2018 World Cup snubbed starting XI

The World Cup is nearly upon us. Rosters have been released and updated the closer Russia gets. That means there were some players who were not invited to represent their country this summer. I’ve therefore complied what I think would be the 2018 World Cup snubbed starting XI. Disclaimer: I realize that some of these players are on standby should an injury or illness render a teammate incapable of playing, but these players were not listed as part of the original 23-man roster for their country. I have decided to go with a 4-4-2 flat formation for this compilation of players.

Goalkeeper: Stéphane Ruffier (France), AS Saint-Étienne

Since France has a plethora of goalkeeping talent, Ruffier got the short end of this stick. Hugo Lloris, Alphonse Areola and Steve Mandanda were chosen by Didier Deschamps to be the keepers for the French camp. Ruffier claimed 12 clean sheets during the Ligue 1 season in 35 appearances (tied for 4th in the league with Steve Mandanda).

Left-back: Lucas Digne (France), FC Barcelona

Being stuck behind Jordi Alba for first choice LB can be frustrating. Digne was able to produce when called upon as he helped Barca collect five clean sheets in 12 league appearances; Digne also added in 2 assists this season. Deschamps went with the younger Lucas Hernandez (22) for the position, who had 27 league appearances for Atletico Madrid. Digne is 24 and has been named on the list of players on standby.

Center-backs: David Luiz (Brazil), Chelsea FC, and Aymeric Laporte (France), Manchester City

David Luiz was a big part of Chelsea’s league-best defense in 2016-17

Finally, someone that isn’t French that got snubbed. David Luiz arrived 2nd season back at Chelsea was met with disappointment as the Brazilian made only 10 league appearances. Luiz was essentially buried on the bench by Antonio Conte. However, David Luiz is one of those players that plays better for his country than he does for his club.

Back to France we go, as Laporte made 19 appearances in La Liga before being transferred to Manchester City in January; Nine appearances in the Premier League. With Arsenal’s Koschielny out with an injury, Laporte probably felt he would’ve gotten a call-up, but injury struck him as well.

Right-back: Juanfran (Spain), Atletico Madrid

The 33-year-old Spaniard was left out due to the abundance of talent Spain has at RB (Carvajal and Azpilicueta were selected). However, Juanfran played well for Atletico. He attributed to 11 clean sheets in 17 league appearances which is a very nice ratio. The veteran will be missed in Russia.

Left-midfield: Franck Ribèry (France), FC Bayern Munich

Age no doubt played a part in the 35-year-old’s snub. A mainstay in Germany’s top club for years now would surely have Deschamps’ attention. Unfortunately, France has a surplus of young talent on the left wing like Lemar, Greizmann and fellow Bayern teammate Kingsley Coman.

Right-midfield: Anthony Martial (France), Manchester United

Reports suggest that Martial’s attitude in training during the last international break resulted in him not getting the call-up. Deschamps would prefer to work with wonderkids, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele. Martial is, however, on a standby list for France. Martial made 30 league appearances for Manchester United producing 9 goals and 5 assists.

Center-midfield: Radja Nainggolan (Belgium), AS Roma, and Adrien Rabiot (France), Paris Saint-Germain

Probably the most controversial omission of all the rosters is that of Radja Nainggolan. With 31 league appearances, nine assists and four goals, the Belgian is arguably the best midfielder in Serie A. And yet, for petty disciplinary reasons, Roberto Martinez has left him out of the squad in favor of the likes of inconsistent Marouane Fellaini. While Nainggolan isn’t the best player of “the golden generation”, he is a huge talent within it. This snub could cost Belgium as his inclusion would only help the team.

Roma leader, Nainggolan, shrugs off his snub; “I have a new Guinness World Record”

Again, France leaves out another valuable player. Must be nice having all this talent to choose from, eh Deschamps? The 23-year-old was in the PSG lineup constantly, making 32 league appearances. Rabiot actually recently asked to be taken off the standby list as he felt it insulting to not be on the 23-man roster. Can’t say he’s short on confidence.

Strikers: Mauro Icardi (Argentina), Inter Milan, and Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden), LA Galaxy

It must be hard living in this era of forwards that Argentina has. Once again, Icardi has been snubbed by a coach in favor of Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and some guy named Lionel Messi. With 29 Serie A goals in 34 appearances to his name, Sampaoli decided club teammates Dybala (22 Serie A goals) and Higuain (16 Serie A goals) were a better fit for how he wanted his side to play in Russia. Even if that were the case, Higuain has had his chances with the national team and hasn’t shown up in the big games. I think it is criminal that Icardi has not been given his chance on the world stage.

Zlatan made a move from Manchester United to LA Galaxy last month

The big Swede wanted to un-retire from international football in order to make his first World Cup appearance, but was denied by the Swedish FA and coach. Zlatan did not participate in qualifying so rather than upset the balance and chemistry of the team that got to the World Cup, the coach and FA decided against it. While the neutral fan will be saddened that this World Cup will be without Zlatan, the locker room will have the confidence of the manager.

Substitutions/Honorable Mentions

While the following players may not be the only players missing from the 23-man rosters, these players I feel deserve a mention due to name, reputation or merit:

Mateo Mussachio (Argentina), AC Milan

Kingsley Coman (France), FC Bayern Munich

Javier Pastore (Argentina), Paris Saint-Germain

Alexandre Lacazette (France), Arsenal

Karim Benzema (France), Real Madrid

Fabinho (Brazil), AS Monaco

Joe Hart (England), West Ham United

 

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Memorable season for the Premier League’s top 10

This year turned out to be quite a memorable season for the Premier League; from historic to disappointing finishes, the season was filled with drama. Nonetheless, it was one of the more exciting seasons in recent memory outside of Leicester’s magical 2016 run. Let’s make a magical run ourselves down memory lane for the top 10 from the 2017-18 EPL season:

Manchester City first ever to reach 100 points

Pep Guardiola has brought an exciting brand of football to England and doesn’t look to be slowing down.

Manchester City are historic champions; the only to finish with 100 points in a 38 game season. While they were the best, they still need better defenders to contend for a UCL title; Kompany is old, Otamendi doesn’t fit into Pep’s system and Stones hasn’t developed yet. The left-back position needs the most depth with Mendy out most of the year and Delph having to shoulder the majority of the load. And with Agüero expected to leave this summer, it couldn’t hurt to sign a striker to back up Gabriel Jesus. Pep Guardiola recently signed a contract extension through 2021. With that extension, a new dynasty in Manchester could be on the rise with the hope that European success comes with it.

