Premier League Predictions: Week 23

It’s another round of the English Premier League with some exciting games as the top 4 is still up for grabs and so is relegation. Which teams will be able to make in roads and can Liverpool stretch their unbeaten run to 39 games when they face old rival Manchester United?

Watford v Tottenham

The weekend kicks off with this Saturday lunchtime game and what a game it looks to be. Watford have been in brilliant form and are unbeaten in their last five games. They have climbed out of the relegation zone. Tottenham have been in mixed form and are 9 points behind 4th place now. With Harry Kane out Jose Mourinho will be relying on Heung-Min Son to find some form.  Watford and Tottenham to draw

Arsenal v Sheffield United

Arsenal have been average even under Mikel Arteta with just one win in his 4 games so far. But last time they were at home they beat Manchester United 2-0. One would think they will have too much for the Blades here. Mesut Ozil looks like a new player, though Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang their potent striker will be missing after being sent off. A narrow win perhaps? Arsenal to beat Sheffield United

Brighton v Aston Villa

Both sides have shown a lack of form and Brighton have slipped to 14th place and have won just once in their last five games. Aston Villa lost 6-1 at home to Manchester City last weekend and are in 18th but a win here could move them out of the bottom three and they could join Brighton on the same points. Watch out for Jack Grealish who is using this year to try and get into England’s team for Euro 2020. Brighton and Aston Villa to draw

Manchester City v Crystal Palace

Last season Crystal Palace stunned Manchester City at the Etihad with a 3-2 win. But it was a one off stunning goal that won it for the Eagles. City are in rich form and scoring goals, with 10 in their last 3 games. A win here would take them to 50 points. Can Sergio Aguero score more goals this weekend after his fantastic hat trick? Manchester City to beat Crystal Palace

Norwich v Bournemouth

Norwich look doomed for relegation. They are bottom of the league and 8 points from safety. They have earned 2 points from their past 15. Bournemouth are in 19th but are six points ahead of the Canaries. This is Norwich’s biggest game of the season, they need to win and need a player like Teemu Pukki to show his early season form. Norwich to beat Bournemouth 

Southampton v Wolves

Along with Watford, Southampton have been the team of the moment. They beat Leicester away from home after losing to the same team 9-0 a couple of months ago. Their recovery looks complete. Wolves have quality but had to play in midweek in the FA Cup and lost to Manchester United. The Saints are at home and the fresher team. Southampton to beat Wolves

West Ham v Everton

David Moyes will face his former team who he spent 11 years at. Moyes’ 2nd stint with the Hammers started well but they lost to Sheffield United last week. Carlo Ancelotti has won 3 of his first five games with Everton. We expect to see a very entertaining game with the away side getting all three points. Richarlison looks fired up since Ancelotti took charge. Everton to beat West Ham

Newcastle v Chelsea

Newcastle have only lost 3 games at home and Chelsea usually don’t travel so well up here. The Blues have gone their last three matches unbeaten, but this will be a tough game for them. The Magpies have not won in 4 games but this record won’t keep up. Jonjo Shelvey just needs to show some of his brilliant form before Christmas. Newcastle to beat Chelsea

Burnley v Leicester

Burnley have lost 4 games in a row coming into this match and that includes losing 4 of their last five home games and now they are up against the 3rd best team in England right now. Leicester’s form has dipped but they can get back on track with a win here. Leicester to beat Burnley

Liverpool v Manchester United

One of the all time great fixtures of football. Liverpool are still unbeaten and have a  100% record at Anfield. They have no major injuries and no distractions. Manchester United are missing Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford could be touch and go. Liverpool are light years ahead of United even though it was the Red Devils who have taken the only points from Liverpool so far. Liverpool to beat Manchester United

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Brilliant Danny Ings puts Leicester to the sword as amazing form continues

Danny Ings at 27 is having the best top flight season of his career and is in perhaps the richest form of it. His 14th league goal of the season helped Southampton beat Leicester at the King Power Stadium by 2-1. This was one of the best transformations for the Saints given that they had lost to Leicester at home only in October by a record 9-0 thrashing.

Of course football is a team game and no one would doubt that but it is clear that Danny Ings’ goals are going to keep Southampton up this season. It is incredible to think that only a month ago the Saints were in the bottom three with their Premier League survival under immense threat but no striker has been on the rich form that Ings has.

