The Premier League has turned into a two horse race between Manchester City and Liverpool

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What, where when? Just when we thought a few weeks ago that there were at least four teams capable of winning the Premier League, everything has all of a sudden opened up. After the midweek games which was the 15th round of matches in England two teams have emerged as possible title winners. The first and in top place is champions Manchester City, the second is Liverpool who have yet to win a Premier League title and have not won England’s top division since 1990.

So how did Chelsea and Tottenham suddenly fall away from contention? Maurizio Sarri’s side have won just 1 game in their past four matches and yet up until the 12th game of the season he had an unbeaten side at his disposal. But first they were exposed by Tottenham at Wembley, easily losing 3-1. They bounced back against Fulham in the west London derby only to lose to Wolves, which was seen as a shock result given how poor Wolves have been in the past month.

Chelsea are now 10 points behind City and are clinging onto 4th place only on goal difference to Arsenal. Tottenham in beating Southampton are back in 3rd place after being dislodged in the top 4 over the weekend when they lost to eternal nemesis Arsenal by 4-2. But Spurs have bounced back well. But they are still evidently a few levels below City and Liverpool, they have 33 points and are 8 points behind the league leaders.

All of this means of course that the league has turned into a two horse race before Christmas, although the flurry of fixtures could well shake that up. Manchester City will play Chelsea away next and a win for Pep Guardiola’s side will surely signal the end of Chelsea’s title hopes. Games follow against Everton, Crystal Palace, Leicester and Southampton. It is fair to think that from all of those matches City could expect 13 points which would put them on 54 before the year is out.

As for Liverpool who are the romantics choice of league winners giving how it has been 28 years since they won the league they will have to play Bournemouth, Manchester United, Wolves, Newcastle and Arsenal. The Reds seem to have a tougher run and could end up with 11 points which would put them on 50.

It is possible then that only 4 points will separate the two teams. And you can guess which fixture comes after the new year- that’s right these two teams will meet and it will be Manchester City who will be at home in what could be a big step to deciding the title. Still there are plenty of games to be played before then and like a typical Premier League campaign there will be plenty of twists and turns that is for sure.

Manchester City gear up for busy Christmas period

Pep Guardiola is expected to make changes ahead of Manchester City’s Premier League clash against Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon as the reigning champions enter their Christmas period which includes nine games in December alone.

Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva all face a race against time to be declared fit and will undergo a late fitness test while Kevin de Bruyne remains on the sidelines with a knee injury he picked up in early November, with Manchester City’s match against Bournemouth coming too soon for the Belgian. Continue reading

Does Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp avoid pressure on job due to media love in?

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Jurgen Klopp is probably one of the most friendliest and down to Earth managers in the game today. If we think of the German, manager of Liverpool our thoughts are immediate: His smile, laughter and his set of perfect teeth. He is a dedicated football man who wants nothing more than to win trophies- but after 3 seasons at Liverpool he has failed in that department. Why is it then that Klopp for the most part has avoided any pressure on his job despite spending hundreds of millions on players?

A certain Jose Mourinho at Liverpool must feel dumbfounded at times at the pressure on him, which is pretty much constant despite winning 2 major trophies with Manchester United since he joined the club in 2015. The Red Devils also put in a solid season last, no trophies but finishing 2nd to perhaps the greatest side ever to grace the Premier League in Manchester City. As others have pointed out most other seasons and United would have been champions with the points that had been amassed.

What gives then? Why do certain managers feel the wrath of pressure when failing when others don’t when doing the same thing? Think of Mourinho like we just have with Klopp, what comes into your mind? Mourinho comes across as glum, downtrodden, he hardly breaks a smile even when his team wins and he is critical of players through the press. And this seems to be one of the redeeming answers, Klopp doesn’t get the back pages attacking him because the media love him.

And the media are in love with him because in almost every press conference he is smiling and happy go lucky. At times it seems like the real Liverpool manager is waiting in the wings whilst Klopp kicks off the show with a comedy routine. He is infectious and a real charmer. Think of when he was caught smoking a year or so back by a paparazzi photographer. The news was forgotten within 24 hours, now imagine that was Mourinho or Pep Guardiola, or the new Arsenal boss Unai Emery- that photo and story would run for years. England loves Klopp and Klopp loves England, and that is all very well.

However surely Klopp’s time at Liverpool will be remembered for reaching cup finals and losing. A Champions League last season and a Europa League defeat a few seasons back are evidence. It is incredible with the way Liverpool have invested and played how they have nothing to show for it apart from some memorable games and goals.

One hopes that Klopp stays around in the Premier League, football needs more of him- but at the same time isn’t it time to start passing judgment on how his record as a coach will stand at Liverpool?

