Premier League: Our round 14 predictions

Premier League: Our round 14 predictions

Hoo boy, we are at that time of year. The games are coming thick and fast for the premier league sides now, and that means that this post is gonna be everywhere on FootyFans now.

Shockingly, the positions still haven’t changed from last round. I’m last on 61, Alf is on 73, and Oliver is on 85.

On with the tipping!

Cardiff City vs Wolverhampton Wanderers

Image result for Cardiff vs Wolves

Dan

Tricky one to predict. Wolves haven’t won since early October, while Cardiff are on a run of winning a game then losing a game. Given how out of form Wolves are, and given that they lost to Everton last time out, I’ll go with Cardiff to edge this one. 2-1 Cardiff

Oliver

This game is screaming boring at me. Wolves somehow lost to Huddersfield at home, while Cardiff are just Cardiff. It’s not possible for both teams to lose, but it is possible for neither team to score and that’s what will happen. 0-0 draw

Alf

The Wolves may have lost against Huddersfield and Cardiff may have dropped points against Everton. Both sides will be eager to win but history will prove otherwise – a draw will be the most desirable results for them. 1-1 draw

AFC Bournemouth vs Manchester City

Dan

Bournemouth are no pushovers – rather, they’re quite a good team. This is a tip, but it’s also a prayer, for as a United fan who hates City, please, please let City drop points here. 2-2 draw

Oliver

Bournemouth are starting to drop off a little from their brilliant early-season form, and Manchester City managed a 4-0 win away last week. I wouldn’t expect them to go that high but it’s an easy win for the Citizens. 3-1 City

Alf

The Cherries battled till the end but eventually, missed the chance to edge Arsenal at home. As they arrive at the Etihad, it’ll be no surprise if they leave the stadium without a single point. It’ll be a miracle for Begović if he keeps a clean sheet, if not making multiple saves in a thrashing. 4-0 City

Leicester City vs Watford

Dan

Leicester are undefeated in four, while Watford haven’t won in three. With the home advantage, I can see Leicester taking the points, going above Watford, and making Watford’s win less run extend to four games. 2-1 Leicester

Oliver

A James Maddison-less Leicester City will be considerably less effective against a Watford side one place above them in the table, but despite that, I expect a fairly even match. Both sides are about as good as each other, even if the Foxes are missing their talented youngster. 1-1 draw

Alf

Both sides are looking to solidify their Top 10 spots. Naturally, it’ll be a draw but it’s Leicester’s home hame, so the advantage should help the Foxes to grab all three points. Sorry, Watford supporters! 2-1 Leicester

Crystal Palace vs Burnley

Image result for Crystal Palace vs Burnley

Dan

Two defensive teams in the lower echelons of the table face off, and honestly, this has a 0-0 draw written all over it. 0-0 draw.

Oliver

What’s happened to Burnley? They were so good last season and it’s just fallen to pieces for them. Losing to Crystal Palace would be a cruel blow, but one I feel is likely to happen as Sean Dyche moves ever-closer to the sack. 1-0 Palace

Alf

Palace managed to grab a point against a rather weak Manchester United lineup. Burnley lost to an improving Newcastle side at home. Again, Burnley will have difficulties in containing Zaha and won’t last long in the PL if they continue to play like this. 2-0 Palace

Newcastle vs West Ham

Dan

Fucking Newcastle. No matter what I tip for them, they will always do the opposite. Anyway, with the run of form that they are on, they should beat the Hammers at home. But hey, it’s Newcastle, so they naturally won’t. 2-1 Newcastle

Oliver

You know things are bleak when Newcastle’s being tipped to win against you, and that’s how I feel about West Ham. A 4-0 loss at home is embarrassing even if it’s against Manchester City and nothing’s gonna get better after this match. 2-0 Newcastle

Alf

The Hammers lost to a quality Manchester City traveling party. The Magpies are soaring high under Benítez. A tricky fixture to predict, nonetheless, and it’s perfectly normal to have it ending in a draw. 1-1 draw.

Huddersfield vs Brighton

Dan

Huddersfield won? Last week? Against Wolves? Trust me, I can’t understand it either, but if they can do it away against Wolves, they’ll do it against Brighton too. Are we seeing a revival from the terriers? 2-0 Huddersfield

Oliver

Huddersfield are finally starting to pick up some steam. It’s taken a while, but the Yorkshire club are now in fifteenth and haven’t lost in three. I don’t think they’ll win this, but I can’t see them losing either. 1-1 draw

Alf

Aaron Mooy’s brace means, in reality, nothing to Huddersfield as they have yet to find their confidence to find the back of the net. Against Brighton, who scores almost every time they play, they’ll struggle to defend against them. 1-0 Brighton

Southampton vs Manchester United

Dan

Much like last week, two goal-shy sides go up against each other. This could be another frustrating 0-0, but like against Young Boys, I expect United will somehow salvage three points. 1-0 United

Oliver

I’m going completely against the grain here and giving the win to eighteenth-placed Southampton. Manchester United are not in a good way and they’re coming off a Champions League match, I can see the Saints picking up the three. 1-0 Southampton

Alf

The statistics are favouring and hence, encouraging to Manchester United. Southampton, on the other hand, fell short of one goal against Fulham away. With de Gea having a MOTM performance against Young Boys in the UCL, United fans can wish for an awaited clean sheet. 2-0 United

Chelsea vs Fulham

Dan

While Chelsea’s form may be in a bit of a slide, and Fulham might have won in Raineri’s first match, it’s really hard to see anything but a Chelsea win here. Expect goals from two attacking sides. 3-2 Chelsea

Oliver

One would think Chelsea would run riot in this match, but after the loss to Tottenham, I’m not so sure. That said, Fulham are really, really bad, and whilst Chelsea might not win by as much as they’d hoped to, they’ll still win. Surely. 2-1 Chelsea

Alf

Last time when Chelsea played Fulham, it was behind close doors with Chelsea beat an inexperienced Cottagers side 8-2 in 2017. This time, in the Premier League, I’ll be surprised if the Blues won’t get the home points to keep them alive in the PL title race, against the now-relegation favorites. 3-1 Chelsea

Arsenal vs Tottenham

We have a full length preview for this!

