The FA is in a tizzy over the Premier League schedule

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The new Premier League fixture list has the Football Association’s panties in a bundle.

After politiely requesting that the Premier League hold off on staging “box-office” matches before England’s World Cup qualifiers, the league went ahead and did exactly that – scheduling two blockbuster matches before the Three Lions’ double header against might Moldova and the Ukraine.

Here’s how it breaks down.

On August 31st one of the best rivalries in club football kicks off when Liverpool welcomes Manchester United to Anfield. One day later it is the first installment of the North London derby with Tottenham heading to the Emirates for a clash with Arsenal.

Five days after the Arsenal-Tottenham match the national team faces Moldova at Wembley before heading to Kiev where they will battle Ukraine on September 10th.

Fair play to the FA for being concerned over the match schedule, especially since they requested the league work with them on the issue. The fact is, if England are to qualify for the World Cup they need to win against Moldova and Ukraine.

England currently sit second in Group H on 12 points through six matches. The Three Lions are two points adrift of leader’s Montenegro although England enjoys a game in hand. One point behind England is Ukraine, who also have played six matches. Moldova are second from bottom on five points, eliminating them from qualifying for the World Cup.

The FA’s main concern is that the intensity of these “box-office” matches may increase the injury risk to players. The list of those who will play in those marquee matches and could potentially be involved in the national team as quite long – Glen Johnson, Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Daniel Strurridge, Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney, Tom Cleverley, Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck, Chris Smalling, Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshire, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kyle Walker, Aaron Lennon, Michael Dawson, Steven Caulker and Scott Parker.

But does those players involvement in competitive Premier League matches before facing Moldova and Ukraine really make it more likely they will be injured?

Doubtful. In fact, those players would have just as much of a chance of injury (if not more) if they were matched up against, say, Stoke City or Sunderland. (Apologies Potters and Black Cats supporters, but, you know…)

The FA is also concerned that the intensity of those blockbuster league matches could tire the players. But do players really drain themselves more against certain opposition that others? That, too, would seem to be a very speculative argument.

Further rubbishing the FA’s concerns is that the first qualifier is at home against Moldova, a nation that England thrashed 5-0 when the two sides met last September. That match should be a walk in the park for Roy Hodgson’s men.

The real issue for England has to do with the incredibly tight schedule it faces, having to play Moldova and then immediately hop on a trans-European flight to the Ukraine to play a hotly contested match four days later.

 

 

 

 

AT THE HALF: Manchester derby scoreless after 45 minutes

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After 45 minutes, the final Manchester derby of the 2016-17 Premier League season — the one that’ll go a long, long way toward deciding which of the city’s sides will finish in the top-four — is scoreless, but not without incident.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

The game’s best chances thus far fell Manchester City’s way, as Sergio Aguero missed a clear-cut chance after 10 minutes — Kevin De Bruyne whipped in the perfect ball to the back post, and Aguero put it wrong side of David De Gea‘s post.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ander Herrera has, once again, be Manchester United’s danger man, combining well with Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but Claudio Bravo made the one save he was forced into during the first half. One thing to keep an eye on during the final 45 minutes: Rashford picked up a knock very early on, and struggled to move around the field after that.

STREAM LIVE: The Manchester Derby

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The third Manchester Derby of the season is the first away from Old Trafford, as Manchester United visits Manchester City (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

There’s much on the line, as the sides sit just two points apart in the race for the Top Four. Man City would leapfrog third-place Liverpool with a win, while United could join the Reds on 66 points with a match-in-hand.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Sergio Aguero starts for Man City, with Gabriel Jesus on the bench.

On the other side, it’ll be a physical middle-third guarded by Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Marouane Fellaini. Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard start on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Bravo, Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Fernando, Navas, Clichy, Gabriel Jesus, A. Garcia

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Carrick, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan; Rashford, Martial. Subs: Romero, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Young, Lingard, Rooney.

Ex-Liverpool CEO shares biting story of Suarez transfer

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Ian Ayre’s got jokes.

The former Liverpool CEO lifted the lid on some transfer stories during a Merseyside lecture this week.

Of note, Ayre admitted that the club thought Dele Alli demanded too much given what he had produced when the Reds has the chance to sign him as a 16-year-old, and said that Liverpool could’ve landed Alexis Sanchez but the player wanted to live in London (“We couldn’t move the football club to London, unfortunately,” he quipped).

The best part relayed by Sky Sports had to do with Luis Suarez, and shows the relentless nature of the transfer market. Clearly Barcelona had interest in Suarez before the fiery striker bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, because, well…

“I remember the sporting director of Barcelona calling me during that game, immediately as Suarez bit the player, and he said to me ‘my friend, he’s bitten somebody, how can this be the price?’ I said ‘he’d already bitten somebody when you first bid!'”

We’re sure there’s a certain amount of storytelling in there, but undoubtedly some truth.

Given Barca paid a reported $84 million for the striker, the asking price couldn’t have started that much higher.

Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea tops Spurs, Top Four predictions

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Rog and Davo return to discuss Chelsea’s FA Cup semifinal victory over Spurs, update their Top Four predictions (again), and dive into the depths of the relegation zone. Plus, the very important movement to change “Hudson Street” to “Ray Hudson Street.”

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