Jose Mourinho guides the Red Devils to 2nd place

Manchester United finished as runner-up unspectacularly. The Red Devils got off to a hot start this season but fizzled out by Christmas. Man United had to resort to grinding out results and one goal wins. The Manchester side was unable to grab any trophies this season having lost in the FA Cup Final to Chelsea. Mourinho has been at odds with his stars and their instincts; Mourinho appears to want his players to be defense oriented, despite the attacking prowess his team possesses. And yet, Manchester need a better defense. This team needs to buy-in to what the coach’s system or the coach needs to allow his attacking players to let their instincts take over; some sort of balance between the two. If they’re able to find that balance, this could be the challenger to Man City’s dominance over the league.

Another season without a trophy for Spurs

Tottenham edge out Liverpool for 3rd and a few questions pose Spurs fans. Will Pochettino stay? Will Real Madrid come calling for Harry Kane? Assuming both stay, what needs to change to put some silverware on the shelf? They need a better midfield outside Eriksen. Or at least better than what Dembélé and Wanyama can offer. While these players have done well in Pochettino’s system, they haven’t produced trophies throughout his tenure as manager; something has to change to pull this team out of limbo. An FA Cup semi-final appearance and a round of 16 appearance in the UCL hasn’t made this season feel any better for Spurs. At this rate, they are the next Arsenal; always finishing in a top spot, but not a trophy to show for it.

Reds reach UCL qualification for 2nd straight year with Klopp

Liverpool land into the final UCL qualifying spot. Mohamed Salah wins the golden boot with a record-breaking 32 goals this season. The 2018 UCL finalists have a couple glaring needs behind their lethal attack that need to be addressed to contend for a domestic title next season; Goalkeeper, defense and midfield. Dejan Lovren‘s days in that backline should be numbered; van Dijk can only influence him so much to sure up the back. The Reds need a better goalkeeper to continue to compete with Europe’s elite; this would solidify their defenses and get them through their defensive woes. And after letting Coutinho go to Barcelona, Emre Can leaving for Juventus, and Lallana and Oxlade-Chamberlain battling injury, the midfield could use some depth that Klopp can depend on. If they’re able to address all of these needs, Anfield can start expecting titles to come; Liverpool was one of the few teams that beat Manchester City over the course of the season. Imagine how unstoppable and entertaining Liverpool would be without the defensive woes.

Liverpool boast one of the most entertaining brands of football the world is currently witnessing

Underwhelming title defense for Chelsea

Chelsea go from EPL Champions and UCL qualification to Europa League. Despite winning the FA Cup, Antonio Conte could be leaving (or be told to leave) the club after a disappointing season following his successful 2016-17 campaign. Chelsea is hoping to extend Eden Hazard’s contract or else succumb to his desires to leave for Real Madrid. Whether Conte leaves or not, Chelsea will need to recruit a more able forward than the seemingly mentally fragile Alvaro Morata; the departure of Diego Costa in January decimated the depth at the position. While Olivier Giroud seems to have taken away appearances from Morata, Chelsea would relish the chance to sign a better striker. And with John Terry and Nemanja Matic gone, a gaping hole was left in the Blues defense; a hole that will have to be filled to contend with the top 4.

The end of Wenger means a new Arsenal

Arsenal look to replace Arsene Wenger before the next transfer window (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

The Gunners barely squeeze into the Europa League at 6. Arsenal are looking for a new manager for the first time in 22 years. Whoever replaces Arsene Wenger, will have to rebuild the entire team with exception of about a handful of players. The defense is the portion of the team that requires the most attention. Cech, Mustafi, Koscienly and Mertesacker have all seen better seasons; Gunner fans would love to see some competition to get them into gear or be shown the door. A new mentality is what this team needs and the next manager needs to embody that.

A good season by Burnley standards

Burnley overachieved this season and almost unseated Arsenal completely in European competition at 6; the team, unfortunately, slipped up towards the end. A scrappy and fundamentally sound side; Certainly manager of the year considerations go to Sean Dyche for his work with what would be considered a cheap team by the standards of the “big 6” mentioned above. No one is sure how they’ll be able to financially compete with those 6 next season, but that’s why we play the games.

Investments don’t pay off for Everton

Everton end the season in the top 10, which I would say that was their goal this season. However, given how much they spent in the last two transfer windows, they are probably disappointed with how they played. Sam Allardyce recently has been sacked, so the first order of business would be a new manager. Whoever that ends up being will have to find a replacement for Wayne Rooney as the Englishman is leaving for MLS. Striker and midfield would be the areas most in need of improvement for the Toffees; their goal difference of -14 was the worst of any top 10 team.

Foxes return to the top 10

Leicester City finish top 10. Despite some January drama with Riyad Mahrez wanting a transfer, the Foxes were able to stay out of the relegation battle this season. The club expect Mahrez to leave this summer; the club hopes to invest in more talent with his transfer. Defense will have to be addressed as the Foxes were in the negative on goal difference.

Leicester City return to the top 10 for the first time since winning the title in 2016

Benitez has brought Newcastle back to EPL relevance

From relegation a couple seasons ago and back to the top flight, Newcastle United round out the top 10. Rafa Benitez ought to be satisfied with his job thus far in restoring the historic club. Benitez will have to look for better attackers in the coming transfer window; Newcastle struggled to find the back of the net this season averaging about one goal per game.

 

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Leicester City vs. Chelsea highlights the FA Cup quarter-finals

With no Premier League football this weekend, all eyes in England will be on the FA Cup. In the round of 16, league-leaders Manchester City surprisingly went out 1-0 to Wigan leaving an easier path to the final for the remaining clubs. Leicester City vs. Chelsea is clearly the match of the weekend as both teams have a legitimate shot at lifting the trophy if they can progress past this round.

Leicester City vs. Chelsea

How they got here

Leicester City

Third Round (Away): Leicester City 0-0 Fleetwood Town

Third Round (Home Replay): Leicester City 2-0 Fleetwood Town

Fourth Round (Away): Leicester City 5-1 Peterborough United

Fifth Round (Home): Leicester City 1-0 Sheffield United

Chelsea

Third Round (Away): Chelsea 0-0 Norwich City

Third Round (Home Replay): Chelsea 1-1 (5-3 PK) Norwich City

Fourth Round(Home): Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle United

Fifth Round (Home): Chelsea 4-0 Hull City

Preview

Leicester City
Leicester City vs. Chelsea highlights the FA Cup quarter-finals

Kelechi Iheanacho will look to build on his performance against West Brom (Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images Europe)

Leicester City enter this fixture having lost their last six quarter-final ties in all competitions, dating back to 2001. However, this is their best chance to win a trophy since their magical run to the 2015-2016 Premier League Championship. They also enter the tie with a full week of rest.

Always a tough place to play, Leicester City should be bolstered by their fervent home supporters at King Power Stadium. With no replays in the quarter-finals, playing at home could prove incredibly important.