Whilst the former Liverpool forward started the league slowly he has more than made up for it in the past month. But we can go further back when we talk of Ings’ contribution. Since the 9-0 beating by the Foxes Southampton have played 12 games and Ings has scored 10 goals.

Ings has never had a such a successful campaign in the top flight of football and his previous league best was last season when he netted 7 times for the Saints in 24 games, now he has double the figure from two games less. When we take into account his cup goals that figure goes up to 16 for the season so far and he is well on course to beat his best season ever. That occurred in season 2013/14 in the Championship for Burnley when he scored 26 goals in 45 games and it was that type of devastating form that irked the interest of Liverpool in the first place.

Since Ings’ move from Liverpool for £18m he has scored 24 goals in 49 games and has an average of 1 goal for every 2 games. But it is in this period of his career where Ings has been earning praise and one wonders if his scoring feats can give him the chance of playing for England at this summers Euro 2020 tournament? He only has 1 cap so far and surely he deserves some place in Gareth Southgate’s selection?

As for Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl he was full of good words for Ings’ impact a few weeks ago when he said: “This is the result of a guy who is working his ass off. This is exactly how it should be and he’s absolutely positive all the time. You can feel and you can see how much he invests to win balls, to work for the team, and in the last games, he has a fantastic run and hopefully it stays on.”

Ings certainly deserves all the praise he is getting and long may it continue for one of the Premier League’s best loved players.

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Leicester have come up short against the better teams but it has still been a brilliant season so far for them

Leicester have had a superb season but recent results have certainly brought the club back down to earth, but this shouldn’t mask just how strong the side has been so far this season.

The recent 4-0 whitewash against Liverpool confirmed what most people already knew, Leicester are not about to win their second title in four years. As good as the club have been this season they have clear limitations. They have lost to Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool as an example. But the beauty of the club is that they are plugging away and getting the right results against everyone else.

Currently the club are in 2nd place, ahead of champions Manchester City and that should tell you everything about them. They are not just satisfied with the league either and have made in roads on the domestic cup namely the Carabao Cup where they have reached the semi-finals. The Foxes will play Aston Villa in a 2 leg semi final and it isn’t unrealistic to think that they could reach the final where they would meet either Manchester City or Manchester United. So whilst the season hasn’t been picture perfect for the club most teams would give their right arms to be at the level that Leicester are at.

It has been quite an achievement and Brendan Rodgers coming into the club last spring has worked wonders. If anything he has reinstated the belief that Leicester’s 2016 Premier League title was not a one off. Sure in terms of actually winning it again one could see it like that. But he has insured that the club are remembered not for just one amazing season. The clear objective now is to return to the Champions League which would be a magnificent achievement and the club have a 10 point safety net in doing so. That looks good but we must remember that we are only at the half way stage of the season campaign and there will be so many twists and turns to come.

Recent form is not good for Leicester too- True losing to Manchester City and Liverpool is no shame but they have also drawn 1-1 at home to Norwich in between those games. The Foxes will play West Ham at the weekend and lose that and this could be the start of the slippery slide that many have suggested could happen. After that game Leicester will play Newcastle another away game before venturing into the FA Cup.

There is all to play for then and it would be unfortunate if Leicester blew a top 4 place now.

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Champions of the world Liverpool don’t even need to play in Premier League to have a winning weekend

What a week it has been for Liverpool football club- make that the last 18 months in reality. They have won the Champions League are coming up to 60 league games with just one loss, are top of the Premier League by what seems like a gazillion points and have just won the World Club Cup beating Flamengo. This show just keeps on rolling.

The Flamengo win was gratifying for the club because the game was a tricky one and looked like it would be heading 0-0 and possible penalties but Roberto Firmino got the winner at the death to sink many South American hearts. It also stopped the anti Jurgen Klopp brigade from making their cameo performances laughing at how Klopp keeps losing finals, that seems a long time ago now.

Everywhere you look Liverpool keep winning games and they haven’t lost a match in the Premier League since January 2019 when that defeat which was against Manchester City cost the club the league title in the end, but they still managed to finish with an incredible 97 points. Now they have bounced back big time and no teams look like stopping them this season.

