All posts by danclubbe

WHAT NEXT FOR OLIViER GIROUD?

Often underrated and always scores goals Olivier Giroud is facing a decision over his future. After all, It is imperative that the French World Cup winner plays regular football in order to secure his place in his national side for next year’s Euros.

The 34 year old has appeared just six times this season for Chelsea and this week France manager Didier Deschamps spoke out about the striker who has been an integral part of his plans in recent times despite being on the fringe at Stamford Bridge.

Giroud scored twice in midweek for France against Sweden to move him to within seven goals of the nations record goal scorer Thierry Henry – a mark of the forwards credentials.

However, with the plethora of striking options available to Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, Giroud has been on the periphery of matters in West London this term, leading to plenty of speculation around a move in the upcoming January transfer window.

Fellow Premier League club West Ham are believed to be interested, whilst a host of Serie A sides have also been credited with interest, including a reunion with former manager Antonio Conte at Inter Milan.

The cultured French striker who’s attributes stretch to beyond his prowess in front of goal with his ability to hold up the ball and bring others into play will be desperate for one final hoorah on the internationals stage in the rearranged Euros next summer – therefore may need to move on to pastures new.

France boast a host of high-quality forwards who will all be hoping to oust the tall striker from Deschamps’ plans. The likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezzmann, Anthony Martial, Moussa Dembele, Ousmane Dembele and Marcus Thuram are all in with a shout of leading the line.

With competition for places at the attacking end of the France squad as such, it is inconceivable Giroud could expect to be picked without regular football behind him.

One thing is for certain is Giroud’s representatives believe their player deserves to be seeing more action, this week the players agent questioned Lampard’s preference of Tammy Abraham whilst hinting at a January exit.

At 34 years old and with Timo Werner and Abraham clearly above him in the pecking order, a mid-season move seems the most viable option in order for the cultured frontman to get the football he needs for the rest of the season.

Championship weekend preview

As ever the Championship season is providing arguably the fiercest competition in world football as a host of clubs look to fight heir way to the promised land of the Premier League.

There has already been one game completed on Friday night as ground sharing Coventry City and Birmingham City played out a rather lacklustre 0-0 draw on Friday night.

Here is your preview of the rest of the big games over the weekend…

AFC Bournemouth v Reading Saturday 12.30pm

Fourth place Bournemouth welcome table toppers Reading to the Vitality Stadium with a chance of overtaking their visitors.

Reading had been unbeatable in thre league until recently, where they are now clinging on to dear life at the summit after losing their last three matches before the break.

Steve Tindall’s Cherries will be without Josh king who tested positive for COVID-19 whilst away on international duty as the relegated south coast club look to bounce back immediately.

QPR V Watford Saturday 3.00pm

An all London affair on Saturday afternoon as second place Watford travel to Loftus Road looking to go top of their table in their quest to make an instant return to the Premier League.

QPR meanwhile have been inconsistent at best during 2020/21 and will be looking to resolve their problems in order to start moving in the right direction and away from the threat of relegation.

Middlesbrough v Norwich City Saturday 3.00pm

Middlesbrough go into this match unbeaten in 10 and with October’s manager of the month, Neil Warnock, at the helm. The hosts are on the cusp of the play-off places but will need to turn a plethora of draws into wins if they are going to challenge.

High-flying Norwich are another side hoping to bounce straight back into he top flight and Daniel Farke’s side are making a decent fist of it as they sit third. Goal scorer Teemu Pukki will be pivotal to the Canaries chances.

Bristol City v Derby County Saturday 3.00pm

Bristol City in fifth are unlikely to be the story of this clash as bottom of the table Derby head to Ashton Gate with Wayne Rooney as their manaager.

Rooney is in temporary charge of the Rams after Phillip Cocu was sacked during the international break, giving Rooney his first role in senior management.

The former Manchester United striker has a huge job on his hands getting a talented Derby squad heading in the right direction.