Manager Claude Puel certainly has the talent to take the game to Chelsea. If he does that, look for Kelechi Iheanacho to start, playing behind Jamie Vardy. Iheanacho is coming off a great performance over the weekend, grabbing a goal and an assist in twenty minutes. If Puel chooses to set up defensively, Shinji Okazaki will most likely line up next to Vardy as both thrive in pressuring the opposition’s back line. Mark Albrighton would also start in the center midfield next to N’didi as Leicester set up in the classic 4-4-2.

Chelsea

Chelsea enter the tie on a short week, following a 3-0 defeat in the Champions League against Barcelona. However, it does not get much easier for Chelsea as they have to travel to King Power Stadium to play Leicester. Despite that, they have gone unbeaten in their last six meetings against Leicester. Sitting five points out of the top four, the FA Cup is certainly a secondary competition for Chelsea at this point. However, with the upcoming international break, they do not have to worry about resting players for Premier League games in the near future.

There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Chelsea squad with regards to the futures of both manager Antonio Conte and attacker Eden Hazard. Conte will want to use this fixture to relieve some of the pressure that has been mounting on him. Chelsea desperately need someone to step up in the attack besides Hazard and Willian. They have relied far too heavily on both players recently so when either player has an off day the attack struggles mightily.

Prediction

Leicester City 2-1 Chelsea

Manchester United vs. Brighton & Hove Albion

How they got here

 Manchester United

Third Round (Away): Manchester United 2-0 Derby County

Fourth Round (Home): Manchester United 4-0 Yeovil Town

Fifth Round (Away): Manchester United 2-0 Huddersfield Town

Brighton & Hove Albion

Third Round (Home): Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 Crystal Palace

Fourth Round (Away): Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Middlesbrough

Fifth Round (Home): Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 Coventry City

Preview

Manchester United
Leicester City vs. Chelsea highlights the FA Cup quarter-finals

Jose Mourinho will try to bounce back after getting his tactics dreadfully wrong against Sevilla (Photo: Reuters)

Having been eliminated from the Champions League after a dreadful home performance against Sevilla, Manchester United will be eager to bounce back with another game at home. Jose Mourinho got the tactics completely wrong against Sevilla and was not aggressive enough. Thus, expect him to play a very attacking side against Brighton and really take the game to them. This is exactly what the home supporters will expect and want to see. Juan Mata should start for Manchester United as he is their most creative player. Against a team like Brighton who will sit back, he will be a key to breaking down their defense.

With Manchester United comfortably in the top four and out of the Champions League, there is no reason for Mourinho not to play his strongest side. They have kept a clean sheet in five of their last seven FA Cup matches and will look to continue that against a Brighton side that struggles mightily to score.

Brighton & Hove Albion

Brighton enter the fixture in great form having picked up wins in four of their last six matches. Firmly out of the relegation zone, Brighton should look to play their strongest side against Manchester United. Last season’s player of the year for Brighton, Anthony Knockaert, will miss the tie after picking up a red card against Everton. Midfielder, Dale Stephens, also picked up a small injury against Everton but is expected to play Saturday. Glenn Murray has been in great goal-scoring form recently, even earning some attention for an England call-up, and will look to continue that against Manchester United.

The key for Brighton pulling the upset involves stifling Manchester United’s attack early. Manchester United’s fans were incredibly restless and dissatisfied with their squad’s performance against Sevilla. If they start poorly again, the fans will jump on the players and quickly increase the pressure on the home squad. However, if Brighton concede early, it will be easy sailing for the Red Devils.

Prediction

Manchester United 3-1 Brighton & Hove Albion

Swansea City vs. Tottenham Hotspur

How they got here:

Swansea City

Third Round (Away): Swansea City 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Third Round (Home Replay): Swansea City 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Fourth Round (Away): Swansea City 1-1 Notts County

Fourth Round (Home Replay): Swansea City 8-1 Notts County

Fifth Round (Away): Swansea City 0-0 Sheffield Wednesday

Fifth Round (Home Replay): Swansea City 2-0 Sheffield Wednesday

Tottenham Hotspur:

Third Round (Home): Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 AFC Wimbledon

Fourth Round (Away): Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Newport County

Fourth Round (Home Replay): Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Newport County

Fifth Round (Away): Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 Rochdale

Fifth Round (Home Replay): Tottenham Hotspur 6-1 Rochdale

Preview

Swansea City
Leicester City vs. Chelsea highlights the FA Cup quarter-finals

The Swans have a tough task ahead as Tottenham visits Wales (Photo: Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

Swansea have been relatively fortunate with their draws and have yet to play a Premier League side. Since taking over as manager midway through the year, Carlos Carvahal has brought Swansea from 20th place up to 14th. Their leading goal-scorer, Jordan Ayew, picked up a red card against Huddersfield and will miss the tie. They managed to scrape a draw against Huddersfield over the weekend with only 20% possession.

In order to advance, Swansea will have to play similarly and allow Tottenham to have the majority of the possession. Spurs do struggle at times when they have the majority of the possession so Carvalhal will most likely try to exasperate that and frustrate Spurs by giving them no room to play into. The road to success for The Swans involves them grabbing a goal off a set piece or counter-attack and then just defending their hearts out until the final whistle.

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham has made difficult work of a relatively easy run of fixtures in the FA Cup so far. They needed replays against both Rochdale (League 1) and Newport County (League 2) to advance. However, having dropped out of the Champions League, and with the league title out of reach, the FA Cup is Tottenham’s best chance of winning their first trophy since 2007. Thus, Mauricio Pochettino should put out a strong side against The Swans. Star striker, Harry Kane, picked up a nasty ankle injury against Bournemouth so he will miss the tie. However, Son Heung-min is in the form of his life and should thrive carrying the load up top.

Tottenham tends to struggle to break down teams that sit back and pack the box which is something Swansea will most likely do. However, an attacking line of Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Son and Erik Lamela should give Swansea trouble. All four are great with their movement and fluidity and can easily interchange with each other. This sort of movement will draw the Swansea defense out and give Tottenham more room to play into.

Prediction

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Swansea City

Wigan Athletic vs. Southampton

How they got here:

Southampton

Third Round (Away): Southampton 1-0 Fulham

Fourth Round (Home): Southampton 1-0 Watford

Fifth Round (Away): Southampton 2-1 West Bromwich Albion

Wigan Athletic

First Round (Home) Wigan Athletic 2-1 Crawley Town

Second Round (Away): Wigan Athletic 1-1 AFC Fylde

Second Round (Home Replay): Wigan Atheltic 3-2 AFC Fylde

Third Round (Away): Wigan Athletic 2-2 Bournemouth

Third Round (Home Replay): Wigan Athletic 3-0 Bournemouth

Fourth Round (Home): Wigan Athletic 2-0 West Ham United

Fifth Round (Home): Wigan Athletic 1-0 Manchester City

Preview

Wigan
Leicester City vs. Chelsea highlights the FA Cup quarter-finals

Will Grigg scored the winner to send Wigan to the quarter-finals (Photo: Andrew Yates/Reuters)

Second in League 1, Wigan have been the Cinderella Story of the FA Cup. They thwarted Manchester City’s chances for the quadruple with a 1-0 win at home in the fifth round. In addition, they’ve also knocked out two other Premier League sides in previous rounds. Wigan have been stout in defense all year and currently, have the best defense in League 1. They have also been immense at home in the FA Cup, with all of their victories coming at DW Stadium.

