England win but football loses

Its not often you come away from a tough away game with a 6-0 win and feel sad and disillusioned with the game. But for many last night, the sad scenes in the stands in Sofia overshadowed what was a very good England performance and threw the game into disrepute. 

There had been much speculation about the behaviour of the Bulgarian fans, after a number of incidents in recent years highlighted the large racist undertone within their fan base, and England captain Harry Kane had spoke of leading his teammates off the field if there was any sniff of racially motivated chanting or jeers.

From the get go England’s black stars were booed every time they touched the ball, attackers Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford as well as debutant centre back Tyrone Mings. But it wasn’t until the 28th minute play was put on hold with discussions taking place on the sideline, and a stadium announcement being made over the speakers warning fans the game would be stopped if this behaviour carried on.

However, this did not stop the chants, the boo’s and the abhorrent monkey noises being made, and the game was then stopped again in the 43rd minute, this time with Southgate talking with the referee before the game was again restarted.

Further racist incidents continued into the second half, caught on pitch-side microphones, but play was not stopped for a third time, which would have been crucial as UEFA’s three step racism protocol states if a match is stopped for a third time the match must be abandoned.

Further footage shows fans doing Nazi salutes and one fan holding up a “no respect” jumper. Debate has been rife over the best course of action in a situation such as this, is it best to walk from the pitch refusing to stand for this kind of abuse? Or is it best to play on and not let the racists win? England chose the latter last night, and with Rashford and Sterling both scoring, as well as Ross Barkley who’s grandfather is Nigerian, well and truly silenced the racist scum in the stands.

If this was not bad enough, Bulgaria’s own manager Krasimir Balakov seemingly defended his fans post match, claiming he did not hear any racist chants towards the England players and actually blamed the England fans for unacceptable behaviour. When the man at the top is seemingly just as bad as the racists in the stands, it is concerning for all involved and something UEFA must take a serious look at.

With all of the focus being firmly set on what happened off the pitch, it is important to remember just what the England players achieved in representing their country in such difficult circumstances, standing up to racism and doing our country proud in the process.

Can England Qualify Against Bulgaria?

Tonight sees England play Bulgaria in a game that should England win, will see them qualify for the Euro 2020 finals.

Now it also sees a scenario similar to the game England played on Friday against the Czech Republic. Win, and England go through.

In total England have met Bulgaria 9 times and have an excellent record against them.

Since the 0-0 draw in their first meeting in June 1962, they have met a further eight times. England have won 5, the most recent of which was 2010, when a 4-0 result was the outcome, thanks in part to a Jermain Defoe hat trick.

In between times. there have been 3 draws and its in two of those draws that Bulgaria have scored their only goals, 2 in total against England.

England’s goal scoring average against Bulgaria over the 9 games is 2, so going on that statistic alone, tonights game should represent a comfortable enough platform on which to secure qualification.

That said, it will prove interesting tonight, because Bulgaria, employ a variation of the 3 5 2 system that England used to play and appear to find diffculties playing against, by playing a 5 3 2 formation, so in theory have 5 defenders and rely on the counter attack.

Overall taking that out of context, Bulgaria are bottom of the group and have only two points. Confidence will not be high for them, and should England start the same they did against the Czechs by scoring early, and maintaining throughout the game, then England have a good chance of recording their highest score against them.

Where did England Go Wrong?

On Friday night in the Czech Republic, England faced the possibility of winning against the Czech’s and qualifying for Euro 2020.

Top of the group and unbeaten in this campaign so far, it all looked very rosy for England.

With a strong line up, in Gareth Southgate’s now preferred 4 3 3 formation, with debut’s for the Chelsea pairing of Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham, against the less fancied Czechs. lining up in a 3 5 2 formation. Everything looked like it would go England’s way.

The opening exchanges went well for England, with strong attacking football, which saw Raheem Sterling win a penalty in the 5th Minute, swiftly converted by Harry Kane.

We expected the performance to increase and a comfortable victory to follow, ensuring qualification.

However, the penalty seemed to not only galvanise the Czechs, but it was almost like a bee had stung them on the backside.

They woke up and raised their game significantly, helped by the formation they were playing, 3 5 2. They piled pressure on England, going close a couple of times. These were wake up calls for England, but they quickly pulled level and deservedly so, just 4 minutes later.

The only surprise was that it took that long for them to equalise…

From that point on for the entire match, England laboured and toiled much harder than they needed to.

So,

What went wrong for England

To get the answer to this, you only have to look back to the last Premier League Weekend, when Wolves travelled to the Etihad Satdium, home of Manchester City and beat them in their own back yard 2-0.

But what has that result got to do with England losing in Czech Republic?

At face value, nothing, but upon closer inspection, quite a lot.

You see, just as in the Czech Republic, Wolves employed their favoured, tried and tested 3 5 2 formation, against Man City’s 4 3 3 and came away with the right result.

Now on paper it shouldn’t matter which formation you play, the result should be a positive one, if you have a good game plan.

England had a game plan, it is a tried and tested one, but, when pitched against a team playing 3 5 2, then it can prove significantly difficult to penetrate, because in a 3 5 2 formation, the opposition will have numbers over, if the players do their jobs correctly.

The Czechs executed their jobs perfectly, faster, pressed better, had players over and England were left frustrated and arguing amongst themselves, because they couldn’t create the space they required to break through and so drew blanks every time.

It will be interesting to see how Engand fare against Bulgaria this evening in their next qualifier, because they commonly line up in a 3-5-2 formation as well. What will Southgate have to do to overcome them, and secure qualifying?

If England can raise their game and also eliminate the poor decision making and passive play they employed against the Czechs, then they will come away with a good result and qualification will be assured.

Too many times, through poor decision making did England let the Czechs in.

Tonights match should be an interesting one…

Tweet us your thoughts on tonight’s game @247FootballUK

Three players Man United should sign this January

Man United are in somewhat of a crisis at the moment, winless in five, a playing squad devoid of confidence and with a manager seemingly hurtling towards the sack, things are looking bleak at Old Trafford. With top four looking very unlikely and even top six a doubt at the moment, the board need to invest heavily in the squad, starting with this winter transfer window. But who should they be targeting and why?

Wilfred Ndidi- The 22 year old has been very impressive since joining Leicester in 2017 for 17 million pounds from Belgian side Genk, and has been linked with a big money move for some time. With Nemanja Matic declining horribly over the past 12 months, United are in desperate need of a top class holding midfield player and Indidi is one of the best in the Premier League. The Nigerian goes about his work effectively, battling in the centre of the park, winning back possession and has a very good range of passing. Ndidi could partner Paul Pogba perfectly and allow the Frenchman to have more of an effect in the final third safe in the knowledge Ndidi is covering him.

Jadon Sancho- Sancho is one of the brightest young talents in the world but is also consistently putting in top class performances right now. Kick starting a wave of young English talents leaving the Premier League to find first team football abroad, the 19 year old has tore the Bundesliga up and also impressed during his stints with the England National team. With 13 goals and 19 assists in his breakthrough season for Borussia Dortmund last term, and with another four goals and seven assists in just 11 games this season Sancho’s end product for such a young player is exceptional. Despite the fact United would more than likely have to break the bank to sign Sancho, he must be top of Ole’s wish list.

Paulo Dybala- In letting Romelu Lukaku leave for Inter in the summer United lost guaranteed goals. The burden fell on 21 year old Marcus Rashford and 23 year old Anthony Martial who have so far failed to score the goals needed to win United football matches. Despite being linked with 33 year old Mario Mandzukic, this goes against all the things Ole has tried to do with his more youthful approach and therfore Dybala should be their main target. United tried to sign Dybala in the summer but failed to get a deal done, the 25 year old would possibly be a risk with his lack of Premier League experiences and his loss of form over the past year, but he scores goals and he has done for a number of years. Dybala can dribble, pass, shoot is quick, works hard and has experience at the top level, Ed Woodward should be doing everything he can to secure his signature.

Women Super League Preview: Week Four

Round four of the Women Super League features defending champions Arsenal up against London rivals Chelsea.  Both sides will be looking to gain the early physiological advantage in the title race when they meet in this Sunday’s round of matches. 

Fellow rivals Manchester City will be hoping to take advantage of their closest two challengers playing each other when they take on Birmingham City in the Saturday game.  

 Elsewhere, newly promoted sides Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United will do battle at Tottenham’s Hive Stadium at the slightly earlier kick-off of 12:30pm on Sunday.  While early season strugglers Liverpool host Bristol City, where both sides will be aiming for their first win of the season.

 The final two matches of the weekend see Reading against Everton and Hope Powell’s Brighton are at home to West Ham United.

Title rivals battle it out

The Gunners have started the season in fine form, with three wins from three.  They won 4-0 against Brighton last time out and travel to Chelsea’s Cherry Red Record Stadium full of confidence.

The Blues however, have won the last two meetings between the sides, claiming a 3-0 victory in the FA Cup in February of this year and a 2-1 win in the previous league meeting.  Both games were at Arsenal’s Meadow Park Stadium, the last time the teams played at the Cherry Red Record Stadium resulted in a comprehensive 5-0 Arsenal win back in October 2018.

The home team will have the added incentive of knowing that they will go above their fierce rivals with a win.

In total there has been seven matches between the two teams with Chelsea currently leading the head to head by three wins to two however there has also been two draws.

The match will be shown live on BT Sport and kicks-off at 3pm on Sunday.  Tickets are still available at £9 per adult and at just £1 for juniors under the age of 20 and seniors over 65.

City looking to make it four out of four

Manchester City will be looking to keep up their 100% league record; they achieved a hard fought 1-0 victory against Everton in their last game.

Nick Cushing’s City side will certainly be confident of continuing their impressive start to the season as they play a Birmingham team that have lost their opening two matches. Their game against Reading in game week three was however postponed.

Manchester City have won four out of the seven matches between the two teams and have only lost once, with the other two matches being draws.

One of those victories included a 4-1 win in the 2017 FA Cup final that secured Manchester City’s clean sweep of domestic honours at Wembley Stadium.

