From Manchester City to Arsenal who can win the FA Cup this season as the quarter finals get under way?

It may have been easy to forget that amongst the Premier League restarting and we having staggered games as the league tries to finish by the end of July, there is also the FA Cup to complete. England’s oldest prize gets off and running again this weekend and we are at the quarter final stages.

Let’s take a look at the matches due to be played, which is interesting given that every team is from the Premier League, its has been 14 years since we have seen this occurrence.

Norwich v Manchester United (June 27th)

Manchester United will start as favourites and despite focusing on the league and trying to get a top 4 spot they will be taking this game very seriously. The club would love to win some silverware this season. As for Norwich they look certain to be relegated this season and so might as well give everything in this game. Expect goals, but we expect Manchester United to go through.

Sheffield United v Arsenal (June 28th)

A few weeks ago you may have said the Blades would have been too strong for Arsenal. But United have started the league again poorly, not really on the money. Arsenal lost their first 2 games but were impressive and professional against Southampton. This could be Arsenal’s biggest game of the season and they should be ready to squeeze through to the semi-finals.

Leicester v Chelsea (June 28th)

This should be a very fascinating game as 3rd in the league is against 4th. Leicester have not started the continuation of the season well, getting draws and they have seen their gap to Chelsea cut to just 1 point. The Blues have been brilliant and have just beaten Manchester City so they won’t fear any team. This will be another close game but you look at the quality in this Chelsea team and you can see them powering through here.

Newcastle v Manchester City (June 28th)

With the league now over Manchester City will go for this cup and try to beat Newcastle. The club easily have the superior team and will be odds on favourites to win this game. However nothing is a given and Newcastle have shown some qualities of their own lately. There is always one surprise in the rounds, and this could be the game where that happens. After all let’s face it City have actually had quite a miserable season overall. The big egg for them so to speak will be in August when the Champions League kicks off again. We could well see a shock in this game.

 

 

 

Why Frank Lampard is not happy with 4th place as Chelsea look to finish in the top three

You’ve just beaten Manchester City 2-1 and you know you have a very good team, normally you’d be very happy in the press conference after the game. So why wasn’t Frank Lampard? The Chelsea manager looked almost angry at the questions he was being asked and yet there was this focus and desire in his eyes.

You get a sense with Lampard that nothing is better than winning. Make no mistake he would have been delighted to get a win over Pep Guardilola’s City side. It was only a short time ago that City were beating Chelsea 6-0 and a lot has changed at Stamford Bridge since then.

Chelsea have played two games since the Premier League restart and have two wins both resulting in the same score line of 2-1. The first match over Aston Villa was impressive given that they went behind and it took until the 60th minute to find an equaliser even though they were far the better team. But that game summarised this Chelsea team. They will play you down, play at their pace and make enough attacks, that they actually make the opposition tired.

There is no doubt about it that this current Chelsea side are a reflection of what Lampard expected as player, no short cuts, hard work and a winning attitude. Much has been said of the lack of quality of British managers in the game, and Lampard might just be able to step out of that shadow.

For most of the season Chelsea have been in 4th place, finish there and they play Champions League football next season. This would be a success given it is Lampard’s first season with the club in the dug out. But now there is a feeling of 3rd place especially after beating Manchester City.

You almost get the feeling that after having Manchester United, Wolves and Sheffield United breathing down their necks trying to take the last Champions League place that Lampard has had enough. Why settle for that battle when they could go one step further and take 3rd from Leicester?

At one time that didn’t seem possible- Leicester were a good 3 wins away, that isn’t the case now there is just 1 point in it, and if you were a betting man you would probably be tempted to say that Chelsea could take 3rd this season.

So the press conference wasn’t about Lampard being angry about the result obviously not. It was about him knowing that he has achieved nothing at the club. Beating City is fantastic, but this season the objective will be a deep run in the FA Cup and getting that 3rd place.

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Liverpool can now win the Premier League without kicking a ball as they destroy Crystal Palace

Liverpool’s latest emphatic win, a 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace was the club’s 56th unbeaten game at home in what has been an incredible 18 months for the club. In that time they have lost just once in the league, won the Champions League and are now going for the Premier League title, a trophy they have not won since 1990.

