Monday, 21 January 2019

Premier League Picks Of The Week 23

Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 23

The 23rd week of the Premier League action saw:

33 goals - most by Wolves and Liverpool = 4 each
236 shots - most by Man United = 20
79 on target - most by Liverpool = 9
112 corners - most by Cardiff and Tottenham = 10 each
201 fouls - most by Chelsea = 15
27 bookings - most by Wolves, Leicester and Tottenham = 3 each
1 red card - Milner for Liverpool
1 penalty - 1 scored (Pogba for United)

What a match! The first match of the weekend, the early kick-off on Saturday at the Molineux, was the craziest! Jota scored a hat-trick for Wolves (4’, 64’, 90’+3’), their first in the top flight since 1977, to make it 4-3 to the hosts against Leicester. The 22-year-old is only the second Portuguese player to score a hat-trick in the Premier League after former Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo. Boss Nuno Espírito Santo was sent off for taking part in the celebrations on the pitch after the injury-time winner. Claude Puel was not happy, his side still ending up losers despite their second-half comeback and it looked like captain Wes Morgan had grabbed a late point for the visitors (87'). "Sacked in the morning" chants were directed at the Frenchman after a dire first half, the result seeing the Wanderers overtake the Foxes, the prior rising to eighth, whilst the latter fall to ninth.

What a team! League leaders Liverpool didn’t make it easy for themselves in the Saturday crunch match against their bogey team Crystal Palace at Anfield, but still got there in the end. The Reds were better after the restart, trailing thanks to some poor defending handing Andros Townsend the opener (34’), the first real break ending up in a goal for Roy Hodgson’s men. The second half was absolute madness, the home front trio all on the scoreboard, but the visitors not giving up that easily, it ended up a nerve-wrenching 4-3 home-victory. Mohamed Salah starred with a brace (46’, 75’), calming the nerves shortly after the break, including his 50th Premier League goal. Team mates Roberto Firmino (53’) and Sadio Mané (90’+3’) joined the great Egyptian on the scoreboard to seal the win for the league leaders. James Tomkins (65’) and Max Meyer (95’) found the gaps on the other side, and James Milner was sent walking by his former PE teacher Jon Moss after seeing two yellow for two late and daft tackles (89’). Boss Jürgen Klopp could breath a sigh of relief after the full-time whistle blew, with the rest of the Reds. The German hailed his world-class striker after celebrating the difficult win against the last side to beat his team at home in the league back in April 2017, jumping and punching into the air with the Kop.
Manchester City kept the gap at the top to four points after their comfortable 0-3 win at managerless Huddersfield on Sunday, including their 100th goal of the season already! 

What a man! And it’s seven wins out of seven games for Manchester United caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær - a record maker with six out of six victories in the league! Paul Pogba (pen 27’) and Marcus Rashford (42’) were the match-takers-and-makers again, a penalty and superb goal respectively, sealing the win for the Red Devils against Brighton at Old Trafford. Pascal Groß halved the deficit later on (72’), but Chris Hughton’s side continued their miserable record, making it five defeats in their last eight league matches, keeping them in 13th, whilst United remain in sixth.
Everton’s miserable run on the road continued at Southampton. Wonder-man Ralph Hasenhüttl has won four of his eight games since replacing Mark Hughes (who won three of his 22 matches) at St Mary's. It was a nice opener for James Ward-Prowse (50’), cheeky one for Nathan Redmond - a Lucas Digne own goal in the end actually, the French left-back toe-poking it past his own keeper Jordan Pickford (64’). A Toffee horror show! Gylfi Sigurðsson pulled one back in injury time (90’+1’), but it was too little too late. A tense finish to the fourth victory, the Austrian master taking his team up to 15th, three points clear of the drop zone. Marco Silva on the other hand, is not happy, conceding the Saints deserved three points, his side failing and falling to eleventh.