Liverpool vs Everton

Dan

Everton have been criminally underrated all season, and you know what? I think they’ve got it in them to pull off an upset in the Merseyside derby. Go Toffees! 2-1 Everton

Oliver

So I know it’s my job to be “impartial” and “fair”, and this looks ludicrous, but I think it can be justified. Liverpool have just lost to PSG and they’ll be lower on manpower and fitness than usual. Everton on the other hand haven’t played midweek football and their captain wasn’t sent off this week. Merseyside is going blue. 4-0 Everton

Alf

It’s a great PL matchweek with great derbies. Everton didn’t perform well against the Big 6 clubs to date. They’ve faced Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea away, getting 1 point only. It’s the Merseyside derby and with the LFC frontline on fire, it’ll be hard for the visitors not to concede. 3-0 Liverpool

 

 

The North London Derby – An old affair of a new fashion

The North London Derby – An old affair of a new fashion

Arsène Wenger may not have noticed that at Wembley, he played the last North London derby with his beloved Arsenal this February. And the score wasn’t in his favour as Harry Kane scored the winning goal.

Now, in place of Wenger, an energetic, young Spaniard called Unai Emery will be standing on the touchline of the Emirates to gesture to his players and scream at them like a kid when they don’t play well.

Admit it, Arsenal are still the same old club but with a brand-new look. On the other hand, there isn’t much change in the squad (and stadium) for Tottenham. Not to mention that Pochettino is still here.

This is why the North London derby is a rejuvenated duel between both Spanish speaking coaches and their men. Whoever wins doesn’t matter because when they meet each other again, it’ll be a more tense affair than ever.

It’s the dress rehearsal for the Carabao Cup semi-final for both sides.

If the Gunners win the match, not only they can declare that “London is red” but also, laugh at their fierce rivals of “not being able to in a cup final”. On the other hand, Tottenham will want to make history at Holloway. Not just a derby for both sides.

You’re in the right place for our analysis of the match of the century, with the details of the match itself, records last year and most importantly, score predictions by our team.


Details of the match

Teams: Arsenal FC vs Tottenham Hotspur FC

Kick-off time: 2 December 2018, 1730 BST

Ground: Emirates Stadium, London, UK

Kits: Home (red and white by Puma) vs Home (white and blue by Nike)

Referee: Mike Dean

Injury list: Koscielny, Lacazette, Lichtsteiner, Mavropanos, Monreal, Welbeck (Arsenal), Janssen, M. Dembélé (Tottenham)


Form of both clubs

Arsenal (DDDWW)

  1. 1-1 home draw against Liverpool in the Premier League (Lacazette; Milner)
  2. 0-0 home draw against Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League
  3. 1-1 home draw against Wolves in the Premier League (Mkhitaryan; Cavaleiro)
  4. 2-1 away win against Bournemouth in the Premier League (King; Lerma OG, Aubameyang)
  5. 3-0 away win against Vorskla in the Europa League (Smith-Rowe, Ramsey PEN, J. Willock)

Tottenham (WWWWW)

  1. 3-2 away win against Wovles in the Premier League (Neves PEN, Jiménez PEN; Lamela, Moura, Kane)
  2. 2-1 home win against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions Legue (Kane x2; de Jong)
  3. 1-0 away win against Crystal Palace in the Premier League (Foyth)
  4. 3-1 home win against Chelsea in the Premier League (Alli, Kane, Son; Giroud)
  5. 1-0 home win against Inter Milan in the Champions League (Eriksen)

Score predictions and analysis: 

  1. “Despite Arsenal have the home advantage, it’s Tottenham they’re playing and the Gunners haven’t been playing well against the Top 6 sides this season. It’ll be of no surprise for me if it ends in a draw or a win for the travelling party. Plus, Leno won’t keep a clean sheet. Let’s not talk about the referee, who’s a supporter of the visitors. 2-1 Tottenham” (Alf)
  2. “This is going to be a hell of a match. Both sides are coming off a win, with Spurs three points and two places higher. Arsenal have begun to falter, but I still see this being an entertaining, and high-scoring, draw. 2-2 draw” (Oliver)
  3. “I just can’t choose. Both teams are looking very fine right now, and I can only see them both getting frustrated when the points are shared. 1-1 draw” (Dan)

As always, “no score should be treated as certain before the final whistle is blown”. Also, here’s a friendly reminder for all of you: gamble wisely if you really want to place bets on football matches, or you’ll be in deep regret later.

Three reasons why Real Madrid won’t win the Champions League this year

Three reasons why Real Madrid won’t win the Champions League this year

2018 hasn’t been a great year for Madridistas. After selling Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus this summer, Real Madrid are now 6th in La Liga and as the defending champions, qualified for the round 16 of the Champions League.

Despite being experienced, I believe that Real Madrid winning the UCL at their arch-rivals’ stadium next year. Here are the reasons why – in the first year of “post-Cristiano era” – Madrid will struggle in their favourite competition.


Reason 1 – The defence is inconsistent.  

I’ve seen a lot of Barcelona-related fan accounts on Instagram who mocks and trolls Thibaut Courtois for his performance. It doesn’t matter if he’s with his club or country, 5 is the number the Culés always talk about when it comes to the Belgian keeper.

While I have sympathy towards Courtois as a rival fan, it shows that Real Madrid are no longer the strong team they used to be. It’s not just goalkeeping but also, the vulnerable backline. You know that it’s a big problem when they can’t beat Eibar away.

Introducing new, younger defenders from the academy can be a good option. They certainly can recall Archaf Hakimi from Dortmund as a reward of his stellar performance with the Germans. But Pérez and the Board members may have other ideas in their heads.

By the way, Navas should be given more chances to play in goal. Courtois may not like the feeling of sitting on the bench but “preferred keepers” shouldn’t be a thing in Real Madrid as rotations have to be made in their busy schedules, be it Copa del Rey, La Liga and the Champions League. Just saying.


Reason 2 – The fighting mentality is gone.