Other Fixtures

Preston v Sheffield Wednesday Saturday 3.00pm

Stoke City v Huddersfield Saturday 3.00pm

Barnsley v Nottingham Forest Saturday 3.00pm

Millwall v Cardiff City Saturday 3.00pm

Luton Town v Blackburn Rovers Saturday 3.00pm

Swansea City v Rotherham United Saturday 3.00pm

Wycombe Wanderers v Brentford Saturday 3.00pm

Its back: Premier league weekend preview

After the final international break of the calendar year top flight domestic football is back and heading into the most hectic part of an already condensed 2020/21 schedule.

The Premier League has already seen plenty of shock results this campaign and as things stand the top of the table is delicately poised with a host of clubs vying for supremacy.

Here are your big match previews for the weekend…

Premier League

Newcastle United v Chelsea Saturday 12.30pm

Frank Lampard’s side were in fine form before the break and the Blues legend will be hoping his side can pick up where they left off as they head to the North East.

Lampard will be without Ka Havertz and Christian Pulisic for the clash at St James’ Park while experienced centre-back Thiago Silva is a doubt.

Steve Bruce’s Magpies have been typically inconsistent so far this term without setting the world alight. However with the attacking threats of Ryan Fraser, Allan Saint Maximin and Callum Wilson, they can be confident of stopping the visitors heading to the top of the table.

Tottenham v Manchester City Saturday 5.30pm

A huge test of Tottenham’s early title credentials as Jose Mourinho’s men look to seize the opportunity to reach the summit of the table, albeit potentially for just 24 hours.

Spurs have been a tough team to beat this season and with the likes of Harry Kane, Gareth Bale and Heung Min-Son in attack they pose a danger to any team.

Pep Guardiola, fresh off the back of a new contract, will be looking for more consistency from his side as they look to close the small gap to the league leaders. Gabriel Jesus is likely to be available whilst Sergio Aguero is a doubt.

Manchester United v West Brom Saturday 8.00pm

United went into the break on the back of a morale boosting victory over Everton, a victory that arguably saved Ole Gunnar Solskjær from a difficult conversation over this job.

Slaven Bilic’s Baggies meanwhile are desperate for points already as they flounder in the relegation zone without a win in their opening eight matches.

Leeds United v Arsenal Sunday 4.30pm

Perhaps evevery neutral’s favourite side to watch, Leeds United have made for enthralling viewing this season, unless you’re a fan of stout defending.

Marcelo Bielsa’s charges are a fast flowing bunch who always look to play on the front-foot, occasionally to their detriment. The Yorkshire side have already shocked the big boys this season, taking a point from the game with Man City.

Mikel Arteta’s Gunners could almost do no wrong until they came unstuck in a big way against Aston Villa before the break. The North Londoners sit 11th in the table and will be desperate to start clawing their way up.

Liverpool v Leicester City Sunday 7.15pm

Arguably the game of the weekend as the reigning champions host the current leagues leaders at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp’s side come into this game with almost an unprecedented amount of injuries with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez out for the majority of the season at least. Captain Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara, Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold are all major doubts for the clash whilst Fabinho has returned to full training.

The Foxes, not without their own injury concerns, must fancy their chances of taking a positive result back to the Midlands as former Reds boss Brendan Rodger’s pits his wits against Klopp.

Wolves v Southampton Monday 8.00pm

The weekend’s action rounds up at Molineux as this seasons surprise package Southampton head to Wolverhampton hoping to continue their positive start.

Ralph Hassenhutl’s Saints sit fourth in the table heading into the weekend after a 2-0 victory over Newcastle before the international hiatus. The visitors are likely to be without talismanic striker Danny Ings however as he recovers from a knee issue.

Wolves meanwhile haven’t quite hit the heights perhaps many expected this term so far as they struggle to get going with a host of new signings in their ranks. Nuno Espirito Santo will be hoping this period can bring about a new level of consistency from his talented squad.

