EPL Weekend Picks – Week 31

vardyWith a reduced run of fixtures in the Premier League this coming weekend owing to FA Cup Sixth Round action, there are only ten teams from which to take this week’s weekend picks. The pick of the upcoming fixtures is arguably Everton hosting Chelsea in the 4.30pm kickoff on Sunday, while Bournemouth host in-form Newcastle on Saturday. Burnley do battle with Leicester and West Ham take on Huddersfield in Saturday’s other games, while Sunday’s earlier game sees Fulham welcome Liverpool to Craven Cottage. Taking all of that into account, let’s adopt a 4-3-3 this time and see which players could be set to work their way into fantasy management consideration.

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EPL Weekend Picks – Week 28

shawThis weekend’s Premier League fixture list promises another round of tension, goals, celebration and despair. Proceedings get underway Saturday lunchtime with the north London derby, Spurs welcoming Arsenal as their guests at Wembley. We also have a relegation clash as Brighton host bottom side Huddersfield, while on Sunday we have a west London derby – Fulham vs Chelsea – and the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park. Manchester City look to continue their bid to retain the Premier League crown when they travel to Bournemouth 24 hours before Liverpool’s trip across Stanley Park, and with both of those fixtures proving potentially slippery for the top two this weekend could well start to shape the landscape as the domestic season rolls on.

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EPL Best XI – Leroy Sane leads the way

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The 13th weekend of the 2018-19 Premier League season saw Manchester City and Liverpool maintain their unbeaten starts, while Chelsea suffered their first defeat of the campaign at the hands of Tottenham. Let’s take a look at the top points scorers from the weekend’s games…

GK: Jonas Lossl, Huddersfield – seven points
Jonas Lossl kept his third clean sheet of the season as Huddersfield won 2-0 away at Wolves on Sunday. The Dane now has 14 points from his last three games.

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Ballon Bore – How the awards have become a laughing stock

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There once was a time when the Ballon d’Or awards really seemed to mean something.

Being the best in the world in the eyes of your peers was a gong worth winning and most of the time there was no real argument as to who the eventual winner was.

Since Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have monopolised the award, however, we’ve seen ridiculous tactical voting and even an unprecedented extension of the voting period in order to allow the Portuguese to win it during the year in which he was well behind the Argentinian at the original cut off point.

The situation has only been made worse with a splintering of the award in the recent past.

Now we have FIFA’s ‘The Best’ as a rival to France Football’s Ballon d’Or, as well as the UEFA Player of the Year.

We’ve seen people crowned as the best in their respective position who’ve then not made the team of the year (Thibaut Courtois), and Mo Salah winning the best goal of the year in the Puskas Award when it was abundantly clear that his strike was nowhere close to the best effort.

Though it was probably a knee-jerk reaction at the time, Jorge Mendes, Ronaldo’s agent, saying that only Real Madrid players win the award, when FIFA’s The Best was given to Luka Modric rather than his client, was telling.

With the greatest of respect, including Karim Benzema on the list of 30 players for this season’s Ballon d’Or is utterly farcical.

The Frenchman has struggled to put the ball in the back of the net for the best part of a year now, and after an initial burst of goals at the start of this campaign, is back to the poor form of 2017/18.

There is literally no reason for him to be on the list other than the fact that he plays for Real Madrid.

Lionel Messi is unlikely to win it this year, after missing out on both the UEFA Team of the Year and FIFA’s The Best, however, out of every candidate, with the possible exceptions of Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann, the Argentinian deserves it.

Griezmann has already been vocal in saying that the best player has to come from the best team, insinuating that a French World Cup winner has to win. As he’s also won the Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup, there’s a school of thought that would agree with him.

Equally, a third successive Champions League trophy for Real Madrid gives Ronaldo a shout.

However, the Ballon d’Or is an individual award, and no one player has done more than Messi to rightfully stake a claim.

Goals, assists, key passes, completed passes… the No.10 reigns supreme.

Frankly, if the governing bodies can’t or won’t give the award to the players who deserve it the most, what’s the real point of making such a song and dance about them in the first place?!

All it’s doing is alienating the public further and treating them with contempt.

