Premier League: Game of the Weekend: Liverpool 3-2 West Ham

The Premier League was back to full strength following the staggered winter break and the Liverpool and West Ham game was shown a lot of interest. On one side we know Liverpool will win the league this season but could they keep their unbeaten run up? The other was West Ham who faced the threat of relegation and came into this game as the huge underdogs.

Liverpool’s big loss was Jordan Henderson who has been ruled out for 3 weeks with a hamstring injury and perhaps at times in this game his influence in midfield was missed.

Jurgen Klopp opted to play his usual 4-3-3 and David Moyes at West Ham went for 4-2-3-1. Even though Moyes had left predictably one up front it was relief, at least, to see the Scotsman change his attitude not go for five at the back and try to park the bus so to speak. Perhaps losing to Manchester City in the Hammers last game put paid to that system, and instead we got a West Ham performance that was utterly refreshing.

The game looked like it was going to be a formality before a ball was kicked and just after it was it still seemed that way as Georgino Wijnaldum scored after just 9 minutes and man of the moment Trent-Alexander Arnold was on hand to assist on the goal. It was Wijnaldum’s 3rd goal for the club this season.

Now if there is one criticism which could be launched at Liverpool this season (and we are clutching at straws) but it would be that the Reds have found it very hard to close up games. How many times have they been 1-0 up with just minutes left or 2-0 up with most of the game to play and the opposite team enjoying some decent chances. Liverpool still remain unbeaten in the league but quite a few games have been on a knife edge. This game would add to that.

Within 180 seconds of Liverpool’s goal, West Ham had equalised through Issa Diop, which left a few people stunned given that Liverpool have only conceded 9 goals all season at home up to that point. At 1-1 Liverpool responded in attack but there was a feeling that something was in the air, and West Ham who would usually shut up shop, came after the Reds, and were happy to attack themselves.

In the first half alone there was 13 corners which just told you how many attacks on goal their hand been, the real surprise was that 6 of them had come from West Ham.

Though there had been a lot of great play and attacking intent from both sides in the 1st half, Liverpool had only had 2 shots on target with West Ham having one. But if the first half was good, then the second half was something compared to a mini classic, as we witnessed a further 3 goals.

Goals are the game when Liverpool are playing but nobody would have expected the Reds to have gone 2-1 down at home, Liverpool being behind in a game is becoming very rare, but that is exactly what happened.  Declan Rice set up Pablo Fornals who launched a beautiful shot into the back of the Liverpool goal and passed Alisson. Rare to see Alisson ship 2 goals in a game too, and even rarer to see Fornals score and have an overall decent game. Now West Ham were 2-1 up, we could expect to see the very best of Liverpool, and the corners kept raining down from the home team.

Fourteen minutes after West Ham had took the lead the pressure told though and Mohamed Salah scored his 15th goal of the season to make it 2-2 and it was an assist by Andrew Robertson. Indeed all of Liverpool’s assists would be by defenders in the game.

If the truth be told even a 2-2 draw would have been remarkable for the Hammers given that only Manchester United have taken points from Liverpool this season. But Liverpool aren’t European and World club champions for nothing and that man Sadio Mane perhaps the very best player at Liverpool this season came up trumps once again to give Liverpool all three points.

It had been an amazing game and West Ham played their part. They didn’t come here and lose 4-0 like in previous seasons, and each player could look in the mirror. If the club bring this intensity and passion to their remaining fixtures then they won’t be going down.

As for Liverpool it is just total dominance and they now have 79 points, that is the same number of points that won the league for the club in 1990, when they were last crowned English champions. West Ham did well, but Liverpool even in a game where they didn’t perform to their best still managed to conjure up 25 goal attempts, which says it all about how strong this team are.

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Salah, Aguero & Vardy battling to be Premier League top scorer

With around 25 games played, the battle for top scorer in the Premier League appears to be heating up. Sergio Aguero, Mohamed Salah, Danny Ings, Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have at least 14 goals each.

Aguero- despite missing a number of matches due to injury- already has 16 goals in just 14 league starts and 5 substitute appearances. Aguero celebrated with a hat-trick against Aston Villa in what was his first Premier League start in 2020.

It would not be wise to bet against the Argentina striker finishing as the top scorer for the 2019/20 season given he has made it a habit to find the back of the net on a regular basis. This season has seen him break a number of records while becoming the top foreign scorer in the history of the English Premier League in the process. He also has scored the most number of hat-tricks in the history of England’s top division.