One of the reasons why I have huge respect for Real Madrid is that I really admire their spirit. Juanito, who was a legend playing for the club before his death, once said a famous quote regarding his club:

“Noventa minuti en el Bernabéu son molto longos.” 

It means “90 minutes at the Bernabéu is a long time” in Spanish. In these days, however, it seems that Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is becoming the playground of the big and middle clubs, with the home side occasionally lose to the visitors and drop points.

Aside from the form at the Bernabéu, it’ll be better for the Madridistas to forget their conditions when they’re playing an away fixture. The lack of will to fight back after conceding goals is what stops Real Madrid from winning games.

Of course, you may argue that it’s all about luck because you can’t score every time when you shoot. But the truth is, it’s what the current Madrid squad lack. And Solari should remind the players about the “ethos of Juanito”.

All the time when they train and play.

This is essential to Real Madrid’s defence of their title, especially when they’re in the knockout stages of the UCL, where it’ll be a long journey to the final. After all, winning the Champions League isn’t just about the physical form but about mental endurance.


Reason 3 – The decision on their biggest star.

With Bale, Benzema, Asensio and Mariano misfiring these days, it is rumoured that they’ll be splashing clash for a proven attacker like Eden Hazard, Harry Kane and Neymar, who played for their eternal enemy Barcelona before transferring to PSG.

The adverse effects of the departure of the Portugal captain are now being displayed on the scoreboards of the stadiums the Spaniards play at. It’s not just the Bernabéu but Camp Nou, Luzhniki Stadium and most recently, the Ipurúa.

Yes, Real Madrid weren’t just Cristiano Ronaldo. But the truth is, he made everything easier for the team and was more than just a goalscorer. He also gave assists and was a leader in the dressing room who cheered everyone up when they were down.

Real Madrid shouldn’t have sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus. They may not miss their former leading man and the glory days with him. Alas, the damage is already done. Now they’ll have to do their best to keep moving forward and play as a team.


I wish that Los Blancos can prove me wrong and claim their 14th Champions League title in Madrid next year to make history.

Yet, realistically, it won’t be easy for the title holders to get ahold of the Ol’ Big Ears for the fourth consecutive time with the shabby defence, inconsistent form and ineffective attacking options.

Let’s see how far they’ll go this season. They may be able to be in the semis if they’re fortunate but chances are they’ll go out in the quarter-finals, if not a humiliation in the Round 16 (like the “pre-Cristiano era” of Madrid).

Premier League: Our round 13 predictions

Hooray! That was the last international break for 2018, and now the football that people are actually interested in is back on! As teams gear up for their busy mid-season schedule, we here at FootyFans are gearing up for a busy mid-season tipping schedule.

Last round was a truly terrible round of tipping for all of us – Alf and I only gained three points while Oliver got a whole four. That result means that the table sees Oliver retain his lead on 76 points, Alf follows on 64, and I remain in last on 57.

On with the tipping!

West Ham United vs Manchester City

Image result for West Ham vs Manchester City

Dan

On paper this should be an easy match for the citizens, as they lead the pack on 32 points, while the Hammers are in 13th place and just four points off the relegation zone. However, I think West Ham have the capacity to surprise and give City a match, even if it does all ends up for nothing. 2-1 Manchester City

Oliver

City have fifteen goals in their last four league games, while West Ham have five points in the same amount of time. It’s a clear MCFC win, and I think it’ll be big but not huge. 3-0 Manchester City

Alf

It’s Manchester City and they’ll play well. Kevin De Bruyne may not be back now but with David Silva, Leroy Sané and the other players in-form, I’m sure that they’ll win this one. 3-0 Manchester City

Everton vs Cardiff City

Dan

As much as I like to hate on Cardiff, they’re doing better than I expected – they’re only in the relegation zone thanks to a single point of goal difference. Still, Everton, despite not knowing consistency, will triumph at Goodison, but this could be a harder match than it looks. 1-0 Everton

Oliver

Everton are starting decently well, currently sitting in ninth place in the table. A win at home against eighteenth-placed Cardiff could take them up to sixth and I’m backing them to do it. 2-0 Everton

Alf

Cardiff City isn’t a surprising team to predict as they’re still in the relegation zone. Everton will struggle to grab points but chances will be created owing to the faulty defence of the Bluebirds. A thrashing on the cards but it’s better to be conservative. 2-0 Everton

Brighton vs Leicester City

Dan

Both teams are doing fairly well, with the Foxes in 10th and the Seagulls in 12th, and a win for Brighton will see them go equal with Leicester on points. Another close game is on the cards here, but I’ll back Brighton. 2-1 Brighton

Oliver

Two fairly solid midtable sides in Brighton and Leicester shouldn’t be expected to play out much more than a draw. A goal each way sounds about right to me. It’s just gonna be one of those games. 1-1 draw

Alf

Both sides are eager to grab points and this is why I believe that it’ll be an equal contest between both sides. 1-1 draw.

Manchester United vs Crystal Palace

Image result for Manchester United vs Crystal Palace

Dan

In the end, I think what this game will boil down to is just what is more sub-par on the day; United’s defense or Palace’s attack. I’ll go with Palace’s attack, with a dab of mediocrity from United’s defense as well. 2-1 Manchester United

Oliver

I know this is going against the grain a little. But United really haven’t impressed me so far this season and I reckon they’l take only a draw against this Palace side. 1-1 draw

Alf

The Eagles faced Tottenham in the previous match day and lost 1-0 with youngster Juan Foyth on the scoresheet. I don’t think that Crystal Palace will make history at Old Trafford and Mourinho’s men will win this one, eventually. 1-0 Manchester United

Watford vs Liverpool

Dan

Watford are either brilliant or disappointing, and with Liverpool in town, they’ll have to be better than brilliant. But, this is Waford we are talking about, and I think they’ve got it in them. In fact, I think they’ve got in them to hand Klopp’s side their first leauge defeat. 3-2 Watford

Oliver

Watford are a good side, don’t get me wrong. And they’ve really impressed so far this season. But it’s Liverpool they’re playing, and even with home advantage I think they’ll lose. 1-2 Liverpool