Will Grigg leads the FA Cup in goals with seven and will look to continue that against Southampton. He scored the lone goal for Wigan against Manchester City with a brilliant finish. Overall, Wigan should feel very comfortable heading into this tie. They thrive playing at home and have already shown that they can play well against Premier League sides. Wigan should have no problem containing a Southampton attack that is often bereft of quality.

Southhampton

Having recently fired their manager Mauricio Pellegrino, Southampton are in a bit of limbo right now. Mark Hughes was just appointed as Southampton’s new manager and this will be his first game in charge. Hughes, who last managed Stoke City, will likely use this game to test squad he has just taken over. Look for him to experiment not only with tactics but also with the personnel he puts out.

Overall, the FA cup has been a beacon of hope for Southampton in a season where they have surprisingly been in the relegation battle. They have had a relatively difficult run to the quarter-finals and have beaten two other Premier League sides in the process. Currently, the FA Cup will be playing second fiddle in Hughes’ mind, with his main objective being avoiding relegation.

Prediction

Wigan 1-0 Southampton

Featured image by thefa.com

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Matić’s world-class strike completes a 3-2 comeback victory for Manchester United over Crystal Palace

Capping off a rather dull weekend of football, Manchester United and Crystal Palace played a thriller at Selhurst Park. Coming into the game, Crystal Palace hadn’t won against Manchester United in all 17 of their previous Premier League matches. However despite Crystal Palace leading 2-0, Manchester United fought back in the second half and ultimately won 3-2 in stoppage time. Nemanja Matić scored the winner with an absolute world-class goal from outside the box in the 91st minute.

The Motm:

Juan Mata:

Nemanja Matić's world-class strike completes a 3-2 comeback victory for Manchester United over Crystal Palace

After coming onto the pitch, Juan Mata controlled the game well (Photo by Action Images via Reuters)

When Juan Mata came on in the middle of the second half, the Manchester United attack instantly changed. His clever runs and link-up play instantly brought a spark to a team which was struggling to create anything going forward.

Manchester United enjoyed a majority of the possession in the first half. But this possession was rather stagnant and they struggled to create much with it. There was a distinct lack of positive quality going forward.

However, after coming on, Mata was integral to actually doing something with the possession that Manchester United had. He consistently looked forward and played the right pass and made the right runs. Alexis Sanchez looked more dangerous too with Mata playing intricate passes to him.

Juan Mata is known as one of the most intelligent footballers in the world and it certainly showed today. For much of the first half, Manchester United tried to go down the middle of the pitch. However, Palace always had men back and clogged this area. This caused all the open space to be out wide. Once Mata came on, he consistently looked out wide and played the ball into space for the wide players to run into. This was key because the wide players were then able to play in tantalizing crosses, something Wayne Hennessy struggled to deal with all day.

Jose Mourinho does not start Mata often enough against teams that will sit back against Manchester United and let them possess the ball. Mata may not have ended up with a goal or an assist, but he put in an absolute class performance for Manchester United.

Honorable Mentions:

Christian Benteke:

Christian Benteke has enjoyed a fairly dismal 2017/2018 at Crystal Palace with only two goals in 23 appearances. He has often looked lackadaisical up top and his effort has rightfully been questioned at times. He just does not seem up for it in some matches.

Today though, he was magnificent. He consistently troubled Manchester United’s back line and bullied them with his strength. He never stopped running throughout the match and tracked back brilliantly to defend a few times. Most notably, he cleared a shot off the goal line to preserve a 2-1 lead for Crystal Palace.

His best moment of the match came just after Manchester equalized to make it 2-2. Benteke beat Chris Smalling to the ball and rose high and headed the ball on net. He was unlucky not to score as he was ultimately denied by a world-class diving save by David de Gea.

Nemanja Matić:

There are no words that adequately describe how difficult Matić’s match-winner in stoppage time was. It was an absolutely exceptional hit on the half-volley from well outside the box. The technique that he needed to get that on target is phenomenal. Matić, someone who is well known for his longshots, deserves all the credit in the world for the strike.

He easily could have been MOTM, but his play throughout the rest of the match just did not stand out enough. Defensively, he was not great and allowed Crystal Palace to threaten on the counter-attack multiple times. He also went missing in the midfield for periods of the game and had a poor first half along with the rest of Manchester United.

Matić was a bit unlucky not to score in the 74th minute when Benteke cleared his shot off the line. All in all, it was not Matić’s best match in a Manchester United shirt. Nevertheless, his heroics in the 92nd minute will be all that is remembered from this match and deservedly so.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Nemanja Matić's world-class strike completes a 3-2 comeback victory for Manchester United over Crystal Palace

Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s well-timed tackle on Marcus Rashford (Photo by Matthew Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images)

A relatively new face to the Premier League, Wan-Bissaka played exceptionally well against Manchester United. Only 20 years of age, this was Wan-Bissaka’s second senior appearance for Crystal Palace. Despite this inexperience, Wan-Bissaka completely held his own against two more experienced players in Alexis Sanchez and Marcus Rashford. He kept up with Rashford’s pace well and had two strong tackles.

His best moment came midway through the second half when Rashford got in behind him. Wan-Bissaka used to his pace to catch Rashford and had an amazingly well-timed to tackle to get the ball away from Rashford and avert the danger from Crystal Palace’s goal. For someone playing only his second senior match, Wan-Bissaka’s performance was eye-opening. He looks to have a promising future and should hold his head extremely high despite the loss.

Poor Performers:

Wayne Hennessey:

Nemanja Matić's world-class strike completes a 3-2 comeback victory for Manchester United over Crystal Palace

Chris Smalling with a golden opportunity after Wayne Hennessey misplays a cross (Photo by David Klein/Reuters)

Despite not being at fault for any of the three goals, Hennessey had an absolute shocker of a match. Arguably the worst keeper in the Premier League, he did no favors to his reputation in this fixture. Multiple times he misjudged a cross and let the ball fall in a dangerous area. Manchester United did not capitalize on any of those mistakes but they easily could have.

He did have a decent save from a Paul Pogba strike but any top-flight keeper should be expected to make that save. Hennessey also struggled to organize the Crystal Palace defense in the final twenty minutes of the game. They were constantly under pressure and looked relatively nervy. A better keeper behind them could certainly have helped with directing the defense and instilling the necessary confidence in them so that they could have successfully seen out the result.