Back to business for Manchester City

For the mess that Manchester City have been in off the pitch with these Football Leaks allegations, it was business as usual for Pep Guardiola’s team on Saturday afternoon after they made West Ham United look like a Championship club. David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané had the Premier League champions 3-0 up inside 35 minutes before the latter added a second in second-half stoppage time.

For the fans of Manchester City, it was a sense of relief. With an international break last weekend, the last two weeks have been torturous for City fans following allegations by Football Leaks suggesting that the club may have conducted itself dishonestly or sought to illegitimately evade financial fair play (FFP) rules, with UEFA officials now examining these allegations before a likely investigation.

These allegations made by German outlet Der Spiegel suggest that Manchester City had tried to cheat FFP rules by City selling image rights of players to a company, Fordham Sports Management, to lower their wage bill. Whether this is true or not, it could be damaging to Manchester City while the consequences could well be severe. Manchester City aren’t the only club involved in these Football Leaks but with the eye of the world watching, Guardiola would have been keen to not let it affect his team.

Their performance against West Ham United on Saturday afternoon suggests that normality has remained on the pitch with Guardiola’s side now two points clear ahead of closest challengers Liverpool following their 4-0 win in London. And while the score line may suggest City were in top form, it certainly wasn’t their best performance with West Ham under par, as has often been the case this season. As one of two remaining undefeated teams, Pep Guardiola’s task will be to keep his players focussed with an important Champions League fixture coming up.

Despite that, Manchester City have scored 21 goals in the first-half of Premier League games this season, more than Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and 13 other clubs have in total, per Manchester Evening News journalist Simon Bajkowski. But while it’s an impressive stat, it still won’t be good enough for Pep Guardiola who rightly always wants more from his players.

“I give a lot of credit to our players for the victory, but it was not the best performance. I think we got a bit lucky. West Ham had a lot of chances and should have scored. But we will have more chances to be a lot better,” Guardiola said in his post-match press conference.

“We are consistent and we are a humble team, today we wasn’t so good but I love the way we run. The Premier League remains tough and we cannot deny this. I didn’t expect after what we achieved last season to have these results.”

Raheem Sterling integral to Manchester City’s season

One of those players that Pep Guardiola wants more of is perhaps Raheem Sterling, despite his impressive stats. Frustrating for England, Pep Guardiola has moulded the 23-year-old into one of the best players in the Premier League. In 44 Premier League fixtures, Sterling has 25 goals and 18 assists but Guardiola surely believes that the youngster can still do better. And maybe that’s just one reason why Manchester City have just extended the contract of Sterling until 2023, worth a potential £300,000 per week.

The understanding that Raheem Sterling has with both Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sané shares the same characteristics as that of Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi of Guardiola’s Barcelona side in 2009. And although Pep Guardiola has distanced himself from his time at Barcelona, this Manchester City side certainly shares the same philosophy to some degree.

Whether they retain their Premier League title this season, this Manchester City squad is frightening and will no doubt go down as one of the greatest teams in European history. Of course, winning the Champions League is the goal for everyone involved with the club, it’s the trophy that’s eluded them while many suggest winning the European competition eclipses that of winning another Premier League title.

They have the players, the staff and the backing to do so but it will be up to Pep Guardiola to guide them to a Champions League final, something they’ve yet to do.

Play the most challenging Fantasy Premier League game here www.epl-fantasy.com.

Frenkie de Jong: Manchester City hot on Ajax talent

It’s that time of the season again where the international break allows the media to perhaps give fans a false sense of hope with ludicrous transfer rumours. But if they are to be believed then Manchester City could well find themselves ahead of Barcelona and Real Madrid to land Ajax and The Netherlands defender/midfielder Frenkie de Jong.

The Premier League champions are ready to pay £61 million for Frenkie de Jong who could be a likely replacement for the ageing Fernandinho. The 21-year-old has also garnered interest from City’s neighbours, Manchester United however, the prospect of playing under Pep Guardiola as opposed to Jose Mourinho surely is a no brainer for the youngster. Continue reading

Who will blink first in race for Premier League title- Manchester City or Liverpool?

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A glance at the Premier League table has champions Manchester City where we all thought they would be in 1st position. In 2nd is Liverpool and in 3rd place is Chelsea. There is just 4 points between the top three, with all of these teams yet to be beaten after 12 games. But just who is emerging as the new champions?

It might be controversial to take this stance but perhaps we can rule out Chelsea for this season. This has nothing to do with having a new manager in Maurizio Sarri, since Antonio Conte won the league with the Blues in his debut season. It’s just that this Chelsea side have more competitive teams around them than they did a couple of seasons ago.

Chelsea have been drawing too many games lately and losing precious points, especially at home and this was underlined this past weekend with a 0-0 draw against Everton.