Last weekend would have been a magic one for the club. Their game against West Ham had to be postponed to a later date in the season because of their participation in the World Club Cup. Liverpool had 49 points and 2nd place Leicester 39 and Manchester City 35. City overpowered Leicester to inflict only the Foxes 3rd defeat this season and won 3-1. So whilst City won Leicester played another game where they made no impact on Liverpool’s lead. It’s still 10 points and now Liverpool have a game in hand. That extra game is to be determined and it could be at a much later date in the season this psychologically gives Liverpool an even greater edge. Also and with all due respect to West Ham one would think that Liverpool could beat them.

Fixtures have come thick and fast for Liverpool but it all seems to be working out for the club. The Reds do have some tough matches coming up and it will be interesting to see if they can remain unbeaten. They will play Leicester next in a mouth watering game. Wolves and Sheffield United follow but Liverpool will at least be at home in those games. Matches against Tottenham and Manchester United will be played in January and the club will play the merseyside derby against Everton in the FA Cup.

For now it feels that everything is going right for Liverpool and they are on course to win their first league title since 1990. At the same time we are only half way through the season and perhaps there is still all to play for.

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Liverpool go 11 points clear as Premier League title becomes a reality

When Liverpool beat Manchester City to go 9 points clear of the champions many pundits and fans said that was it, Liverpool would be champions this season. But the club have enjoyed a dream weekend where they have now extended that lead to 11 points and surely no team is catching them up now?

On Saturday Liverpool made heavy weather of Brighton at Anfield. Whilst they ran into a 2-0 lead, Brighton pulled one back towards the end and there was some genuinely tense moments before the game could be settled. When the final whistle went there was a massive roar in the Kop end because Manchester City had played earlier and could only draw 2-2.

One has to question City’s hunger, passion, willingness and desire this season. They are one of the best teams in Europe of course, but one senses because of how they won the league last season and have back to back wins, Pep Guardiola’s team are now concentrating more on the Champions League. For sure that is the trophy that Guardiola wants and wouldn’t want to leave a 2nd club in a row, the first being Bayern Munich without the Champions League.

It is easy to scoff at the fact that City lack passion etc. In fact they have it in bundles, but they just don’t have it as much as Liverpool do. Has a club ever wanted the Premier League title so bad? And of course they haven’t won the top tier league in England since 1990.

With City dropping points it was up to Frank Lampard’s Chelsea to go 2nd and decrease that gap over Liverpool, but they failed spectacularly. Chelsea, who have been one of the best in form teams in the league lost 1-0 at home to  West Ham in one of the biggest surprises so far in the Premier League season. It was only Chelsea’s 2nd loss at home this season and in fact the club have had a week to forget after drawing 2-2 away to Valencia in the Champions League, thus still not sealing their qualification.

Leicester are next up and they play later today at home to Everton. With the brilliant form that the Foxes have shown they will be favourites to win that game, but after seeing some surprises on Saturday who knows what will happen and of course Everton need the win or manager Marco Silva could be sacked.

If Leicester do win they would go 2nd in the league and climb onto 32 points and would cut Liverpool’s lead to 32. Whilst the Foxes have been superb could we realistically see them being the team to step up and challenge Liverpool? Well they did win the league in 2016. Today will ask more questions of Brendan Rodgers super side.

For now Liverpool look well on their way to winning the league and winning it with ease. Can anyone stop them?

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Is this the worst Arsenal side in 35 years?

On Saturday it happened again at the Emirates- Arsenal did not win. The 2-2 draw against Southampton marked the third game in a row that Unai Emery’s side have failed to win at home. The excuse could almost be forgiven if they had faced the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, but in that time along with Southampton they played Crystal Palace and Wolves. Are we now getting to the point where we can claim that this Arsenal side are the worst in a generation?

At the weekend the Gunners were heading for a defeat until a 95th minute goal by Alexandre Lacazette saved their skin. But the worrying fact was that Southampton who are relegation contenders were able to go away to Arsenal and have more shots on goal and more shots on target. Just like against Aston Villa who were 2-1 up here with a few minutes to go only for Arsenal to win 3-2, Arsenal seemed to find an escape hatch. But their results are now either losing games away from home where they remain dreadful or clutching onto some last desperate minute hope. This is not the Arsenal that we are all used too.

The rot has set in at the club, and apart from some obvious speed bumps like reaching the Europa League final last season and Emery achieving more points in his first season than Arsene Wenger did in his last, as a whole Arsenal seem to have been going backwards for the past few seasons.