Spurs host Manchester United in first WSL meeting

Tottenham Hotspur defeated West Ham United in their last match at the London Stadium, 2-0.  While Manchester United achieved their first ever WSL win by beating rivals Liverpool 2-0.

United will now be looking for their first ever Super League away win, having lost their one away match so far on the opening day against Manchester City.  Spurs are meanwhile currently unbeaten at home following their victory over Liverpool in game week two.

Both Liverpool and Bristol City hunt for first victory

In the midday kick-off on Sunday both of these sides will be looking to jump-start their season with a much needed three points.

Liverpool will be hoping of a repeat of last season’s 5-2 victory on the last day of the season.

Bristol City, meanwhile will want to improve their poor record against this weekend’s opponents having only won one in five attempts. That success however did come during the last campaign in November 2018.

Everton look to get back to winning ways against Reading, and Brighton face West Ham

The Toffees will be looking to bounce back from their narrow 1-0 defeat against Manchester City last time around when they travel to face Reading.  Both sides have won twice against each other with the most recent meeting ending in a 3-2 victory for Everton in April of this year.

West Ham meanwhile will want to be more clinical in front of goal as their finishing certainly cost them victory in their first ever match at the Olympic Stadium against Spurs. They play a Brighton side who are searching for their first win of the campaign.

Saturday 12thOctober

Manchester City vs Birmingham City Kick off (2pm)

Sunday 13thOctober

Liverpool vs Bristol City  (12pm)

Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United (12:30pm)

Reading vs Everton (2pm)

Brighton & Hove Albion vs West Ham United (2pm)

Chelsea vs Arsenal (3pm)

Sunderland Sack Jack Ross…

Somewhat surprisingly, yesterday Sunderland Boss Jack Ross had his contract terminated by the club.

Surprising because the season is still early and despite a poor start to the season, the black cats had managed to climb up the table, currently sitting in a playoff position.

They have 19 points from their 11 games and a plus, albeit small goal difference, of 2. They have lost just 2 matches… Hardly relegation form you’ll agree.

The club decided to terminate Ross’ contract with immediate effect and want to move forward in a different direction. Ross did extrememly well to stabalise a club, which was in free fall and had suffered back to back relegations, prior to his arrival.

In his first season, having rebuilt well, he guided the club to a checkatrade trophy final, where they were narrowly beaten by Portsmouth on penalties and the League 1 play off final where again they lost narrowly to Charlton 2-1.

Ross is by no means a bad manager, he forged his name north of the border and leaves Sunderland with his held high. He has a good win percentage of 50% and there are plenty of managers with a far worse win ratio still in employment, and whose clubs are far worse off than Sunderland.

It remains to be seen, who will take up the new post.

Royals Part Company With Gomes

READING have announced the sacking of first team manager José Gomes with immediate effect.

A spokesperson on behalf of the Royals issued the following statement:

“Reading Football Club can announce that José Gomes has left his position as first team manager.

Gomes joined the club at the end of December 2018 and successfully steered the club away from the threat of relegation.

However, following just two wins in the first 11 league games in 2019-20, owner Mr Yongge Dai has made the difficult decision to part company with Gomes and make a change at first team level.

We would like to sincerely thank José for his hard work during his tenure as manager at Reading Football Club and we wish him the very best of luck in his future career.

The club will make no additional comment at this time but will provide further updates as soon as possible.”

The news from the Royals comes after reports in the last 48 hours regarding his future at the Madejski Stadium.

Following last weekend’s defeat to Bristol City in the Sky Bet Championship, which left the Royals 22nd in the table, Gomes said he’d be the first to resign if he thought his players had lost faith in him.

Since then rumours of his future had been widespread across social media, but the club have now officially announced the news of his departure.

Reading fans, what do you make to this decision? Who do you want to replace José Gomes? Let us know your thoughts below or on Twitter @247FootballUK.

German legend Bastian Schweinsteiger announces retirement

On October 6th, at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida, fans got to witness the last game of Bastian Schweinsteiger’s career as he announced his retirement. This followed from the 5-2 victory in the MLS regular season finale for Chicago Fire.

Known for his playing days at Bayern Munich, Schweinsteiger won several awards with the Bavarians from 2002-2015. Scoring 45 goals in 342 appearances for Bayern, Schweinsteiger won eight Bundesliga titles, seven DFB-Pokal titles, a DFB-Ligapokal title in 2007, a DFL-Supercup in 2010, and was a part of the UEFA Champions League squad that won the tournament in 2013.

After a great career for Bayern, Schweinsteiger signed a three-year contract of £6.5 million with Manchester United in 2015. In Schweinsteiger’s first season with the Red Devils, he won the FA Cup. However, after the arrival of José Mourinho, Schweinsteiger’s role was diminished, forcing him to move to the Chicago Fire in 2017.

The midfielder also played a pivotal role in the success of Germany’s national team, including winning the 2014 World Cup with the nation, deafeating Argentina 1-0. Scoring 24 goals in 120 appearances, Schweinsteiger’s last appearance for the Germans came after the team’s run ended in the 2016 edition of UEFA’s European Championship.

Schweinsteiger also won several individual awards across his career, including being named the German national team Player of the Year in 2010, and two-time MLS All-Star in 2017 and 2018, and was inducted in Bayern Munich’s prestigious Hall of Fame in 2018.

What’s Up With City?

Manchester City hit another bump in the road on Sunday as they slipped to a second defeat of the season against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Two late Adama Traore goals gave Wolves all three points at the Etihad.

In the skewed reality of this latest iteration of the Premier League, where Liverpool and City are essentially both gunning for record breaking points tallies, every dropped point by the two runaway leaders is infinitely more drastic. 

It means that Liverpool’s eight point lead early in the season feels like a cavernous gap – the Merseyside tectonic plate shifting away from the East Manchester one. So what exactly is going wrong for City?

Their latest defeat against Wolves was an example of something that has been heralded as a weakness throughout Pep Guardiola’s managerial career: counter-attacks. 

It’s common to see just City’s centre-backs not joining the attack, leaving them exposed to teams adept at transitioning quickly up the pitch on the counter.

And Wolves are a side that specialise in hitting the opposition in such a way, as shown by their excellent record against the ‘big six’ since their promotion back to the Premier League. 

Nuno Espirito Santo had his Wanderers side play a wonderful counter-attacking game on Sunday. Part of this was, of course, through excellent defending. They were able to funnel City wide and force them to go wide and cross the ball – playing straight into the hands (foreheads) of Willy Boly, Connor Coady and 13th minute substitute Ryan Bennett. 

Their defensive organisation was supreme, and further drew in City to leave them more vulnerable at the back for when Wanderers did strike. And when they did, they did so with excellently. 

Raul Jimenez terrified Nicolas Otamendi and Fernandinho with his dribbling ability, and should probably have given Wolves the lead in the first half. But City clung on, and it was Santo’s tactical shift that helped bring about Wolves’ two late strikes. 

In January of last season, Wanderers fell 3-0 against City at the Etihad Stadium after Boly’s first half red card. At half time, Traore was brought on to offer a direct counter-attacking threat with his pace in behind.

Although it didn’t work out then – Wolves were down to 10 men and completely pinned in by City – Santo used this tactic again on Sunday in far more positive circumstances. 

In the 68th minute, Matt Doherty was brought on for Patrick Cutrone. The Irishman took up his usual slot at right wing-back, with Traore moving up front alongside Jimenez. 

The Mexican frontman again terrified Otamendi and Fernandinho with his dribbling on the counter, and this time had Traore haring up the pitch with him to finish.

Counter-attacking isn’t the only way to exploit City. Set pieces are a well known weakness, and generally getting at their centre-backs can cause real trouble. Especially with Otamendi the most experienced available player in that position, with his sudden decisions to forget how to be a footballer. 

Norwich were able to target City’s weaknesses in devastating fashion with their victory at Carrow Road earlier this season. 

The Canaries opened the scoring with a set piece goal, before continuing to cause City problems with their boldness in playing out from the back. 

It was the style that saw Norwich promoted last season as champions, and they showed that if you can break the Citizen’s initial press and go at their centre-backs, City are vulnerable – as proved with Norwich’s second.

Otamendi got himself in a pickle, while at full-back Kyle Walker sat far too deep to play Teemu Pukki onside. For the third goal, Otamendi was caught in possession as he made one of his sudden decisions to forget how to be a footballer. 

Of course, there are some mitigating circumstances. The centre of City’s defence is a key issue, which is somewhat understandable considering the injuries to Aymeric Laporte and John Stones, as well as the departure of the ageing Vincent Kompany. 

There is also some transition in midfield, with Rodri still adapting to his role at the base of midfield in front of the defence. Kevin de Bruyne is also a huge loss in the middle of the park. 

But these weaknesses also seem to be systematic, and it looks like Premier League sides are starting to target them more and more. 

Guardiola has adapted before upon his arrivals in Germany and England. Now, it is looking like he must continue to evolve his City side to tend to their weaknesses, before Liverpool build up an even healthier lead at the top of the table.

FOREST 1-0 Brentford

Nottingham Forest went second in the Championship Table (level on points with leaders West Brom), by beating Brentford at the City Ground on Saturday. In the process making it 10 league games unbeaten.

The match was one in which both sides were happy to play through midfield and be patient, which meant not many goal scoring chances were created. Forest controlled possession of the ball better than Brentford but often opted to play a safe pass rather than one that would open up a defence.

The closest either side came to scoring in the first half was from a Thiago Silva free-kick which went just wide from around 30 yards out. Brentford also threatened from a free kick as they had an effort from Mathias Jensen deflected, which forced Forest keeper Brice Samba to pull off a very good save. The second half was played at a higher tempo as Forest looked to make the break through, they had the chance to do so when Lewis Grabban was played in but was denied by some good defending and an equally good save.