Paul Pogba:

Including Pogba here might be seen as a little harsh but with a €105 million price tag comes €105 million expectations. Pogba offered very little going forward throughout the match. He did have four shots but ultimately none of them were particularly troublesome for Hennessey. He was very wasteful in possession, especially in the first half.

Multiple times either Ashley Young or Antonio Valencia were running into space out wide but Pogba played a lazy pass that was either over-hit or intercepted. He seemed to be fairly passive throughout the match and could be seen half-heartedly jogging around the pitch.

This has been a recurring problem for Pogba since transferring to Manchester United. When he’s on, he’s absolutely world class and a nightmare for the opposition to deal with. However, most of the time this season, he’s been poor. This has created a huge liability in the midfield for Manchester United, especially defensively. Jose Mourinho certainly cannot rely on Pogba to track back at all. He still is full of potential, but as of now, he has not lived up to his lofty price tag.

What this all means:

Manchester United will largely want to forget this match. They were extremely poor throughout the first half and against a better side, that will be impossible to overcome. They showed great heart and poise in the comeback and that should be applauded. However, most importantly, they managed to grab all three points from this match. The victory today brought Manchester United back to second in the table ahead of their weekend clash against Liverpool.

Crystal Palace, on the other hand, will agonize over the fact they wasted a 2-0 lead. There were certainly some positives to gather from this performance. However, with them firmly in the relegation zone, they need desperately need results. A win today would have brought them all the way up to 13th in the table from 18th. With how injured their squad currently is, Roy Hodgson has his work cut out for him in order to help Crystal Palace avoid the drop.

Featured image by John Walton/PA

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Romelu Lukaku bosses Chelsea as Manchester United move to second in the table

In the most-hyped fixture of matchday 28, Manchester United met Chelsea at home at Old Trafford. Recently, Manchester United has struggled mightily against Chelsea, having won just once in their last fourteen matches. This included a tough 1-0 loss earlier this season.

However, despite a poor performance in the first half, Manchester United adjusted well tactically and earned a hard-fought 2-1 victory.

The MOTM:

Romelu Lukaku:

Romelu Lukaku Bosses Chelsea as Manchester United Move to Second in the Table

Romelu Lukaku put in a masterclass performance against Chelsea. (Photo by Tom Purslow/Man Utd via Getty Images)

Despite being heavily criticized for his poor performances against top six sides, Lukaku played arguably his best match in a Manchester United shirt. His hold-up play, something pundits often criticize him for, was strong throughout the game. Lukaku was able to utilize his strength and hold-up play to allow the attack to flow through him.

On his goal, Lukaku had a deft first-touch that shielded the ball from the Chelsea defender, Marcos Alonso, and enabled him to calmly put the ball in the back of the net with his next touch. He also assisted Jesse Lingard on Manchester United’s second goal with a gorgeous cross.

His powerful run in the 93rd minute was arguably his most impressive play of the day. He picked up the ball behind the half-way line, showcasing his strength and pace, as he beat three Chelsea defenders, dribbling all the way to the other end of the pitch.

With his display in this match, Lukaku finally proved that he could perform well against the other big sides in England. However, only time will tell if this type of performance will become the norm or will just be looked back on as an anomaly

Other Standouts:

Jesse Lingard:

Romelu Lukaku Bosses Chelsea as Manchester United Move to Second in the Table

Jesse Lingard celebrating with Paul Pogba after scoring the match-winner. (Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)

After being brought on in the 64th minute to replace Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard instantly changed the Manchester United attack. As a classic number 10, his movement drifting back and forth across the pitch troubled the Chelsea defenders and instantly sparked the Red Devils’ attack. This clever movement was rewarded as he found a pocket of space in Chelsea’s penalty area and headed home the match-winner in the 76th minute.

Lingard thriving in the big moments has quickly become the norm for Manchester United this season. With performances such as these, Lingard is making a strong claim to be England’s starting number 10 in the upcoming world cup over Tottenham star Dele Alli.

Jose Mourinho:

Despite being criticized heavily for his team’s negative tactics in big games this season, Mourinho got his tactics spot on. Pairing Paul Pogba in the midfield with youngster Scott McTominay worked brilliantly. McTominay stayed back and neutralized Chelsea star, Eden Hazard. Thus, Pogba roamed a lot freer throughout the midfield and played the creative role that he thrives in.

In addition, Mourinho’s decision to bring on Lingard in the second half immediately paid dividends. Lingard scored the match-winner within ten minutes of coming on and put in a solid performance overall. Mourinho’s tactics this game should help alleviate some of the pressure he has been facing recently from both supporters and pundits alike.

Willian:

Willian was one of the lone bright spots for Chelsea in a match that left their supporters disappointed with the result. He continued his incredible goal-scoring form as of late as he scored the lone goal for Chelsea. He fired a shot low and with power to beat David de Gea at his near post to give Chelsea a 1-0 lead.

He consistently drove at the United defense with pace and was difficult to deal with throughout the match. His combinations with Eden Hazard and direct play down the wings delivered the brightest moments of Chelsea’s attack. Conte needs to continue to develop tactics that highlights Willian’s great form.

The poor performers:

Antonio Conte:

Romelu Lukaku Bosses Chelsea as Manchester United Move to Second in the Table

Antonio Conte looking exasperated by Chelsea’s performance. (Photo by Man Utd via Getty Images)

Despite most Chelsea players delivering lackluster performances, the blame for this loss must fall mainly on the manager’s shoulders. Conte’s side started the game off well but began to perform poorly towards the end of the first half.

As has become the norm nowadays, Conte once again showed that he has no plan B when his tactics go awry. He failed to adapt to Mourinho’s halftime adjustments as Chelsea were stagnant going forward throughout the second half.

In addition to that, he employed far too many negative tactics in the second half. He didn’t sub on Cesc Fabregas until the 81st minute, despite Chelsea desperately needing a creative spark. Furthermore, despite Willian looking absolutely gassed from the 60th minute onwards, he inexplicably took off Eden Hazard instead. Chelsea supporters are becoming increasingly more disillusioned each week with Conte’s tactics.

Alvaro Morata:

Having purchased Morata for £58m during the summer transfer window, Chelsea were certainly expecting him to be a stalwart up-top. However, as has become an all-too-common theme this season, Morata put in another poor performance. Clearly lacking in confidence, he has failed to score in his last 10 appearances for Chelsea.

Morata’s hold-up play was dreadful as the Manchester United defenders pushed him off of the ball far too easily. His movement was solid but it was ultimately useless as he could never retain the ball when it was played to him. Morata did manage to score late in the match. However, the goal was ultimately called back as he was ruled offside. Morata has consistently been one of Chelsea’s worst performers this season.

