying to mould this side into the great Inter Milan team that he coached for 3 seasons. A dogs of war side that won 3 Serie A titles in a row and a famous Champions League title, their first for 45 years. The problem is that there was a major difference between that team and this United one, which was the players believed in Mourinho’s project and had thick skin.

Thick skin has been quite the subject this week too as Luke Shaw who Mourinho wants to be his lieutenant in the side just like Javier Zanetti was all those years ago at Inter said in a recent interview that you need thick skin to be in this side. He is absolutely right because Mourinho unlike most coaches will publicly criticise you if you don’t perform- Shaw included. His methods seem alien in a footballing world where the megastar player has been pampered too. Are Mourinho’s methods right? One could believe there is no definite answer, except they are his way of approaching things and he isn’t going to change now after all of the trophies he has won.

Romelu Lukakau the striker who has faded this season has stuck up for Mourinho lately, suggesting that players need to man up, and Mourinho himself has said that if some players are nervous they should just watch United’s games on the TV.

But Mourinho isn’t blameless in United’s start to the season, which forgetting the odd very good result, not losing to Chelsea away from home and victory over Juventus in Turin and has not been a good start to the new football campaign. After all he was the one that bought Paul Pogba, a player he is clearly at odds with and can’t seem to work with him. The other is Alexis Sanchez, an outrageously talented footballer who now plays like a journeyman under Mourinho he plays one week and not the next tactics.

Manchester United have not been the club we know since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 and it does feel that whatever Mourinho will try with this club just won’t stick. Of course he has won the Europa League and League Cup with them, so is by far the most successful coach at the club since Ferguson left. But that is going on for 2 seasons ago now.

United have zero chance to win the Premier League this season and the big one for them now is the Champions League. It is where the teams concentration and priority will be focused on. After all if they can beat the tournament favourites Juventus away, then why not? For now United are not a club worth watching, which is the saddest aspect of Mourinho’s time here.

Back to business for Manchester City

For the mess that Manchester City have been in off the pitch with these Football Leaks allegations, it was business as usual for Pep Guardiola’s team on Saturday afternoon after they made West Ham United look like a Championship club. David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané had the Premier League champions 3-0 up inside 35 minutes before the latter added a second in second-half stoppage time.

For the fans of Manchester City, it was a sense of relief. With an international break last weekend, the last two weeks have been torturous for City fans following allegations by Football Leaks suggesting that the club may have conducted itself dishonestly or sought to illegitimately evade financial fair play (FFP) rules, with UEFA officials now examining these allegations before a likely investigation.

These allegations made by German outlet Der Spiegel suggest that Manchester City had tried to cheat FFP rules by City selling image rights of players to a company, Fordham Sports Management, to lower their wage bill. Whether this is true or not, it could be damaging to Manchester City while the consequences could well be severe. Manchester City aren’t the only club involved in these Football Leaks but with the eye of the world watching, Guardiola would have been keen to not let it affect his team.

Their performance against West Ham United on Saturday afternoon suggests that normality has remained on the pitch with Guardiola’s side now two points clear ahead of closest challengers Liverpool following their 4-0 win in London. And while the score line may suggest City were in top form, it certainly wasn’t their best performance with West Ham under par, as has often been the case this season. As one of two remaining undefeated teams, Pep Guardiola’s task will be to keep his players focussed with an important Champions League fixture coming up.

Despite that, Manchester City have scored 21 goals in the first-half of Premier League games this season, more than Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and 13 other clubs have in total, per Manchester Evening News journalist Simon Bajkowski. But while it’s an impressive stat, it still won’t be good enough for Pep Guardiola who rightly always wants more from his players.

“I give a lot of credit to our players for the victory, but it was not the best performance. I think we got a bit lucky. West Ham had a lot of chances and should have scored. But we will have more chances to be a lot better,” Guardiola said in his post-match press conference.

“We are consistent and we are a humble team, today we wasn’t so good but I love the way we run. The Premier League remains tough and we cannot deny this. I didn’t expect after what we achieved last season to have these results.”

Raheem Sterling integral to Manchester City’s season

One of those players that Pep Guardiola wants more of is perhaps Raheem Sterling, despite his impressive stats. Frustrating for England, Pep Guardiola has moulded the 23-year-old into one of the best players in the Premier League. In 44 Premier League fixtures, Sterling has 25 goals and 18 assists but Guardiola surely believes that the youngster can still do better. And maybe that’s just one reason why Manchester City have just extended the contract of Sterling until 2023, worth a potential £300,000 per week.

The understanding that Raheem Sterling has with both Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sané shares the same characteristics as that of Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi of Guardiola’s Barcelona side in 2009. And although Pep Guardiola has distanced himself from his time at Barcelona, this Manchester City side certainly shares the same philosophy to some degree.

Whether they retain their Premier League title this season, this Manchester City squad is frightening and will no doubt go down as one of the greatest teams in European history. Of course, winning the Champions League is the goal for everyone involved with the club, it’s the trophy that’s eluded them while many suggest winning the European competition eclipses that of winning another Premier League title.

They have the players, the staff and the backing to do so but it will be up to Pep Guardiola to guide them to a Champions League final, something they’ve yet to do.

Play the most challenging Fantasy Premier League game here www.epl-fantasy.com.