It wasn’t long after that Forest did take the lead. It came from a corner which found Joe Worrall free at the far post who headed back, allowing Captain Ben Watson to finish powerfully and high into the net. This was Watson’s second winning goal in consecutive home matches for Forest and it came in the same minute as his winning goal in the previous home game against Barnsley. Watson had previously failed to find the net since his transfer to Forest in January 2018. It’s been quite a turnaround for Watson this season, who received much criticism last season from the Forest faithful. His performances have much improved and he now has them singing his own chant.

Forest were reasonably comfortable in defence of the lead, they worked extremely hard to get men behind the ball and deny Brentford any space to create chances with their renowned passing style.

It has been a promising start to the season for Forest having topped the table for the first time in 5 years. It’s fair to say it wasn’t expected, following another summer of changes – but so far the change of manager and his subsequent signings have paid off.

https://247-football.com/2019/07/03/yet-another-managerial-change-at-forest/

https://247-football.com/2019/07/12/lamouchi-getting-to-work/

Lamouchi clearly knows how to get results and in different ways. From back to wall displays at Leeds and Charlton where Forest came from behind to earn valuable points, deserved wins away at Fulham and Swansea where great defence was matched by excellent counter-attacking, and finally grinding out wins or draws against teams who are difficult to break down at the City Ground. These are all things that have let Forest down in the past.

Another significant difference is the extra strength and power in central midfield, previously Forest could be bullied by teams like Millwall, but the signings of Samba Sow and Alfa Semedo and extra togetherness mean this is no longer likely.

Three players who should’ve been included in Gareth Southgate’s England squad

England manager Gareth Southgate announced his latest squad for the upcoming European Championship qualifiers away to the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. The main talking points will be the omission of Tottenham’s Dele Alli and United’s Jesse Lingard as well as the continued omission of right back Kyle Walker. But which players can count themselves unlucky to not be involved?

James Tarkowski- The Burnley centre back may be another victim of not playing for a “trendy” club as the in form defender has been overlooked once again by Southgate. Tarkowski has been a large factor in why Burnley boast one of the better defensive records in the division and his own personal stats make for good reading, as in terms of aerial duel success rate he sits third in the league with 76.9%, and interceptions per 90 minutes he sits second with 8.85. Despite competition for places at the heart of England’s defence, the 26 year old is playing the best football of his career right now and is unfortunate to miss out.

 

Aaron Cresswell- The left back looks to have finally regained his starting spot in the Hammers back four and looks back to his best in the early stages of this season. A brilliant display against United was capped off by a spectacular free-kick goal to double his sides lead, and this was followed up with another goal in West Ham’s 2-2 draw with Bournemouth a week later. Meaning after only three Premier League appearances so far he has already matched his best ever goals tally at West Ham. Add to this the poor form of fellow left back Danny Rose, who has endured a tough start to the season, Cresswell can count himself unlucky to not be adding to his three caps.

 

Todd Cantwell- The Norwich winger has been a complete surprise package this season, linking up brilliantly with striker Teemu Pukki and chipping in with important goals and assists from the left flank. The 21 year old has adapted to Premier League life seamlessly, and has already made more goal contributions (4) in seven games this term than he managed in the whole of last season (3). And when you consider he has notched goals against the likes of Chelsea and the champions Manchester City, this further supports his case. Had he been playing for a top six club, Cantwell would have more than likely been in the 25 man squad, but if he continues this fine form Southgate cannot ignore him for much longer.

England Boss Southgate Picks 25-man Squad For October Qualifiers

ENGLAND boss Gareth Southgate has named a 25-man squad for October’s Euro 2020 Qualifying games against Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

The Three Lions take on the Czech’s in Prague on Friday 11th October before playing Bulgaria three days later in Sofia.

Southgate has handed call-ups to Chelsea duo Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori following their impressive campaigns at Stamford Bridge so far this season.

Striker Abraham has returned to the senior Three Lions squad for the first time in almost 2 years, when he featured for Southgate’s men at Wembley against both Germany and Brazil. Meanwhile, defender Tomori has earned his first senior call-up after impressing at U19, U20 and U21 levels.

England, who currently sit top of Group A in the Qualifiers after winning four from four, know that a victory in Prague could seal qualification for next summers Euros. However, boss Southgate and his squad will know that if they are to secure top spot in their group, they will need to complete a 100% record in the group campaign.

Squad in full for the Three Lions trips to Prague and Sofia:

Goalkeepers: Tom Heaton (Aston Villa), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley)

Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ben Chilwell (Leicester City), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Michael Keane (Everton), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea), Kieran Tripper (Atletico Madrid)

Midfielders: Ross Barkley (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Everton), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), James Maddison (Leicester City), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Declan Rice (West Ham United), Harry Winks (Tottenham Hotspur)

Strikers: Tammy Abraham (Chelsea), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Callum Wilson (AFC Bournemouth)

There has been a few surprise inclusions in the squad, especially Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham being involved despite their impressive starts in the Premier League. I would have thought Burnley’s James Tarkowski and Southampton’s Nathan Redmond would have been included despite their clubs positions in the table.

Let us at 24/7 Football know your thoughts on the latest Three Lions squad. Are you happy with the selection Gareth Southgate’s made?

Would you have included both Tomori and Abraham? Let us know in the comments below.

Has Bernardo Silva’s critism been unfair?

Bernardo Silva in recent weeks has faced criticism for a twitter post, in which he compared long standing team mate Benjamin Mendy to a child in a French children’s cartoon. The post was quickly deleted but did not escape the mainstream media’s attention, and instantly labelled him as racist.

All bodies involved disregarded any prior knowledge that the two have been teammates for the past four years at Monaco. Manchester City and Pep Gaurdiola saying the two ‘are like brothers,’ and regularly exchanged jokes about one another.

KickItOut condemned the tweet and exclaimed that they were ‘extremely disappointed’ with Bernardo’s behaviour, furthermore the FA opened an investigation into the tweet. In response, Silva and Mendy both wrote open letters to The FA, with Bernardo apologising if he caused offence, and Mendy saying no offence was taken from Benrardo’s tweet and that it was a ‘friendly joke’.

The lack of context shown with Bernardo’s case is definitely worrying. The two are very close friends and have been for a number of years, constantly seen to be having banter on their respective social media accounts, and on the Netflix All of Nothing series. Without context this case, which is how a number of media outlets reported, it could possibly be seen as offensive. However, John Barnes, former Liverpool and England striker, was also to Bernardo’s defence with the accusations of racism as “ridiculous,” and called for context while also saying that KickItOut and The FA having bigger racial problems that they should be focusing on.

Do you think Bernardo should be punished by The FA? Or should they focus on more serious problem involving racism?

Premier League teams attempt to rise on Matchday 2 of Champions League

As the second matchday of the UEFA Champions League commences later today, Tottenham and Manchester City begin their quests of making it to knockout rounds after having successful tournament results last year. Reigning Champions League winners Liverpool and former winners Chelsea are set to play on Wednesday – aiming to get back in the standings after devastating losses to Napoli and Valencia respectively.

Tottenham, fresh off a Champions League campaign in which they finished as the runner-up, started this edition of the tournament with a 2-2 draw against Olympiacos. Scoring two early goals from Harry Kane’s penalty in the 26th minute, followed by a Lucas Moura goal in the 30th minute – goals from Daniel Podence in the 44th minute and Mathieu Valbuena in the 54th minute were enough to seal a draw at Karaiskakis Stadium. Tottenham will host German giants Bayern Munich at 8 p.m. GMT for its fifth-ever meeting against the club. Bayern are coming off a 3-0 victory over Crvena Zvezda after goals from Kingsley Coman, Robert Lewandowski, and Thomas Müller took all three points at The Allianz Arena.

Manchester City had a huge victory 3-0 over Shakhtar Donetsk at The Metalist, with Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gündogan, and Gabriel Jesus providing the necessary goals. They will face off against Dinamo Zagreb at Etihad Stadium at 8 p.m. GMT. The Croatian side defeated Atalanta 4-0 on Matchday 1 after Mislav Orsic’s hat trick at Stadion Maksimir. This will be the first-ever matchup between the two clubs – who do you think will end up in top spot?

Liverpool, fresh off of their recent Champions League winning campaign, started their campaign off with a dud as they lost 2-0 to Napoli. Late goals from Dries Mertens in the 82th minute and Fernando Llorente in injury time, helped the Italian team embarass the holders. Now, Liverpool will have to get back on track as they host Red Bull Salzburg at 8 p.m. GMT. The Austrian side had a 6-2 victory against Genk on the first matchday, led by a hat trick from Norwegian teen sensation Erling Braut Haaland at Red Bull Arena. The matchup between tonight’s game will be the first-ever matchup between the two clubs.

Chelsea, the champions of last year’s edition of the Europa League beating London compatriot Arsenal, did not get off to a great start in the Champions League as new coach/former club legend Frank Lampard and The Blues suffered a 1-0 loss at the feet of Rodrigo at Stamford Bridge. Considered the favorites of the group before the start of the tournament, Chelsea will have to get back in gear as they head to Stade Pierre Mauroy to battle Lille OSC at 8 p.m. GMT. Lille suffered a 3-0 defeat in their last game against Ajax due to goals from Quincy Promes, Edson Álvarez, and Nicolás Tagliafico at Johan Crujiff ArenA. The two clubs will face off against each other for the first time.

With the Champions League still in the beginning stages, time will tell if England will have back-to-back winners in the tournament for the first time since Liverpool and Aston Villa won the 1981 and 1982 editions.

Women’s Super League Round Up: Week Three

Spurs defeated London rivals West Ham in front of the second–largest attendance in Women Super League history, at the London Stadium.

Title favourites Arsenal and Manchester City meanwhile both continued their impressive starts to the season by beating Brighton and Everton respectively.

Elsewhere Manchester United won their first ever Super League match against fierce rivals Liverpool

Finally, Chelsea proved to be too strong for West Country side, Bristol City.

Spurs spoil West Ham’s London Stadium debut

A crowd of 24,790 watched Tottenham beat London rivals West Ham United 2-0.