Goals from Mohamed Salah, Fabinho, Sadio Mane and the unlikely opener by defender Trent Alexander-Arnold set the tone of the game. Indeed it was 2-0 to the Reds going in at half time.

It was a great response by the champions-elect who put in a lacklustre performance against city rivals Everton on Sunday when the two teams could only draw 0-0 in a drab game for everyone involved. But the victory over Palace and the way it was achieved would have been welcomed by manager Jurgen Klopp. Klopp would rightly be concerned about getting the right results giving that there are no fans present, and the fact that the Kop fans really are like the twelfth man on match days.

Palace have come to Anfield in the past and been the thorn in the side of Liverpool, and indeed they were the last team to beat Liverpool at Anfield in the league, so Klopp would have been aware of that. Of course no one is suggesting that Liverpool could lose the title being 20 points clear, which is now 23 but this is about getting it wrapped up as soon as possible. No one at the club wants this one to drag.

So how it stands now is that by tonight Liverpool could be the champions of England for the first time since 1990. The reason is Manchester City, the current champions are playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. If City lose or even draw then that’s it the title is Liverpool’s. City need to win to have a stay of execution. But winning at Chelsea and with the way the club have been playing is going to be easier said than done.

If City do beat Chelsea it would be a great result for them and they have started the restarted season so well, scoring 8 goals and conceding 0 in their opening two games. It would also be a blow to the Blues as Manchester United are chasing them for that last Champions League place.

A Manchester City win would also mean a mouth watering game next week because it would be Manchester City against Liverpool. The Reds could seal the title at the champions, and that would be very interesting indeed.

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Why Manchester City are a reflection of Bayern Munich- could this be Guardiola’s Champions League destiny?

They say in football that there are many patterns and coincidences, like a symmetry that aligns. It feels odd when it all comes together. Like a player rejoining an old club and his first game being against his former club. A successful manager never winning the Champions League, a manager reaching a multitude of finals and not getting a win, and then there are the records and how they are broken.

For example it is very possible that this season Liverpool will win the league title playing Manchester City and that would seem apt, a passing of the torch (at least for this season), from champion to new champion.

What has felt very similar this season has been Pep Guardiola’s approach to his Manchester City side this season and his approach to last club Bayern Munich. True Bayern won the league in impressive style and that won’t be the case for City. But the manner and tactics in which the two clubs have played has been quite delightful on the eye.

After the German league restarted Bayern were simply devastating to a manner in which some are hailing them the best team in the world. Not only were they playing brilliant football, they were scoring many goals and simply swept aside every team they had to face. The league ended earlier than many expected a Borussia Dortmund challenge never sufficed.

One could say that we are seeing the same of Manchester City. Yes they won’t be able to win the league this season, but they are wanting to go out on a high. First game back they beat Arsenal 3-0 in a one sided game which saw a team as talented as the Gunners having no shots on target. And then there was the clubs 2nd game a fantastic 5-0 thrashing of Burnley. The only disappointment from that game is Sergio Aguero’s injury, but he wasn’t even on the score sheet such is the menacing talent throughout the squad.

So what does this all lead to? And what is motivating Manchester City to finish 2nd? Truth is the club are using these games to get up to peak standard for the Champions League which resumes in August. They should be able to make the quarter finals as they hold a 2-1 lead over Real Madrid from the first leg. Madrid would need to score 2 goals to have any chance, and whilst they can score, can they really keep the goals down from this City side?

As for Bayern they have one foot in the next round because they are 3-0 up from the first leg over Chelsea. These two giant sides look like they will progress. They could meet before the final of course- that is the luck of the draw, but it would feel ‘complete’ somehow if they were to meet each other in this season’s final. Bayern v Manchester City, two clubs bank rolled and yet two clubs who have a lot of the philosophy and DNA of Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola knows the league is over but that doesn’t mean his team won’t be playing at 110%, as has been shown they are doing just that. But the bigger prize for them is around the corner, the Champions League it is what Guardiola desires, can he get his hands back on the famous trophy for the first time since 2011?