First it was letting their neighbours Tottenham repeatedly finish in front of them for the first time in over 20 years, and it wasn’t just luck, Tottenham in every way and shape took over from Arsenal and have stepped out of their shadow. Then came the fact of non Champions League football. The way this season is going the Gunners will be omitted for the 3rd consecutive season.

When Arsenal inevitably fell apart in the closing stages against Leicester before the break manager Unai Emery was under immense pressure but told the press that the club had to remain calm. One could think this was in part because he had looked at the upcoming fixtures. Southampton, Norwich, West Ham all games that Arsenal should be winning. And yet when they face Southampton at home they didn’t win. Norwich have found some confidence in their 2-0 win away to Everton and one wonders being at home if they will now give Arsenal a game that they weren’t expecting?

It’s difficult to remember when Arsenal were this lost at sea and perhaps we would have to go back to the days of Don Howe in the mid 1980s for that. There was of course the season after George Graham was sacked that Arsenal looked like being on the decline and then Wenger was appointed which changed everything.

The problem for Arsenal is that they don’t seem to have the players to make that difference. When Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang is missing or simply doesn’t score, Arsenal don’t seem to have a chance. He is their one player that can change a game. But you need a few more if you want to aim for the top.

By the end of the weekend Arsenal will be in 8th place and whilst they have only lost 3 games- the same as Manchester City, they have only won 4. They have also gone their last 5 games without a win picking up just 3 points from their last 15 available.

Times haven’t been as hard as this for Arsenal in years. But many fans wanted change, and to be fair they had a point. But the old saying comes to mind in this situation, be careful what you wish for.

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Can Leicester win another Premier League title?

No one associated with football will ever forget the Premier League season of 2015/16 when Leicester City at odds of 5000/1 won the Premier League. It was the biggest shock to grace the league since becoming the Premier League in the 1992/93 season. That season the usual suspects were supposed to be winning it, namely Chelsea who were the current champions and the ever present Manchester City. Tottenham also had their say, but it was Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester side who deservedly won it and in stunning fashion.

When the Foxes won the league, one suspected that was it, some players would leave, some would stay, some would write biographies and so on. But Leicester’s moment in the gleaming success of the football elite would be over. They had had their time, what a time it was of course, and see you later, perhaps in another 100 years time. But 3 years on from that success the team are shaping up to have another successful league campaign.

This time it is under former Liverpool and Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers, who himself came very close to winning the league with Liverpool in the 2013/14 season. The Reds had an infamous 5 point lead with just three games left to play that season. Rodgers has been around and proved to be a very capable manager and since taking over at Leicester in March has turned the clubs fortunes around, more importantly he has made the players believe once again that the club were champions very recently and should be proud of that fact.

Rodgers record since taking over reads like this; He has a 54.5% win rate and from 22 games managed he has earned the club 41 points. On average then that means that in 38 games he would have pulled in around 70 points. That is probably Champions League football.

But here’s the thing, can Leicester win the league again and really put everyone on their backsides? The answer is most probably no, because they have the mighty two teams to challenge who are also in front of them in the shape of Liverpool and Manchester City. Liverpool are 8 points in front and City the current champions are 2 points in front of them. But then again all it takes is for Liverpool to have a bad run and Leicester simply to keep consistency. It would still be very difficult, but the Foxes do have a great chance to return to the Champions League, if they finish in the top four surely that is rubber stamping what has been a fantastic era for the club.

Their recent 9-0 thrashing of Southampton will be rightly remembered for some time and it will be fascinating to see how far the club can go and how many points they can accumulate at least from now up until the Christmas period. If anything it is brilliant to see the club right up there, determined not to simply fade away on the horizon after their fantastic league win. Rodgers is proving to be a very special manager indeed.

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Brendan Rodgers is creating small miracles at Leicester City

A glance at the Premier League table shouldn’t hold too many surprises, Liverpool top with a 100% record, Manchester City close behind, whilst Norwich and Watford are struggling. But look closer and you’ll see a team that you wouldn’t expect to be so high up, and that is Leicester City.

True Leicester stunned everybody when they won the league title in 2016, but since then they have reverted back to, well, just being Leicester, a decent team who try to finish in mid table with relegation never quite far away.