Striker Rianna Dean scored the opening goal on her first start of the season in the 36th minute with a brilliant header before Birthday girl, Lucy Quinn came off the bench to make the points safe seven minutes from time. This secured Spurs’ first away victory in the Super League.

The hosts however, were made to rue missing a number of second half opportunities that included Adriana Leon wide header from six yards.

Arsenal and Manchester City continue hundred per cent starts

Both Arsenal and Manchester City kept up their perfect records after three Super League matches.

City however were made to work hard for their 1-0 victory over Everton, with England captain Steph Houghton grabbing the only goal of the game in the seventh minute from a corner.

The Toffee’s almost grabbed a late equaliser at the death through Lucy Graham, however Canadian forward, Janine Beckie was able to clear her header off the line.

The Gunners’ achieved a much more routine victory as they put in an impressive 4-0 display against Brighton.

Club Captain Kim Little provided the early break through for her side, before last season’s top scorer, Vivianne Miedema opened up her account to double Arsenal’s advantage.

Miedema then turned provider for her Dutch teammate, Danielle van de Donk, who made it 3-0.  Finally England midfielder, Jordan Nobbs rounded off the scoring with an 18-yard strike.

United win first Women Super League game

Manchester United secured a 2-0 win against rivals Liverpool in their first-ever Super League meeting.

Second half goals from Lauren James, sister of Chelsea full back Reece James, and a late penalty from Katie Zelem ensured the Red Devils of their first points of the campaign.

A crowd of over 2,800 at the Leigh Sports Village watched what was a rather tense affair with United hitting the woodwork on three occasions. The Red Devils proved good value for their win.

Chelsea too good for Bristol City

The Blues moved into third place with a comfortable 4-0 win at Bristol City.

Norway midfielder, Guro Reiten scored twice in the first ten minutes, before Ji So-Yun added Chelsea’s third seven minutes later.

Sophie Ingle then finished off from close range in the second half to leave Chelsea with seven points from three matches. Winless Bristol City meanwhile is down in 10th position.

Birmingham City versus Reading – Postponed

There was meant to be a sixth match for the week, however it was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch at Birmingham.  The new date for the fixture is yet to be announced.

What next?

Round four of the Women Super League features a top of the table clash between rivals Chelsea and Arsenal at The Cherry Red Records Stadium. 

Newly promoted sides Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United meet at Spurs’ Hive Stadium.

While Liverpool plays fellow strugglers Bristol City, both sides will be looking for their first wins of the season. 

Manchester City will look to take advantage of their title rivals facing each other as they host Birmingham City.

The final two games see Reading against Everton and Brighton take on West Ham United.

Dates of next WSL Fixtures

Saturday 12th October

Manchester City vs Birmingham City Kick off (2pm)

Sunday 13th October

Liverpool vs Bristol City  (12pm)

Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United (12:30pm)

 Reading vs Everton (2pm)

 Brighton & Hove Albion vs West Ham United (2pm)

 Chelsea vs Arsenal (3pm)

Manchester United vs Arsenal

About 15 years ago, Manchester United versus Arsenal was the hottest fixture in the Premier League calendar. As the cliche goes, it’s the game you would be looking for as soon as the fixture list came out.

But nowadays, as much as the Sky Sports marketing team are trying to pretend otherwise, it just doesn’t have the same gravity.

The days of the Ferguson-Wenger rivalry are over, along with the two side’s title hopes for the foreseeable future. There are no furious wrestles for top spot in the Premier League, but a desperate clammer for the Europa League. 

The Solskjaer-Emery rivalry just doesn’t feel like it will have the same kind of bite to it. And it’s a rivalry that, should the current form of both sides continue to slump, probably won’t be around for much longer. 

Both sides currently sit outside the ‘top six’, but a win for the Gunners would see them fly up to fourth, behind Leicester City on goal difference. A win for United, meanwhile, would put them level on points with their London opponents.

The two sides have already met twice in 2019 since Solskjaer took over. The first was in late January, near the start of the Norwegian’s now baffling winning streak. It was a game and a result that actually felt like more than just United’s players being happy that someone with a nice smile had taken over as manager. 

Solskjaer displayed some real tactical nous. Jesse Lingard lingered in kind of false nine position, teasing the Arsenal backline. Romelu Lukaku would then use his pace and power to exploit this space, and drift wide to pillage the inevitable gaps left by Sead Kolasinac. 

It was a result that felt like it gave some real substance to United’s burst of form under Solskjaer. Something that showed that it wasn’t just a new manager buzz that was spurring them on. 

But fast forward a couple of months to their Premier League meeting in March, and the Red Devils slumped to a disappointing 2-0 defeat at the Emirates Stadium. The wheels had come off whatever vehicle Solskjaer was at the wheel for. 

It was Arsenal’s first victory against Man United since May 2017, having lost three of the four games since. But now they seem the slightly more likely side to pip the points tonight based off recent form.

United capped off a disappointing 2-0 defeat to West Ham last weekend with a midweek scare against Rochdale in the League Cup. A strike from 16 year old Luke Matheson sent the match to a nervous penalty shootout, which United were able to edge through on. 

The signs aren’t encouraging for the Red Devils, although they were able to pull off what now constitutes as a surprise victory against Leicester this month. 

United have generally struggled in games which they’ve seen a lot of the ball, such as against Crystal Palace. But when facing teams that want to play and have their share of the ball like Leicester and Chelsea, the Red Devils have been able to release their counter-attacking weapons. 

This has the potential to trouble Arsenal’s defence, with David Luiz and Sokratis both struggling this season. Sokratis lacks speed and has looked shaky in possession, while Luiz’s recklessness has seen him punished several times already. 

Isolating both in one on one situations could see them struggle, although United will be without Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford. Both players’ direct running abilities would have been a serious danger to the Gunners’ centre back partnership.

Instead, it is likely to be Mason Greenwood who they will face. Unless Solskjaer decides that Lingard should be played up front, like he surprisingly did against West Ham. 

Greenwood has certainly shown potential and willingness to run at opponents, so if he can fully realise his talents against the Gunners then he could be a threat. 

But that is not to forget Arsenal’s own talents up front. Alexandre Lacazette remains sidelined but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicholas Pepe both look set to start, with Dani Ceballos in the team to help supply them. 

Arsenal’s front line this year is incredibly promising, in stark contrast to their defence. United, meanwhile, have bolstered at the back with Harry Maguire, who looks to be forming a good partnership with Victor Lindelof. 

But with Martial and Rashford injured and a lack of a creative attacking midfielder, the Red Devils look very light in attack. It will be a fascinating battle between two teams who have greatly mixed abilities throughout each of their sides. 

AFC Wimbledon Suspend Wally Downes…

AFC Wimbledon, currently in the bottom 3 of League 1 have today suspended their first team manager Wally Downes until further notice, for a breach of FA Betting rules.

A Club Statement Read:

Club manager Wally Downes has been suspended from first team duties pending further notice.

The club has been informed that Wally has been charged by the FA for Misconduct under FA Rule E1(b) in respect of 8 bets placed on football matches between 30 November 2013 and 12 July 2019.

Given the seriousness of this breach in FA regulations, the club has decided to suspend Wally with immediate effect, giving time for the club and Dons Trust boards to look at the allegations more closely and make a further announcement in due course.

 

This couldn’t have come at a worse time for AFC Wimbledon, who are in the middle of a bad run of form.

Wally Downes was appointed, in December last year and led them against all the odds to survival in League 1, thanks to a last day draw at Bradford City.

The period in question relates to a time when Downes was employed in India with Kerala Blasters during 2016/2017. And carried on during his subsequent appointment as manager for AFC Wimbledon in December 2018.

Prior to his appointment as manager and during his interview process, Downes was quizzed on comments made which related to homophobia on his Twitter account. Though the board were happy with his explanation of these matters and his Twitter account was quickly deleted.

It remains to be seen what the outcome will be. Downes will most likely be aware of the outcome for Joey Barton, now manager at Fleetwood Town; Joey was charged for the same offence and suspended from all football activities for 18 months.

Portsmouth 0 Southampton 4 …

The eagerly awaited South Coast Derby eventually came last night, as league 1 Portsmouth took on Premier League Southampton. It was the first derby between the two teams since 2012, and predictably enough, went the way of Southampton.

The scoreline might seem a tad harsh on Portsmouth, who fielded a strong side last night. The side bore close resemblance to the team that narrowly missed out on Promotion from League 1 Last season.

Southampton for their part were fresh, following being beaten in another South Coast Derby on Friday night against Bournemouth. That game saw them on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline, so last nights game was always going to be a tall order for Portsmouth

However…

Portsmouth more than held their own for 30 minutes, before making two sloppy mistakes by their standards. These defensive errors, which led to Danny Ings Scoring two goals.

FIFA awards Klopp and Alisson; van Dijk and Alisson part of Best XI

On Monday at the Teatro all Scala in Milan, Italy, The Best FIFA Football Awards ™ were hosted. It was a particularly huge night for Champions League winners Liverpool as they had two major award winners for The Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper (Alisson) and The Best FIFA Men’s Coach (Jürgen Klopp). Although Virgil van Dijk did not win the award for The Best FIFA Men’s Player, he and Alisson were a part of FIFA FIFPro Men’s World11.

Klopp, after consistently losing in the finals of major competitions such as the Champions League final twice (2012-13 and 2017-18) and the UEFA Europa League Final (2015-2016), he finally was able to get over the hump and win his first major European trophy. Klopp’s journey to glory came with a few bumps in road, having to overcome a massive deficit against FC Barcelona to win 4-3 on aggregate in the semi-final. It ended in glory as Klopp and Liverpool were able to defeat Premier League foe Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in Madrid to clinch their first Champions League trophy since the 2004-2005 season. Klopp had received 48 percent of the vote, edging out fellow Premier League managers Pep Guardiola of Manchester City (38 percent) and Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham Hotspur (27 percent) for the top award.

