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Burton however have doubts over Liam Boyce (hamstring) and Scott Fraser (dead leg) – who were both withdrawn on Saturday – and Jake Buxton (ribs).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

 

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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.