Thursday, 11 October 2018

Premier League Picks Of The Week 8

Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 8

Here are my Premier League Picks Of The Week 8:

26 goals - most by Arsenal = 5
255 shots - most by Fulham and Chelsea = 21 each
96 on target - most by Man United = 10
114 corners - most by Chelsea = 12
214 fouls - most by United = 16
43 yellow cards - most by Southampton = 6
3 red cards - Morgan for Leicester, Ralls for Cardiff, Kabasele for Watford
2 penalties - 1 scored (King for Bournemouth)

What a game! Bournemouth’s 0-4 thrashing of ten-man Watford was their biggest away win in the Premier League and the victory took them up to fifth. The Cherries have now taken 16 points from their opening eight league games, last season it took Eddie Howe's men 16 matches to reach that tally. Vicarage Road will not remember its 100th Premier League fixture fondly.
Old Trafford meanwhile witnessed a Fergie-style comeback Saturday evening. Manchester United were 0-2 down at half-time, but hit back to beat Newcastle 3-2, sub Alexis Sánchez with the 90th minute winner that rang good old memories around the ground after it looked oh so bleak at the break! The Red Devils had David de Gea to thank they were not thrashed in the first half, Kenedy (7’) and Yoshinori Muto (10’) hitting two goals in three minutes and the Magpies creating plenty more threats and chances against a very poor home side. But under-fire José Mourinho said something right during the interval and made the right changes at just the right times to turn the game around, man of the match Juan Mata (70’) and sub Anthony Martial (76’) starting the comeback. Rafael Benítez’s men slip down to 19th remaining winless in their eight league games this season, only in 1898-99 have they gone longer without a victory from the start of a top-flight campaign (first ten matches).

What a team! Huddersfield's comeback has finally given David Wagner's side a glimmer of hope in all the darkness, taking them off the bottom of the table up to 18th. The Terriers are still looking for their first win of the season, but Christopher Schindler's equaliser (66'), the German defender's first goal in the Premier League, secured an important point at Burnley after Sam Vokes had given the home side the lead (20'). 
Wolves' unbeaten run continues after six matches, their best run in the top flight since 1979. Nuno Espírito Santo named an unchanged starting XI for an eighth consecutive opening fixture. Matt Doherty's goal (56') was enough to down Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, Roy Hodgson's men still looking for their first home win.
Tottenham equalled their best start to a Premier League season having 18 points from eight games after beating Cardiff 1-0 thanks to Eric Dier's early goal (8'). The Welsh side were reduced to ten men after Joe Ralls was sent off with just under an hour gone, seeing them falling to the bottom of the table still remaining without a win.
At the other end of the table, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea remain unbeaten, the last three teams without a defeat. More to the meeting between the prior two below, whilst the Blues had it too easy, ending 0-3 winners at Southampton.

What a man! Glenn Murray’s 99th Albion goal and fifth of the season won it for Brighton against West Ham on Friday night (25’). The 35-year-old has been involved in 33 goals in 44 home appearances since the start of 2016-17. The Amex king ended the Seagulls’ five-game winless run in the league, whilst serving the Hammers their first league defeat in four league games. Only Chelsea forward Eden Hazard has scored more Premier League goals this season. The Belgian was essential in the Blues' win at Southampton with four key passes, 99 passes, 85.1% pass accuracy, five shots and the opening goal (30'). Ross Barkley assisted the opener and doubled his side's lead (57') before Alvaro Morata put the icing on the cake and made it 0-3 deep into injury time (93'). It's the first time an Englishman has assisted and scored for Roman Abramovich's side since Frank Lampard in December 2013.

What a goal! Gylfi Sigurðsson’s 50th Premier League goal was a stunning strike from 25 yards into the top corner (77’). That cracker gave Everton a 1-2 win at Leicester after Foxes captain Wes Morgan was sent off for the second time in three league games. It’s the Toffees first consecutive win this season and their first victory on the road which takes them up to eleventh, level on points with their opponents in tenth.
Arsenal were showing off on Sunday, thrashing Fulham 1-5 at Craven Cottage with some flashy finishes. It was all level at the break and looked very frustrating, but the Gunners shot the home side to pieces after the break. Alexandre Lacazette (29', 49') and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (79', 91') both starred with braces either side of Aaron Ramsey's star goal (67'). The Welsh midfielder scored within a minute of coming on as a substitute, starting and finishing a stunning team move. Manager Unai Emery can be a very happy man after seeing his side record their ninth consecutive win in all competitions, their best run since April 2015, taking them up to fourth.