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Liverpool remain a force in the Champions League

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Anyone who thought that Liverpool’s march to Kiev last season was a flash in the pan will be eating their words after their performance against one of the favourites in the competition, Paris Saint-Germain.

A final score of 3-2 doesn’t really tell the whole story because the Reds were on top for long periods. With Anfield in full voice, European nights don’t really come much better than this. Continue reading

EPL Best XI – Mo Salah stars again

Roberto Firmino Mo Salah

The third weekend of the 2018-19 Premier League season saw Liverpool, Chelsea and Watford continue their winning starts to the new campaign, while Manchester City were held to a 1-1 draw by newly promoted Wolves. But which players stood out to make the EPL Best XI of the Weekend?

GK: Alisson, Liverpool – seven points
With three clean sheets from three matches, Alisson couldn’t have had a better start to life as Liverpool goalkeeper. The Brazilian picked up seven points this weekend, taking his tally for the season to a very impressive 21 points.

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Marcus Rashford has to leave United to further his development

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Whether or not England go on to lift the World Cup title, or go further than the quarter final against Sweden, one thing has become abundantly clear under Gareth Southgate.

His astuteness and nous has seen a number of his young players going out onto the pitch fearless and able to fully express themselves. Not constrained in any way, they’re given the confidence to play their natural game and, where possible, enjoy themselves.

Compare and contrast Marcus Rashford’s demeanour with England to when he’s playing for Manchester United. Continue reading

Salah extension shows Liverpool mean business

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Liverpool have already returned for pre-season training, and there was some good news to come out of Melwood on the first day back.

Far and away their player of last season, Mo Salah announced that he’d penned a new long-term deal, bringing to an end rumours which had linked him with Real Madrid, Barcelona and others.

There was a time, not so long ago, when Liverpool were still something of a laughing stock. Not anymore. Continue reading

The Premier League’s best midfielders – Raheem Sterling finally fulfils potential

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The last Premier League season saw the much-anticipated emergence of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City into the bully boys of the division, following an inaugural season in which the manager somewhat flattered to deceive.

One critical element of the season’s success was the emergence of Raheem Sterling as a potent threat in front of goal, an upturn that saw him land the accolade of the second highest point scoring midfielder within England – his haul of 117 points being bested only be Liverpool’s Mo Salah.

The Englishman has been a revelation under the guidance of Guardiola over the 2017/18 season, the tactical knowledge of the Spaniard seeing Sterling’s undoubted Continue reading

Ham-fisted Karius PR exercise has further harmed Liverpool

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The Champions League final was arguably the nadir of Loris Karius’ professional career.

In the biggest game of his life, his two mistakes were incredibly amateur for a player at the elite level.

Given he was the choice of Jurgen Klopp ahead of Simon Mignolet, the German has to take some responsibility, though he will surely not have expected Karius to have failed in such spectacular fashion.

In the wake of the final and Karius’ subsequent upset, a multitude of theories have been put forward as to the reason why he was so off colour on the night.

Pantomime villain, Sergio Ramos, had already been blamed for putting Mo Salah’s World Cup in jeopardy, and with video coming to light of him accidentally striking Karius, and the keeper, allegedly, complaining of a problem at the time, a theory of concussion was put forward.

The problem?

Such details and exploration of the theory didn’t take place until over a week after the final.

It doesn’t really serve any purpose coming so late after the event but, clearly, given the wave of public animosity towards Karius, Liverpool thought a confirmed diagnosis of concussion would go some way to assuaging the masses to not be so hard on him.

However, such a ham-fisted way of going about it has left Liverpool and Karius himself open to further ridicule.

At best it’s been a PR exercise gone wrong and, frankly, getting the news out there that Karius was injured doesn’t change the fact that Liverpool lost the final fair and square.

Yes, Ramos in particular was walking the line between what is and what is not acceptable on a football pitch, but the ref was perfectly happy with his conduct. Trying to lay all of the blame at his door is a little disingenuous.

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If the only purpose is to ‘calm the situation down,’ well Liverpool are already apparently in the market for a new custodian, so the likelihood is that Karius won’t even be in the firing line from the start of the season anyway.

The wider issue here of course is the inherent need to absolve Karius of all blame.

Everyone makes mistakes. It happens.

The best way to deal with it is to pick up the baton straight away and go again.  Continue reading