Alisson was able to land the award for The Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper after becoming a world-class player for Liverpool in their Champions League triumph and for Brazil in their victory at CONMEBOL Copa América, having been named the Best Goalkeeper and to the Team of Tournament as well. He was able to beat out FC Barcelona’s Marc-André ter Stegen and fellow Brazil compatriot Ederson of Manchester City to win the award as the best goalie in the world.

Virgil van Dijk, although not able to win the award for The Best FIFA Men’s Player after FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi received 46 percent of the votes, was able to finish second in the race with 38 percent of the votes, just above Cristiano Ronaldo’s 36 percent. The center back had an incredible 2019 as he helped lead a Liverpool defense in their Champions League journey while also playing a key role for the Netherlands during the UEFA Nations League, making it to the finals before ultimately losing to host Portugal.

Alisson and van Dijk were also able to make the FIFA FIFPro Men’s World11, recognizing the best 11 players in their respective positions during 2019. They made the list along with Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax/Juventus), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Frenkie de Jong (Ajax/FC Barcelona), Eden Hazard (Chelsea/Real Madrid), Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), and Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona).

This year was successful for Liverpool as not only were they recognized as a great team by winning the Champions League but received individual awards thanks to those who played a pivotal role in a season their fans will never forget.

Leeds Blow Derby Revenge

It was the same old story for Leeds United at Elland Road for the Championship’s early kick off, as the Whites conceded in stoppage time to make it 1-1 against a Derby County side they had previously dominated. 

United bossed the first half, and took the lead through a Max Lowe own goal before Mateusz Klich put a second half penalty wide. That miss proved costly, with Chris Martin sliding in the Rams’ only shot on target of the game in added time. 

“I said to the players ‘stay in the game’ because the way they play – which is really good – they’re expending a lot of energy. To keep this going for 90 minutes is difficult I think”, said Derby manager Phillip Cocu. 

The Dutchman was proved right, as Leeds appeared to blow themselves out after a furious first half.

Marcelo Bielsa’s men went about their business in fine fashion pressing and haranguing Derby, making sure they barely got a look-in. 

Clear openings were slow to come by, but did eventually come as Jack Harrison saw his close range effort saved by Kelle Roos after excellent work from Stuart Dallas on the right. 

The opener was to come just a minute later though. A Kalvin Phillips free-kick was turned back across goal by the flailing leg of Patrick Bamford. Dallas arrived to turn it towards goal and although his strike was saved by Roos, it rebounded back in off the unfortunate Max Lowe. 

Dallas did nearly have his goal soon after as Roos turned over the Northern Irishman’s effort from the edge of the area, before beating away a Jack Harrison strike from a similar range. 

Bamford continued to struggle in front of goal for United after his early season form. The former Middlesbrough man blazed over the bar after being put through on goal at the end of the first half.

The second half saw then saw a completely different Leeds to the first. Perhaps it was the hot weather or the early kick off, but the home side looked sluggish after half time, and their previous intensity fell off a cliff edge. 

More fine play from Dallas on the right saw Bamford hit the post from close range a couple of minutes into the half, but from then on the Whites’ foot was off the accelerator. 

A quiet second half played out, before Bamford earned his side a pivotal penalty in the 69th minute. Pablo Hernandez played the centre forward in, and his weaving run into the Derby box drew out a clumsy challenge. 

Klich stepped up with a slow run-up, just as he had last week against Barnsley successfully. The run-up itself went well, selling Roos completely the opposite way. But Klich, almost comically, was only able to roll the ball the wrong side of the post. 

What was left of United’s energy reserves now seemed to completely dissipate, especially from Klich who had previously had a superb game setting the tempo in midfield. 

Derby began to ease their way back into it and shifted higher and higher up the pitch, with Leeds becoming increasingly bedraggled. 

The moment for the Rams finally came in added time. A ball from the right found Jamie Paterson on the edge of the area, who had made a positive difference for Derby since his introduction. 

He turned neatly and laid the ball on a plate for fellow substitute Martin, who cooly placed the ball past Kiko Casilla. 

Regardless of the fact that Leeds had slipped off in the second half, it was a somewhat undeserved point for County. Leeds will be ruing missed opportunities as more home points slip through their grasp.

Chelsea vs Liverpool Preview: Who will win the battle at the Bridge?

The Premier League’s gameweek 6 sees Liverpool travel to south London to go toe to toe with rivals Chelsea, which promises to be a mouthwatering battle. Liverpool sit at the top of the Premier League standings while the Blues are currently placed 6th.

Both Liverpool and Chelsea suffered a defeat at the hands of Napoli and Valencia in the first round of the UEFA Champions League, with late goals getting the better of both teams.

However, the attention has quickly turned to Sunday’s clash which is undisputedly a main event of the weekend.

Frank Lampard’s Chelsea had a mixed start to the season as they have won two, drawn two and lost one from the opening five fixtures. While on the other hand, the Reds are enjoying a brilliant start as they are the only side in the division with the 100% record which sees them sit at the top of the pile with 5 points lead on Champions Manchester City.

Here is all you need to know about Sunday’s clash between Liverpool & Chelsea.


Team News:

N’golo Kante is back for Chelsea and is in contention to face Liverpool which certainly is a mega boost for Lampard.

Liverpool’s Naby Keita and Alisson are still not available to feature. While Divock Origi doesn’t look will have a part in game vs Chelsea due to an injury against Newcastle United last week.


Kick-Off time: Sunday, 22nd September (16:30 BST)

Venue: Stamford Bridge, London

Referee: Michael Oliver


Predicted Lineups:

Chelsea:  Kepa; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Christensen, Tomori, Alonso; Jorgiinho, Kovacic; Willian, Mount; Abraham.

Liverpool: Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Henderson; Salah, Mane, Firmino


Prediction:

Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool

It would be an intense battle and both the teams will try to nullify each other but I think Liverpool will have enough in their tank to get a win at Stamford Bridge.

Reports: David Beckham, Inter Miami set to sign Man City star David Silva

According to several reports, midfielder David Silva is reported to likely join Major League Soccer’s newest franchise Inter Miami after the end of the Premier League season, making it David Beckham’s first big signing for the club.

David Beckham entered the MLS as the league’s first worldwide soccer star in 2007, after arriving from powerhouse Real Madrid. He wants the league to continue to bring in superstars and is hoping to bring them to his franchise in South Beach. Although Silva is not a household name like Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, he is a player that a team can easily build around.

Since Silva arrived from Valencia nine years ago for £26 million, he has been a catalyst in Man City’s success over the past few years. He has won four Premier League titles, two FA Cups, and four League Cups. Silva has also been a pivotal part in Spain’s history as he was won two European championships and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. 

Although Silva would miss the first three months of the inaugural season as the MLS campaign starts in March, he may not be the only player arriving in Miami late. There have been several reports that Paris Saint-Germain and Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani is also a target for the team. Also, it was reported that Beckham and his partners Jorge Mas and Paul McDonough were in Barcelona this month, apparently approaching Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez.

Inter Miami had already signed three players prior to the Silva reports. Forward Julián Carranza (Banfield) and midfielder Matías Pellegrini (Estudiantes) are both on loans at their respective teams in Argentina’s Primera División, while Venezuelan defender Christian Makoun arrives after being on loan at Juventus’ U-23 team.

Is Zidane What Real Need?

Just over a year ago, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid were claiming their fourth Champions League in five years, and their third in a row. A far cry from the side that crumbled against PSG on Wednesday evening.

They managed to hold off a Liverpool side yet to reach the heights of last season, helped by two calamitous errors from Loris Karius.

This Real Madrid side that ruled Europe was packed with individual brilliance, from back to front. Yet, particularly in the last couple of years, it has felt as though this is a side lacking in the collective.

There was no particular style of football you could really label Los Blancos with aside from that of being a pure winning machine, which some may very fairly argue is the most impressive and important style of all. 

While their individual brilliance saw them through Champions League nights, it generally failed to sustain Real properly throughout a league campaign. Throughout their five year period of continental dominance, Los Blancos only won La Liga once. 

On the flip side, you have Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. A superb collective that can dominate over a season in the league, where a one off bad result can be bounced back from. But the chaotic nature of the Champions League knockout stages does not allow for such things. It’s hard to deny that there is a strong element of luck in pretty much all knockout competitions. 

At times, it has felt like fortune favoured Real. Spirited and deserving opposition performances were put to the sword with moments of fortune and brilliance. Overhead kicks have seemingly been a particular feature of Real’s recent dominance in the Champions League. 

And who could deny the wondrous ability of their players. A front three of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric creating in midfield anchored by Casemiro.

Even in defence, Real Madrid had more excellent attackers. Marcelo and Dani Carvajal probably spent most of their time in the opposition half, and Sergio Ramos’s goal threat from set pieces is admirable.

But this attacking brilliance felt like a problem lying in wait – a lack of coherence and defensive stability. Casemiro was thrown in at the base of midfield, but at times it appeared to be more like Pritt Stick trying to hold an aeroplanes wings on. 

There was a fragility covered up by superstar moments. Real’s midfield and attack had little defensive nous aside from their Brazilian anchorman. And Marcelo’s frequent raids forward left so much space in defence, not helped by Ramos’s instinctive drive to attack the ball. 

It’s miraculous that these weaknesses were never really exploited. It felt inevitable that they would be, and that the time would soon come to shift on Los Blancos’s brilliant but ageing stars. 

Now we skip ahead past their disaster of 2018/19, with Ronaldo’s departure and the chaos of Julen Lopetegui, to the present day back with Zidane. 

There has been some forward shift. Eden Hazard has taken up the number seven shirt, and Vinicius Junior emerged into the first team last season – a child of the 2000s. 

But in defence, there are still issues. Ramos is a conundrum – there is no denying his incredible and combative defensive ability, particularly in one on one duels. But he is reckless, often darting from his position and leaving space in behind him.

However, Real Madrid seem to struggle to cope without him. He was missing last night against PSG as Los Blancos fell to a 3-0 defeat. That was thanks to a two match suspension he picked up for deliberately getting a yellow card in the first leg of Real’s last 16 tie against Ajax. We all know how that second leg went. 