What the hell?! United’s comeback win mentioned above confused everyone! Yay! Nay! No way! Half-time was the end of Mourinho, full-time the resurrection was complete. Some of the refereeing decisions were just wrong though, a goal kick was given when it should have been a corner, more like a penalty after a blatant handball! No discrediting the Red Devils and their fight back, but, it cannot hide the cracks and lacks of the team that have been oh so evident this season! Their next game will be at Chelsea after the international break, a real test of character and team play.
The one game you thought and expected the most of, had the least to show for, no goals at Anfield, just misses, and what a miss it was by Riyad Mahrez from the spot for City. Neither side recorded a single shot on target for over an hour! The goalless draw kept both clean sheets and unbeaten records in tact, as mentioned above, the top three locked on 20 points. Click here for my full match report.

My Predictions - Actual Results 
Brighton 2:2 West Ham - 1:0
Burnley 3:1 Huddersfield - 1:1
Crystal Palace 0:1 Wolves - 0:1
Leicester 2:1 Everton - 1:2
Tottenham 3:1 Cardiff - 1:0
Watford 2:1 Bournemouth - 0:4
Man United 1:1 Newcastle - 3:2
Fulham 1:2 Arsenal - 1:5
Southampton 0:3 Chelsea - 0:3
Liverpool 2:1 Man City - 0:0 or my match report

Click here for last week’s Premier League Picks.

All pictures, facts and stats were taken from the BBC match reports, Sky and RMC sports apps and coverage.

Deadlocked & Unbeaten Reds & Citizens

Sports - Football - Premier League - LFC 0:0 MCFC

Liverpool and Manchester City remain unbeaten and tied with Chelsea on 20 points at the top of the Premier League after their goalless draw at Anfield on Sunday.

It was definitely not the Super Sunday clash as it was built up and expected to be between the two sides that shared 12 goals in their two league meetings last season and six goals in their Champions League matches.

MCFC 5-0 LFC (09/09/2017), LFC 4-3 MCFC (14/01/2018)
LFC 3-0 MCFC (04/04/2018), MCFC 1-2 LFC (10/04/2018)

It took 62 minutes to get the first shot on target, Riyad Mahrez testing Alisson from inside the box shortly before Mohamed Salah's curler from 20 yards was easily caught by Ederson.

Both keepers had nothing to do until then, after a frantic opening 15-20 minutes, the Sky Blues kept the Reds under control and vice versa.

The visitors had 51% possession, their lowest in a Premier League games under their Spanish boss, the home side weren't helped though by injury to their vice-skipper James Milner with under half an hour gone.

It was the first time City failed to have a single shot in the first half since April 2010 against Arsenal and a shot on target in the first half of a Premier League game since the final game of last season against Southampton.

And November 2017 against Chelsea was the last time for Jürgen Klopp's side not to register an attempt on target in the first half of a Premier League game.

But it was not like they were not trying, Sadio Mané and Salah worked hard throughout, Roberto Firmino still seemed isolated and hardly got a touch or look into the game.

Man of the match Bernardo Silva was the key to that, keeping the Citizens locked, recording and completing more tackles than anyone else on the pitch.

Former Red Raheem Sterling and Argentinian fireman Sergio Agüero were both kept quiet, the latter was taken off after 66 minutes, his record against LFC looking dire with no goals in his ten appearances (700 minutes played, 0 wins, 11 shots, 3 on target).

The first genuine save came in the 74th minute, the home side's Brazilian stopper tipping away Mahrez's low shot.

Pep Guardiola's men were given a lifeline after Virgil van Dijk slid into Leroy Sané, getting more of the man than the ball, seconds after it looked like the latter had fouled Salah in the buildup.

Penalty to City it was, five minutes of normal time to go, all hard work looked to be undone for the Reds, until Mahrez took the kick off Gabriel Jesus and put it sky-high to the left and out, relief all round at Anfield.

