EPL title race and top 4 positions down to the wire

We are down to the final eight games of this seasons, and the fight has never been closer for the all-important top four spots. It is one of the most closely contested Premier League fights for many years, and there are currently two battles in progress with
www.bonusbets.com looking at the current state of play and discussing which teams
are likely to finish in the final four.

Firstly we have the race for the top, and while there are other teams with the ability to score enough points the reality is that this has become a two-horse race with Manchester City and Liverpool locked into a battle for the top spot. First place is changing hands weekly between the blues and the reds, and at this stage, it is
impossible to say whether the current title holders Manchester City will lift the trophy for a second time, or whether Liverpool can triumph for the first time in a very long time.

There are some that feel Pep Guardiola will be more interested in securing the
Champion’s League and his team might take their eye off the ball so to speak, with a sense of been there and done that. Klopp, on the other hand, will be keen to ensure his team push hard no matter what trophy is at stake.

The battle for third and fourth is a much more messy affair as there are four teams all within striking distance and no one wants to back down but frankly, four into two does not go, and sadly there are going to be two disappointed teams when the season ends in May. At the moment we have Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, sat in third, fourth, fifth and sixth places respectively with just  a few points separating them meaning with every win the table could change.

Underdogs Manchester United have had a fairytale second half of the season, following the sacking of Jose Mourinho and the appointment of caretaker manager Ole Gunnar
Solskjaer, and they have a large fan base willing them to win. As a parting shot Mourinho said it would take a miracle to see the team reach fourth, and well, they did. It might have been taken for now but they achieved the unachievable, and many would love to see Solskjaer lead his team to a top-four finish and be made permanent at the club. However this will not stop the other teams from trying to snatch victory, and it is hard to say at this stage who can succeed and who will have to settle for places 5 and 6, which frankly is not what anyone would want.

One thing we are going to have to see is plenty of bottle, and while the pundits hate the term it is fair to say the teams are going to need to hold it, show it and not bottle it in
these last few games to secure the places they all hope to reach.

Ownership: Wolves believe they are the best of the rest in the Premier League

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As the Premier League reaches week 31 all eyes are on the battle between Manchester City and Liverpool as just one point separates the two teams for the league title. Then there is the chase for the top 4, with just three points the difference between three teams. There is a lot to play for. And then we have 7th place and Wolverhampton Wanderers. and this is the club we will focus on this week.

Wolves have really punched above their weight this season with some excellent results and once we take out the top 6 ‘elite’ teams we seem to have another league within a league. And if we believe that then we can see that Wolves are leading it- and not many pundits or fans could have predicted that at the beginning of the season.

What has made Wolves progress this season even more remarkable is that they are newly promoted from the Championship and this is their first season in the top flight since 2012.

A lot of the praise has gone to the owners who recruited the Portuguese manager Nuno Espirito Santo. The 45 year old guided the team to first place in the Championship but he hasn’t stopped there. With the help of chairman Jeff Shi Wolves are breaking all expectations and there is a feeling that England could well get 7th place as a Europa League qualifying as long as one of the big teams can win the FA Cup.

Shi and Santo realised quickly that the club would need to completely reshape after promotion to arguably the most competitive league in the world, certainly Europe and brought in 20 players to the squad even though they had done so well in the Championship the need to do better was recognised and adopted.

Santo also used his connections to being in loans, which has paid dividends. One such player who has come in and lit the place up is Raul Jimenez who was brought in from Benfica.  Nine players were sold on, with most being for undisclosed fees and to lighten the squad up another 30 players were loaned out, Wolves potentially had the biggest overall squad in the league and it was clear that Santo needed to work with a group that he believed could achieve what he set out to do in the Premier League.

There have been some inspired buys from the club. Notably Diogo Jota who first arrived in the Championship on loan from Atletico Madrid, he was bought for proper last summer and he has scored 23 times for the club in under two seasons. Joao Moutinho has been able to shore up defence and comes with bags of experience and Rui Patrico a club legend at Sporting in Portugal has guarded between the sticks as clubs regular goalkeeper.

The result has been quite incredible as the team have won 12 games this season and at home they have lost just 35% of their games claiming 24 points from 45. It hasn’t always been plain sailing for Wolves, but it was never going to be. But if the club can finish in 7th place it would be a fantastic achievement for a club that many thought might finish 10 places below that at the beginning of the season.

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EPL Player of the Week – Raheem Sterling (Man City)

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Life at the top is certainly tough! The old adage that it is harder to defend a title than to win it has certainly seemed apt in recent Premier League seasons, with champions often finding themselves struggling to put up a serious defence the year after lifting the trophy. That has not been the case this year, however, with Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions Manchester City sitting on top of the league table with just a handful of games remaining. Liverpool seem to be the only genuine contenders to City’s crown, with the Reds sitting just one point behind the Citizens at the time of writing.It is imperative, therefore, that City’s players continue their excellent run of form as the season begins to wind down.