Alf

The Reds’ last visit to Vicarage Road was a thrilling 3-3 draw. With an improved defence and goalkeeping, Liverpool should be able to win without conceding (or will they?) 3-0 Liverpool

Fulham vs Southampton

Dan

Ranieri’s first game as Fulham manager! It’s a very winnable fixture for him as well, with Southampton only being outside the relegation zone thanks to goal difference. I’ll tip Raineri to start off his Fulham career on a high note. 2-1 Fulham

Oliver

If Fulham lose this, I think they can kiss the Premier League goodbye, to be honest. But new manager Claudio Ranieri is a quality boss with the ability to do a lot with a little, and I expect they’ll take the three points in a topsy-turvy match. 3-2 Fulham

Alf

In case you missed it, it’s Ranieri’s first game at Craven Cottage as the manager of the Cottagers. Both teams are struggling to be back to winning ways but I think that Ranieri will beat Hughes in the mind games using his experience. 1-0 Fulham

Tottenham vs Chelsea

Image result for Tottenham vs Chelsea

Dan

Sarri’s Chelsea are the only unbeaten team left in all competitions in Europe, but the 0-0 draw against Everton could be the start of a stall, and with players exhausted from international duty,  and with Tottenham’s home advantage, they might finally fall to Tottenham. 1-0 Tottenham

Oliver

Spurs, like I’ve said a few times before, have been quietly brilliant this system, and are sitting up in fourth. All the attention’s been on the top three, but I expect the hugely hyped Chelsea to only take a draw against Tottenham. 2-2 draw

Alf

Pass the popcorn please! This is a tricky fixture to predict. Most likely a draw owing the international commitments of the players of both clubs (fatigue?), if I were to predict a side to prevail, I hope that it’ll be Sarri’s men. 1-0 Chelsea

AFC Bournemouth vs Arsenal

Dan

It’s sixth vs fifth, and with two fairly attacking sides, we should be seeing a good game. Hard to choose, but I’ll pick the Cherries. A man can dream, after all. 3-2 Bournemouth

Oliver

Arsenal’s form is starting to slip, with their insanely long winning run coming to an abrupt halt against Crystal Palace, and then picking up draws against Liverpool and Wolves. They’ll scramble for a draw. 1-1 draw.

Alf

The Gunners won only 1 in 3 games against the Cherries with the last outing resulted in an embarrassing defeat. This is going to be tough for the visitors but with a mentality boost under Emery, they’ll fight back whatever the circumstances are. 2-1 Arsenal

Wolves vs Huddersfield

Dan

Wolves have struggled slightly in recent weeks, but, it is Huddersfield. Surely they’ll turn around their rut against the Terriers. 1-0 Wolves

Oliver

Wolves have done basically what I expected of them, but not in the manner I thought they would. Eleventh place seems about right, although I thought they’d be a big scoring side, not this somewhat weak attacking side we’ve seen. They’ll still beat Hudds, tho. 2-1 Wolves

Alf

The Wolves showed that they’re capable of salvaging points when facing bigger clubs away. They’re back home this time and against a Huddersfield side who are leaking goals, this shouldn’t be a surprising scoreline for Wagner to see. 3-0 Wolves

Burnley vs Newcastle

Dan

Two pretty equal sides go up against each other in a match where they both will really want the points to put space between them and the relegation zone. Given that both want points, it’ll naturally be a draw. 1-1 draw.

Oliver

This is the oddball prediction. Newcastle to win away? Their form’s improving, they’re starting to play more cohesively, and Burnley haven’t been good defensively. It’s happening. 3-1 Newcastle

Alf

Both sides have been virtually dragged out of the relegation zone. Aside from praying that Palace and Cardiff to drop points (so that they won’t be leapfrogging them), they’ll need to perform well. Burnley, ironically, conceded more goals than ever under Sean Dyche. Time for him to go? 1-0 Newcastle

 

Yay or Ney? Barcelona should strive to become more than just MSN

Yay or Ney? Barcelona should strive to become more than just MSN

As a Barcelona fan who heard the recent rumours about Neymar’s possible return to La Liga, let me make this very clear: I don’t want Neymar to be back. It’s not about his attitude but a product of the realistic situation.

I’ll never deny that MSN, or the Messi-Suárez-Neymar trio amassed goals before the deal of the Brazilian to PSG materialised. I also recognise Neymar is the third-best player in the world, behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi.

Here’s the problem, though. A big one. If Barcelona decides to agree on a deal for Neymar, then it’s very likely that two young players will be affected. Ousmane Dembélé and Malcom Oliveria.


Without a doubt, Dembélé is a player with the pace to tear up the opposition defence. He also gives assists to his fellow teammates. Sadly, he doesn’t defend but the best thing ever?

He’s just 21, a month and eleven days younger than me.

However, there are transfer talks concerning the French player, stating that he has a problem with his attitude and isn’t happy under Ernesto Valverde.

While Arsenal can be one of the future destinations in his journey, I believe that he should stay. The reason? Neymar needs a backup and I see Dembélé as Barcelona’s “plan B”.

I get it, Neymar is a quality player who deserves to be in the starting lineup, but there’s no guarantee that he doesn’t get injured. Also, Valverde may want to rotate the squad for the Copa del Rey and give the youngsters playing time.

In this case, I’ll be more than happy if Dembélé stays.

Of course, no one wants to become a benchwarmer at Camp Nou if they have the quality to contribute as a regular. Yet, it’ll be foolish for Barcelona to sell Dembélé in the middle of Neymar’s deal.

The Barcelona board should remember themselves that “failing to plan is planning to fail”, as Benjamin Franklin said. Thus, provided that Neymar is back and Dembélé stays, the impact would be inflicted on the poor newbie.


And yes, I’m talking about Malcom Oliveria.

Malcom joined Barcelona this summer after a controversial move from Bordeaux, with the contract being snatched from Roma’s hands (something I, as a football fan, despise).

The miserable fact is that he’s not getting a lot of playing time. This is why it is also rumoured that he’s looking for a new club in the Janurary transfer window, having fed up with Valverde.

