Defensive crisis drags down Liverpool title challenge

jurgen-klopp-liverpool-southampton_3368627

As 2018 came to an end, Liverpool would have been very happy indeed. Champions League heartbreak aside they had enjoyed a very good year. Having matched Manchester City toe to toe across 2018 they entered 2019 top of the Premier League table and four points ahead of the champions.

Adding Virgil Van Dijk in the January transfer window and Alisson Becker in the summer had transformed the once weak Reds backline into a formidable outfit. 12 of their 21 games before the turn of the year had seen them keep clean sheets. They had conceded just ten goals in that period, the best in the league. Manchester City were their closest competitors with a tally of 17 conceded.

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EPL Weekend Picks – Round 13

David Silva

The 13th week of the 2018-19 Premier League season sees Manchester City travel to West Ham, while Tottenham host Chelsea in one of the biggest games of the campaign so far. Let’s take a look at 11 players who you should consider for your EPL Fantasy team this weekend…

GK – Rui Patricio (Wolves)
Wolves play two of the Premier League’s lowest-scoring sides — Huddersfield and Cardiff — over the next week, so Rui Patricio is well worth considering. The Portuguese goalkeeper has 18 points so far this season.

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EPL Best XI – Sterling stars again

Raheem Sterling

The 11th weekend of the 2018-19 Premier League season saw Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea maintain their unbeaten starts, while Manchester United came from behind to beat Bournemouth. Let’s take a look at the top EFL Fantasy points scorers from the weekend’s games…

GK: Kasper Schmeichel, Leicester – seven points
Kasper Schmeichel kept a clean sheet during an emotional 1-0 victory for Leicester at Cardiff. The Dane’s seven-point reward sees him move on to four points for the season.

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EPL Weekend Picks – Round 9

Ross Barkley Chelsea

The ninth week of the 2018-19 Premier League season features one of the biggest games of the campaign so far, Chelsea v Manchester United, while Liverpool travel to Huddersfield and Arsenal host Leicester. Let’s take a look at 11 players who you should consider adding to your EPL Fantasy team before the weekend.

GK – Ederson (Manchester City)
Every EPL Fantasy team needs a reliable scorer of points in goal, and you can’t go wrong with Ederson. The Manchester City goalkeeper has recorded 37 points this season – more than any other player in his position in the Premier League – and there’s a good chance he’ll add to that tally at home to Burnley.

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Why the Premier League could possibly go to Liverpool or Chelsea

Last Sunday’s display from Chelsea and Liverpool could be christened as the best game so far this season. Both teams exhibited creativity in attack and resilience at the back. The season is still young, but on the evidence of what we witnessed could any of these two beat City to the league title this season?

Liverpool probably made the best recruits in the English Premier league this summer, bolstering their midfield with Naby Keita and Fabinho and another creative option in Xherdan Shaqiri. The Merseysiders have a world class goalkeeper in Allison Becker, who continue to provide great reflexes in the post. Liverpool have enough quality to compete against anyone for the league title this season and they’ve shown that in their last seven league games.

We saw how they conquered Tottenham Hotspurs at Wembley. It wasn’t just about the results, but the football on display has been mesmerizing. And talk of performance their 3-2 victory over Paris Saint Germain was a testament of their mental fortitude.

Not only have Jurgen Klopp reinvigorated the side that lost to Real Madrid in the Champions League finals last season, there seems to be an oomph about them this season. Established players James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum, Roberto Firmino, and Jordan Henderson et al are playing at a level a notch higher that we saw in the previous campaign.

This season Mohammed Salah is not showing the same sophistication with opportunities that have come his way. The Egyptian has scored three goals from a total of 20 shots on target. But Sadio Mane seems to have taken much of the responsibility when it comes to goals. So far adorning the number 10 jersey has yielded four, with Roberto Firmino on two.

James Milner has proven that he still cut it for the premier league with his tireless work in midfield, but Gini Widnaldum is currently Liverpool’s most improved player so far this season. The Netherlands international is playing with a lot confidence, hardly giving the ball away. And guess what, he doesn’t look flustered by the presence of Naby Keita on the bench.

The decision to bring Daniel Sturridge back from loan has proven to be an astute one. In the absence of Roberto Firmino, Sturridge can step up and play an important part in Liverpool’s campaign this season as we’ve seen him score vital goals against PSG in the Champions League and Chelsea in the league.

One significant decision by Kloop, is the center back partnership between Van Dyke and Gomes. The pair have started all seven of Liverpool league games and have conceded just three so far. They share the tag of the best defense with the league leaders, Manchester City.

Chelsea

The great thing about Chelsea this season is the arrival of Mauricio Sarri. His style of play is one that Eden Hazard thrives in, and the Belgian is currently in red hot form as he is beginning to replicate his 2015 performance that won him the PFA player of the year. Also, Hazard is buoyed up his inclusion in the FIFPro World Eleven. The Chelsea forward had a great World Cup tournament with his country, winning the bronze medal.