Why Claudio Ranieri is the right manager to turn Fulham around

Football is a cruel sport. Slavisa Jokanovic performed miracles turning Fulham from a mid-table Championship side into a Premier League one, and yet within three months of beginning his adventure in the top flight the Serbian is already out of a job. Having been sacked by Watford the summer after gaining promotion in 2015, Jokanovic has every right to feel hard done by.

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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.

Richarlison is proving to be a huge bargain for Marco Silva’s Everton

Richarlison

A lot of questions were raised at the time when Everton had splashed a reported figure of £35million on Richarlison, as they were seen as a Premier League club that have spent a lot of money over the last couple of years but have not been able to place pressure on the top-six sides within the league.

The English media and the Premier League journalists slated the Merseyside club for spending a large sum on an individual that seemed inconsistent and lacked the right attitude on the pitch whilst playing for Watford last season. Also, the 21-year-old’s style of play was questioned when his diving antics had often occurred whilst his incapability to trackback when needed was seriously mentioned.

However, Richarlison himself has shown huge signs of development and improvement since moving to Goodison Park and re-uniting with manager Marco Silva, the one who brought him to England during his time at Watford in August 2017. The pair are currently making the most out of one another’s influential presence at Everton, as they aim to finish high up the Premier League table.

So far this season, he has scored six goals in ten league appearances, which includes a brace away to Wolverhampton Wanderers in his first league game for Everton to another brace at home against Brighton & Hove Albion a week ago. Over the last couple of months, he has shown great movement on and off the ball as well as showing the intelligence to know when to dribble and when to shoot.

On top of that, he has recently been utilised as a centre-forward or some would say a false nine role, something that he is new to and has not experienced or is familiar of so far in his short professional career. Although he is still trying to become confident and dominant in this position, it allows the coach to use Bernard on the left wing, which helps the side to attack more fluidly and quickly.

Back in August, Richarlison picked up a three-match ban for a red card he picked up in a game away from home at Bournemouth. And within the three games that he missed for his team, Everton became very unconvincing as well as predictable on and off the ball, as the midfield would find it really hard to guide the team forward without an attacking outlet that was moving here and there.

Looking back at the rest of the Premier League clubs, Liverpool spent just over £50million on central-midfielder and Manchester United splashed out a massive figure of £55million on box-to-box midfielder Fred. A few months later, these two individuals are not regular starters for their respective sides despite being seen as a huge and important signing during the summer window.

So, Everton deserve more appreciation and credit for being able to snap up Richarlison for a price that they can easily make back in the future. And if the Brazilian goes on to become a player that can notch up 30 goals in all competitions season by season, then without a doubt, the club will make a huge profit on the Nova Venecia-born star as the best teams in Europe will come knocking for him.

Overall, he has become a fan favourite for the Goodison Park faithful, who are looking forward to seeing the player reach his potential and see him become one of the best attackers within in the league and possibly in Europe. Everton have always had a reputation to have had young talented players within the club that would go on to making a name for themselves before you know it.

Euro Fantasy League Podcast – #26 – Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha remembered

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Jamie and Dave are back with October’s edition of the Euro Fantasy League Podcast! In this episode the lads kick things off by remembering Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, wishing luck to Glenn Hoddle and discussing some of the issues from the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A over the last month. Gareth Bale, Lionel Messi, Jose Mourinho, Mauricio Pochettino and more are discussed. Continue reading

West Ham are back to the beginning of the season after latest loss

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How football can be cruel, wonderful and highly ironic and West Ham have tasted all three moments so far this season. But after their latest loss, this time to Tottenham the Hammers are back to the drawing board.

The season of course for the Londoners started off in nightmare fashion when Manuel Pellegrini’s side lost all of their first 4 games of the campaign to dive down to the bottom of the league. And then it happened, an international break which seemed to give Pellegrini more time with some of his players, in the days they were not playing to go through some more training drills and get his team to where they needed to be.

What followed was remarkable and started by them going to Goodison Park and beating Everton 3-1, a match that they had folded in less than 12 months before by going down 4-0. West Ham seemed to have turned a corner with their first win of the season. And yet nobody was giving them any chance longer term as their next two matches would be against Manchester United and Chelsea.

So what did underwhelming West Ham do? They beat United and ended Chelsea’s 100% win rate record by drawing 0-0 with them. For long standing fans of the Hammers this was almost expected that when everything was against their club, they would find an extra gear from somewhere and start playing once the better teams in the Premier League came to visit the London Stadium.

The victory over United was a rare one and almost cost Mourinho his job. As for the Chelsea draw, the Hammers earned plaudits for their new found attacking play and keeping a clean sheet against the 2017 champions. All was good and all was even better for then under fire coach Pellegrini. progress was expected to happen, but West Ham have gone back into their shells.

It was evidence a few weeks ago in the dour 1-0 loss to Brighton, which was a huge come down of sorts and then the nail was hammered in (pardon the pun) when Tottenham won by the same score line. There is no love lost between the two clubs who are fierce rivals, and the defeat did not sit well with fans.

The loss has left the club in 15th place with 6 defeats already and 2 points from the bottom three. Looking ahead the next fixtures come against Leicester away which could be very tricky. Then the Hammer get to face Tottenham again, and again it will take place at home in the Carabao Cup. This is a massive game for the Hammers who are looking to win their first piece of major silverware in 39 years.

So West Ham have been very good at times, but football has also been a little cruel to them and ironic, for now they have to improve and improve fast or they could be facing a genuine relegation battle.