Aguero’s records and achievements speak highly of his status as one of the game’s most lethal finisher. However, he is followed closely at 14 goals by Salah, Ings, Aubameyang and Rashford. Salah and Aubameyang are proven scorers as seen by their goal-scoring exploits in recent years. Still, there is one player who must be considered as a the main threat to the other 5 goalscorers mentioned above.

In fact, Vardy is the current leading scorer with 17 league goals. He needs a single goal to equal his tally from the entire 2018/19 season. Indeed, after looking at the most recent odds being tracked by SBD, the betting options are favoring none other than Vardy to win the Golden Boot, but this race is really tight and things can turn around real quick.

The fixtures ahead are not easy for either of the top two scorers: Vardy and Aguero. Vardy has not scored a single goal in his last 5 league games. In fact, he missed a penalty-kick against Burnley in recent weeks. On the other hand, Aguero has been on a great run with 7 goals in his last 5 league games.

Will it be Vardy or Aguero? That is probably the question many fans are asking. Can any of the other four players stop them? Perhaps Liverpool star Salah or Arsenal’s top scorer Aubameyang?

Premier League: Player of the Week: Mohamed Salah

Two players earned 10 points last weekend which was by far the most in the Premier League: West Ham’s Robert Snodgrass who was able to score 2 goals and Liverpool’s attacking midfielder Mohamed Salah. We chose Salah based on the fact that his goals ended up contributing to a win. For Snodgrass even though his goals helped West Ham go 3-1 up when playing Brighton, the away side came back and the game ended 3-3. 

Mohamed Salah’s goals this past weekend were very welcome because compared to the last few seasons it could well be argued that the Egyptian international was not scoring enough goals and was going quite a few games without them. At the same time perhaps people have missed his contributions to games, his deft running, his turns, his holding up the ball and letting other players in. Salah really hasn’t stopped and he has become invisible sometimes but in a brilliant way where he is losing his man. The bottom line is his work rate has been second to none.

This past weekend though on top of all of that he did score and he got 2 goals, and this was important for Liverpool who have Sadio Mane out injured for a couple of weeks.

Liverpool were 2-0 up at the time but there was still 30 minutes to play and in the Premier League what we have noticed is that 2 goals is not always enough if you are going for victory. And Southampton played some very good football, they did remain a threat. But the Saints fire was distinguished when Salah grabbed the 3rd goal with just over 20 minutes remaining. A brilliant in swinging pass by Jordan Henderson was met by Salah who lost his marker and he neatly chipped the ball over the keeper for his first goal.

The 3rd goal killed the game and then in the final minute Salah added a 4th goal, a bit scrappy but it went in. In truth 4 goals past Southampton was harsh on the visitors who played much better than that. How many teams for example get 17 attempts on goal at Anfield? They actually had one more than Liverpool. Although what was telling is that Liverpool had 9 shots on target compared to the Saints 4. But the away side did have 11 corners compared to Liverpool’s 6, which proves that they were in attacking mode, perhaps they just left themselves very wide open and it is true Liverpool were waiting to counter them each time they came forward.

As for Salah that was 2 goals certainly needed and moved him up to joint 3rd in the goalscorers table with 14 so far, also he has 6 assists, so has been involved in 20 of Liverpool’s league goals so far. That equates to 33% of all of Liverpool’s league goals this season. Considering the club have goal scorers such as Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane in their side that is really impressive from Salah.

As far as fantasy points go those 10 points have helped Salah to go to 89 points and he is in fact placed in 1st position in the overall Premier League players, 11 points ahead of teammate TrentAlexander-Arnold. In all leagues he is in 2nd place, with the top spot going to Ciro Immobile in Serie A.

Salah is sure to have a strong finish to the season and when he has played for the club he has helped in 11 clean sheets, with the most recent against Southampton. If you want him in your team he is one of the most expensive players- and for good reason valued at 15m.

Liverpool’s next league game is away to bottom club Norwich, where there could well be ample opportunity for him and his team mates to add to their goals.

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Premier League: Player of the Week: Mohamed Salah

There was only one game in the Premier League in the week because last weekend the FA Cup 4th round took over domestic proceedings. The featured game was between West Ham and Liverpool, with both clubs having a game in hand because of December’s World Club Cup scheduling meaning that Liverpool were away.

The game was tipped to be in favour of Liverpool and unsurprisingly it was. David Moyes selected five players at the back as his intention was to frustrate the visitors and maybe sneak a counter goal or just draw the game. With half time closing in it did look like Moyes’ plan was working with Liverpool having all of the domination and yet the score was 0-0.

