No shame in second for Liverpool

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Bill Shankly famously said that finishing second is nothing. Even he, though, would have been tempted to revise that statement when discussing this current Liverpool team. Describing this team as failures would be cruel in the extreme.

While the overarching desire is to look back at this past season and mourn the death of another potential title win, the reaction should be the opposite. Liverpool should be celebrating a glorious campaign and the fact that it happened in the first place. Jurgen Klopp’s side have impressed beyond belief over the past year. Suggestions that they have done anything but succeed this season are not worth listening to. Klopp will certainly be sharing that message among his group.  Continue reading

Predicted lineups for the final EPL games of the season

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The Premier League season draws to a dramatic close this Sunday. All 20 teams are in action, playing out their final game of the 2018/19 campaign.

If Manchester City can take all three points at Brighton, then they will be crowned Premier League champions for the second consecutive season under Pep Guardiola.

If City lose or draw and Liverpool win at home to Wolves then Jurgen Klopp will have delivered the first league title to the Merseyside club for 29 years.

It’s all to play for.

Here are our predicted lineups for those EPL fixtures so have a read in preparation for another EPL fantasy football round. Continue reading

Liverpool knock Barcelona out of Champions League with stunning ease

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Liverpool beat Barcelona 4-0 to reach the Champions League final where they will either play Ajax or Tottenham on June 1st. The match ended 4-3 on aggregate to the Reds who stunned Barcelona and world football with their magnificent comeback. But Liverpool’s win tells us just one story of the game. This piece is concentrating on Barcelona and their coach Ernesto Valverde who clearly did not do their homework.

A couple of days before the game it was confirmed that Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah would miss the encounter through concussion that he had picked up after Reds Premier League win at Newcastle United that weekend. Losing Salah, arguably Liverpool’s best player of the past two seasons was a massive blow. The club then lost Roberto Firmino. One had to be reminded of the disadvantages Liverpool had had to face, and now they were facing Barcelona in a match where they were already 3-0 down. Clearly there was only going to be one winner. And yet anyone that has followed football for a long time knew that this story wasn’t dead. It’s unfortunate that Barcelona did not.

Rewind back 11 months when in the quarter finals of the Champions League Barcelona beat Roma 4-1 in the first leg only to lose 3-0 in the 2nd  and go out on away goals. It was a shocker, never supposed to be repeated, well as long as Ernesto Valverde was coach and as long as Lionel Messi was still playing. And yet the team catapulted again. You almost sensed there would be trouble when Liverpool were 1-0 up at Anfield within the first 10 minutes when Divock Origi put his side in front. That Barca held out until half time at 1-0 gave them a faint glimmer of hope.

True the Catalan giants had their chances in that opening 45 minutes too and Messi had a few chances one after the other, but he was never on his required level to change this game, and the rest of the team played well within themselves.

Within 15 minutes of the restart Georgino Wijnaldum, a bit part player for Liverpool who had not even started the game, but has that uncanny ability to put in performances had scored a brace. The score was now 3-0 and we were simply waiting for Liverpool to get a 4th, of course it came, Origi again to complete a Roy of the Rovers comeback. You just knew at that point had Barca won the first leg 4-0 then Liverpool would have got 5 at Anfield.

Barcelona were a total shambles and a lot of that has and must rest on Valverde’s shoulders. He is of course a very good coach who keeps on guiding the club to domestic honours but one has to question if he really has the steel to win the very big games in Europe. The preparation for this game felt like it was close to zero. Just come here and show up and play like we know, was there any other information relayed to the team?

How could it be that even Barcelona did not understand the magic of Anfield and how Liverpool have through the years turned it on at home, no matter what a first leg result was? Where was the home work, the passion, the hunger and the dedication?

Jurgen Klopp was forced to make changes through injuries and hinted at the press conference before the game that some fans may think his tactics for this game would feel odd. What transpired last night was that even though Klopp has less trophies to show for his time at Liverpool than Valverde has at Barca, is that Klopp is a far better manager than his counterpart, the gulf in class was simply embarrassing.