Nacho Monreal also being suspended won’t have helped Zidane and Real, but their failings in Ramos’s absence shows their reliance on individuals – be it through their ability or character. 

Ramos is far from the perfect defender, but he is an aggressive leader and Los Blancos seem to struggle without him. They also, of course, have struggled since Ronaldo’s departure. Not only have they lost his show-stopping moments on the pitch, but also the leading character of the Real Madrid blockbuster. 

Marcelo, for all his frankly laughable defensive lapses, also seems to be a missed presence when he is not in the side. Even when he hits crosses woefully behind their intended recipient, they get finished off via overhead kicks. Some of those sparking moments seem to be fading.

And perhaps this shows what the strength of Zidane was and is. Somehow fashioning this unwieldy band of superstars into a single minded and driven unit, capable pulling off spectacular moments to win big matches – matches they arguably sometimes did not deserve to win. 

But now there is a rebuild going on. The superstars from that team are dispersing, waxing and waning. Zidane has an entirely different task on his hand to when he first took up the Real Madrid job. Old structures will have to be knocked down for new ones to be built, and Zidane may not have the right managerial talents to do so. 

Women’s Super League Round Up: Week Two

Title contenders Manchester City and Arsenal both maintained their unbeaten starts to the season with wins at Reading and Manchester United respectively. Fellow title hopefuls Chelsea however could only manage a draw at Brighton.

Meanwhile surprise package Everton also made it two wins from two games against Bristol City, having only won three games in the league all of last season. 

Elsewhere Tottenham picked up their first ever points in the Super League against Liverpool and last year’s FA Cup finalists, West Ham picked up their first win of the campaign by beating Birmingham.

 Everton’s (The Toffees) unexpected start

The place to begin with is The Toffees, who maintained their unbeaten start to the season by beating Bristol City 2-0.  Two terrific strikes from 21 year old, Chloe Kelly either side of half time secured the points, as the Merseyside club backed up their 1-0 win over Birmingham on the opening day of the season in impressive fashion.

Their unbeaten run however will certainly be put to the test when they next face Manchester City at home.

Manchester City continue to impress

German international, Pauline Bremer continued her prolific start to the season, following up her two goals in mid-week during the 7-1 Champions League win over Lugano, with a double in a 2-0 victory over Reading at Adams Park.

Bremer’s recent displays is certainly a major plus considering the fact that they will be without star player Georgia Stanway for the next six weeks through injury.

Arsenal (The Gunners) made to work

The Gunners left it late against newly promoted Manchester United It took a 89th minute winner from substitute, Danielle Van der Donk to maintain Arsenal’s perfect start to the season, following up on their 2-1 victory over West Ham on the opening weekend.

Casey Stoney’s side have now given a good account of themselves against both of last season’s top two Super League sides, Manchester City and Arsenal.  They will hope to get their first points of the season when they face winless Liverpool in the next round of matches.  Arsenal’s next Super League match is against Brighton at home.

Chelsea (The Blues) held by Brighton

Chelsea had to rely on a stoppage time equaliser from substitute, Adelina Engman after Aileen Whelan had put Brighton ahead with just six minutes to go.

The Blues however, will certainly see this as dropped points and will look to get back to winning ways when they travel to Bristol City.

Tottenham and West Ham pick up first wins

Tottenham meanwhile picked up their first ever Super League win, 1-0 against Liverpool, thanks to a Rachel Furness penalty just before half time.

Liverpool also had to play the last 30 minutes with ten players after centre-back Niamh Fahey was sent off for a foul on Rosella Ayane when the forward was clean through on goal.

Finally West Ham also picked up a 1-0 over Birmingham win thanks to a goal from Canadian international, Adriana Leon.

The London rivals will face each other in the next round of matches at West Ham’s Olympic Stadium.

Dates of the next WSL fixtures

Saturday 28th September

Manchester United vs Liverpool Kick Off (12pm)

Sunday 29th September

Arsenal vs Brighton (12:30pm)

Everton vs Manchester City (12:30pm)

Birmingham City vs Reading (2pm)

West Ham United vs Tottenham Hotspur (2:30pm)

Bristol City vs Chelsea (3pm)

How crucial will David De Gea’s role at Manchester United be following his new contract signing?

Finally after a period of prolonged negotiations stretching roughly two years, the Spanish number one goalkeeper has signed a new deal at Manchester United this week until 2023.

This latest contract ensures that the Spanish international becomes the highest earner at the club, earning around £375,000 per week.

That in mind, it begs the question, how important will his role be in trying to get Manchester United back to competing again for premier league titles?

Following on from this, should he subsequently be made club captain?

Background and achievements to date

De Gea is currently one of the clubs longest serving players, having signed for The Red Devils back in 2011/12 from Atletico Madrid. The Spanish goalkeeper was scouted and hand picked as a replacement for veteran goalkeeper, Edwin Van Der Saar, by none other than legendary manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.

During that time he has played over 300 games for the club and has helped them win a Premier League title – which he considers to be his career highlight so far, a League Cup, FA Cup and Europa League crown.

In terms of individual achievements, De Gea is the only Manchester United player to date to win the prestigious Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award on four separate occasions.

Challenging Times

Following a difficult first season with Manchester United, up until the World Cup in Russia 2018, he was widely considered to be the World Best Goalkeeper alongside Bayern Munich and German international keeper, Manuel Neuer.

A standout performance that immediately comes to mind is the remarkable 3-0 win against Liverpool at Old Trafford in 2014. What made this performance so special is that it is the first time that I can remember a goalkeeper being made man of the match.

He has also been responsible for evolving the importance of the goalkeeper position by constantly making remarkable saves with his feet as well as using his remarkable hand reflexes.

The previous season however has shown that his standards have notably slipped following his poor performances for Spain in Russia. This was followed by the latter disappointing games for Manchester United. Most importantly, his below par performance against Barcelona in the Champions League Quarter-final second leg where Lionel Messi’s second goal came from a shot going through De Gea’s legs. There was a similar goal conceded against Chelsea in the league at Old Trafford.

What was also apparent was the low number of Manchester United clean sheets he kept throughout the season.  De Gea only managed seven in the league out of a possible 38 matches and conceded 54 goals.  This was almost twice the number of the 2017/18 campaign where he achieved 18 clean sheets and only let in 28 goals.

The most likely cause of this lack of confidence was due to his uncertain future at the club, and also his inability to recover from his average performances for Spain at last summer’s World Cup.

What next for De Gea and what role should he play for Manchester United?

Manchester United fans must now be hoping that following the resolution of De Gea’s future; he will begin to go back to his previous excellent form.

He does have a key role to play in helping form a “new, more solid spine of the team,” according to former club captain, Gary Neville.

De Gea is now one of the more experienced players at the club and as his current manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer constantly stresses, “he is still one of the world best goalkeepers and holds him in the highest esteem at the club.”

Stats will show that this season De Gea has already managed to match the number clean sheets that he had at Old Trafford from last season (two).

This has been aided by the fact there has been a consistent centre back pairing in Harry Maguire and Victor Lindeloef, a luxury that he did not have in the last campaign.

I believe he should also be made captain, as he is now one of the few Manchester United players who have experienced winning a Premier League title, as well as being one of their most constant performers.

Not only that, but I also liked his answer on his approach to leading a team that he gave in his interview on Monday following the confirmation of his new contract, that also indicates a more positive attitude that should reflect in his performance over the coming months. De Gea said,

“I think that it’s important to have your say but, at the same time, not to go too far or say something to your team-mates in a bad-mannered way. I’m always a pretty calm character, but when something needs to be said, I will say it, especially out on the pitch where I think it’s most important, to give bits of advice to everyone.

To always try and help everyone out, especially the younger lads.  So yes like I say, to always help where possibly I can.”

Other Captain Contenders?

Current club captain, Ashley Young, is no longer a guaranteed first choice starter having moved behind both, Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the full back pecking order.

While other long serving players such as Chris Smailing have gone on loan to Roma and, like with Ashley Young, Phil Jones is no longer a first choice defender.

New signing, Harry Maguire, while he has potential to be club captain, he has not been at the club for long enough.  There is also the added pressure of dealing with being the world’s most expensive defender.

The only other viable contenders at the moment for the captaincy that I can see are Juan Mata, who is not guaranteed to start every game, however he is widely considered to be a model professional and then there is the enigma that is Paul Pogba.

Conclusion: What does the future hold for the Spanish international?

In the short term, David De Gea will have his eyes on regaining his place as Spain’s number one goalkeeper from Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga as well as getting back to his high standards and performances that he produced for previous managers such as Sir Alex Ferguson, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

One thing that is clearly apparent however, David De Gea has a crucial role to play in getting Manchester United back to where they feel they should be, that is competing for league titles over the coming years. 

Preview: Portsmouth v Burton Albion

This evening sees Portsmouth take on Burton Albion at Fratton Park, in the English Football League 1 clash.

For Portsmouth it marks the return to league action after the international break, where they had to postpone their last match with Southend due to International Call ups and when they were due to play Bury. Last Saturday they played Norwich City U21 in a rearranged Leasing Cup match – as Bury have sadly been expelled from the league.

Kenny Jackett’s men will be raring to go having beaten Norwich U21 3-1 with no new injury worries, aside from Lee Brown (Achilles), Marcus Harness (thigh), Bryn Morris (groin) and Jack Whatmough (knee), who were already ruled out.

Gareth Evans is also fit again, after missing the game against Norwich with a dead leg.

Burton however have doubts over Liam Boyce (hamstring) and Scott Fraser (dead leg) – who were both withdrawn on Saturday – and Jake Buxton (ribs).

Portsmouth currently sit 18th in League 1, with just 1 win in the last 5. Burton Albion, who under the guidance of Nigel Clough, are unbeaten in their last 6 games and lie 11th in the table

As Kenny Jackett explained, it will be a tight and tough game.