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EPL Best XI – Week 30

sterlingThis past weekend we saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lose his domestic unbeaten run as Man Utd manager, with Arsenal triumphing 2-0 at the Emirates. Elsewhere, Liverpool maintained pressure on league leaders Man City with their 4-2 win over Burnley at Anfield, and Southampton caused something of an upset by beating Tottenham 2-1 on the south coast. There were wins for Brighton and Cardiff, with Newcastle also putting in an impressive showing with their 3-2 home win against Everton. With that in mind, we will now adopt a 4-4-2 formation and see which players performed the best for their clubs in England’s top flight this past weekend.

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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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EPL Best XI – Week 29

pereiraThis past weekend saw no less than three local derbies in the Premier League, with two of them winding up as draws. Of the six clubs involved in these three games only Chelsea triumphed, toppling Scott Parker’s Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage. It was a spirited performance from the hosts, who sacked manager Claudio Ranieri last week after only 19 games in charge. Spurs hosted Arsenal while Liverpool made the short trip to Everton, with both of these games ending in stalemate. Arguably the finest action to be seen was at Old Trafford, where resurgent Man Utd battled to a 3-2 home win against Southampton, who on this performance alone really should not find themselves in the trouble they are in. Adopting a 4-3-3 this time, let’s see which players stood out!

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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!

After 19 games unbeaten, has Emery stepped out of Wenger’s shadow?

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Unai Emery is being hailed as the new messiah by Arsenal fans after the club convincingly beat their arch rivals Tottenham 4-2 at the weekend.

The Gunners have now gone 19 games in all competitions unbeaten after losing their first two matches of the season. But still question marks remained over the club because they had not beaten a top 4 side- at the weekend that changed with victory over Tottenham, and it was a win to saviour for the Arsenal faithful.

Not only did Arsenal beat the team they most want to beat every season but they also leapfrogged them into 4th place on goal difference, which has been richly deserved this season. This version of Arsenal, Emery’s version is slick, attacking and determined. Sure there is still some naivety at the back which allowed Tottenham back into the game but the team had fighting spirit circa Arsene Wenger’s team from 2004 and it showed this past weekend.

Every fan at the Emirates seems to have forgotten about Wenger, well at least the last couple of seasons version of him and all praise has rightly been aligned to Emery who has been a massive success for the club given that this is his debut season. The fans wanted change and were finally given it and Emery for now seems like the perfect coach to have been chosen. But have the club really improved this season from last?

It may be surprising to note that at least statistically almost nothing has changed at the club from last season. This time last season after 14 games Arsenal had 28 points under Emery they have 30. If this trend was to continue then Arsenal may finish the season with 5 points more than last giving them 68 points and perhaps missing out on  a top 4 place. But this is simply talk and this Arsenal team look like they will kick on.

But of course it is in how the Gunners are playing, and there is a massive change in how the team approach their games under Emery. The belief has been reinstalled and it was interesting to see how they reacted once going 2-1 down after leading the game. That should tell you everything that we needed to know about how Arsenal are playing now under Emery.

The real tests are yet to come, games such as playing Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United away from home. But for now considering Emery is just 4 months into the job, the man deserves respect and 10/10 for effort. Arsenal look like they are going places and that can only be a good thing for a team that have suffered from a lack of confidence for the past decade.

 

Time to lay off of Raheem Sterling

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Pep Guardiola pitched things just right.

“He made a mistake because he’s 23 years old.”

It was in reference to Raheem Sterling’s trip which ended up being given as a penalty by referee Viktor Kassai in Manchester City’s Champions League game against Shakhtar Donetsk.

The controversial incident was not of the player’s doing, however, social media and some online media outlets used it as yet another stick to proverbially beat him with. Continue reading

Kevin De Bruyne’s return a timely boost for Manchester City

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Pep Guardiola has suggested that Kevin De Bruyne is ready to feature for Manchester City against Burnley on Saturday which could prove influential in City’s title race. With just 30 minutes of Premier League football this season, the Belgium international couldn’t return at a better time with the Manchester club sitting joint first alongside Chelsea and Liverpool.

Just like 2016, his knee ligament injury has kept him out for 66 days and even though he’s been training the past two weeks, Guardiola is unsure as to whether De Bruyne will be able to last 90 minutes but one thing is for sure and that’s that the 27-year-old will be a welcomed returnee to Guardiola’s side given that Ilkay Gundogan has been ruled out. Continue reading