Other Fixtures

Aston Villa v Brighton & Hove Albion Saturday 3.00pm

Fulham v Everton Sunday 12.00pm

Sheffield United v West Ham United Sunday 2.00pm

Burnley v Crystal Palace Monday 5.30pm

Marine AFC make history

Eighth-tier Marine from Crosby in Liverpool produced a faultless penalty shootout to stun League Two Colchester United on Saturday to reach the Emirates FA Cup Second Round.

The Northern Premier League Division One North West side nicknamed the Mariners held the U’s to a 1-1 draw after extra time after going ahead in the first half through Anthony Miley.

In the shootout it was the visiting semi-professionals who held their nerve from the spot, firing home five from five and reaching the second round with a 5-3 win on penalties.

The 21-year-old midfielder James Devine slotted the winning spot-kick and subsequently sent rapturous joy through the Marine ranks. Before which former Liverpool, Tranmere Rovers and Carlisle United defender David Raven was also successful from the spot.

Marine were in the first round for the first time in 25 years winning their first away match in the competition proper in their history, and are now in the second round for the first time ever.

Marine will host Havant and Waterlooville in the next round with second round ties due to take place on the weekend of 28 November.

Despite their now historic cup run already, the side who play their games at the Marine Travel Arena now won’t play another match due to COVID-19 restrictions until their second round clash.

Manager Neil Young and most certainly Raven, who played one Premier League game as well as one FA Cup outing during his time at Anfield, will likely be dreaming of a Third Round tie against one of the local big boys.

Liverpool and Everton both enter the completion at the next stage, whilst a clash with number 13 would see the Mariners face a side from just over the Mersey River, Tranmere Rovers.

Regardless of the outcome it’s been a fairy tale thus far for Marine, one they only hope continues.

Liverpool facing defensive crisis: can they come out on top?

Liverpool, already without talismanic central defender Virgil van Dijk were dealt another huge blow on Tuesday night when Fabinho pulled up, before being forced off with a hamstring problem.

The Brazilian had been deputising, successfully, for the missing Dutchman when he stopped in his tracks whilst defending an FC Midtylland attack in the UEFA Champions League.

Indeed, Reds fans and players alike wait with bated breath for the severity of the injury. It is almost certain they will be without Fabinho for at least the weekends visit of West Ham to Anfield.

Central defender Joel Matip also remains side-lined, leaving Jurgen Klopp with just one senior central defender – Joe Gomez.

So how can the Premier League champions cope with such flimsy numbers? I’ve had a look at the options…

Youngsters

Tuesday night saw 19-year-old Rhys Williams play out the remaining hour, and in doing so the powerful looking teenager looked comfortable as he helped the Reds to a clean sheet.

Williams seems most likely to start on Saturday in the absence of Fabinho, although Nat Phillips will be pushing for a place after he spent the 2019/20 campaign season playing senior football for Stuttgart in the German Bundesliga 2.

Versatility

Fabinho himself was operating out of position when his injury came and there is a chance captain Jordan Henderson could be asked to do the same after playing in the role during the FIFA World Club Cup last term.

Missing Henderson’s influence in midfield, however, may be too much of a blow to Klopp’s side.

Should James Milner, Thiago, Naby Keita and Gini Wijnaldum all be fit and available, there is certainly scope for Henderson to drop back into centre-half temporarily.

Time

Albeit an obvious huge blow to Liverpool, and indeed their title chances, with an impended international break and with football a little all over the place at the moment, there is hope the Reds could make it to January without suffering too much damage to their hopes.

In January they would at least have the option of signing reinforcements, with many names linked with the club. The likes of Dayot Upamecano, Ben White and Ozan Kabak to name just a few.

In the mean time Klopp, fans and teammates will be hoping Fabinho’s injury isn’t serious, Matip can get run of fitness, and Rhys Williams can deputise successfully. All of this while not dropping too many points along the way, which with a trip to rivals Manchester City on the horizon, may be easier said than done.