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Mikel Arteta discusses Arsenal’s defeat to Brentford in recent friendly

If you had asked any sports bettor what they expected the outcome of the Arsenal versus Brentford friendly match to be, they would have suggested Arsenal as the victors. Yet, that wasn’t to be, as the Gunners experienced a 3-2 loss on their home turf. That was quite the stunning outcome, considering the team had just romped to a 6-0 victory against Charlton Athletic the previous Saturday. There was even a hat-trick in that game thanks to Eddie Nketiah.

However, the same sports bettors who claimed pay-outs on Saturday after the match would likely have had to see a loss form which is what was reported at the 22Bet sportsbook. There’s a 22Bet mobile app for iOS devices that can be used as well, with mobile betting having gained heavily in popularity in recent times. Despite the fact that this app was probably used for bettors to wager on the Arsenal versus Brentford game, it likely didn’t herald the results that most users were expecting.

The Gunners boss Mikel Arteta has spoken out and said that Arsenal’s players are focusing on finding their rhythm and fitness. While Arsenal may have taken the lead early on in the game against Brentford, they were not able to hold on to that lead, and Halil Dervisoglu added Brentford’s third goal. “We’re trying different things,” Arteta added during an interview with Sky Sports.

Arteta Looks to Different Training Methods and Gameplay

“We’re trying to give minutes in their legs to all of the players, obviously you have to change a lot of players through the games,” Arteta said. He made mention of the fact that it may take some time to fully become accustomed to playing in empty stadiums, due to there being no energy coming from fans.

However, the head coach spoke of it potentially being difficult for all Premier League clubs to get used to the lack of a crowd while playing their games once the season restarts. “I think that’s a big question mark”, he said. Time will obviously tell if the Gunners are able to overcome the lack of the fan attendance moving forward, but the result and performance against Manchester City were both disappointing.

“I think it will be very difficult to sustain big rhythms for 90 minutes for the first few games at least,” Arteta noted and that is something which was evident against City.

The Arsenal match against City took place on Wednesday, June 17th, and it took place at the Etihad Stadium. The first two matches which took place upon the return of the Premier League began with a one minute silence, in honor of all of those who have passed away in recent times due to the global pandemic.

Fan Zone: Enrico returns to discuss Juventus transfer targets

Enrico Passarella is back to discuss Juventus but this time the focus is on the transfer market and the club’s potential targets. Enrico is well versed in Italian football and he methodically covers Calcio, in particular from the fantasy football angle. You can follow him on social media here.

Feel free to discuss the names linked with a transfer to the Bianconeri as well as other news pertaining to Juve with both Enrico and Rami Soufi. Check below for Enrico’s preferred choice among the summer targets (plus the names linked) as well as his take on who may turn out to be the club’s bargain signing.

1) Would you rather sign Erling Haaland or Mauro Icardi? How about Jorginho, Houssem Aouar or Sergej Milinkovic-Savic? Achraf Hakimi or Ricardo Pereira? Who would you pick from all of them?

Haaland just looks to me as a more complete player than Icardi and he is also much younger. He appears to be the perfect modern striker. Icardi would likely score a lot for Juve, but I never particularly liked him or his style of play to be honest.

Among the midfielders, while Jorginho would make most sense under coach Sarri, my choice is Sergej Milinkovic-Savic who is the type of player that is currently missing at the club. It would also weaken a direct opponent and reaffirm the recent era’s tradition of acquiring the best players in Italy.

For the right-back position, I have been impressed with Hakimi when watching BVB, so I would pick him over Pereira. However, for some reason, I sense the Leicester player would likely work out better in Italy. He is still working hard to recover from a serious injury back in March 2020, but is expected to be ready for the start of the new season- whether in England’s Premier League or in a different league.

If I am to pick just one then I like Haaland the most as Juve definitely missed out when they had a chance to get him for relatively cheap although signing a striker was not really a priority in January and it would have been difficult to integrate him.

