Sunday, 18 October 2015

PREVIEW: EPL Week 9


This weekend’s fixtures begin at White Hart Lane with Tottenham taking on Liverpool. Before the international break, Tottenham faced the tough trip to Wales to face an out of form Swansea side. Spurs went behind early although a Christian Eriksen equaliser brought them level soon after. Less than 5 minutes later Harry Kane was back on the scoresheet, only one problem, it was an own goal and Swansea had taken the lead for the second time. Soon after half time Eriksen scored his second and equalled the match for the second time, although this would be the final goal of the match with the score finishing 2-2. Spurs had dominated play for quite a part of the match with 55% possession and having 18 shots, 13 of which were on target, as well as holding Swansea to a dismal 5 shots, with only 1 on target.  Tottenham will need to capitalise on their chances this week, another week when they are only scoring 2 from 18 shots, although they will need another solid defensive performance.

The Merseyside derby, was a decent match, although the next morning none of the headlines were about the match. But first the match, it was probably Liverpool’s best performance this season, for once they were playing as a unit, and looked confident going forward, and when Danny Ings scored in the 42nd it seemed as if the Reds had finally turned the corner and everything was coming together. This glimmer of hope was nothing but a glimmer as another defensive stuff up, this time by Emre Can failing to clear the ball, gifted Romelu Lukaku the opportunity to strike and he needed no second invitation. Also, for the first time in god knows how long, Mignolet had a superb match pulling out some crucial saves when Liverpool needed them most, he was the reason Liverpool were able to get out of the derby with a draw.

Now to the aftermath, Brendan Rodgers said in the press conference “I feel no pressure whatsoever, there is no drama”, the last words of a manager who expected nothing. An hour after this press conference Brendan was sat down at his home by FSG and told that he was no longer required to fulfil his duties at the club. Basically he was sacked. Before I go on about the current situation, I must address Rodgers, he was appointed manager 3 years ago from Swansea City, came in with a good wrap getting Swansea Promoted to the Premier League, although I personally don’t believe he was the right person for the job. If FSG were serious about the club at the time they should have appointed a World Class manager when they had the chance. 

Regardless, Rodgers is responsible for bringing in the likes of Coutinho, Sturridge, Sahko, Can, Benteke, Firmino and Danny Ings, all who have turned out to be good signings for the club, and they all will continue to perform… Hopefully. He also sold the likes of Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard (that alone is almost unforgivable), Pepe Reina, Daniel Agger, Suso and Raheem Sterling, all players that were either showing a lot of potential i.e. Suso, as well as hard working players who gave everything for the club i.e. Gerrard, Reina and Agger. In Rodgers 3 years he spent approximately 300 million pounds and the closest thing to winning he’s had was a 2nd place finish in the league. Whilst everyone loved him for making us Reds fans dream, the last 10 months or so Liverpool have lost their ways. They have looked lost in play, tactically blind especially when team begun to figure out how to break through the defence lines, and have been in shambles looking as if each player's instructions are conflicting with the next.

So where to now. Within 48 hours of Rodger’s being shown the door, all betting on Klopp joining Liverpool had been suspended. The buzz was around Liverpool that Jurgen was the man, as of last Friday Australian time, Jurgen Klopp was Liverpool FC’s newest manager. So far, so good, he has said and done all the right things and is looking very exciting to the task ahead, what a task it is. I love Liverpool, and want nothing more for the club to win a League title, but I also have to be realistic. This season won’t be the season Liverpool wins the league, I am happy to call the season a success if the team shows signs of implying Klopp’s style of play and that each week there are improvements and who knows everything comes together anything is possible. As for this weekend, with Klopp’s first match in charge, it will be interesting to watch and what has been implemented early on in Klopp’s reign.