What a goal! What a run and fine guided goal it was from Fabian Schär, opening the scoring against Cardiff (24’)! It was the Swiss defender’s first goal for Newcastle, helping his side to a crucial win in the relegation battle. And he doubled the lead from close range off a corner (63’). It was the Magpies’ first home win since November, an absolute nightmare for the Welsh visitors. Some brilliant sportsmanship was shown by Ayoze Pérez, kicking out the ball with his side on the attack after defender Joe Bennett looked like he was knocked out cold. The Spanish midfielder tapped in the third in injury time (90’+3’), which sealed the win and points for the home side and a much happier Rafa Benítez with his side climbing out of the drop zone, up to 17th, two points ahead of the Bluebirds.
The late disallowed Burnley goal at Watford, a tap-in by Chris Wood, looked in line = onside! Crucial, cruel - both keepers did well though, Tom Heaton for the visitors and Ben Foster for the hosts, to make sure both sides kept clean sheets and their 2019 unbeaten start intact. Clarets boss Sean Dyche made a good point and his frustration clear on that decision after the match. Still, unbeaten in the last four is not too bad. And only one defeat in eight for the Hornets as well.
It was a deserved victory for the home side at the Vitality stadium after Andy Carroll’s point-blank miss, Callum Wilson’s one-touch smacker (53’) and Joshua King’s tap in (90’+1’), great balls, superb finishes, sealed West Ham’s misery, sweet win and huge points for Eddie Howe, the Hammers falling down to 10th, whilst Bournemouth remain 12th.

What the hell?! Chelsea were below par in the Saturday evening kick-off, no discrediting Arsenal, great result for them to get closer to breaking into the top four. The Gunners fired themselves ahead thanks to Alexandre Lacazette (14’) and on top before the break through captain Laurent Koscielny (39’). The three points keep the East London side in fifth, ahead of United in sixth on goal difference, three points behind the Blues in fourth. It was an extraordinary post-match rant by boss Maurizio Sarri after watching his side struggle and fail to record a single shot on target after the interval - surely, having a go at his team like that, the Italian won’t last much longer?! Reminds me of a certain jobless Portuguese...
Tottenham’s injury-time winner at Fulham, what was the on-loan keeper Sergio Rico thinking?! Taking a short free kick in the box in the dying seconds is asking for trouble, and handed Harry Winks the chance on a golden plate to make it 1-2 at Craven Cottage (90’+3’). Poor Claudio Ranieri, watching his side playing much better, but then still falling and failing to record a point, staying stuck in 19th, seven points from safety. Lucky Spurs. And Mauricio Pochettino couldn’t believe it himself, the win keeping Tottenham in third, five points behind City in second, four points ahead of Chelsea in fourth.

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

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

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Premier League Picks Of The Week 22

Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 22

The 22nd week of the Premier League action saw:

20 goals - most by Man City = 3
252 shots - most by Man City = 24
77 on target - most by Tottenham = 11
118 corners - most by Man City = 12
186 fouls - most by Everton = 17
28 bookings - most by Everton = 5
2 red cards - Valery for Southampton, Boly for Wolves
3 penalties - 3 scored (Ward-Prowse for Southampton, Salah for Liverpool, Jesus for Man City)

What a game! There was no real cracker this weekend, there were not many goals, action nor controversies, few and far between... Tottenham had loads of chances against Manchester United on Sunday, but blew them all, so did Leicester against Southampton on Saturday, more to both clashes below. 
Man City had it too easy on Monday night after Wolves had Willy Boly sent off after just 19 minutes. It was just one-way traffic after that at the Etihad, the visitors failing to land a single shot on target in a Premier League game for the first time since May 2012 against Everton. Man of the match Gabriel Jesus opened the scoring after just ten minutes, sliding in Leroy Sané's fine pass, and doubled the Citizens' lead from the spot at the end of the first half (39'), making it seven goals in the last three games for the Brazilian. It was just damage limitation after that for Nuno Espírito Santo's men. Skipper Conor Coady could only deflect Kevin De Bruyne's wicked cross into the back of his own net to add to the travelling fans' misery and make it 3-0 and three points to the champions (78'). With this win, Pep Guardiola's side kept up with Liverpool, maintaining the four-point gap to the Reds at the top. Wolves meanwhile, drop down to eleventh, one point behind Everton in tenth.

What a team! As mentioned above, Liverpool stayed top, winning even if and when they were not impressing at Brighton, thanks to Mohamed Salah's penalty (50'). Of the last 10 Premier League penalties taken by left-footed players, six have failed to score - the other four have all been scored by the great Egyptian. The Reds dominated throughout the match with over 70% possession at the Amex Stadium, manager Jürgen Klopp insisting his side deserved the win and mean the real deal this season. The German has more than a point: Only four sides in English top-flight history have ever had more than the 57 points Liverpool have accumulated at this stage of the season (if league tables are adjusted to three points for a win). And only Chelsea's 2004-05 side have leaked fewer goals (8) than the Reds' 10 after 22 games. Boom..