His performance was okay and scored the vital goal against Inter Milan in the Champions League, but it is yet to be seen if he can make an impact to the Barcelona first team.

In my opinion, loaning the Brazilian out would be the better option than selling – as you’ll never know what will happen to those “benchwarmers” when they’re playing for a new club.

Just look at Alcácer. If he can do it, why can’t Malcom do the same?

Yet, this is where it gets complicated. Considering Neymar, Dembélé and Malcom as a trio of attack. It’ll be best if they can play together, but if only two of them can stay, who should pack his luggage and find a new club?


Neymar’s possible return to Barcelona complicates matters to the team as it will relegate either Dembélé and Malcom to the bench. The worse case? Pushing one of them out of the club, which may result in a bad decision.

With the ample funds inside their bank account, I believe that Barça should sort out their priorities.

Signing a nice defender, whether from the other teams or have him promoted from La Masia, is always the better thing to do than getting Neymar back.

Neymar is an excellent player but the good old days will never be back. Deal with it, Culés. We’ll need to move on from the past. Just leave MSN behind in the history books at Camp Nou. We’re “more than a club”, aren’t we?

The MLS conference finals are just around the corner

The MLS conference finals are just around the corner

In just three days’ time, the MLS Conference Finals will kick off. We’ve had a long season of football, with 34 regular season matches and now two rounds of finals action. The Conference Finals are effectively, well, just that – the match to determine the best team in the Western and Eastern conferences, and the match to qualify two teams to the MLS Cup Final on December 8th. Here’s what you need to know.

Which teams have qualified?

From the Eastern Conference this year, we’ve got Atlanta United and New York Red Bulls. The Western Conference is contributing Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers. That’s not much to go off, so here’s a quick rundown of each side.

Atlanta United

Image result for atlanta united

This is just the Five Stripes’ second season in Major League Soccer, but they’ve made one heck of an impression so far. Last season, they finished fourth in the Eastern Conference, which qualified them for finals football. However, they went out in the Knockout Round (the first round) on penalty kicks to the Columbus Crew.

This season, Atlanta have upped their game even more, finishing second in the Eastern and qualifying for the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League. Venezuelan national team regular Josef Martinez has led that push with a huge 31 goals, the most ever scored in an MLS season, overtaking the 27 scored by Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips in 1996, 2012 and 2014 respectively. Once you see those numbers, it’s obvious why United are the top scorers this season, with 70 goals.

Miguel Almiron and Julian Gressel have been immense with their 14 assists each this season, and both of them – plus Martinez – are 24 or 25 years of age, meaning they’re coming into their prime. In addition, goalkeeper Brad Guzan, formerly of Aston Villa, has eight clean sheets (shutouts) this season, and Martinez, Almiron, Guzan, defender Michael Parkhurst and midfielder Ezequiel Barco were selected for the 2018 All-Star Game, held in Atlanta.

New York Red Bulls

Image result for new york red bulls

The Red Bulls have been going a little longer than Atlanta United – they were a founding member of the MLS, known at the time as the New York/New Jersey MetroStars. In 2006, the Austrian trash-makers and football-destroyers over at Red Bull swept in and purchased the club, rebranding it. That said, they’re still nicknamed the Metros. Last season, they finished sixth in the Eastern, qualifying for finals but going out in the Conference Semis to eventual champions Toronto.

In 2018, they’ve gone better – they topped the Eastern and won the Supporters’ Shield (top of the regular season) to boot. That’s despite a coaching change midseason which saw old manager Jesse Marsch become assistant at Leipzig in Germany. In terms of players, they’ve got ex-Premier League player Bradley Wright-Phillips, and with 20 goals to his name for the season, he’s not doing badly either. He’s supported by Alejandro Romero Gamarra, with the Red Bulls’ new signing making fourteen assists.

The Metros also boast having the best goalkeeper in the division by clean sheets – Luis Robles has fourteen – and he’s a big part of the reason they’ve conceded just 33 goals this regular season, the least in the league. In terms of All-Star quality players, Wright-Phillips is in there, alongside midfielder Tyler Adams and a defensive partnership of Michael Murillo and Aaron Long.

Sporting Kansas CityImage result for sporting kansas city

In the Western Conference, we’ve got Sporting Kansas City, the only Big 5 team based in Kansas (yep, the Big 5 is totally a thing). The Wizards are the only team left in the MLS Cup this season with more than one championship – they’ve got two, whilst the Timbers have one and neither Atlanta nor the Red Bulls have won one yet. Also founded in 1996, Sporting KC finished last season fifth in the Western and lost in the knockout round to Houston Dynamo.

They’ve jumped up the table this season, with a first-place finish in their conference, although they still sit behind both Eastern finalists on points. And it’s not like they’ve done this with a star-studded side – with all due respect to SKC, their squad isn’t full of the big names. One big name is goalkeeper Tim Melia, with thirteen clean sheets for the regular season. Former Betis midfielder Felipe Gutierrez and Andreu Fontas, once at Barcelona, are also in the squad.

Kansas City’s top scorer for the season is the Scot Johnny Russell, with just 10 MLS goals. Looking at their squad, it’s hard to see exactly where the goals have come from, but they have, with Sporting KC being the fourth-highest scorers of the season. And yes, of course they got a few in the All-Stars, with defender Graham Zusi and midfielder Ilie Sanchez finding their way into the squad.

Portland Timbers

Image result for timbers

The Timbers, like Atlanta, are an expansion side. Founded in 2011, they’ve managed to lift the MLS Cup once, in 2015. Portland perhaps stand out among this crop of sides in that depending on what metric you use, 2018 may be considered worse for them than 2017. They’ve gone from first in the Western Conference down to fifth, but they’ve gained one point in the regular season and made it (at least) a round further than last season, where they lost to Houston in the Conference Semifinals.

In terms of top players, there’s not much to talk about from this season. Their one All-Star representative is brilliant midfielder Diego Valeri, who’s been running the show in Oregon for what feels like forever, but is actually since 2013. In goal, Jeff Attinella has been a decent replacement for Kiwi Jake Gleeson, and there’s another Kiwi in the squad in Bill Tuiloma.