Keegan's Tip: 2-0 Liverpool
Alex's Tip: 2-2 Draw
Ty's Tip: 2-1 Liverpool

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Chelsea have continued their dismal start to the season slumping to a 3-1 home defeat against Southampton. Everything was looking smoot when Willian had scored a long range free kick 10 minutes into the match, but this all changed very quickly as the Saints piled on 3 goals to continue Chelsea’s nightmare start to the season. This loss leaves the blues in an unfamiliar position of 16th only 4 points outside of the relegation zone. Fun fact, last time Chelsea had this bad a start to the season, they were relegated but don’t worry Chelsea fans Australia will reach number 1 in the FIFA World Rankings before that happens. Mourinho went on a 7 minute rant in the post-match conference landing him in more hot water with the FA. If you haven’t heard the rant it is basically Mourinho going on about why he won’t get sacked and if the club sacks him it will be the worse decision ever made. This week Chelsea must win, if they have another draw or worse another loss, Chelsea’s season will just become harder than it already is.

Aston Villa come into this match on a 4 match losing streak, currently sitting 18th 4 points below 17th placed West Brom, so even if Villa were to get a win they will still be in a relegation zone position. Before the week off Villa played host to a resurgent Stoke side who left Villa Park with all three points after a Marko Arnautovic goal in the 55th minute was enough to seal the victory. Believe it or not Villa actually did pretty well if you look at the stats compared to what they have been. Villa had 55% possession, 9 corners and 5 shots but it is not the stats that matter, it’s the result. Tim Sherwood is having the pressure ramped on his job with speculation that Villa owners are keen on bring recently sacked Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers to the club, although I wouldn’t trust those rumours it all seems too soon for Rodgers. The worst may soon be upon Sherwood if the current form is to continue, he could be the next manager to face he axe.
Some pundits have named this the pressure cooker derby, probably not necessary for a title but there is one regardless, and the pressure will be on the losing manager this week. Both sides struggling so definitely expect to see very desperate football because that is more than likely what will be on display as both teams look for some hope to grasp onto for their season. 

Keegan's Tip: 2-1 Chelsea
Alex's Tip: 2-0 Chelsea
Ty's Tip: 2-0 Chelsea

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The Eagles of Crystal Palace have been flying high early on this season currently sitting in 4th place with 15 points, only 3 points behind current leaders Manchester City. A fortnight ago Palace played host to a desperate West Brom side who themselves are looking to get their season going, but this was not the case after an impressive performance who ran out eventual 2-0 winners. They had to wait till the second half to hit the front as Yannick Bolasie headed home a Cabaye cross in the 68th minute, then just before the end of the match, Wilfred Zaha was brought down in the box handing Yohan Cabaye the opportunity to further extend the lead, which he did with no worries whatsoever. West Ham have been a good opponent for Palace having won 3 of their last 6 matches and only losing to the Hammers once, which was a 3-1 result at Selhurst Park. Whatever Alan Pardew is doing with his players at training and pre match it is definitely working and expect to see more of their positive and entertaining style of play on display this weekend.

West Ham are also high up on the table after the first 8 weeks sitting in 6th position only 2 points behind Palace. Last time out for the Hammers did not go to the script they would have liked, going behind 2-0 within the first 22 minutes against a struggling Sunderland side, but the pendulum seemed to be swinging in the favour of West Ham on the stroke of halftime as Carl Jenkinson putting one past Pantilimon into the Sunderland net. West Ham’s chances of getting back level in the match were boosted when Jermain Lens received his marching orders after he was given a second yellow card, West Ham didn’t take long to capitalise on the extra man and within three minutes of the red card being produced Dimitri Payet had equalised the scores. West Ham will have been concerned about going behind to a very poor Sunderland side, but there are also a lot of positives to come out of the result and the way they fought back from 2 goals down. West Ham will have to be on their ‘A’ game this weekend if they are to get anything out of this weekend’s trip to Selhurst Park.