Burton will be a well organised and resilient outfit to break down, so it should be a good game, as the head to head count below shows:

HEAD TO HEAD
Overall
Pompey: 2 wins
Burton: 1 win
3 draws

At Fratton Park
Pompey: 0 wins
Burton: 0 wins
3 draws

 

Preview: Sunderland v Rotherham United

We look ahead to the Sky Bet League One Match…

SUNDERLAND host Rotherham United at the Stadium of Light, as they look to build on a positive start to their Sky Bet League One campaign.

Jack Ross’s side have made a good start to the season as they look to go one better than the last, having lost in the Play-Off Final. The Black Cats have started with five wins, two draws and one defeat from their seven matches in the league.tar

The Black Cats come into this game on the back of a 3-1 victory over Accrington Stanley at the weekend and having lost just one from their last seven in all competitions.

Rotherham United, managed by Paul Warne, have won three out of four games on the road this season and will be looking to build on the emphatic 6-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers on Saturday afternoon at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.

Speaking ahead of the fixture, Black Cats boss Ross told the Media at Monday’s press conference that winger Duncan Watmore is still missing, however striker Charlie Wyke is back after suspension and injury.

Ross also stated as things stand, the Black Cats have no fresh injury concerns from the weekend’s win over Accrington. This is despite a couple of players being involved who had been carrying injuries.

Speaking after the victory over Bolton on Saturday Millers boss Paul Warne said: “I always think we can be better,”

“If I didn’t I’m not doing my job properly. We’ll watch the game back tomorrow then prepare for Sunderland. We’ll see what things we could have done better.

“We had plenty of chances, first-half. The set-piece caught us cold, even though we haven’t been able to have them watched, I knew set-pieces would be a problem. Someone fell asleep, so that’s a problem.

“But, overall, to score six goals at home in the sunshine, it was a good workout against a good Bolton side. We weren’t playing against an Under-21s – anything but. They did cause us problems, at times, but more often than not, the lads answered the questions.”

Warne admitted that “The lads were trying to score,” saying “We were putting dangerous crosses in. We haven’t had much luck over the last five or six games, I don’t think. Whereas we had a lot of luck today, like Carlton’s second goal with how it fell to him and a deflected shot. You could argue that the scoreline maybe flattered us, I don’t know if we were deserved of more goals but we were definitely deserved of a win.”

Warne believed that he thought Bolton would start really well, saying: “I thought they (Bolton) would start really well. They had a brilliant following and they stood to a man to the final whistle and clapped their team off, which was hugely impressive.

“For them to score early on was a good character test and the lads passed the test.”

Match Prediction

Sunderland 1-2 Rotherham United

Away Ticket News

Ticket Details for Rotherham United fans ahead of the game, it’s been confirmed that Millers supporters can pay on the night at the Stadium of Light ahead of their clash.

There will be no increases in price of tickets on the day of the game – meaning they are priced at:

  • Adults (22-64): £18
  • Senior (65+): £15
  • Under 22: £10
  • Under 16: £17

Proof of concessions will need to be shown at time of purchase and also on the turnstiles at the Stadium of Light on the day of the game. If anyone is unable to show proof of concession at the turnstiles then they’ll be refused entry with no refund possible.

Tickets will remain on sale at the AESSEAL New York Stadium’s Red and White Shop, online at Rotherham United Shop or via phone on 01709 827768 until 12pm Tuesday 17th September.

Tammy Abraham: The Striker for The Blues Future

For the past couple of seasons, Chelsea have struggled trying to find a consistent option for the Number 9 role for the club. With world-class players such as Alvaro Morata and Gonzalo Higuaín attempting to fill the role, there was never that reliable striker option for The Blues. However, have Chelsea found their best striker option – in a player who has been a part of their youth system since 2004?

Tammy Abraham has had an excellent start during the beginning months of the new Premier League season, currently tied with Sergio Agüero of Manchester City with seven goals. After being on loan ever since he was promoted to the senior team in 2016, with stops at Bristol City, Swansea City, and Aston Villa, Abraham has finally gotten his opportunity to shine for The Blues and has made the most of his opportunity.

Prior to the start of the season, Abraham struggled to fill the role. In the UEFA Super Cup match against Premier League foe Liverpool, Abraham missed a penalty during the shootout, leading to a victory for the recent Champions League winners. He had faced racist backlash after the loss but used it as motivation and his play has not let down ever since.

Unseating proven striker options in Oliver Giroud and Michy Batshuayi, Abraham has been on a tear for The Blues scoring at least two goals in the past three games, including a hat trick in a 5-2 victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers on September 14. With this performance, he was the youngest player to score three matches in a match for the club during the Premier League era (21 years, 347 days).

When you are a part of Chelsea and wear the same number as legends including the likes of Fernando Torres and Hernán Crespo, you are expected to perform at the highest level every game. Abraham has so far lived up to those expectations in the early stages of the season, and has answered the prayers of Chelsea fans who were looking for a consistent striker option.

Barnsley 0-2 Leeds United: Whites fitness told as they win Yorkshire Derby

LEEDS United beat Barnsley 2-0 at Oakwell on Sunday afternoon in a pulsating Yorkshire Derby.

Second half goals from Eddie Nketiah and Mateusz Klich secured all three points for Marcelo Bielsa’s troops as they marched back to the top of the table.

Barnsley played well in parts

For biggest parts of the first period of this Yorkshire Derby, Barnsley, who were the home side, showed some good movement as they tried to break the deadlock, trying to stop their West Yorkshire rivals winning consecutive games against the Tykes.

Former Whites player Mallik Wilks looked to cause a few problems for the Leeds defence. However, selfishly going for goals over assists he squandered a good opportunity, and being at a tight angle failed to beat ex Real Madrid keeper Kiko Casilla in goal.

In the second half Casilla had to produce a good stop to deny a Tykes chance on the goal-line, but what the Whites shot stopper  didn’t know that Aapo Halme a fellow ex Leeds player had blocked an header on the line and in doing so was in an offside position.

Substitutions changed the game for Leeds

The fitness levels for Leeds in the last minutes helped them claim the deserved victory, extra energy coming from substitutions definitely helped.

Bringing Helder Costa on at the break for Jack Harrison and Eddie Nketiah for Patrick Bamford with twenty minutes remaining changed the complexion of the game in the favour of Bielsa’s troops.

The fresh legs and ideas that both Costa and Nketiah helped the Whites get over the line in a game which looked to be heading for a goalless draw.

First real involvement for Costa forced Dimitri Cavare into fouling the on-loan Wolverhampton Wanderers winger, from the free-kick which followed, Leeds scored.

Kalvin Phillips, who recently signed a new five-year deal at Leeds, whipped in the free-kick to the back post, skipper Liam Cooper missed it but Nketiah followed in around the back to volley home at the back post.

Nketiah was involved in the second goal aswell after winning a penalty following a foul by Halme on the on-loan Arsenal man.

Polish international Klich calmly slotted the penalty home, giving the travelling fans more reasons to celebrate as they bounced back from a 1-0 defeat last time out against Swansea.

Leeds caused commotion in the stands

Following the opening goal of the game by Nketiah, Leeds fans began to celebrate the goal – out of nowhere a steward raced towards the supporters celebrating their teams opening goal.

The steward seemingly unfairly picked out a certain individual and pushed him down to the ground, before grabbing him around the throat before escorting him away from the ground which lead to the fan getting arrested.

Perfect Response From Leeds

Overall it was a perfect response from the Whites. Losing before the international break, and then returning to winning ways and also returning at the summit at the top of the Championship table.

The next game for Leeds is a re-run of the play-off semi-final from last season, as Derby County arrive at Elland Road on Saturday 21 September – kick-off 12.30pm, you can watch that game live on Sky Sports.

Morecambe v Walsall – Match Preview

Tuesday (17th September 2019) will see The Shrimps Host Darrel Clarke’s Walsall Side in what will be a Interesting game on the Lancashire Seaside Coast.

The Shrimps will go into this game hoping for their first home victory of the season, making it their second so far. In their last game, Jim Bentley’s side suffered a 3-0 to a very poor Scunthorpe side, goals from Proctor, Van Veen & Lund, saw the Shrimps off in what was a very one sided affair In North Lincolnshire.

Also the Saddlers will be going into the game hoping for their second victory of the season. In their last game they suffered a 1-0 defeat to a very in-form Bradford City side, an own goal by Kinsella made sure that the Bantams took three points in the Midlands.

Last time The Shrimps faced the Saddlers was back in 2015 in the first round of the JPT (now known as the Leasing.com trophy). Jim Bentley’s side managed to see off the Saddlers in what was a 2-0 comfortable victory for the Shrimps, goals from Jamie Devitt and Tom Barkhuizen secured the shrimps a place in the next round of the JPT.

Both sides have had an equally poor start to the 19/20 League Two campaign:

Morecambe P8 W1 D3 L4

Walsall P8 W1 D3 L4

With both sides only winning one fixture this season, this will be one very interesting affair at the Globe Arena.

Liverpool 3-1 Newcastle United: Subtle Reds create Premier League history

Liverpool cruised to a comprehensive 3-1 victory over Newcastle United to retain the top spot in the Premier League standings.

Anfield witnessed yet another sublime display as Liverpool outplayed the Magpies on quality and matched a Premier League record. Their triumph against Steve Bruce’s side means it’s Reds’ 14th consecutive win in Premier League, just 4 short of Pep Guardiola’s consecutive win record. Liverpool are the first team in top-flight history to win 14 straight matches, by scoring more than once in each win.

However, Liverpool did have an unusually slow start and the visitors made the most out of it as Jetro Willems scored with a sublime right-footed strike. Nevertheless, the hosts responded in stunning fashion, as in-form Sadio Mane dispatched a crucial equalizer on the 27th-minute mark. Minutes before the second half, Jurgen Klopp was forced to make a substitution which saw Roberto Firmino coming off the bench to replace injured Divock Origi.

The Brazillian had a lightning-quick impact on the game, and submitted a delicious pass for The Reds’ second goal. The European champions were ahead in a flash.