Ultimately, Conte needs to drop him from the starting eleven until he regains his form. He is currently a large liability up top and Chelsea would certainly be better off playing Olivier Giroud over him. 

 

What does this mean:

Romelu Lukaku Bosses Chelsea as Manchester United Move to Second in the Table

Premier League table after matchday 28 (TheScore)

With the win, Manchester United moved up to second in the table while Chelsea dropped to fifth. Chelsea faces the league-leaders, Manchester City, in their next match. They could easily drop points in this match which would be absolutely detrimental to their push for top four.

Manchester United, on the other hand, have to be very pleased with this result. Despite their poor recent record against Chelsea, they put in an absolute shift this match, especially in the second half. They will look to use this result to propel them forward in the huge upcoming fixtures against Liverpool in the League and Sevilla in the Champions League .

 

 

Featured image by Andrew Yates/Reuters.

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Week 11: Chelsea gets big home win, while Man City creates separation

Chelsea 1- Manchester United 0

Chelsea gets a big win over Manchester United with a bullet header from Morata ten minutes into the second half. Many were expecting another performance where Mourinho would park the bus in a big road game, but the bus was nowhere in sight. The game was a classic intense game where both teams could have ended up with the result.

The game saw the return of Ngolo Kante and we saw the return of form for the team. After getting beaten 3-0 in the midweek versus Roma, the Frenchman brought in a big motivation into the midfield. It freed up Fabregas and Bayako in the midfield who were struggling dealing with the brunt of the defensive issues. Both look freed up and better on Sunday. Fabregas, in particular, had struggled to come into the game but he led the blues in touches, having 94 of the teams 668 in the game, he was the team heartbeat. He set the pace for Chelsea in possession and Kante was again amazing in ball recovery.

The Blues also saw huge improvement upfront with Morata and Hazard finally looking well together and getting interlocking play by reading each others’ runs. In the game, their combinations didn’t end up in goal but it seems to be coming along very quickly. Morata finished a header off a lob pass by Azpilicueta, it was his seventh goal in 10 games so far playing for the Blues. He is on pace to score more than 20 this season. Hazard is looking like he is in top form and was creating chances left and right. Chelsea is now back and sits a point of second place.

From the United point of view, they came into the game confident they could outplay Chelsea, but got humbled. Besides Rashford no one in the front line was really able to find space and create opportunities. Mourinho went back to the back three he used last week and Phil Jones was found as the clear weakness in the back line, losing mark of Marrtial on multiple locations and losing a lot in the air. Many criticize Mourinho’s pragmatism in recent weeks. Yet, when he went away from that mentality is when United dropped points. United with the loss stay in second place but now have a huge gap from first place and have the field right behind them.

Manchester City 3 – Arsenal 1

Manchester City now has an eight point gap at the top when they handled Arsenal 3-1 at home. The Gunners might feel the referees were against them. There was a harsh penalty that was given against them and an offside call missed in the third goal leaves the north London club a little upset by the result. Yet, Manchester city was by far the dominant side in the game as they had 58 % decent of possession in the match and had 807 touches compared to Arsenal’s 618. They outshot the Gunners and always seemed in control of the match.

The first goal came from Kevin de Bruyne who had a classic give and go with Fabian Delph, tacking a low shot between four Arsenal defenders and finding the bottom corner. The second goal came when Nacho Monreal bumped into Sterling and he hit the ground. There was contact but to many pundits, the call seemed harsh. Too that point we saw the Manchester City that we have seen all year creating chances after chances with ease, passing the ball around the box and pressing when they lose it. They still look very shaky at the back, and this game gave no indication that the defensive issue is getting any better.

Arsenal got into the game when Lacazette was brought in, he brought movement in the front line that pushed the Man City center backs. He was the only real threat the gunners had. Which brings up the question about Weger’s starting lineup for the game. Alex Iwobi was chosen over the Frenchman in the big road game. You would expect Wenger to start his big money signing but he went with the youngster. This is the second big game he has decided to keep Lacazette on the bench, after not starting him at Anfield.

Now Arsenal sits in fifth place tied on points with Liverpool. With Chelsea’s win, Arsenal sits four points from Champions League spots and look like they have to improve if they want to challenge getting into the top four. They only have four points on the road this season. Manchester City, on the other hand, continues their amazing start and are in prime position to get the title. They have only dropped two points so far this year and are playing an amazing brand of football.

Liverpool and Tottenham maintain pace

Liverpool played West Ham out of the park in a 4-1 win at London stadium, a result that got Slan Bilic sacked. Liverpool looked dominating and scary in counter-attacking they continue the form they have had this year against opponents they should beat. They are right now in sixth place, but are still in the middle of things to get in the champions league spot next year. Liverpool will have to continue this form and prove that they can perform this way against the top of the league.

Tottenham held on to a 1-0 win versus Crystal Palace, it wasn’t the best performance but it was one that showed maturity for the squad. The goal came from a rebound that Son put in the corner, Spurs were in control but looked shaky at times and were saved by a fine performance by their keeper. Gazzaniga had three fine saves that help Spurs maintain their lead. Palace was able to create clear chances but no one was able to be decisive up front.

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Week 10 EPL wrap up: Mourinho gets win in another big game, City’s streak continues

Manchester United 1 – Tottenham 0

Manchester United beat the Spurs 1-0 playing the perfect Mourinho game. Martial scored the winner in the 81st minute. The Frenchman got behind a long ball headed forward by Romelu Lukaku. The Red Devils got the lead and it felt it was all over, setting up defensively after the goal. The win lets them keep pace with Manchester City. Tottenham’s heavy creative style was not existent at Old Trafford as they weren’t passing the ball quickly around the box like you are used to and failed to create a real significant chance.

Mourinho went to a back three with Tottenham missing their main striker Harry Kane and it worked to perfection. It kept all of Spurs play in front on them. Mourinho found a winner from the bench as the back and worth fight from Rashford and martial continues. When the Frenchmen came in found the back of the net.

The game also saw a return for Chris Smalling, the English center back had only three appearances coming into the game but he shined. Mou put him in the middle of the back three and it was a success, he was the player of the game. Successful in the air and clearing the ball right in overtime, he was the leading the defensive performance on Saturday.

Spurs on the other side looked completely different without Kane. While its understandable to underperform while missing your leading goal scorer you expected a least a couple of chances from the north London side. Tottenham had the majority of the ball but did nothing with it. The Spurs best chance was a very difficult half volley. This game adds another name to the long list of big games that Pochettino side keeps missing out on. When Tottenham start performing better in these kind of matches, then they can be actual tittle contenders.

Now both teams have midweek Champions League games with United playing today versus Benfica and Tottenham face Real Madrid in Wembley.