2) Juve built a reputation signing players for free or for a bargain. Who is potentially the next bargain signing by Juve?

I can see Juve’s management making a run on at one of the PSG fullbacks who are on expiring contracts, meaning Thomas Meunier or Layvin Kurzawa or perhaps both.

3) Do you rate Gabriel Jesus? His stats are decent despite Pep Guardiola using him as a substitute in most games. Would you sign Jesus or Harry Kane if you’re in charge

Gabriel Jesus has ton of potential- unfortunately for him he has Sergio Kun Aguero ahead of him. He has everything in place to fully blossom once he becomes the unquestioned center-piece of the attack, either at Manchester City or elsewhere.

No doubt though, I would sign Harry Kane, who, with his physical attributes and skill-set, would have an easier time adapting to Serie A. I consider him one of the best all-around strikers. Having said all that, I do not see Juve pulling off such a mammoth transfer this summer.

Losing to Manchester City should not dishearten Arsenal who can still have a strong finish in the Premier League

For many it was the way Arsenal lost to Manchester City when the Premier League re started on Wednesday night that would have been the biggest concern.Losing 3-0, having David Luiz sent off (is he the gift that keeps on giving)? And then looking at a meaningful statistic that was certainly damning, Arsenal had 0 shots on target. Ouch!

Many expected City to win and Arsenal to lose, after all the Gunners have been poor on the road now for a few seasons, and they were playing the current champions. However there was an uncertainty given that the game of course was played behind closed doors. But it made no difference, City would have won 3-0 with or without fans and played some great football.

As a result Arsenal remain in 9th place and despite their 7th loss of the season the mid week didn’t turn out too bad for the club given that Sheffield United who are above them only earned a point. In short they didn’t lose pace for a European place.

Arsenal need to regroup and refocus, the display they put in against City and Luiz’s sending off will give their next opponents Brighton cause for celebration, and Graham Potter’s side may well be welcoming Arsenal and thinking that they are there for the taking. Brighton have had some very good results lately against the Gunners and have beaten them 2-1 at the Emirates earlier in the season.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta will be disappointed with the way his team lost at City but won’t forget that before the break for the Coronavirus Arsenal were one of the inform teams who had just recorded 3 wins in a row.

The Gunners are only 5 points from a Europa League place and whilst the Champions League looks a little off for them being 8 points adrift of Chelsea, if they can finish the season strong who knows what can happen?

Let’s look at Arsenal’s remaining fixtures. The Gunners have 2 away games in a row coming up facing Brighton and Southampton. Whilst those games look tricky a good Arsenal side can win those. After that they will be at home to Norwich who are bottom of the league and one would expect another 3 points from them. Then they are away to Wolves and at home to Leicester, these will be difficult games, but still Arsenal could win at least one of them.

After that they face Tottenham in the derby, a game that could go either way with no fans and atmosphere. Their last 3 games are against Liverpool, Aston Villa and Watford. The match against Liverpool could be easier than expected given that the Reds should have wrapped up the title by then. But matches against Villa and Watford where both teams could be battling relegation could be close affairs.

It’s possible though that Arsenal could finish the season with 59 points, that’s the prediction here and yes that would fall too short for a Champions League place. Possibly a Europa finish is on the cards, but even then Arsenal might fight and play better not to finish so low in the league.

It must be incredibly surreal for fans to see their club down in 9th place, and without all of their draws (there have been 13 so far) the club would actually be fighting in the relegation.

The game at the weekend against Brighton is a huge one then, lose that and Arsenal could already be losing their direction so soon after the restart. The club are better than that and Arteta must break their away day hoodoo.

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Premier League return: Manchester City need to make a statement whilst Arsenal have not given up on Europe

The Premier League will return on June 17th with two fixtures and both look like being mouth watering matches despite the fact that games are having to be played behind closed doors.

Aston Villa will take on Sheffield United in what will be the first Premier League game to take place in 99 days since the Coronavirus pandemic halted football. The evening game sees current champions Manchester City play Arsenal at the Etihad.