Manchester City with their superb 3-1 derby win against Manchester United on Sunday pulled 4 points clear of Sarri’s men and it seems evidently clear that City’s main rival this season will be Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. But just who will blink first and start to drop points when it matters?

In some ways City hold the slight advantage. Not only are they 2 points clear of Liverpool but they have played them at Anfield and came away with a draw which was 1 point gained for City and in theory 2 points dropped at home for Liverpool.

It is worth taking a look at each clubs fixtures up to the end of the year. After the international break City will travel to West Ham. Whilst they should get all three points, the Hammers have already proven that they can step up a few gears when playing the best sides in the league and have already drawn with Chelsea at London Stadium and beaten Manchester United.

Next for Pep Guardiola’s team is Bournemouth at home and away to Watford before a crunch match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Then they are at home to Everton, face Palace at home, away to Leicester and then again away to Southampton. At least 20 points can be acquired by City in those matches which would take them to 52 as we welcome in 2019.

For Liverpool the importance of course is staying with City- can they do it? Their fixtures kick off against Watford away and then they face the derby at home to Everton. Two away games come up next against Burnley and Bournemouth. Then in mid December is a massive game at home against Manchester United. Then a trip to tricky Wolves and two home games to round out the year against Newcastle United and Arsenal.

On the face of it Liverpool have a much harder run in. 15 points could be gained, anymore and Liverpool deserve to be genuine title contenders. In theory then at the end of the year Manchester City could have 52 points compared to Liverpool with 45. A 7 point gap to a Pep Guardiola team seems to much to give, and it is Liverpool that may be blinking first as we head into the final straight come January.

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

Raheem Sterling can become a Premier League great

Raheem Sterling

Putting pen-to-paper on a new bumper contract reportedly worth up to £300,000 per week, it’s hard to imagine that Raheem Sterling is just 23. Joining Manchester City from Liverpool back in 2015 for an initial £44 million, the England international has showcased that he has what it takes to potentially become a future Ballon d’Or winner. Now, there are probably people out there suggesting that he’s a long way off, but Sterling has shown time and again that’s he’s one of City’s most influential players under Pep Guardiola. Continue reading

Tottenham’s game against Manchester City was hijacked by capitalism

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Spin it anyway you please when Tottenham played Manchester City at Wembley Stadium in the Premier League the whole game was spoiled by capitalism. Suddenly the worlds best league and certain the most hyperbole one with television companies willing to spend upwards of £5 billion for rights was reduced to something no better than Sunday league football for youths.

The reason was how the Premier League and football grounds have sold their soul for money. It’s no secret that football changed in England once Sky the satellite broadcaster got involved over 25 years ago. There have been brilliant improvements to the league, let’s make no mistake but they have still come at costs. This was underlined on Monday night when one of the high profile matches of the season was reduced in quality because of an shambolic pitch.

This pitch didn’t belong to a non league team, although it might as well had. No that would be an insult to those teams. This was at the iconic Wembley Stadium. Tottenham champion pretenders against the champions Manchester City, and the pitch was simply awful. Why did this happen? Capitalism and the NFL had come to town like it does every year to rip the turf up. Not only that, the NFL logo was clearly visible in the centre circle as were all the markers for the different yards- the pitch looked like a Subbuteo one. As for the NFL they just got an extra 90 minutes of advertising too.

But the disgrace of the pitch which could have legitimately injured any of the players did not end there. There were also massive gaps around the famous stadium with the top tier almost empty. Just 54,000 people turned up, which feels significant only when you learn that when Tottenham played Liverpool here a few weeks ago there was over 80,000. Again the NFL was to blame as many City fans as well as some Tottenham could not come to the game which was originally scheduled to be played on Sunday and then changed to Monday evening.

And of course the change was because the NFL game was to be played on the Sunday. Finally the state of the pitch did affect the game, forget City’s normally free flowing football and Tottenham’s epic miss from Erik Lamela, all blamed on the pitch.

Whilst it is brilliant to have the NFL come to London and showcase a match, we should be very careful in future not to overlap prime sports all for the sake of greed, and that is exactly what happened on Monday night. If the NFL game was confirmed it was confirmed and that should have taken place no matter what. Tottenham are of course to blame in this fiasco with their stadium delays. But sense should have taken hold and this game should have been postponed to a later date. Annoying yes, but at least more spectators could have witnessed the game, and a missed beautiful exciting one at that.

 

Unique Ederson helps Manchester City return to the top of the table

Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League table with a 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Monday night. It was a mixed performance from the defending champions. On the one hand, the visitors to Wembley created enough chances to have scored more than just a single goal on the other, their defending was sloppy at times and on another day they could easily have dropped points for the third time this season.

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