Keegan's Tip: 1-0 Crystal Palace
Alex's Tip: 2-1 Crystal Palace
Ty's Tip: 1-0 Crystal Palace

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The Toffees had another tough match last time out as they faced cross town
rivals Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby. Like I said earlier the match itself was
a very even match both teams having opportunities although the major
headlines came from the aftermath of the match. Nonetheless Everton had a
solid performance especially going forward in attack, creating a number of
chances in the first half that could have easily put them ahead if it wasn’t for
Simon Mignolet. 

Whilst Everton looked good going forward they looked very vulnerable at the back which was only shown to be more obvious when Danny Ings was left unmarked from a corner resulting with a free header that he put past Tim Howard. Everton didn’t let this phase them and pressed on to equalise and on the stroke of half time their pressure had forced an error from Emre Can who cleared the ball as far as Lukaku who needed no second chance to put on pass Mignolet. Coming up against an inform United side Everton will look to hit the front early on. Of the last 10 matches between the two sides have result with 4 wins each and 2 draws which have been 3-3 and 4-4. 

United had a four game winning streak snapped mercilessly by Arsenal before the international break. Arsenal’s destruction was complete by the 19th minute having piled on 3 goals within that time, and from that point on the game was controlled by United having a huge 62% possession but they were unable to do anything with this possession. This result knocked United off the top of the table with both Manchester City and Arsenal jumping them leaving United in 3rd with 16 points. Van Gaal will be desperate to forget last time out and get his team to push on and convincingly beat Everton, whilst that will be a lot easier said than done never write off United especially the way they have been playing lately.
These two teams generally score goals in these fixtures so expect a fast paced free flowing attacking football as both teams look to continue their decent start to the season.

Keegan's Tip: 2-2 Draw
Alex's Tip: 1-1 Draw
Ty's Tip: 2-1 United

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Manuel Pelligrini will be very concerned going into this weekend, having key players Sergio Aguero and David Silva both injured on international duties for their respective countries. In their last Premier League fixture City ran rampant over a very bad Newcastle side, but despite ending convincing winners, City went behind early and looked to be a little rocked by a desperate Newcastle side. Step up Sergio Aguero, scoring 5 goals within 20 minutes of play (42nd, 49th, 51st, 60th and 62nd) along with Kevin De Bruyne scoring a bicycle in the 54th City had gone from being rocked to being completely dominating. Even without scoring in the last half an hour City still looked to press for more but it was not to be. City managed to retain 64% possession throughout the match and unleashing 20 shots at Tim Krul. 

Bournemouth had another decent performance last time out against Watford, hitting the lead in the 28th minute with a Glenn Murray header from at Matt Ritchie cross. On the stroke of half time Bournemouth’s impressive performance fell apart as a nightmare piece of play from Bournemouth keeper Boruc, getting the ball caught up underneath his feet when Ighalo stole the ball off of him and slotted it home into an empty net. Bournemouth are placed 15th on the league table 4 points outside of the relegation zone, they will be eager to get a bit more of a gap between themselves and the drop zone although this weekend doesn’t look promising for them. With City on fire, the injuries will be welcomed news for the cherries but I don’t think it will mean too much.

Keegan's Tip: 3-1 City
Alex's Tip: 1-0 City
Ty's Tip: 2-0 City

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Southampton come into the weekend fixture against Leicester on the back of 3 straight victories, none more impressive than the last against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Basking in a good run of form that begun with a convincing 6-0 victory over Championship side MK Dons in the League Cup, they continued on to win their following two Premier League fixtures against Swansea and Chelsea 3-1 in both matches. Despite going behind early on in this match, Southampton got over the line with their never say die attitude towards there play with Steven Davis levelling up the scores in the 44th minute. Not long after half time it was Saido Mane’s turn at getting on the scoresheet comfortably slotting the ball pass an encroaching Asmir Begovic, and soon after in the 73rd minute it was Southampton’s Italian strike Graziano Pelle’s turn sealing the three points in what was a very impressive performance from the Saints. 