Aston Villa are in desperate need of all three points when their campaign restarts given that they are in 19th place, although a win would take them out of the relegation zone. Sheffield United are having a terrific season so far and could go into 5th place with a win. Both teams have a game in hand over the teams around them and that is why this is such an important game for them.

All eyes though will be in Manchester. How will Pep Guardiola’s team react after such a long break? If we look at the Bundesliga in Germany and for example compare City to current German champions Bayern Munich then they should be just fine. Bayern have been in incredible form not only winning games but scoring by the bucket load.

However with no fans it has also been proven in Germany that the home win rate has nosedived. From 46% to just 18%. Whilst City will be raring to go and have the better players they will also find it rather odd to be playing this way.

Arsenal are currently in 9th place and a visit to the Etihad would in normal circumstances have been a daunting trip. Now a team who have really felt the pressure from their own fans may just be able to throw off the shackles and possibly play better and more confident football behind closed doors.

The game will have added spice given that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is returning back to City, of course he was Guardiola’s assistant for a few years before making the switch to Arsenal earlier in the season.

The omens do not look good for Arsenal who have lost five games in a row to City, who also find the back of the net rather too easily. Arsenal’s play usually suits City’s attacking although it will be fascinating to see if Arteta who knows City so well can out do Guardiola.

If Arsenal win then all eyes will be on Liverpool who could then wrap up the league title on Sunday. That would be unique in itself given that they are playing the derby against Everton.

As for Arsenal they have had a poor season by their standards so far and are in 9th place, though they were showing good form before the season had to be stopped. There has certainly been an improvement since Arteta replaced Unai Emery.

For City whilst they do have a game in hand over 3rd placed Leicester- this is the match and they are just 4 points in front of Brendan Rodgers team and would like to pull away from them. This season there is no catching Liverpool but at the end of the day if City were to finish 3rd for example it would really underline a forgettable season for the club.

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The Premier League is back and Liverpool are aiming to win the title at rivals Everton

There has been a three month gap but finally the Premier League in England has been given the green light to restart once again after the Coronavirus.

The virus has dissipated enough for life to feel like it is resuming again and although there will be many differences and procedures in place to how we left football back in March, many up and down the country will be happy to see football back again.

That will be underlined if you are a fan of Liverpool. The Reds were easily set to win their first league title since 1990, as they are 25 points clear at the top with just ten games left to play but the virus put the club in a bizarre position. There were talks of voiding the league completely. To their credit Liverpool as a club and the fans have remained calm and optimistic that their league title would not be taken from them. Even if you don’t support the club if it had happened one could have seen how cruel it would have been on them after their efforts this season.

The league is scheduled to return on June 17th when Manchester City play Arsenal. If City were to lose the game then Liverpool’s match that weekend would be one of the most viewed in English sporting history. Not only could it be the match where Liverpool secure the league title but it is against their rivals Everton and at Goodison Park. Just imagine how that could turn out?

Liverpool have been far superior to their neighbours this season though under Carlo Ancelotti Everton have really improved. But would be a fantastic match as Everton would do everything they could to delay Liverpool’s title, no one associated with the club would want to see Liverpool winning the title at Goodison Park.

Of course for Liverpool what a day it would be to win it at their rivals. It is a story after 30 years that you simply couldn’t have made up. Of course one major factor is that there will be no fans- this is something we can expect will be the norm in football until the early part of 2021 it seems.

A Liverpool victory could feel muted- just what does one do? Will the fans swarm the streets even though they have been told not to? That is a hard one, and only time will tell us what will happen.

If Liverpool fail to win the league at Everton, their next game is at home to Crystal Palace, a side managed by Roy Hodgson who of course is an ex Liverpool manager. No matter what happens as it has turned out the virus has only delayed the inevitable, something that football fans have known at least since the turn of the year, and that is Liverpool are going to be crowned 2020 league champions.

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Fan Zone: Kartik on City’s Sterling, Bernardo & David Silva as well as Fernandinho & more

A special guest for the latest Q&A is Kartik Krishnaiyer- heavily involved in soccer and politics in the state of Florida- and the author of Blue with Envy: My American Journey with Manchester City.

