In Part Two of ProSoccerTalk’s Premier League Narratives we take a look at three fixtures guaranteed to entertain in Matchweek 31: Swansea City v. Tottenham, West Ham v. West Brom and Wigan v. Norwich City.
SWANSEA CITY v. TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (Liberty Stadium, Sat 11:00am ET)
Andre Villas-Boas has enjoyed a fine first season at Spurs but the manager’s mettle will truly be tested when his side heads to Wales to take on Swansea City. At 4th in the table and four points clear of 5th placed Arsenal, Spurs can’t afford to drop points and must recover quickly for Thursday’s Europa League showdown with FC Basel. With two straight losses Swansea looks to have taken their foot off the gas since raising the League Cup. Nevertheless, when it comes to the Swans at the Liberty, no team is safe.
Could be a captivating match, this one. I think the Swans throw a wrench in Spurs’ game and get a result.
WEST HAM UNITED v. WEST BROMWICH ALBION (Upton Park, Sat 11:00am ET)
Big Sam Allardyce has refused to sign a new contract at Upton Park until his side are mathematically safe from relegation. Losing three of their last four has made that possibility a real threat for West Ham and the Baggies, who have taken 10 points in the last 15 available, will fancy their chances.
West Brom could take this one but I think the Hammers will fight hard and earn a draw.
WIGAN ATHLETIC v. NORWICH CITY (DW Stadium, Sat 11:00am ET)
With Wigan looking primed to put together yet another end of the season dash to safety, Norwich will need to bring it’s ‘A’ game to Carrow Road. The Canaries scored a major coup this week by reaching a deal to sign Ricky van Wolfswinkel from Sporting Lisbon but the Dutch striker won’t be able to help Chris Hughton’s side until this summer. That leaves Grant Holt with 8 weeks to prove his value at Carrow Road while Wigan searches for the three points that could bring them on level pegging with 17th placed Aston Villa.
Arouna Kone (pictured) and the mighty Latics of Wigan will not be denied.
Antonio Conte feels he has a bit of an embarrassment of riches in his midfield, not that it’s a problem outside of deciding who hits the pitch.
The Chelsea boss does not plan on selling Nemanja Matic despite the acquisition of N'Golo Kante — in fact Conte thinks Matic can be one of the best in the world.
[ MORE: New club for Pato ]
That’s not surprising, given that Matic was one of the keys to Chelsea’s 2014-15 PL title run.
Conte says he has some tricky selections to make in the coming days, as Chelsea prepares to open its Premier League season Aug. 15 at West Ham United.
“Kante is a good player and he was a target of our market. I am pleased the club took this player, it’s fantastic,” said the 46-year-old. “The players in a great team like Chelsea must know there are many players that can play. It’s important for me to have a good choice to try the best solution game by game. It’s important for me to see always the right attitude and behaviour from the players.
“When I have players like N’Golo, Nemanja, Cesc, Oscar and Chalobah, and Mikel who is in the Olympics, it is not easy to choose. I want to have this problem.”
For a manager who loves to keep it tight in the midfield, it would be far from shocking to see Matic and Kante behind two attacking mids (Willian and Hazard?) or even three.
Regardless, Chelsea’s match day tactics will be one of the more fascinating subplots of 2016, especially when Conte matches up against the Blues’ former boss Jose Mourinho (Oct. 22 at Stamford Bridge and April 15 at Old Trafford).
MADRID (AP) Brazilian club Corinthians says it has agreed to transfer striker Alexandre Pato to Villarreal in Spain.
Corinthians says on its club website that it has “agreed to the final administrative details of the negotiation” for Pato’s move to Villarreal.
[ MORE: MLS All Star Game preview ]
It adds that both clubs have agreed to not release the financial details of the transfer.
The 26-year-old Pato played for AC Milan from 2007 to 2013, before returning to his native Brazil with Corinthians. He played the second half of last season on loan at Chelsea in the English Premier League.
When news of Sigi Schmid’s departure from Seattle broke, there were plenty of folks wondering who could be the second coach in the Sounders’ MLS history.
One of those doing so publicly was ESPN writer Marc Connolly, who asked whether former Wigan and Everton boss Roberto Martinez could be interested in the gig.
[ MORE: Sounders, Schmid part ways ]
Fellow media member Taylor Twellman is obviously well-connected, and his reply raised some eyebrows, especially given the news that technical director Carlos Bocanegra is closing in on selecting the first manager in Atlanta United history.
Ryan is the quarterback of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, for those unaware. Martinez and Twellman worked together for ESPN this summer.
Is Martinez to MLS really a thing? He’s also been linked to the vacant Hull City job, and would be one of the highest profile coaches to make the switch in the history of the league.
Four Premier League teams were in action on Tuesday, with two picking up wins and not a clean sheet in the joint.
[ MORE: Sounders, Schmid part ways ]
MK Dons 1-3 Everton
Ronald Koeman‘s men got goals from Gerard Deulofeu, Ross Barkley and Muhamed Besic, but wasn’t entirely pleased with every facet of their game.
“The team, the players, we need to press better. The pitch in some stages of the game was too long. If you press up front, it means the midfielders they need to push up as well and it’s the same for the defenders.”
Bolton 1-2 Burnley
Andre Gray will likely be a well-known Premier League entity when his career is done, and the way he’s playing it could be by the time this season is complete. The Burnley man scored for the fifth time in four preseason games, and Josh Ginnelly also scored for the Clarets.
Barnsley 2-2 Hull City
Adama Diomande and Jarrod Bowen scored as the Tigers stayed unbeaten in preseason play.
Spurs 1-2 Juventus — RECAP