The Algerian winger has missed five of his last eight spot kicks (four for Leicester, one for City), among players to have taken at least 10 penalties in the Premier League, only former Aston Villa man Juan Pablo Ángel (50%, 5/10) has a lower rate than Mahrez (58%, 7/12).

The champions have not won a league game at Anfield in 15 years, but as frustrating as that miss was, both bosses left happy with their sides' unbeaten records and clean sheets in tact.

Pep has won just one of his past eight managerial meetings with Klopp in all competitions (D3, L4), and is winless in the most recent four (D1, L3, see links above).

Liverpool's total of 20 points is their joint-most after eight games of a Premier League campaign, having also done so in 1996-97 and 2008-09.

As mentioned above, both the Reds and Sky Blues with Chelsea remain unbeaten in the league this campaign, which is just the second time in the Premier League era that as many as three teams have gone unbeaten in their opening eight games of a single season (also 2011-12 with Manchester City, Manchester United and Newcastle).

The international break is coming at a perfect time for all three sides, to recharge, recap and restart their winning mentality and firing boots.

Liverpool Team: 13 Alisson; 26 Robertson, 4 van Dijk, 6 Lovren, 12 Gomez; 7 Milner (8 Keita 29'), 14 Henderson (c), 5 Wijnaldum (booked 90'); 10 Mané, 9 Firmino (15 Sturridge 72'), 11 Salah. 4-3-3
Subs not used: 3 Fabinho, 22 Mignolet, 23 Shaqiri, 32 Matip, 66 Alexander-Arnold.

Man City Team: 31 Ederson; 22 Mendy (booked 64'), 14 Laporte, 5 Stones, 2 Walker; 25 Fernandinho, B Silva (booked 21'); 7 Sterling (19 Sané 76'), 21 D Silva (c), 26 Mahrez; 10 Agüero (booked 56') (33 de Jesus 66'). 4-2-3-1
Subs not used: 3 Danilo, 4 Kompany, 30 Otamendi, 47 Foden, 49 Muric.

HT Stats: LFC 0-0 MCFC
Possession: 43%-57%
Shots: 2-1
On target: 0-0
Corners: 2-4
Fouls: 5-3
Bookings: 0-1

FT Stats: LFC 0-0 MCFC
Possession: 49%-51%
Shots: 7-6
On target: 2-2
Corners: 2-6
Fouls: 10-10
Bookings: 1-3

Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the match: Bernardo Silva
Ground: Anfield
Attendance: 52,117

Click here for my last LFC match report.

All pictures, facts and stats were taken from the BBC match report, Twitter, Sky Sports and RMC app and match coverage.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

CL Shocker At San Paolo For Reds

Sports - Football - Champions League - NAP 1:0 LIV

Liverpool suffered their second defeat in their last three matches, all winless in all competitions, losing 1:0 against Napoli in the Champions League group match at the Stadio San Paolo, thanks to Lorenzo Insigne’s last-minute winner (90’).

The Reds were a shadow of their usual attacking and hungry selves, losing the ball again and again and not recording a single shot on target in Italy on Wednesday night.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men, second in Serie A, six points behind leaders Juventus, dominated possession, play and didn’t let the visitors have a single sniffer into the game.

Jürgen Klopp was unusually quiet as well, not his usual manic shouting and gesturing self on the sideline. One could feel something was just missing, not clicking, not right.

Especially the front trio, Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah just couldn’t connect and kept misplacing and losing the ball, whilst there was no sign at all of Roberto Firmino.

It didn’t help when Naby Keïta had to be replaced by Jordan Henderson early on in the first half due to an injury to his back (18’).

Alisson stopped Arkadiusz Milik’s shot from swivelling in and collected the rebound (33’) before the Blues upped their game after the restart.

Milik’s drive was too much for the Brazilian stopper and needed to be hacked away by Virgil van Dijk (50’).

Joe Gomez cleared José Callejón’s volley off the line (75’) before sub Dries Mertens hit the crossbar (82’).

But the hosts were rewarded for all their hard work in the final minute of normal time when man of the match Insigne netted Callejón’s precise cross, sparking wild celebrations.

This result and PSG’s 6-1 thrashing of Red Star Belgrade throw Group C wide open, taking Napoli above Liverpool to the top.