Apart from that, there isn’t much to say about the Timbers. They’ve been OK at best for most of the season, with a +6 goal difference, the eleventh-best attack and the eighth-best defence. They qualified for the playoffs by six points only, compared to 14, 23 and 25 for the other sides in the Conference Finals. And, because of their fifth-place finish, they had to play one more round of football than the other Finalists.

What happens now?

The Conference Finals start on Sunday US time, Monday NZ time. Atlanta meet the Red Bulls in Georgia at 5pm Eastern Time (11am Monday in New Zealand) before Sporting KC visit Portland, with that match kicking off two and a half hours later. These matches are double-legged, however, and the second matches will be on Thursday US time, Friday NZ time. New York host Atlanta first, at 7:30pm Eastern (1:30pm NZ) and two hours later, Kansas City welcomes the Timbers. Only then will we find out who will meet in the MLS Cup final on December 8th.

 

Who should stay and who should go – A look at United’s contract situations

Who should stay and who should go – A look at United’s contract situations

Manchester United have been in constant turmoil this season, on the pitch, with poor performances, and off the pitch, with the hate against the Glazers, United’s owners being ramped up a notch this season. But one potentially problematic area is the contract situation for multiple players – so here’s a case by case look at that.

David de Gea 

United’s star keeper has been bearing the burden of a shaky defense for so long and has also rendered a lot of other problems with the side obsolete. To me, there is no doubt that DDG is by far the best goalkeeper in the world. However, since winning the title in 2012-13, there really haven’t been any proper title challenges to speak of, and DDG has reportedly become increasingly frustrated at the lack of trophies United have been able to gather. It’s a fair enough complain fora player of his caliber, but, United must, must, re-sign him, no matter the cost. God help us if we don’t. Should talks fail, however, United can trigger a 12-month extension in his contract, so we’ll at least be able to cash in on him.TLDR: Keep. 

Matteto Darmian 

Since arriving in 2015-16, the Italian has seen the number of minutes he has played each season steadily drop, and he has only played a single match this season so far, the 2-1 win over Leicester. He isn’t good enough, and is the fourth choice right back behind Young, Valencia, and Dalot, so get rid, no matter whether it’s by simply letting his contract run out, or triggering the extension and selling in the winter or summer. TLDR: Get rid. 

Ashley Young 

Previously a winger that wasn’t good enough, Young has re-invented himself over the past few years, becoming a very useful utility player. The man can play at either left-back or right back, and last season made 38 appearances in the United shirt, the most he ever has which is amazing considering he is now 33 and has been at the club since 2009. He’s a useful player to have around and deserves a contract renewal. Also worth noting that he does not have an option to extend his contract for a further year. TLDR: Keep

Antonio Valencia 

Much like Young, Valencia is a former winger turned fullback, and has even become captain, but, unlike Young, he has struggled in recent weeks, can only play on one side, and is in hot water with Mourinho after liking a post on Instagram calling for him to face the sack. As much as this one might hurt, I think it’s time to lose Valencia. United have the option to trigger a one year exstension should they want to. TLDR: Get rid 

Phil Jones 

The inconsistent defender, who has been made famous thanks to his beautiful faces, has really been on the downward spiral lately. Since his penalty miss against Derby County he has not featured in the team, and his struggles, both defensively and on the injury front, mean that he’s not worth keeping. United do have the option to trigger a one-year extension to his contract should they want to cash in. TLDR: Get Rid

Chris Smalling 

Like Jones, Smalling has his inconsistencies and errors, however, he has become the center back the club has got in its shaky defense, making the most appearances out of any central defender so far. While he really shouldn’t be a first team player for the club, he’s good enough to keep around. United have an option to trigger a one-year extension to his contract, should they want to. TLDR: Keep 

Ander Herrera 

United’s player of the year for 2016-17, since Nemanja Matic’s arrival at the club Herrera has struggled for game time. Add to that the fact Pogba, Fred, and McTominay are all younger and probably better (save maybe McTominay for the better part), and I think it might just be time to let Herrera go. It’s a hard choice to make, however, and Mourinho has stated his intention to keep him, so, you never know. United do not have an option to extend his contract by a year. TLDR: Maybe get rid

Andreas Pereira

Labeled the next big thing for so long, Pereria finally got his chance to impress when he was handed starts for United’s first two matches of the season. H0wever, in the second game against Brighton, he was hauled off at halftime and has been barely seen since. If he isn’t going to play, then there’s no use keeping him, but there’s plenty of potential left in him so make sure he gets sold and add a buy-back clause. United have the option to keep him around for another year if they so chose. TLDR: Get rid, but add a buy-back clause

Juan Mata 

Mata is an interesting case. He’s quite possibly my favorite ever footballer, one of the nicest guys around, and a darn good player. The problem is, he has never quite been a first-team player under Mourinho, and a player of his caliber deserves to be playing regular first-team football. Still, he’s worth keeping around. United don’t have the option to trigger an extension. TLDR: Keep

Anthony Martial 

Despite his rocky relationship with Mourinho over the years, along with DDG, Martial has probably saved his job, as the French man leads the clubs scoring charts with 7 goals so far. At just 23 he is a star of the future and utterly deserves a new contract. In fact, re-signing him should be Ed Woodward’s top priority. United have the option to extend his contract by twelve months. TLDR: Keep

 

 

 

For Barça, losing Messi isn’t a problem because there’s a bigger one happening now…

For Barça, losing Messi isn’t a problem because there’s a bigger one happening now…

Without a doubt, the recent 4-3 win at Camp Nou will be a memorable night for Real Betis to savour for years. The home defeat, for Barcelona, will certainly give a lot for the team to think about during the international break.

Not to mention that Atlético Madrid will be their opponents after the players return from their international duties.

If they can’t beat Real Betis, chances are Barcelona will be dropping points against their title rivals at Wanda Metropolitano.

So let’s be honest, Barcelona, despite being the first in La Liga, will need to do something in order to become greater in Europe.

There’s one thing that Barcelona supporters will all agree on: losing Leo Messi as their star player to retirement from football is a big deal for the Catalan club – unless they can sign a decent replacement for the Argentine.