What a man! Ben Foster starred for Watford and David de Gea for Manchester United, gloving, punching, blocking and kicking away chance after chance at Crystal Palace and Tottenham respectively, keeping their sides ahead to bag the three points in the end. It was ridiculous at Wembley on Sunday, the home side seeing 21 shots, 11 on target, but none of them going in thanks to the Spanish keeper's string of saves. It could have been a very different afternoon and result otherwise. To add to the home side's misery, star striker Harry Kane got injured and looks like he's going to be out for weeks. With yet another win, Red Devils boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær has equalled Sir Matt Busby's all-time record of winning his first five league games in charge of Manchester United. They still remain in sixth, but are now level on points with Arsenal in fifth after their shocking defeat in the early kick-off on SaturdayThe Gunners failed miserably at West Ham, but Hammer youngster Declan Rice will never forget that winner two days before his 20th birthday, banging the ball in being in the right place at the right time inside the box (48')!

What a goal! There were not many goals on Saturday, but plenty of own goals! Burnley beat Fulham without recording a single shot on target, Sean Dyche couldn’t believe his luck! A stunning André Schürrle volley had seen the visitors take the lead early on (2') before defenders Joe Bryan (20') and Denis Odoi (23') both diverted the ball into their own net, two goals in three minutes turning the game on its head. The Cottagers are the first side to score at least two own goals in the first half of a Premier League match since Everton did so against Southampton back in April 2014. Craig Cathcart also scored an own goal (38') for Watford at Palace in the clash mentioned above, but made up for it equalising in the second half (67'), before Tom Cleverly's stunning volley won it later on (74'). 
Shane Long’s first goal in nine months earned Southampton a hard-fought win at Leicester despite playing the second half with only ten men. Ralph Hasenhüttl continues his wonders.
Willian's curler (57') spared Chelsea any blushes/dropped points against Newcastle, the disappointing (but not surprising) result seeing the Magpies drop into the bottom three.

What the hell?! Huddersfield were frustrated as well in their goalless draw at Cardiff. The visitors thought they got a penalty after Bluebird Joe Bennett brought down Terrier Florent Hadergjonaj with 14 minutes to go, for assistant referee Stuart Burt to intervene and change referee Lee Mason's mind, saying it was vice versa, the latter fouled the prior. If this was a clash at the top of the table, all hell would have broken loose!!! The officials have to give more explanations, to the players and the watching public, please!!! It was very unclear and confusing watching the situation and decision unravel. The news of David Wagner's departure on Monday night was no real surprise, the side rock bottom, eight points from safety, after nine successive defeats, but it's such a shame after what the German-American had achieved at the club in the four years he was manager.
Leicester boss Claude Puel’s post-match reaction following the boos all round at the King Power Stadium after his side's defeat against Southampton mentioned above was gob-smacking! It's not his business (the boos, the pressure, the results)?! It's not his concern?! What is then?! I think the Frenchman is walking on very slippery and super-thin ice there, the Foxes dropping down to eighth.

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

Click here for last week’s Premier League Picks.

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

Friday, 11 January 2019

Premier League Picks Of The Week 21

Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 21

The 21st week of the Premier League action saw:

29 goals - most by Arsenal = 4
250 shots - most by Bournemouth = 25
95 on target - most by Bournemouth = 12
77 corners - most by Crystal Palace = 10 
181 fouls - most by Watford = 15
33 bookings - most by Watford, Wolves and Man City = 4 each
2 red cards - Schindler for Huddersfield, Brady for Burnley
0 penalties