Why didn’t Valverde think outside the box, instead of selecting on auto pilot the same tired team? What works at home doesn’t always work away, and it would have taken strength to have benched Messi in the 2nd leg. Yes it is easy to see that in hindsight but again sometimes we need to look at history to see it’s not such a bizarre thought.

One remembers when Barcelona failed in 1st legs v Milan and more recently against PSG. Who was their saviour from the bench in those games, Messi who had niggling injuries. But his presence once on the pitch and with fresh legs with 30 minutes to go was pivotal. Imagine last night had Messi came on with the same period to go, Barcelona’s level no matter how poor they were playing would have inevitably have gone up. They needed that secret weapon, and they simply did not need him from the beginning of the match, not this time.

There was a moment in the game that highlighted why Messi was not needed for the early exchanges. Jordi Alba in a fantastic position to shoot, instead squared the ball to Messi who knew himself was a wrong pass. Had Alba shot there was a good chance he could have scored and could have killed the game off. Instead he passed and Messi could do nothing with the ball. That reliance on Messi is no good, not in EVERY game for Barcelona.

Liverpool more than deserve to be in the final. Perhaps they are not the most technically gifted team in Europe, but they showed everything in last nights game that makes up for the very best European champions. Who ever they face in the final they will have added motivation to go on and win it after last years loss to Real Madrid.

For Barcelona, Valverde could be sacked in a few weeks, win or lose the Copa del Rey, there could be a feeling he isn’t the man to take the club onto the next level where they need to be, that’s two seasons in a row where they failed spectacularly through a mixture of bad man management and nonchalance. Things come in three’s and Barcelona’s hierarchy will know that and understand the little omen has to be put to bed and done so quickly.

EPL Game of the Weekend – Newcastle vs Liverpool

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When you are still in the race for a league title, the pressure is of course on. At this late stage of the season, with a single point deficit and an away day to consider, one could be forgiven for feeling a little added pressure on your day job. When you are Liverpool, with the weight of the expectations of millions of fans across the globe resting heavily on your shoulders and facing an uphill battle to reclaim the crown once so familiar, an away day at Newcastle United is one of the last things you would fancy. That is not a knock on Newcastle at all, of course – but with such a rich history of clashes between the two sides, and with reining champions Man City watching on with interest, anyone connected with the Reds could be forgiven for feeling somewhat pressured.

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Our predicted lineups for this weekend’s EPL action

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This weekend sees the penultimate round of Premier League fixtures taking place before the season draws to a close on Sunday, May 12th.

Here are our predicted lineups for those EPL fixtures so have a read in preparation for another EPL fantasy football round.

Everton v Burnley

Everton XI: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Zouma, Digne, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Bernard, Calvert-Lewin

Burnley XI: Heaton, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor, Hendrick, Cork, Westwood, McNeil, Barnes, Wood Continue reading

How Barcelona can beat Liverpool

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The time has come. Barcelona’s biggest, and potentially most difficult game of the season is upon us.

For the second season in a row, Liverpool have reached the Champions League semifinals, and they are at least Barca’s equal in this two-legged affair.

The Reds have history on their side too, as the Catalans have never beaten them over two legs in European competition. Continue reading

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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EPL Weekend Picks – Week 35

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With just a few games left in the Premier League campaign, things are starting to take shape and will continue to do so with this weekend’s round of matches. There is no Friday night fixture this week, but instead we have a big card of games on Saturday with three coming on Sunday and one on Monday evening, with games every day next week except for Thursday as matches in hand are played. Man City taking on Tottenham in Saturday’s lunchtime kickoff looks to be the biggest game of the weekend, but there are plenty of games in store to keep us guessing. Bournemouth host relegated Fulham hoping to build on their impressive 5-0 win at Brighton last weekend, while Newcastle host Southampton in Saturday’s late game. Let’s go for a 4-3-3 here!