Chelsea meanwhile occasionally telegraphs fear at the back as Antonio Rudiger and David Luis sometimes struggle against quicker attackers. But in midfield enforcer Jorginho, Matteo Kovacic and Ngolo Kante, Chelsea should be able to dominate and control games. There are still concerns about how Sarri is using a Kante’ in midfield. Despite the French man’s reputation as being destructive, the Italian manager prefers a ball playing holding midfielder in Jorginho who currently top the charts for the number of passes in the league and the most in a game.

Willian and Pedro are great attacking outlets for Chelsea. The Spanish forward has found the net three times while the Brazilian ability to carve open compact defense is proving crucial for Chelsea in when in search of a goal. Chelsea do not boost a striker with the quality of Sergio Aguero as both Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud are not quite reliable. Sarri may require a proven goal scorer in the January transfer window.

Manchester City are favorite based on their performance last season and Pep Guadiola’s reputation for winning back to back league titles, but the Citizens look beatable this season and it’s hard to envisage them go on a winning run as we saw last season. It will take a Miracle for Manchester United to win the league this season as tensions between Mourinho and Pogba is beginning to have a debilitating effect on the other players. The red devils will probably be fighting a Champions League spot.

Meanwhile Arsenal seems to have turned the corner after their earlier struggles, but despite winning their last four games are not convincing given the defensive vulnerabilities and how wasteful they can be in th attack. Tottenham Hotspur will be hoping to maintain fourth spot by the end of the season.

As it stands Chelsea and Liverpool look set to deny Manchester city a second straight league cup.

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James Milner providing Jurgen Klopp with welcome headache

James Milner

James Milner is not usually a player who creates headaches for his manager. This season, though, that has changed. His early season form has provided a big problem for Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

After the Reds impressive summer spending spree, Milner would have accepted he was set for a peripheral role this season.

Naby Keita had finally arrived from RB Leipzig and in the process taken one of the central midfield spots. Quick, intelligent and capable in both boxes, Keita is the epitome of the midfielder that Klopp wants in his midfield. His start to life in the Premier League shows why Liverpool were so smart to wait.  Continue reading

EPL Best XI – Week 2

James Milner

The second week of the Premier League season featured 35 goals and plenty of drama, with Manchester City winning 6-1 against Huddersfield, Manchester United losing 3-2 at Brighton and Chelsea edging a five-goal thriller against Arsenal. But which players stood out to make the EPL Best XI of the Weekend?

GK: Neil Etheridge, Cardiff City – seven points
Two weeks into the season, Neil Etheridge is proving to be an absolute steal at 1.50m. The Cardiff goalkeeper saved a last-minute penalty from Kenedy in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Newcastle, earning an impressive seven points.

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Milner underlines his class with brilliant display vs. Roma

Milner

On what was an absolutely unbelievable night at Anfield, where Liverpool obliterated Eusebio Di Francesco’s AS Roma 5-2 and Mohamed Salah stole the headlines against his former club, James Milner emphatically highlighted why he’s such an important component of this Liverpool team. Continue reading

England’s Euro 2016 opener against Russia just days away

Roy Hodgson

England’s opening game of this summer’s European Championship is against Russia on Saturday, and the players in the camp are working hard to ensure they can get off to a perfect start. Russia are no slouches, however, and with the first game of a tournament often being a close and nervy spectacle, England midfielder James Milner believes it’s imperative the national team at least avoid defeat if they cannot win.

“What I’ve learned more than anything is: Don’t lose your first game, whatever happens. It’s great to win it and get off to a flying start but if you can’t get that win, make sure you are solid and don’t concede late on looking for the winner. Make sure you get a solid start, at least a draw, because as soon as you lose that first game in a three-game group you put yourselves under pressure straight away. That’s the biggest thing,” he said.

The mood among England supporters is mixed given the side have won all three games ahead of Euro 2016 but haven’t looked too convincing in their performances. They most recently dispatched of Portugal 1-0, but had a man advantage for the majority of the clash, and didn’t have Cristiano Ronaldo to come up against. But in tournament football the win is most important, rather than performance.

“We’ve had three wins out of three against different, but difficult, opposition without playing our best football. We’ve got gears to go through and we want to peak at the tournament. We can play a variety of formations, there are players with so many different strengths – pace, trickery, solid players and more defensive-minded players – so I think as a squad we’ve got so many options,” added Milner.

Aside from Russia, England will have Wales and Slovakia in their Euro 2016 group, and will fancy their chances of coming out on top given the likelihood that the three other sides will take points off each other. England are fancied among the favourites to go all the way this summer, but they are sure to take the tournament one step at a time.

Russia will provide a threat to the Three Lions’ shaky defence, so they will need to ensure they’re doing the basics to avoid conceding sloppy goals. There are many new faces to the squad participating in their first major international tournament, so they will need guidance on the pitch. As a result, England’s opening performance is likely to be shaky and far from perfect, but getting a positive result is the objective. They will work on kinks along the way.