What a game! Six goals in 26 first-half minutes, four of them in just six minutes, it was absolute madness at Dean Court on the second day of the new year! The reporters all round, online, on telly, all of them couldn’t keep up. The frantic encounter somehow ended 3-3 between Bournemouth and Watford, with no goal after the break, leaving the Cherries in 12th after blasting 25 chances, whilst the the visitors moved to eighth making the most out of their 11 chances. Eddie Howe felt hard done by, but hey, what are defenders there for again???
The biggest game was the only game left on Thursday night (the third day of the new year, if you can't keep up), in which second-placed Manchester City ended league leaders Liverpool’s 20-game unbeaten run and opened up the title race after reducing the Reds’ lead at the top to four points with their 2-1 win at the Etihad. It was an intense game, but not of many chances. Pep Guardiola’s side didn’t give their opponents much space to play nor breath. Although the visitors looked more reluctant and less attacking throughout anyway, trying to keep play restricted and tied similar to the goalless draw between the two in October, which made the job easier for the champions. Roberto Firmino's header had levelled the score (64') after Sergio Agüero had given the home side the lead earlier on (40'). Sadio Mané had hit the woodwork and John Stones had to scramble the ball off the line earlier on in the first half. Leroy Sané netted the winner, firing in Raheem Sterling's fine pass eight minutes after the equaliser (72'). It was the first time Jürgen Klopp’s men conceded more than one goal in the league since their 2-2 draw at West Brom in April 2018 (PL Week 35). It was only the Citizen’s second win in their past 12 matches against against the Scousers. Crucial.

What a team! After their shock defeat against Wolves last week, Tottenham travelled to Wales a bit shaken, but ended up easy 0-3 winners at Cardiff, taking them back up to second and keeping them in the race before the big clash at the top on Thursday night mentioned above. With Harry Kane (3’), Christian Eriksen (12’) and Son Heung-min (26’) all on the scoreboard early on, the second half was just like a training kick-about. Next on the league fixture list for Tottenham, a bit more of a test: Manchester United.
Chelsea meanwhile had a miserable evening against Southampton, a goalless draw, which saw the Blues fail to score for the third time in the last five league matches at Stamford Bridge, as many as in their previous 22 games. The result opens up the race for the top four, with Arsenal breathing down their necks. See more about the Gunners' win below.

What a man! Huddersfield boss David Wagner sounded surprisingly positive after his side lost the crucial relegation clash against Burnley 1-2, where both sides were reduced to ten men in a true good old-fashioned battle. With only 10 points after 21 games and eight points from safety following their eighth successive league defeat, the Terriers will need a miracle-and-a-half. No team has stayed up with as few points after 21 games. The German-American called it exciting. The fans and followers wouldn't put it that way, worrying more like. Sean Dyche’s men meanwhile are up to 16th after their first successive win since September.
Caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær is only the second manager in Manchester United’s history after the great Matt Busby in 1946 to win his first four league games in charge after beating Newcastle 0-2 at St James’ Park. Hold your horses Red Devils. The four wins have come against four struggling sides/bottom half of the table (current positions = week 21) = Cardiff (17th), Huddersfield (20th), Bournemouth (12th) and the Magpies (15th). As mentioned above, next week will be a bit more of a challenge against Mauricio Pochettino's men. 

What a goal! Jamie Vardy’s 58th minute winner from a tight angle for Leicester completed a very miserable New Year’s Day at Goodison Park and Everton’s fourth defeat in the past five Premier League games (W1). It’s the Foxes’ third win in the last four (L1), one more than in their previous ten matches combined, taking them above Wolves into seventh, after their defeat against Palace, whilst the Toffees slumped down to 11th after the other matches were played the following day.
Marko Arnautović scored twice in two minutes (66’, 68’ - 131 seconds between the two) to make it 2-2 and salvage a point for West Ham against Brighton. But manager Manuel Pellegrini was not happy, after the Seagulls were ahead thanks to two goals in two minutes also, both coming from corners (Stephens 56’, Duffy 58’ - 125 seconds between the two). Similar to the match above, what is marking and defending again??? And how did the ref miss Lewis Dunk's elbow on Andy Carroll?! Frustrating. Mind-boggling. VAR anyone?!?!?!

What the hell?! Boos rang around the Emirates Stadium when Arsenal boss Unai Emery decided to take off Alexandre Lacazette 20 minutes after the French striker had doubled the Gunners’ lead, finishing off a lovely team move (55’). But Fulham had pulled one back (Kamara 69’), and soon after coming on, sub Aaron Ramsey restored the two-goal cushion (79’), before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made it 4-1 (83’), sealing only their second win in six games. Claudio Ranieri’s defensive worries continue, his side tied to 19th, whilst Emery’s men reduced the gap to Chelsea in fourth to three points. Still booing the Spanish manager's decisions = doing his job?!

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

Click here for the previous Premier League Picks.

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