However, as a Culé myself, I have an unpopular opinion on this. I believe that there is a huge assignment that Ernesto Valverde must finish before it’s too late to mend the damage caused. That is, fixing the defence of the squad.


If you know Barcelona well, you’ll know that the guy inside the featured image is Carles Puyol. Having played as a defender in his career, he’s the former captain of Barcelona before passing the armband to Andrés Iniesta.

In the meantime, Valverde loves to stick to his trustworthy four-man defence: Sergi Roberto (or Nélson Semedo), Gerard Piqué (or Thomas Vermaelen), Clément Lenglet (or Samuel Umtiti) and Jordi Alba.

The thing is, while Piqué is clearly the most experienced player in the back half, he himself is regressing.

At 31, Piqué is ageing and started to make mistakes which cost the squad the precious points. I could still remember how awful he was when his wrong pass gifted Leganès the winning goal.

The rest are, certainly, better but it’s still horrifying to contemplate.

Meanwhile, where are the La Masia defenders who only got chances in the Copa del Rey? Why aren’t the best performers given a chance to play in La Liga?

Also, Valverde tends to ask his players (defenders included) to push forward to create chances to score.

While it’s nice to feed the ball to the forwards (somehow accustomed to Messi’s needs), the midfield and defence become vulnerable at the back.

Without a doubt, when the opposition decided to launch a counter-attack, say, after a failed corner attempt, chances are the whole Barcelona defence will be caught off-guard and they’ll be able to find the back of the net.


Now you may ask, “what does it do with Puyol?”

I’d say, Barcelona must be in search for a leader who’ll be doing the stuff Puyol did in the past. The current XI tends to lose concentration when they take the lead, so there should be someone who’ll tell his teammates not to be too confident in winning.

This is also the reason Barcelona were eliminated from the Champions League last season.

The squad did win 4-1 at Camp Nou, but we know that the travelling squad lost 3-0 away with Manolas netting the decisive goal to knock the Catalan club out, owing to the away goal rule by the UEFA.

I’m not sure if it’ll help to turn the tide for Barcelona to advance to the semi-final but I certainly believe that if Puyol was in the team, they wouldn’t have lost badly and got beaten by the Italians.


“Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles” – Sir Alex Ferguson

It is one of my favourite quotes in football. Trophies may not matter but the performance of the team does. Unfortunately, Piqué may be the only current player who can do the job. Perhaps a new name in the dressing room needed at Camp Nou?

Be it a foreign player or a homegrown talent, Barcelona should be conscious about the development of the whole future lineup instead of just focusing on replacing Messi. If Bartomeu’s men in the transfer section don’t look into this issue, it’s going to be costly.

And I’m pretty glad that Barcelona lost to Betis. Why? It forces Valverde to rotate his squad to replace the suspended Rakitić so that either Denis Suárez or Carles Aleñá can get a berth in the starting eleven, even for just a few games.

Premier League: Our Round 12 predictions

Premier League: Our Round 12 predictions

Another week is gone, and now we come to our weekly premier league predictions. The time where I learn just how bad I am at predicting football, and worse, just how good Oliver is at it.

The gap between first, second, and third, continues to widen, with Oliver leading on 72, Alf following on 61, and myself in last on 53. Remember when it looked as if Alf would over take Oliver? Yeah, me neither.

On with the tipping!

Cardiff City vs Brighton

Dan

It’s Cardiff. Let’s be real here, Brighton aren’t exactly great, but there’s no way they’ll fall to the woeful Bluebirds. 2-1 Brighton

Oliver

Cardiff City went down narrowly last week to Leicester City, but they’ve now got a perhaps weaker opponent in Brighton. The Seagulls went down to Everton last time out, and I think these sides are fairly evenly-matched. This is looking like a draw. 1-1 draw

Alf

It’s getting too predictable that the Bluebirds are going to lose. Hopefully not a big one. 2-0 Brighton

Southampton vs Watford

Image result for Southampton FC vs Watford

Dan

Southampton are terrible, but Watford somehow managed to lose to Newcastle. Newcastle. Ugh, I don’t know, let’s go for a draw here. 0-0 draw

Oliver

I’d hate to be a Southampton fan right now. In sixteenth, with one win and just two points off last place. Watford lost last time out to bottom-placed Newcastle, however, and the Saints might just be good enough. Will Southampton finally get that second win? Nah. 1-0 Watford

Alf

Meh. 1-0 Southampton

Leicester vs Burnley

Dan

Burnley struggle away, and despite the helicopter crash, Leicester beat Cardiff. They’ll get another three points here. 2-1 Leicester

Oliver

Leicester won their last match. Burnley have just a point from their last four games. With home advantage, the Foxes should capitalise on a weak Clarets side, but I think they’ll struggle their way over the line. 2-1 Leicester

Alf

The Foxes are back to the King Power Stadium and will be hoping to seal a victory for Vichai. 2-1 Leicester

Huddersfield vs West Ham

Dan

Like Newcastle, Huddersfield finally got their first win against Fulham last week. Though West Ham are a much better side, my gut is telling me that this is a match that Huddersfield can just, just, edge out. 1-0 Huddersfield

Oliver

Neither of these teams are great, it’s fair to say. Both of them are coming off wins, and West Ham are up in thirteenth in the table. Should be enough for them to overpower a weak Huddersfield. 1-0 West Ham

Alf

Provided the form of the home side, it’ll be of no surprise if the visitors get the three points. 3-1 West Ham

Newcastle vs Bournemouth

Image result for Newcastle FC

Dan

As much as Newcastle loves doing exactly what I don’t tip, Bournemouth are a very dangerous side that were unlucky to lose to Manchester United last week. But, it’s Newcastle I’m tipping, so naturally they’ll prove me wrong. 2-1 Bournemouth

Oliver

Eddie Howe’s just very deservedly won Premier League Manager of the Month, and Bournemouth have been playing good football. Newcastle have one win – no prizes for calling this one. 2-1 Bournemouth