Leicester continued their impressive opening run last time out defeating Norwich City 2-1 leaving them in 5th place on the ladder. Leicester were in front midway through the first half when Jamie Vardy converted from the penalty spot. The foxes were on the score sheet again soon after half time as Jeffrey Schlupp fired a shot past Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy. Despite Leicester having a lot less possession (34%) than Norwich they were still able to fire off more shots (15) than Norwich which is great credit to their counter attacking style of play. From the past 4 meetings Leicester has the upper hand over Southampton winning 3 of the fixtures and I wouldn’t be surprised if this dominance were to continue this weekend.

Keegan's Tip: 2-1 Leicester
Alex's Tip: 1-0 Leicester
Ty's Tip: 2-1 Leicester

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This is a clash of two desperate sides, looking for something to give them confidence moving forward. West Brom currently sit one position out of the relegation zone but are 4 points clear so despite the result this week they won’t be going down any positions. West Brom have won only 2 games this season against Aston Villa and Stoke City but have lost their last 3 matches conceding 8 goals along the way. Last time they played they faced a trip to Selhurst Park to face and inform Crystal Palace where West Brom really didn’t look to be overly bad although they were unable to challenge the Palace defence only having 4 shots throughout the match. It was poor defensive decisions that were made that were the ultimate let down of West Brom on the day though, with Yannick Bolasie left free at the back stick to head home the opener before Chris Brunt brought down Wilfrd Zaha in the penalty area to give the referee no decision but to point to the penalty spot. Yohan Cabaye needed no second chance slotting the ball past Boaz Myhill comfortably doubling the lead and leaving West Brom down and out. West Brom will need to capitalise on playing a side that hasn’t won yet this season and really make apply the pressure from the outset not letting Sunderland have a glimmer of hope of getting themselves into the match. 

Yet to win Sunderland sit 2nd last on the table, and after the last match it saw their manager Dick Advocaat quit his position leaving the club the international break to find a new manager. The manager hunt didn’t last too long as Big Sam, Sam Allardyce taking over at the club. In Dick Advocaat’s last match in charge of the Black Cats, Sunderland raced to a 2-0 lead within 22 minutes with Steven Fletcher and Jermain Lens both getting on the scoresheet, although just before half time West Ham hit back and soon after half time Lens had received his marching orders for being issued a second yellow card. 3 minutes later, and Sunderland’s lead was gone. They had blown a two goal lead and were a man down for the last half an hour. Sunderland will go into this weekend with confidence that if they play like they did in the first 40 minutes or it should be enough to get across the line. 

This match is the battle of the desperate and it will come down to who wants it the most. In my honest opinion, I think Sunderland will get the win, all the players will be eager to show the new boss that they deserve to be in the squad and they may raise their game this weekend. 

Keegan's Tip: 1-0 Sunderland
Alex's Tip: 0-0 Draw
Ty's Tip: 2-1 West Brom

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Watford have begun the season decently and established themselves as a mid-table club. Currently sitting 12th Watford have produced some good performances in the opening 8 rounds and will look to continue this week as they play host to the inform Arsenal. Before the week off, Watford travelled south to face a confident Bournemouth side, this was always going to be a close match between the newly promoted sides and as it turns out it was with the match finishing 1-1. Watford went behind midway through the first half but were lucky enough to capitalise on a goalkeeping howler from Boruc, to allow Ighalo to equalise the scores on the stroke of half time. This week will be a whole different story to the last time they played though, with Arsenal’s demolition of United last time out, Watford will have to step up their game to a new level if they are to walk away with anything.