However with the pace going up another level the inevitable happened. If Liverpool were not going to score from open play then they were going to force mistakes and they were awarded a penalty. Now this was an important moment for Mohamed Salah. One of the finest and deadliest strikers in Europe is not having the vintage season that was predicted of him. In short he needed this goal.

He stood up and wanted to take it and slotted it home. The cheers from the Liverpool fans were loud not only because their unbeaten side had found a goal but also for Salah, and the hope will be that he will start to score more regularly now.

Of course it’s not all doom and gloom for the striker who does have 12 goals this season. Also he has assisted in a further 6 goals, meaning that he has contributed 18 of Liverpool’s 56 league goals so far. That is about 35% of every goal this season, pretty impressive.

Salah would cost you 15m based on his two previous brilliant seasons but he does have 79 points so far and believe it or not that places him 2nd in the fantasy rankings of all players in the major European leagues combined. An added bonus is that he hardly picks up bookings and he has just 1 yellow card so far this season.

It wasn’t just his penalty goal though that made Salah the difference in midweek. His work rate is second to none and he run the Hammers defence ragged at times, he is always looking for a creative space and he played to his strengths. His pace is simply electrifying. That is why in local press in Liverpool he was easily voted man of the match. Liverpool will be hoping that with the title run in and the Champions League restarting that the player is only now just finding his best form of the season.

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FA Cup: Game of the Weekend: Shrewsbury 2-2 Liverpool

Nobody would have expected the European and club world champions to have many problems when they were drawn against Shrewsbury in the 4th round of the FA Cup. Liverpool were expected to win comfortably against the League one side playing in the third tier, but the match ended in a 4 goal thriller as the underdogs drew the game 2-2 and forced a replay.

Liverpool did not start with their strongest team which seems par for the course for Klopp and domestic cup competitions. However there were still some recognisable faces on the pitch in the form of Dejan Lovren, Divock Origi, Fabinho and Adrian was in goal. Liverpool opted to play a 4-3-3 whilst the home team had a slightly daring 3-5-2 wanting to try and pack the midfield out. It was risque to see the team happy to play 2 up front and just 3 at the back against the Reds.

The away side dominated possession and it was no surprise that they took the lead within 15 minutes through Curtis Jones who had stunned Everton in the 3rd round. Scoring so early it felt like Liverpool could 5 or 6 goals, but to their credit Shrewsbury held firm and the half time score read as 0-1.

As the 2nd half got under way Shrewsbury would have had the belief that they were still in the game but just a minute after the whistle they found themselves 2-0 down and practically out of the cup. To add insult to the wounds it was an own goal converted by defender Donald Love. Well no home fan was loving this.

But Shrewsbury found a way back, which was handed to them by one of Liverpool’s youngsters Yasser Larouci his foul giving away a penalty. Jason Cummings made no mistake and slotted home- suddenly there was belief that this game was not dead. Ten minutes later the stadium erupted like it had not done so before when Cummings ran through and took a shot, now it was 2-2 and the atmosphere in the stadium was simply electric.

Jurgen Klopp looked like someone who had been told that Christmas had been banned for the rest of his life. Distraught, angry on the touchline he played his ace cards. On came quality, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain but for the final ten minutes Liverpool could not find a breakthrough and the game ended 2-2.

It was a shock result even if we consider that Liverpool did not start their strongest team and the clubs will meet again in a weeks time.

But there will be a bigger fall out from this as Klopp desperately wanted to win this game and has announced that not only will he field a complete second string side at Anfield he will also not be there to coach the team. This is because there is a gap week in the Premier League and players and coaches have taken pre-arranged holidays.

This is great news for Shrewsbury though, who now have a chance to reach the 5th round of the FA Cup. You would think that any neutral will be willing them on to do it now.

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UEFA make Real Madrid unseeded in an odd move for the Champions League draw

The draw for the Champions League season 2019/20 will take place later today and sadly UEFA have made it all about them. In a stunning move, which actually feels more bizarre they have decided not to seed Real Madrid.

Now even if you are not a fan of the club, that is beside the point. Barcelona fans for example may just be laughing at the idea that Madrid have been relegated to Pot 2. However if you are a fan of football then you’ll be scratching your head and wondering why a club that has won the competition 4 times from the past 6 years isn’t being seeded.