Manchester City 3- West Brom 2

Manchester City continues to look unstoppable on offense and very shaky at the back. They have beautiful offense but still, show moments of weakness at the back. The encouraging part is the offense and creative playing style seems to travel. they have scored in every game this season and have failed to have a dull performance to date.

Though conceding two goals to a limited west Brom side is something that must be fixed soon before it starts affecting the team results. Both goals came from lack of communication, one with Ederson coming out of turn not reading his back line. The second came when Otamendi tried to chest the ball back to his keeper and Matt Phillips intercepted it and put it in.

Manchester City is still a top of the table and in prime position to continue this fine form. Everyone being rotated in the squad seems to perform well, which makes this team scary. they have yet to be held scoreless and if they resolved the issues at the back they might be the team in Europe.

Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea keep pace

Liverpool gets a much needed 3-0 nothing win versus Huddersfield where they finally looked like the free flowing, high pressing team we are use to seeing. They had over 75% of passion int he game and gets Jurgen Klopp’s hot seat got a little colder. They now sit in sixth place in the table and three points out of the Champions League spot.

Arsenal also had a much-needed home win although theirs was less impressive. They came back in the second half against Swansea. The win is great for the gunner’s confidence and  they came back in the game they were getting physically bullied playing the classic Arsenal way. The Lacazette, Sanchez and Ozil front line look as good as any in the premier league. Arsenal may not be the title contenders they always are but by no means are they a mid-table club this season.

The last result of the big dogs was a Chelsea 1-0 win on the road at Bournemouth. The blues still seem like a team trying to find its identity this year, which is weird to say about the former champions. They got lucky in their goal but created many chances but nothing gets finished. The team is blending well at the back and they maintain possession but they can’t seem to find the goals like they did last year. The Blues are still true title contenders and performance like this one shows it. Even when the chances aren’t going in they get the result. Last year Chelsea had a horrible start and went on a record run, it is still early in the season they can still get it together.

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Tottenham, not Manchester United looks like the team primed to push Manchester City

Manchester City 3 – Burnley 0

Manchester City has clearly been the best team in the English Premier League and they showed it again over the weekend. They had the easy 3-0 win versus Burnley and created a five-point gap at the top. Aguero scored a penalty to open the scoring in the 30th minute. The goal makes him tied for the all-time leading scorer at the club.

Manchester City dominated the game in every aspect like they have done the last couple of weeks. Add the factor of Burnley being a team that likes to play without the ball, which made the encounter especially one-sided. Manchester city had 77% of possession created 18 shots and had 90% passing success and even beat Burnley in most Aerial duels (which is what Burnley is known for).

Smaller teams in England are having difficulty playing this City side because they pay so well with the ball. We saw another masterful performance from Kevin de Bruyne who got so much time to pick the passes throughout the game. This included the perfect through ball to Sane when he scored the third goal. Speaking of Sane, his running of the left-hand side was crucial in the game and was probably the best player on the field. The young German is finally looking elite like he did when he broke into the scene at Schalke 04. In the game, he scored and assisted continuing his pace to be the best young player of the year.

Before the Year Manchester city wasn’t considered title favorites but now mid-October they are the clear front-runners.

Huddersfield 2 – Manchester United 1

But the real question now is: Who is their main opponent in the title race? In the first couple of weeks, it seemed destined that the title push would be only the two Manchester clubs. Yet, things are changing. United has turned back to a more pragmatic style that is bringing the level of play of the Red Devils down by a lot. This weekend saw a loss to recently promoted Huddersfield, a game they should have dominated from the start.

The performance goes hand in hand with the Red Devils’ last three performances. Versus Liverpool, they surrendered possession in the game and only created three shots with the goal in mind of dirtying up the game and just gaining the point. Then the team heads to Portugal in the midweek and play a crude game in Lisbon to beat Benfica due to a goalkeeping error, failing to look in control at any moment.

This game happens when you show up practicing defensive shape and being secure at the back. You can’t then expect the team to flourish when they go down in the game. Manchester fell 2-0 in the game and then started getting huge numbers in possession but they couldn’t do anything with it. They were stuck passing the ball around and created nothing. No one really tryed to take the ball and create.

With Manchester City’s level of play right now United looks miles behind, bigger even than the five-point margin in the table and unless something changes soon it’ll be very difficult for United to actually fight for the title. They can still be in contention for all the titles but playing like that they won’t win anything.

Tottenham 4 – Liverpool 1

This is why the team that will end up fighting Manchester City is Tottenham, The Spurs had an easy win versus Liverpool at home. This game was huge for the team’s mentality. Liverpool has their high pressing style that makes everyone fear playing an open game against them. Add to the fact that Tottenham doesn’t play well at Wembley (their temporary one until the new stadium is built). The game showed that when Spurs are playing their best they can play with any team in the world.

This week the team went to Real Madrid and got a point then went on and beat Liverpool with ease, a feat only a few teams could do. Young players like Harry Kane and Dele Ali stepping their game up and the team has new discipline of handling two competitions at once.

Kane had two goals and an assist. His resurgence has made people forget the early struggles the team had to open the season.

When Harry Kane is going and the team can create chances around him, Spurs are clearly the best team after Manchester City so far. They seem like the only other team that can push Manchester city in the title race.

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EPL has a good week in the Champions League

Manchester City 2 – Napoli 1

Manchester City now has proven that their style doesn’t just work against lower competition. Napoli, the best team in Italy, came into Manchester and have not dropped a single point in the season so far. They started their normal lineup and for many instances in the game City looked overwhelmingly in control. Having the ball and not letting Napoli create a single chance. At one point Manchester City had 10 shots to none by the Italian side.

This still poses big problems clearing issues up when they lose the ball as seen on Tuesday when they conceded two penalties and Ederson bailed them out in one. The defense needs work but what we learn is this team can play and score versus anyone. Without Aguero, they still created 17 chances and in many instances looked like the team in command.This is the best stretch Manchester city has had under Pep and possibly since the money has flooded the club.

The question now is not if Manchester City can get to an elite level? It is if they can maintain it. They look like the best team in Europe to start the year but it’s extremely hard to keep playing this way all the way up until May. Kevin de Bruyne has looked like the best player in the world and the continued on Tuesday when he hit post and provided yet another assist. Raheem Sterling continued his fine form and scored the first one of the night only to be joined in the scoreboard minutes later by Gabriel Jesus. The squad is clicking and right now it feels like it doesn’t matter the opponent they are going to score.