Manchester United and Arsenal promised to be the match of the round and for neutral, Arsenal and any other fans that hate United it was an absolute cracker. It took 19 minutes for Arsenal to complete their demolition of United and from that point on the result had already been sealed. The scoring opened in the 6th minute when Alexis Sanchez found a way past David De Gea, and a minute later Mesut Ozil had found the back of the net, doubling the lead making it 2-0 within the first 7 minutes of play. It was the Alexis Sanchez who capped off his brace with a cracker finding the top corner to seal the 3-0 victory in the 19th minute. Despite having a lot less possession than United (62% to 38%) Arsenal made the most of their chances and were the better side on the day. Sitting second on the table, only 2 points behind City, the Gunners will be looking to press on this week with another big win hoping that Bournemouth will cause an upset at the Etihad. 

Keegan's Tip: 3-0 Arsenal
Alex's Tip: 3-1 Arsenal
Ty's Tip: 2-0 Arsenal

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I am sorry to say Newcastle fans, but you will be getting relegated this season. After what had the promise to be a good start after going ahead early against league leaders Manchester City, Newcastle were out classed, out played and defensively shocking. Aleksandar Mitrovic opened the scoring in the 18th minute and it looked as if maybe, just maybe an upset was on the cards, but that was quickly smoothed out as City went on a 20 minute rampage with Sergio Aguero scoring 5 and Kevin De Bruyne scoring a cheeky bicycle. Without Tim Krul, like a lot of matches this season, the score line could have been a lot worse. 

So we enter a new week after the International Break, everyone comes back ready to go but then Newcastle receive the new that arguably their best player Tim Krul will miss the rest of the season through injury. This will cause major headaches for the club especially with the amount of saves Krul has literally pulled out of nowhere to keep United alive at times, he is a huge loss and it will be interesting to see how they cope with the loss. But my gut feeling is that they will be spending next season in the Championship.

Norwich come into this game on the back of a loss to Leicester City, but there
were plenty of positives to take away from the match with Norwich being
able to hold up the ball and dominate possession for large parts of the
match, they will have taken the time off with the international break to
fine tune what to do with all the possession. The Canaries found
themselves behind 2-0 just after half time and were forever playing catch
up and despite a 69th minute goal to Dieumerci Mbokani they weren’t able
to use the momentum to force an equaliser. Coming up against a
Newcastle side who is yet to win and coming off the back of a major
defeat Norwich should win comfortably and push further up the league
table.

Keegan's Tip: 2-0 Norwich
Alex's Tip: 3-2 Newcastle
Ty's Tip: 2-1 Newcastle

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The final match of the weekend comes to you from Wales, where Swansea City welcome Stoke City to the Liberty Stadium. This will be the 9th meeting between the two sides since 2011 with both sides having won 3 games with 2 games being drawn. In Swansea’s last 5 outings they have managed to secure 5 points, which isn’t as many as they would have wanted considering they could’ve beaten both Watford and Everton. In the last match Swansea played host to Spurs and looked confident from the beginning and this showed as they took an early lead through Andre Ayew in the 16th. 10 minutes later there lead was gone when Eriksen scored but 4 minutes later Swansea had taken the lead once again as Harry Kane found the scoresheet with an own goal. Although this lead was not able to be held onto as Eriksen found the net again equalising for a second time and pretty much sealing the 2-2 result. A win this week would allow Swansea to jump into the top half of the table, something they will be keen on doing and possibly push forward for a Europa League spot.

Stoke City have had a revival as of late, being undefeated in the last 4 fixtures, winning the last 3 matches. Having started this late run of form with a 1-0 victory over Championship side Fulham they continue the form to the Premier League where they beat Bournemouth 2-1 and last time out they defeated Aston Villa where a 55th minute Marko Arnautovic goal was enough to seal a 1-0 win. Stoke will look to continue their revival this week as they face an out of form side who haven’t won in the last four matches. Currently sitting in 14th place, a win could push the Potters as high as 9th but a loss could see them drop as low as 17th so they will be eager to get all 3 points. 

Keegan's Tip: 1-1 Draw
Alex's Tip: 2-1 Stoke
Ty's Tip: 1-1 Draw

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