However that thought process seems to have changed since the arrival of ex Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers was at Celtic where he had been incredibly successful in Scotland, although with the transistion of Rangers it could be argued that Celtic did not really have any proper competition- still you can only beat what is put out in front of you and Rodgers did do a superb job with the legendary Glasgow team.

What was surprising about Rodgers joining up with Leicester was the timing, he came in February last season and Celtic’s loss has been Leicester’s gain. The Foxes look rejuvenated and started to bring about solid results and ended up finishing the season on a high.

That high has continued and the team are in great confidence going into this season. They currently sit in 3rd place and have not lost a game, only Liverpool and Manchester City are the other unbeaten teams so far.

The statistics are very interesting since Rodgers took over also. He has a 47.5% win rate with the Foxes which doesn’t look that great, but it is a win rate only and so when the club draw that isn’t included. The wider picture is that from 15 games since Rodgers has been in charge the club have only lost 3 times. They have gained 26 points in that time and if we took that as an average throughout the season then Leicester would finish on 65 points, their highest in Premier League history not counting their league win.

There is a good attitude around the club and they won’t be easy to beat this season and won’t be pushovers for the bigger teams. Look at how they came away from Stamford Bridge against Chelsea and got a 1-1 draw. That was impressive given that the team were 1-0 down and it was Chelsea manager Frank Lampard’s first game at home in charge of his beloved team.

That type of spirit shows that this team have a lot of quality this season, and whilst thinking that they can go on to win another title feels too wishful, Rodgers is creating small miracles with the club, and they are aiming to finish high in the league this season with a deep cup run to boot. Back against them at your peril.

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Top Premier League Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Kasper Schmeichel

 

Kasper Schmeichel may have one of the most famous ex goalkeepers as a father but he has shown in his fantastic performances that he is his own man, and in some ways stepped out of the shadow of having a famous father within the game.

This season for Schmeichel was his 8th for Leicester and he has become the figurehead of the team, winning an incredible Premier League title in 2016 which will never be forgotten.

Schmeichel finished the season as the 6th best ranked goalkeeper and ended the campaign within the fantasy league football rankings with 27 points. Schmeichel would have cost you 7m and he ended up keeping 10 clean sheets this season. The Foxes conceded 48 goals under his guard and he played in every game of the season, all 38. He was shown the yellow card 3 times which is one of the worst records for a goalkeeper in the Premier League from this past season.

So let’s analyse Schmeichel’s season and see where it went right and where it went wrong.

He started the season off with -2 points after Leicester lost their opening game of the season 2-1 at Manchester United. However in the very next game he was able to earn his first points of the season after Leicester beat Wolves 2-0, the clean sheet earned him 7 points. He then went the next 4 games earning no points indeed it wasn’t a good moment for the Dane as he actually earned -9 points which really affected his ranking.

Schmeichel’s best period of the season was started at the beginning of November and lasted a month where he earned points in 3 of those four games totalling 21. The problem of course is that he only ended up with a season total of 27 and this was down to the fact that his side kept conceding goals and also he picked up a few yellow cards.

His worst single game of the season was when Leicester took on Bournemouth and lost 4-2, he earned -7 points for that game and later in the season repeated the trick earning -7 points again when Leicester fell to Crystal Palace 4-1.

He finished the season quite strong keeping clean sheets in 2 from his last 3 games. The game he didn’t manage that was against Manchester City when the match only finished 1-0 and City of course were going for the league title. But he did impressively keep a clean sheet in Leicester’s 3-0 win over Arsenal and then in the final game of the season the Foxes drew 0-0 with Chelsea.

Schmeichel appeared to feel better in his role when Brendan Rodgers took over the team from Celtic in the second half of the season, and Rodgers will be hoping that Schmeichel will have a much better season overall coming up, everything points to the fact that he will.

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EPL Weekend Picks – Week 36

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With only three or four games left in the Premier League season depending on which side you are following, things are starting to get serious! The title race looks all set to go down to the wire, while the relegation battle appears closer than many thought possible just a few weeks ago. Cardiff and Brighton appear the two sides most immediately in danger of claiming 18th and the final relegation place, though Southampton are not yet mathematically safe. Title contenders Liverpool and Man City both have games where you would fancy them to win, with City’s arguably the slightly tougher game. With that said, let’s go for a 4-3-3 again and see which players are worth keeping an eye on and including in your fantasy squads this weekend.

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