Watching this match confirms that this Manchester city squad are sure contenders

Chelsea 3 – Roma 3

Chelsea battled it out at Stamford bridge to get a 3-3 draw. Dealing with many injuries, Chelsea got a bit of good news when Morata came back to start, whose performance brought back the free flowing Chelsea we saw earlier in this season. The Blues started David luiz in the midfield because of an injury and it proved to be a blessing in disguise. The Brazilian put in a heavy effort performance where he scored a true golazo to open the scoring. Then Hazard took over, the Belgian is back and better than ever, clearly showing on the day he was the best player on the field. He created almost every play getting the rest of the Chelsea players involved.

Then Chelsea lost the two-goal lead and the Roma side people were expecting started showing up gaining the ball and creating chances themselves. They scored three truly lovely goals and showed the lack of experience Christensen and Rudiger have at the back in a Conte system.

While the result isn’t the best things for the Blues it still puts them in prime position to get out the difficult group and avoided going to a losing streak of three straight games. They showed guts to come back after letting the game slip completely away against Roma and that will be needed if Chelsea wants to make a deep run.

Chelsea has already proven they are one of the contenders this year when they went to Madrid and played masterfully versus Athletico earlier this season. What this game showed is the injuries are really affecting this squad. The loss of Matic and now injuries in the midfield and showed a hole in the team. It has made Conte depend on defenders who are completely new to Chelsea and the team’s style of play. The problems are happening now but when the squad gets back to full strength they should go away.

Manchester United 1- Benfica 0

United’s dull play continues after getting a 1-0 win after a goalkeeper mistake versus Benfica yesterday. The team started the season so well scoring 4-0 wins on multiple occasions, but now the team is getting in the mindset of Mourinho which is: Just results matters. Over the weekend they went to Anfield and played an ugly 0-0 game, now he went to Portugal and got all three points. Playing dull can be a problem,, but if the fans just want results he is getting them.

Getting a point at Anfield is one of the most difficult things to do in England and if you were to ask all the managers in the Prem would they just take the point and not play, they would all probably be yes. It might be frustrating form a neutral point of view. United got a least a point which keeps them in second place of the EPL and the only team currently close to Man City and their fantastic start.

Now we see that same mentality in Europe, and while it may be dull it found success again. When you look at the table Manchester is practically a game away from qualifying for the knockout stage of the Champions League. That is where the club fans want the team.

Ultimately even though Mourinho’s style is boring or anti-football he is giving the Red Devils the success they so deeply have missed since Alex Fergurson left.

Spurs 1 – Real Madrid 1

Spurs went to the Kings of Europe, Real Madrid and got a 1-1 draw. The result now puts Spurs is a great position of getting out of the group of death with two home games still remaining. While Madrid still clearly shows they were the better side of the night they couldn’t prove it and find the winning break through.

The result was even more surprising when you add the factor that Dele Ali wasn’t available in the game. The young Englishmen is one of the most important in the north London but it gave way for Harry Winks to make a name for himself. The other youngster in the squad came in and played a full 90 minutes and held in versus the defending champions. Madrid is known for having the best midfield in Europe and none of them were able to overshadow Winks. The 21-year-old has just 26 appearances with the club but expect a lot more performances from him.

Moves, like playing Winks and moving Kane and Llorente up top together, shows how much Pochetino believes in his whole squad and he is the perfect manager for the post. He knows how to move the squad around through big matches and shows belief in the academy. While they have lost pace with leaders Manchester City they and still within distance and finally showing the maturity to compete on multiple fronts. While I still see no way they win both competitions they are setting themselves up to have a choice later in the year.

Liverpool 7 – Maribor 0

Liverpool essentially had a road-friendly on Tuesday when they went to Maribor and beat them 7-0. All the goals the team couldn’t finish over the weekend we’re going in. This game showed the great high pace offense Klopp has and can implement. The back line wasn’t really pushed a single time in the game. It was really one of those games where a team is just practicing versus the other. This game is not the test for Liverpool, but with Sevilla dropping points, Liverpool now looks in prime position to win the group and get a good pairing next round.

England is known for failing in Europe in recent years but this year feels different. The English teams look like they are playing with a purpose to perform well and by the first three match days they have yet to lose. They have conceded the least amount of goals of the top four leagues even though they have the most teams out of anyone. While an English team hasn’t won in a while, if you compare the table amount of all the top four leagues the British teams have had by far the best start.

                      P  W  D L GF GA Pts
ENGLAND     15  11 4 0 44 11 37
SPAIN          12  6   4 2 21 12 22
ITALY             9  4   2 3 14 13 14
GERMANY       9  3  2 4 13 15 11

England: 2.466 pts/game
Spain: 1.833 pts/game
Italy: 1.55 pts/game
Germany: 1.22 pts/game

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Both Manchester Clubs showing their class

 

Both Manchester clubs had amazing performances over the weekend and are proving to be the clear top two contenders. Five games in and both clubs look to be separating themselves from the pack. The two teams started the season with four wins and a single draw, being the only teams yet to lose. The parity is so tight that both teams have scored 16 goals and conceded two goals. With the goal difference exactly the same and both teams in amazing form, the December Manchester derby can’t come fast enough.

Manchester city dominated Watford 6-0 controlling every facet of the game. Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick and is finally looking back to his world-class form for the first time under Guardiola. Gabriel Jesus scored the third goal of the game is proving to be a deadly matchup playing with Aguero. to begin the year there were doubts if both players could play together but after the last week, there is no longer doubt. They can.

Kevin de Bruyne also put in an amazing performance and is looking like the pace setter of the team. He created key pass after key pass versus Watford if he continues with that form he will be a shoe in for player of the year. Manchester City’s squad is deep and is proving they can handle the high number of fixtures with no problem.

Manchester United responded on Sunday by getting another 4-0 win at home versus Everton. United dominated the game starting with a lead early with an amazing volley by Antonio Valencia. This led the Red Devils to have a controlled performance where they handled Everton’s attack with no real panic and turning up the pressure late. They scored three goals after the 80th minute. Half of their goals this year have come in that manner.

Lukaku continued to be potent scoring on Sunday and being the point of reference of the offense for United. The team is playing exactly how Mourinho teams do, being solid at the back and in the midfield, not worried about the goals. They know they have the talent to get them. With this team you’re not worried about it like last year, you know that the goals will come.

 

 

Both showcased themselves this weekend and proved to be the class of the league so far. This goes to show that when you spend correctly and just to spend on the names, teams can improve a lot during the summer. For City, it was the Goalkeeper and the wing backs. Now the team looks in control at the back and comfortable on passion throughout. Adding Walker and Mendy give them two backs that are workhorses on the wing that will track back and forward. Something they were missing. Ederson at goal also has given the team senses of security like they never had. United, on the other hand, spend their money on a center forward and a central defensive midfielder. Lukaku has scored five goals in five matches and Matic has fit in and brought stability to the midfield. Both clubs were the highest spenders and five games in they look to have spent wisely. The rest of the league will have to step or this might just be a two-team race.

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