It was the first time since February 2006 that the Reds have failed to record a single shot on target in a Champions League game (0-1 vs Benfica).

And December 2009 was the last time they have lost a Champions League game thanks to a 90th minute winner (Alberto Gilardino for Fiorentina).

It was the worst display by far this season, no pace, no connection, no chance and last season’s finalists only had their keeper and defenders to thank that it didn’t end up being a bigger thrashing.

It will not help their confidence ahead of the big Super Sunday Premier League clash against champions and league leaders Manchester City.

If they play like this against the champions, they will get thrashed, torn to bits and left to wreck... 

But it wouldn't be the first time for Klopp to have a surprise up his sleeve and come back stronger. 

The German conceded this one goes on him, it was his fault and will make sure they will learn from it to make sure the Reds keep their unbeaten record in the Premier League up and going.

Napoli Goal: Insigne 90’.

Napoli Team: 25 Ospina; 6 Rui, 26 Koulibaly (booked 25’), 33 Albiol, 19 Maksimovic; 8 Ruiz Peña (14 Mertens 68’), 17 Hamsik (c) (20 Zielinski 81’), 5 Allan, 7 Callejón; 99 Milik (9 Verdi 68’), 24 Insigne. 4-4-2
Subs not used: 23 Hysajs, 27 Karnezis, 30 Rog, 42 Diawara.

Liverpool Team: 13 Allison; 26 Robertson, 4 van Dijk, 12 Gomez, 66 Alexander-Arnold; 8 Keita (14 Henderson 19’), 5 Wijnaldum, 7 Milner (c) (booked 45’+2’) (3 Fabinho 76’); 10 Mané (15 Sturridge 89’), 9 Firmino, 11 Salah. 4-3-3
Subs not used: 6 Lovren, 18 Moreno, 22 Mignolet, 23 Shaqiri.

HT Stats: NAP 0-0 LIV
Possession: 52%-48%
Shots: 3-3
On target: 1-0
Corners: 1-0
Fouls: 5-5
Bookings: 1-1

FT Stats: NAP 1-0 LIV
Possession: 57%-43%
Shots: 14-4
On target: 5-0
Corners: 5-1
Fouls: 12-9
Bookings: 1-1

Referee: Viktor Kassai
Man of the match: Lorenzo Insigne
Ground: Stadio San Paolo
Attendance: 37,057

Click here for my last LFC match report.

All pictures, facts and stats were taken from the BBC match report, Sky Sports app and BT and RMC Sport coverage.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Premier League Picks Of The Week 7

Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 7

Here are my Premier League Picks Of The Week 7:

25 goals - most by Everton and West Ham = 3 each
231 shots - most by Man City = 28
81 on target - most by Man City = 8
110 corners - most by Everton = 12
221 fouls - most by Watford and Huddersfield = 17 each 
32 bookings - most by Crystal Palace = 4
0 red cards
4 penalties - 3 scored (Vardy for Leicester, Kane for Tottenham, Stanislas for Bournemouth)

What a game! Bubbles were blowing loud and galore as West Ham beat Manchester United by a goal margin over two in a league game for the first time since October 1982. Manuel Pellegrini’s men have picked up seven points from the last three games, showing great team spirit against absolute shambles (no discrediting the home side). Felipe Anderson (5’), Victor Lindelöf (43’ own goal) and Marko Arnautović (74’) were on the scoreboard for the Hammers, shattering José Mourinho’s men at London Road, Marcus Rashford (71’) with the only lonely reply. More to the Mancs' misery below.
The draw at Stamford Bridge stunned everyone, it was “spectacular” as Jürgen Klopp put it, with top quality play, goals and saves, honours even seemed a fair result. More to that cracker also below.