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EPL Game of the Weekend – Liverpool vs Chelsea

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Sport has many different forms, of course – competitive, friendly, amateur, professional – as well as different disciplines of course such as tennis, rugby, basketball and of course football. One thing every sport shares is that it really takes that special something to crown a champion. Patty Berg – record holding female PGA golfer – once stated “what does it take to be a champion? Desire, dedication, determination, concentration and a will to win.” Apt words indeed, and words which could well be applied to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side as they maintained their pursuit of a first-ever Premier League title by beating Chelsea 2-0 at Anfield on Sunday. The Reds have looked sublime this season, but this game showed a grit and determination lacking in recent years.

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Is it Safe to go without Mohamed Salah in the Premier League Run-in?

After 33 games played, Mohamed Salah was the highest scoring player in the official
Fantasy Premier League game with 216 points. The closest rival to the Liverpool man
was Raheem Sterling on 201. Despite this impressive tally and dominance of the game,
a lot of fantasy managers still see this season as a let-down compared to Salah’s debut
campaign at Anfield. Now, some players are questioning whether it might make more
sense to go without Salah for the remaining fixtures and use the spare funds to
strengthen in other areas. Is this a risky option, or could it make the difference
between winning and losing a mini-league?

There is no Denying the Egyptian’s Explosive Potential

Liverpool still have it all to play for in a title race which is going to go right down to the wire. The Reds need to win all of their remaining games and hope that quadruple-chasing Manchester City slip up at some point. As of the 7th of April, Jürgen Klopp’s men can be backed at 6/4 with Betway, while the Champions can be found at 8/15. For this reason, the Egyptian star is likely to be selected by Klopp in every single game despite the fact that the Merseyside outfit are also competing in the Champions League. Salah managed to bag himself 32 goals and 12 assists in the 2017-18 campaign, which has made his 18 goals and ten assists after 33 games seem like slim pickings this time out. Those figures, however, are still exceptional and are superior to Eden Hazard’s returns in each of his seven seasons at Chelsea.

The main problem with ditching Salah is the player’s potential for explosive returns. He has registered more than ten points in seven matches this season, and scored a hat-trick on one occasion. With Salah still being in 36 percent of all teams, a huge haul could represent major drops in rank for those who don’t have the player in their sides. And for people who still have the triple captain chip in hand, there is the temptation to deploy the tactic for Liverpool’s home game against already relegated Huddersfield Town on the 26th of April. If the tricky speedster hits form before then, a lot of fantasy managers without the player are likely to be hiding behind sofas during that match.

The other side of the Salah argument is the fact that those who hold him have tied up a significant amount of funds in the player. The £13.2 million outlay for the 26-year-old could maybe be put to better use if redistributed in other areas of fantasy teams.

Sadio Mane Represents a Cheaper Alternative

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Because Sadio Mane is a whopping £3.1 million cheaper than his attack partner, a large portion of managers have chosen to opt for the Senegal international instead of Salah in recent weeks. Those who signed the player before gameweek 23 reaped the rewards, as he hit top form and bagged nine goals and one assist in the nine games that followed. This red hot streak makes Mane look like an even better option in the Liverpool attack than Salah at present, but the one downside is the fact that he also has a history of going on dry spells. Between gameweek five and twenty, the player who can be purchased for £10.1 million only registered attacking returns in three games.

Another major option in midfield is Salah’s title rival Raheem Sterling. The England international is already in a high proportion of squads and on current form represents a more attractive asset than the Egyptian. The only problem is City manager Pep Guardiola’s penchant for rotation. Sterling has missed four games this season to rest for important games, and with the Champions League in its final stages he is likely to sit out some of the easier top flight matches to stay fresh for Europe.

With all things considered, those managers who still have Salah should probably hold on to him in case he brings in a big haul. But for people without him, Mane could be the better choice in the Liverpool attack and signing him can free up funds to be used elsewhere.