Alf

Sour cherries for the magpies. (Editors note: Jesus Christ, Alf, that is awful) 2-1 Bournemouth

Crystal Palace vs Tottenham

Dan

Palace continue to underwhelm, and Tottenham are a side that will punish them for it. 2-0 Tottenham

Oliver

Palace are one of the most boring teams in the Premier League. I’m not just saying that – there’s been just twenty-four goals in their PL games this season, less than any other team apart from Wolves. Spurs have got enough to win this one, but their opponents will keep the score low. 1-0 Tottenham

Alf

Tottenham may not be impressive against PSV but it’s Palace, so it should be okay for them. 3-1 Tottenham

Liverpool vs Fulham

Dan

Ok, so Liverpool may have lost to Red Star Belgrade, but that was their back ups. I’d be very surprised if Fulham shocked them again at Anfield, but I won’t be complaining if that happens either. Still, Liverpool are gonna win. 3-1 Liverpool

Oliver

Fulham can’t stop giving away goals and points, as the last-placed team and having conceded 29 so far. Liverpool aren’t scoring as many as Chelsea or City but they’re still netting enough to win this big. 4-0 Liverpool

Alf

Well done, Red Star Belgrade, for achieving the impossible and giving the Fulham team false hope. 1-0 Liverpool

Chelsea vs Everton

Dan

Maruzio Sarri’s side is now the only team unbeaten in all five of Europe’s top leagues in all competitions, and while Everton can beat anyone on their day, they can’t beat Chelsea. 2-1 Chelsea

Oliver

I don’t like picking my own team to lose, but that’s unfortunately what I see coming. Sarri-ball is 1) the most overused phrase in English football and 2) working wonders. Don’t see that stopping. 2-1 Chelsea

Alf

I’m sorry, Oliver. 3-0 Chelsea

Manchester City vs Manchester United

We have a full scale preview for this match!

Arsenal vs Wolves

Dan

Since their draw against Palace, Arsenal have fallen out of form, drawing twice, with a solitary win coming against against Blackpool in the League Cup. Wolves are very, very, solid team, despite their own poor run of form, and I think they’ll give Emery and he Gooners a shock.  2-1 Wolves

Oliver

Wolves keep scores low. 11 scored, 12 conceded. That won’t stop Arsenal from winning, it’ll just reduce the scoreline by a little. But the Gunners should wrap this up easily. 2-0 Arsenal

Alf

Arsenal just played Sporting Lisbon and finished in a goalless draw. Things aren’t looking good for them. 0-0 draw

https://www.90min.com/posts/6217905-southampton-vs-watford-preview-how-to-watch-live-stream-kick-off-time-team-news?utm_source=RSS

https://www.sportskeeda.com/football/premier-league-2018-19-newcastle-united-vs-chelsea-fc-game-review-ss

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2018/11/04/granit-xhakas-transformation-unai-emery-arsenal-game-changer/

 

Colours doesn’t matter, bragging rights does – An in-depth look to Manchester derby

Colours doesn’t matter, bragging rights does – An in-depth look to Manchester derby

I still could vividly remember last season, Manchester City needed just a win in the Manchester derby to clinch their title. The Cityzens could have the chance to celebrate in front of United supporters. However, Chris Smalling’s 69th-minute winner delayed the title celebrations of the home side for a bit.

Fast forward to November 2018. Manchester City are 2nd of the Premier League table while United are 7th. While City are on an unbeaten run like table-toppers Liverpool, United lost three matches against Brighton, Tottenham and West Ham with the fans chanting “Mourinho Out” outside Old Trafford.

Red versus blue. Mourinho versus Guardiola. Manchester United versus Manchester City. It is no longer just a matter of points and glory. It’s all about the bragging right of the winner of the Premier League fixture.

You’re in the right place for our analysis of the match of the century, with the details of the match itself, records last year and most importantly, score predictions by our team.


Details of the match

Teams: Manchester City vs Manchester United

Kick-off time: 11 November 2018, 1730 BST

Ground: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, UK

Kits: Home (blue by Nike) vs Home (red and black by Adidas)

Referee: Anthony Taylor (Manchester)

Injury list: De Bruyne, Bravo, Mangala (Manchester City); Dalot (Manchester United)


Form of both clubs

Manchester City:

  1. 3-0 away win against Shakthar Donetsk in the Champions League (D. Silva, B. Silva, Laporte)
  2. 1-0 away win against Tottenham in Premier League (Mahrez)
  3. 2-0 home win against Fulham in the Carabao Cup (Díaz x2)
  4. 6-1 home win against Southampton in the Premier League (Hoedt OG, Agüero, D. Silva, Sterling x2, Sané; Ings PEN)
  5. 6-0 home win against Shakthar Donetsk in the Champions League (D. Silva, G. Jesus x3, Sterling, Mahrez)

Manchester United:

  1. 2-2 away draw against Chelsea in the Premier League (Rüdiger, Barkley; Martial x2)
  2. 1-0 home loss against Juventus in the Champions League (Dybala)
  3. 2-1 home win against Everton in the Premier League (Pogba, Martial; Sigurðsson PEN)
  4. 2-1 away win against Bournemouth (Wilson; Martial, Rashford)
  5. 2-1 away win against Juventus in the Champions League (C. Ronaldo; Mata, Sandro OG)

Score predictions and analysis: 

  1. “Manchester City just can’t stop scoring. However, Manchester United displayed an awesome mentality to fight back. While it’ll be a possible call for a draw (or a high-scoring game), Manchester should be red if they United can keep it up. 2-1 United.” (Alfred)
  2. “Both sides have the potential to score goals, we know that. City are top of the division, in good form and with 33 goals in 11 games – it’s hard to see them losing. United haven’t been great this season and I don’t see them preventing another derby loss. City to win it, but not by much. 3-2 City” (Oliver)
  3. “City are on a roll with six goals in two games. Nothing, not even a rejuvenated United side is gonna stop them. 2-0 City” (Dan)

As always, “no score should be treated as certain before the final whistle is blown”. Also, here’s a friendly reminder for all of you: gamble wisely if you really want to place bets on football matches, or you’ll be in deep regret later.