What a team! It’s the Red Devil’s worst start to a league season in 29 years. Their Portuguese boss can moan and groan as much as he likes, about the ref, about the linesman, about certain players, about the lack of investment, bla bla bla bla bla. It all doesn't distract from the fact they are not playing as a team. They were absolute sleepwalking shambles on Saturday. Mourinho’s bags under his eyes showed he is done. This is the worst and least organised/inspired/driven I have ever seen the record 20-times champions. Full. Stop.
Newcastle have lost their first four home games on the trot for the first time ever after Leicester beat them comfortably 0-2 in a game of few chances at St James Park. Protests are still loud against Mike Ashley, more rumours about him selling but nothing happening nor changing just frustrate and anger the fans more and more, not even mentioning the pressure on Rafael Benítez. The Spaniard has done a great job in the couple of years he has been at the Tyneside club but is getting nothing back for all his troubles.
Cardiff City are on their worst run since 1964-65 having failed to win in eight games in all competitions after losing 1-2 against Burnley on Sunday. Only the Magpies have scored fewer goals.

What a man! Marco Silva said something right at half-time as Everton scored three in the second half to beat Fulham 3-0 thanks to Gylfi Sigurðsson’s brace (56’ and 89’) after the Icelandic midfielder had missed a penalty (52’) and Cenk Tosun with an easy header (66’). It’s the Toffees first win since August, whilst the Cottagers suffered their fourth defeat of the season, Ryan Sessegnon hitting the woodwork, oh so close, but yet so far. The London club have never won at Goodison Park in the league, losing 23 - the last 22 in a row - and drawing the other four games.
Roy Hodgson looked furious after watching Mamadou Sakho concede a silly penalty which handed Bournemouth a late winner against Crystal Palace at Dean Court on Monday night. The win took the Cherries up to seventh, six points ahead of Palace in 13th. David Brooks’ first Premier League goal for the home side was just as much of a cracker as Patrick Van Aanholt’s slammed in equaliser - but the latter looked offside. So, fair result in the end.

Twitter Source: @AnfieldExpress
What a goal! Daniel Sturridge’s last-minute equaliser silenced Stamford Bridge. It was a stunner, from distance, into the top right corner, no chance for the keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga who stared on gobsmacked, mouth wide open himself (89’). Eden Hazard had given the Blues the lead beating Alisson with a low strike (25’) after Mohamed Salah had missed a couple of chances for the visitors. Both most expensive keepers in the world made sure the scoreboard didn’t fill up and maintained both sides’ unbeaten league records. The result sees the Reds second behind City on goal difference, whilst Maurizio Sarri’s men are third.
Ivan Cavaleiro scored with his first touch in the Premier League to help Wolves beat Southampton 2-0 at Molineux. It was one of two decisive late goals in a less spectacular game (79' and 87').

What the hell?! Arsenal also left it late, two goals in two minutes to beat Watford to make it five league wins in a row. Craig Cathcart turned the opener into his own net off Alex Iwobi's fine drive (81') and Mesut Özil doubled the score a couple of minutes later (83'). New Gunners boss Unai Emery's heat map showed the Spaniard is on fire trying and working hard to reform the team his way.
David Wagner said his side will win games if they keep playing like they did against Tottenham despite losing 0-2 thanks to Harry Kane’s brace. It seems very hard to believe that watching Huddersfield stuck rock bottom still waiting for their first win of the season after seven games, having only scored three goals against 16 conceded.
Salah and Paul Pogba were both surprise substitutions for Liverpool and United respectively. Well, not really surprisingly, as both players were nowhere near their best. The big difference is though, the effort, results and their sides’ form and positions. From top to flop, respectively. Klopp to Mourinwho?!
Man City meanwhile top the table on goal difference after dominating and beating Brighton 2-0 thanks to Raheem Sterling and Sergio Agüero. Pep and co are probably wondering what all the fuss is about - we will see how they will fare next week in their big test against the Reds, the only side to beat the champions last season.

My Predictions - Actual Results 
West Ham 1:1 Man United - 3:1
Arsenal 2:1 Watford - 2:0
Everton 2:1 Fulham - 3:0
Huddersfield 0:2 Tottenham - 0:2
Man City 3:0 Brighton - 2:0
Newcastle 1:2 Leicester - 0:2
Wolves 1:0 Southampton - 2:0
Chelsea 1:2 Liverpool - 1:1
Cardiff 0:0 Burnley - 1:2
Bournemouth 1:1 Crystal Palace - 2:1

Click here for last week’s Premier League Picks.

All pictures, facts and stats were taken from the BBC match reports, MOTD, Twitter, Sky Sports and RMC apps and coverage.