After the second one, they looked relatively more comfortable, predominately Roberto Firmino was under a constant spotlight, displaying a unique extravaganza of subtle twist and turns and exquisite passes. Salah’s first and Liverpool’s third came due to Brazillian’s wonderful backheel. It was just wonderful to watch.

Moreover, Reds’ midfield also did a good job, and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s return was one of the positive signs.

Liverpool sit at the top of the pile with a five point lead on Manchester City. They are looking very sharp and looking hungry from the very start to land their first Premier League title

Player Ratings:

Liverpool:

Adrian – 6, Van Dijk – 8, Matip – 7, Alexander Arnold -7, Robertson – 7, Fabinho 8, Oxlade Chamberlain 8, Wijnaldum -7, Mane -8, Salah – 7, Origi -6

Subs:

Firmino- 9, Milner – 6, Shaqiri -6

Newcastle United:

Martin Dubravka- 5, Krafth -6, Schar -6, Lascelles -6, Dumeett -6, Willems -7, Almiron-6, Hayden-6, Shelvey -6, Atsu-5, Joelinton -6.

Subs:

Muto- 6, Fernandez-6, Manquillo-6.

 

 

The Battle for Sixth

10 to 15 years ago, the Premier League was a far simpler place. The established top four were Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. Generally, the excitement came from seeing what order those teams would finish in. 

Nowadays, we have a top six after the rise of Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. And not just that, we appear to have a few more teams who are looking to gate crash the big boys. 

With the recent declines of United, Chelsea and Arsenal, sixth spot, at least, is starting to look like it may be up for grabs. One of the teams vying for it is Leicester City. 

Harry Maguire is 26 years old. He’s probably just about old enough to vaguely remember Man United’s treble, and certainly old enough to have grown up in a time when the Red Devils still dominated English football. 

It’s a frame of mind that may have stuck in his head over the summer, as he eventually got his £85 million move to Old Trafford. At the moment though, a move from Leicester to United could arguably be seen as reducing your chances of finishing in a coveted European spot. 

The two teams now go head to head on Saturday, and it is already looking like the match could be an important marker for both sides this season. 

The Foxes have some excellent players, and their midfield is packed with talent. Wilfred Ndidi has proved himself superbly in a holding midfield role, and Hamza Choudhury is developing into a fearsome player. 

On the more attacking front, Leicester have the talents of James Maddison and Youri Tielemans. Maddison adapted brilliantly from the Championship to the Premier League last season, creating the more chances than anyone else in the league. 

Tielemans, meanwhile, was arguably one of the most underrated transfers of the summer. The talented young Belgian impressed in the second half of last season, and has started this season in great form with a goal and an assist from his opening matches. 

Kasper Schmeichel is a fine keeper, and the Foxes have good options at full back with Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell. And who could forget Jamie Vardy, who has started this season excellently. Keeping him fit will be key to Leicester’s top six charge. 

Things seem to be coming together nicely under Brendan Rodgers at the King Power stadium. The same can’t really be said for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the north west. 

It would be foolish to label United’s squad as being generally limited. They still have David de Gea. Paul Pogba – for all that pundits like to slander him – is a brilliant player, and they have the talents of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford up front. 

But nothing seems to have really gelled for the Red Devils. Really, they are a counter-attacking side with two pacy forwards in Rashford and Martial combined with the superb long range passing of Pogba. 

But teams are happy enough to sit back against them. Maybe it’s a hangover from 10 years ago when you’d expect to be beaten by Manchester United, or perhaps most managers have cottoned on to the fact that if United have a lot of the ball, they tend to struggle. 

United lack any true creative presences further up the pitch. Pogba seems to operate better from deeper positions and while they do have a former No10 supremo in Juan Mata, his powers are fading as the pace of the game appears to be getting away from the Spaniard. 

All hope should not be lost though. Maguire and Victor Lindelof have the potential to become a solid defensive partnership, and their backline has been further strengthened by the addition of Aaron Wan-Bissaka. 

And then there is the form of Daniel James, who has exceeded all expectations. His first goal for United may have been a tad lucky courtesy of a deflection, but it seems to have given him great confidence and belief – he is now scoring fine goals for both club and country. 

But United cannot be solely reliant on Pogba hitting long balls to Rashford and Martial, and James smashing in screamers. They need to forge more of a style – perhaps they would be better off hunkering down and attempting to focus on counter-attacking. For the moment at least, they lack the personnel to truly dominate and successfully wear down the opposition. 

They come up against a Leicester side who have a highly technically proficient midfield, one that arguably has the potential to cut through most Premier League sides. 

Getting an edge over United on Saturday will be vital for Rodgers’ and his side, while Solskjaer will be looking to stop the rot at Old Trafford after just three wins in his last 16 games. 

Worries lie beneath England win

Gareth Southgate picked out England’s fixture against Kosovo as a real test for the Three Lions, and on that front he was certainly correct. 

Pitted against a nation that declared independence in 2008, had it’s national side accepted into FIFA in 2012 and were unbeaten in all five Euro 2020 qualifiers, England flapped in the first minute and went behind after a Michael Keane error. 

They quickly made amends though, thanks to the excellence of Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho. Five first half goals in reply saw the game effectively sewn up by half time. In attack, England have little to worry about. 

But after the break, Kosovo came out with fire in their bellies – a kind of fire that comes from being a proud new nation – and hit two goals within the first 10 minutes of the second half. 

Kosovo were admirable to watch. They turned up to the game with guns blazing, and were not afraid to throw players forward in attack. This was at times to their detriment though, as England’s scintillating attack tore up the other end of the pitch. 

Sitting back and soaking up pressure was clearly not the Kosovan game-plan, and their willingness to get in England’s faces rattled the Three Lions in defence. 

To say ‘in defence’ is a tad misleading, however. That would generally suggest that it was the act of defending was the main issue for England. It can be and the Three Lions’ defending is at times questionable, but that wasn’t the real issue of the night. 

The real issue was a sloppiness in possession, in defence. Kosovo’s first and second goals came from sloppy passes under a bit of pressure, first from Michael Keane and then from Declan Rice. 

There is a lack of surety in possession from England’s current central defensive trio – Keane and Harry Maguire in defence, with Rice the deepest lying midfielder. Keane and Rice both displayed lapses in concentration against Kosovo, and while Maguire is the strongest of the three he is not entirely unsusceptible. His poor defending led to Kosovo’s penalty.

What’s interesting is that all three had an excellent pass success rate – Maguire with 94%, Keane 91% and Rice 92%. But in key moments under pressure, when Kosovo got in their faces, they looked highly fallible. 

Kosovo caused England issues, and top level international teams could rip through them. Back in June in the Nations League semi-final, England found themselves more and more dominated by the Netherlands, crumbling in extra-time after two possession errors in defence. 

The culprit that day was John Stones, but England’s problems lie deeper than just lapses in concentration. There is a lack of coordination and movement to get the ball into midfield successfully, something which is hindered both by the man on the ball and his teammates around him failing to provide adequate options. 

What’s frustrating is that Southgate potentially does have the personnel to turn this around. England need more quality in possession but James Maddison, Harry Winks and Mason Mount are struggling to get a look in. 

Winks has fulfilled the role of a deep lying midfielder for Tottenham on many occasions now. Maddison created more chances than any other player in the Premier League last season. And Mount has been climbing above Ross Barkley in the Chelsea pecking order. 

But Southgate persists with a more technically limited midfield of Rice, Henderson and Barkley as the sole creative outlet. 

England need more quality in possession to cut out the silly errors and help build from deep to feed the forward line. They cannot be solely reliant on the brilliance of their attacking trident, who were able to run riot on Tuesday night but will likely be starved of service against stronger sides. 

Southgate has made it clear that he intends to play the ball out from the back, so why isn’t he utilising the personnel to do so? Injuries and lack of game time have hampered some such as Stones and Joe Gomez for this round of international fixtures, but Southgate has little excuse when it comes to the midfield. 

It is painstakingly clear what England’s problem is, yet little is being done to resolve it. The likes of Maddison won’t necessarily fix everything, but what is frustrating is that this solution has not been properly tested. 

Time is running out for Southgate to prepare for the Euros, and England need to fix this as quickly as possible. 

Is Olivier Giroud’s time up at Chelsea?

After Chelsea forward, Giroud spoke out about his frustration with the lack of game time, it has sparked rumours that the Frenchman will leave Chelsea in January.

The 33 year old spoke to Le Pelerin and said, “You do not have to be fatalistic in certain situations. I have always been respectful and humble. Even if I do not agree with the coach, I do not criticise him.

“But in myself, I cannot accept it because I know what I’m worth on a pitch. Last year, when I felt that I deserved to play, I asked the coach for explanations.”

Giroud performed well for Chelsea in the Europa League last season, scoring 11 goals in 14 appearances; leading the side to glory after scoring and beating his former side, Arsenal 4-1.

Giroud had a phenomenal Europa League campaign last season

However, Giroud doesn’t regret joining Chelsea from London rivals, Arsenal, “I want to have fun and play more games. Chelsea is my priority but afterwards if in the end I am forced to make a choice, I will do it like when I left Arsenal.

“He (Frank Lampard) will almost certainly watch the matches [I just played for France]. In any case, I am going back to Chelsea pumped up.

“It was not easy to leave Arsenal for Chelsea two years ago. I loved Arsenal,” added Giroud, who scored the only goal in France’s 1-0 win over Iceland on Friday.

“But it was a progression because Chelsea is the English club that has won the most titles, with Manchester City, in ten years.

“I had competitors in attack – [Alvaro] Morata, [Gonzalo] Higuain, who ended up leaving. I won at the end: I played the final of the FA Cup in 2018 and the [Europa League] final in 2019.”

Despite Chelsea having a transfer embargo, if Giroud was to leave, Chelsea manager, Frank Lampard still has Premier League joint top scorer, Tammy Abraham and Belgian, Michy Batshuayi to use if Giroud was surplus to requirements.

Chelsea face Newcastle United at the weekend and it is more than likely Giroud will be sitting on the sidelines yet again with the in form, Abraham expected to start and Batshuayi on the bench.

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