The story has gone completely under the carpet which is a bit of a travesty really. Had Liverpool won the competition 4 from the last 6 years could you imagine the media in England? And these type of stories shouldn’t go unnoticed around Europe and only be centered on one country. All sports media should be crying out loud because this is a playing like a bad joke from UEFA. They are not rewarding success, they are making their awkward points system all about them and not the club- and then UEFA wonder why some of them threaten to breakaway and start a super league.

As news stories go, this one may not feel important, but it should be. UEFA used to respect the clubs that won their own leagues and competitions. UEFA have punished Madrid based on last season alone when they didn’t win the Champions League or the Spanish title. Punished for one season, makes little sense when they have dominated the competition for years.

However rules are rules and the likelihood is that Madrid will qualify for the knock out stages anyway.

The draw should be an exciting one as Madrid count draw one of the very big teams. Imagine for if example they came head to head with Liverpool that would be a repeat of the 2018 final. Not only would Liverpool be after revenge but how will Mohamed Salah react to having to play against Sergio Ramos. Put it this way you wouldn’t want to be Ramos when Liverpool play at Anfield.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has said this season will be the hardest in the Champions League ever, and with teams always improving he has a good point. Any one of 6 teams could win it this season, or perhaps we will have a major surprise.

 

Predicted lineups for round 4 of the Premier League season

It’s time for gameweek four of the 2019/20 English Premier League season.

Here’s a look at all the predicted lineups for the ten fixtures over the coming weekend.

Southampton v Manchester United

Southampton XI: Gunn, Valery, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Danso, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Boufal, Ward-Prowse, Adams, Ings

Manchester United XI: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young, Pogba, McTominay, James, Mata, Rashford, Greenwood

Questionable: Bertrand, Redmond, Obafemi (Southampton); Martial, Sanchez (Manchester United) Continue reading

The winning mentality of Liverpool looks unstoppable as they go top of the Premier League

Who is going to stop Liverpool winning their first league title since 1990? Everyone would say Manchester City, but it’s probable that not even Pep Guardiola’s stars are going to be able to do that. The reason is that they won the title last season and not Liverpool.

Liverpool ran out 3-1 winners at Anfield against a very good Arsenal side who had their chances too, but yet again it felt as if the Reds did not break out of second gear in order to do it.

Liverpool have started the season with 3 wins from three games, beating Norwich 4-1 and then Southampton 2-1 and this game and inbetween that they popped over to Turkey to win the Super Cup from Chelsea. There is just this incredible winning formula with the club and with Jurgen Klopp in charge he has so many winning qualities that Liverpool have the perfect manager.

But one wonders how and why Liverpool have started so strongly. Yes they are a great team after all let’s remember they are the European champions but after such a taxing season you could have wondered if the players would have felt at least some psychological damage. It has never been known for a club to get 97 points and not win the league, and also they lost just 1 game all season which was ironically against Manchester City.

But there is a massive hunger and passion from within the club to simply continue their journey. Their nearest rival City are a brilliant team with one of the best coaches in the history of football, but at the same time they have won the league two times in a row. What is their motivation? To win a 3rd title in a row? Well that is a good one which has only in modern history been won by Manchester United, and of course City would love to replicate that. But one could wonder if the motivation of not winning the league for 30 years is a bigger one- of course it is.

The irony of last season was that City ended up winning what Liverpool really wanted and Liverpool won what City really want. Also the quality of Liverpool and a never say die attitude is evident also. Look at the 2018 Champions League final when they lost against Real Madrid, they came back the year after and won it. Can they do the same in the Premier League? There only have one realistic challenger and make no mistake City will push them, but when the league gets down to the business end where these two teams rarely drop points don’t be surprised if it is Liverpool that find that second wind.

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Predicted lineups for gameweek 3 of the Premier League

It’s time for gameweek 3 of the Premier League season.

Here’s a look at all the predicted lineups for the ten fixtures over the coming weekend.

Aston Villa v Everton

Aston Villa XI: Heaton, Elmohamady, Engels, Mings, Targett, Jota, McGinn, Luiz, Grealish, Trezeguet, Wesley

Everton XI: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne, Gbamin, Gomes, Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Bernard, Kean

Questionable: Digne, Baines (Everton)

Out: Chester, Hause, Kodjia (Aston Villa); Delph (Everton) Continue reading

Predicted lineups for the first weekend of the new EPL season

The English Premier League returns on Friday night when European champions Liverpool face Norwich City at Anfield.

There is a full programme of matches on between Friday night and Sunday afternoon with all 20 Premier League teams in action on the opening weekend.

Here are our predicted lineups for those EPL fixtures so have a read in preparation to get your EPL fantasy season off to the perfect start.

Continue reading