Instead of starting with how it all began for Kartik, the focus in this part of the Q&A is mostly on current Manchester City topics, in particular the key players. We discuss current stars such as David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero as well as some of the club’s key figures in the past such as Vincent Kompany, the former captain who left last summer, and of course Francis Henry Lee.

Kartik’s wealth and depth in information when it comes to discussing the Citizens is even more evident when you cover not just the club’s current era but the history of Man City. You can reach Kartik and Rami Soufi on their social media accounts and feel free to discuss further any of the points raised in the Q&A below.

1)  Choose 2 players from David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez for your team. Explain why?

I am going with Sterling and Bernardo Silva though at one point it would have been Sterling and David Silva. Sterling’s off-the-ball runs are among the best in world football, something England fans and many in the British press didn’t quite understand in the World Cup in 2018.

Sterling didn’t score so they couldn’t understand why Gareth Southgate kept picking him then came the Colombia game. Sterling was replaced by Jamie Vardy and that absolutely gutted England’s play going forward. It was then that people started to notice Sterling’s role and significance. Bernardo Silva has a different game than peak David Silva did. Bernardo has more bite to his play without the ball but he is not as creative a player in the final third. They aren’t like for like, but both complement Sterling very well.

2) Choose one from Kevin de Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho, and explain why?

Fernandinho is the heart and soul of Manchester City. An outstanding two-way player, he’s a master of keeping the ball moving, winning the ball and if needed cynically breaking up play. Also, he is a leader on and off the pitch.

3) Who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the City shirt, and why?

So this is a difficult conversation because it’s probably Franny Lee – who also later as Club Chairman presided over the worst era in the club’s history largely due to his decision making. Don’t get me wrong he inherited a really bad situation from Peter Swales but he had no idea how to fix it. The most lamentable era in City’s history coincided with his tenure.

Still, as a player he was brilliant. A forward who could score and link play and seemed to reserve his best for the biggest occasions – cup finals, Manchester derbies and other key matches. His partnership with Colin Bell was off the charts.

4) What are City’s weaknesses? Is it the full-backs or the central defensive pair looking shaky? Did losing Kompany hurt City’s title defense?

It is the central defense for sure. Losing Kompany has taken away an important dressing room figure and deprived the Starting XI of the glue that keeps together the team’s core defensively. This has continued to be an issue with City’s transfer failures in the center-back position go back to selling Matija Nastasic to Schalke and buying Eliaquim  Mangala as a replacement. The miscalculations in the market have finally caught up with City.

5) I know you follow Bundesliga closely so you’ve seen Erling Haaland & Achraf Hakimi play. Would you rather sign Haaland or Hakimi? 

Hakimi fits Pep Guardiola’s style of an advanced fullback working a lot in terms of crossing and tucking into midfield. Cancelo was a bad experiment and will likely be moved. Hakimi can be explosive going forward, but I am not in love with his defending.

6) City built a reputation playing the possession game. Do you think this focus on possession at the expense of being more pragmatic has hurt City’s quest to defend the Premier League title?

Yes, and even hurt City’s chances in Europe to be honest even more since counter-attacking wins trophies, particularly in critical and tight games. Frankly, same thing happened to Pep at Bayern Munich. His Bayern teams kept the ball all day long but whenever faced with the counter-attacking ability of the Spanish opponents they played in the semi-finals, the Spanish clubs tended to counter them to death.

7) What do you make of Gabriel Jesus? His stats are great despite being mostly used as a substitute. Would you keep Jesus or go for someone like Harry Kane?

Jesus is a better all-around No. 9 for the modern game than almost anyone we could sign. It’s the stuff he does off the ball and his ability to adapt tactically (as seen in Madrid) that make him suitable for Pep.

Sergio Aguero scores a ton of goals and he’s tough to drop but I would argue Jesus is a better overall footballer at this stage of their careers. At the same time Kane is a wonderful player who doesn’t have to be a No. 9. He can play deeper and already understands Sterling’s game from England duty where the two of them lead the line.