Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Everton

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•Everton have won four of their last five Premier League away matches.

•Leicester City have failed to win any of their last five Premier League matches on the opening weekend (0-2-3), (W-L-D).  Everton have only won three of their last 11 opening-day fixtures (0-7-1).

•Everton had a winless 2014 preseason, while Leicester was unbeaten, including a 1-0 victory over the Toffees. 

•Leicester have not beaten Everton in nine attempts since a 2-0 Premier League home win in August 1998, but seven of the ensuing nine matches were drawn. 

Tomorrow, Everton will battle newly promoted Leicester City at King Power Stadium, in each team’s first Premier League fixture of the 2014-15 season. Tune into NBCSN at 9:45 a.m. ET for the start of the match’s coverage, as Everton boss Roberto Martinez looks to build off of a promising 2013-14 campaign that saw his club finish fifth place for Europa League qualification.

Leicester City, meanwhile, is the reigning titleholder in the Championship, the second-lowest English football division, after manager Nigel Pearson failed to seal a promotion for two-straight years. Although their main goal is to avoid relegation, the Foxes are striving to jump into the lower-mid table. Their offseason was a success, notably because of the club-record signing of Argentine striker Leonardo Ulloa for £8 million. Last year, Ulloa notched a 23-goal season at Brighton & Hove Albion following a £2 million transfer from Spanish side Almeria. City also acquired a slew of veterans and youngsters on free transfers: Louis Rowley, Matthew Upson, GK Ben Hamer, Marc Albrighton, and Jack Barmby.

Nonetheless, Everton’s dealings this offseason was more impressive, as the Toffees were able to finalize stays with some of their most important players. Striker Romelu Lukaku transferred from Chelsea for a club-record transfer of $29 million, while youngster Ross Barkley inked a four-year deal, and Gareth Barry signed a three-year contract on the heels of his release from Manchester City. Plus, the four-year extension of Seamus Coleman, believed to be one of the best fullbacks in the BPL, and 20-year-old John Stones, Everton looks primed to make headway in the Premier League for years to come.

Match Absences/Inclusions

Anthony Knockaert has fought past an ankle injury. Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton, though, probably won’t be risked with respective thigh and groin injuries. Seamus Coleman, Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku have fitness issues, and Martinez will make the game day decision on them. Additionally, Muhamed Besic and Christian Atsu could debut.

What they’re saying

Leicester manager Nigel Pearson on Martinez and his hopes for the squad in the Premier League, via the team’s official website: “I’ve a lot of respect for Roberto Martinez. At Wigan and Swansea he was a man who goes out his job in a very defined way. He has his own values and it is very interesting that he has been recruited for what he is……I’m not sure how exactly people think we’ll do. It’s an unknown quantity. We can utilise that. We have to play the game, not the occasion. It should be a great occasion for the club.”

Roberto  Martinez on transfer window moves, per Yahoo Sport UK“In football you always have to try to use the transfer window to your advantage and see if there is anything that can help the team be prepared until the next window opens. We are always looking at that. In terms of the squad that we have, I’m delighted with what we achieved [this summer] and the continuity that we have got. That will allow us to carry on working on what we did last season. In terms of being desperate to bring someone in, the answer is no, we’re not.”

Prediction

In a perfect world, the odds favor Everton, and they should win this game conformably. It’s opening day, though, and even top-tier  side’s can struggled against weaker opponents. So, even though Everton should win by at least a goal, perhaps ending with a 2-1 scoreline, I would watch this one. It has upset potential.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images
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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”

Boa Esporte goalkeeper back to prison as murder appeal denied

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The risk clearly wasn’t worth it for Boa Esporte.

The Brazilian club signed Bruno Fernandes de Souza in March, not long after the convicted murderer and goalkeeper was released from prison on appeal.

Fernandes, 32, had been jailed for ordering the murder of a lover, who was fed to dogs by the killer. Boa Esporte lost several big sponsors for signing him, but vocally defended the move.

The owner, Rone Moraes da Costa, said he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to revive his career. Fernandes admitted his mistakes but said he wasn’t “a bad guy”.

According to the Associated Press:

“Brazil’s Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to deny an appeal to Boa Esporte goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza, who was released in March while appealing a 22-year sentence in the 2010 killing of Eliza Samudio.”

So it’s back to jail for Fernandes, and we’ll be waiting with baited breath to hear from Boa Esporte’s owner.

Conte: Chelsea “ready to fight to the end”

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Following Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Spurs and Tuesday’s blowout of Southampton — the 4-2 score line didn’t tell the story of the second half — Antonio Conte is fired up for Chelsea to complete its Premier League title run.

The manager admits that his side was under pressure after Spurs narrowed the table gap to four points last week, but the wins have eased the Blues’ burden.

Chelsea had lost two of four PL matches before the weekend.

From Football.London:

“I think we passed a big, big psychological step after the defeat to United. We lost three points and had to prepare a semi-final against Tottenham and then another tough game in the league. In that moment we had a really important test and our answer was very good.

“We must think that this race is open, we have reached the final of the FA Cup. The situation in the league is totally open. We are ready to fight to the end. We must be proud for the job we are doing and to fight to the end.”

Spurs can bring the gap back to four with a win at Crystal Palace on Tuesday, but have a tougher run-in with five matches to play. As long as the gap is within six points, anything is possible, but the Blues have certainly answered the bell over the past four days.

Chelsea: Big win “feels like a massive step” to title

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“It feels like a massive step to be honest,” said game-changing goal scorer Gary Cahill of Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Chelsea’s Premier League lead stands at seven points after the win, which saw a dominant second half from the hosts.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Perhaps it was cued up by Cahill’s first half stoppage time header, which boosted the Blues to a 2-1 lead just before the whistle.

Cahill darted in front of Diego Costa‘s scissor kick attempt to power a header past Fraser Forster.

“(Costa) tried to claim it afterward as well,” Cahill said. “When the ball’s just lofted over, it’s dying to be attacked. We went into halftime with our tails up and it was a big boost for us.”

Cesc Fabregas said Southampton surprised the Blues tactically, leading to an entertaining first half that could’ve seen either side ahead before half.

“We needed a little bit of time to adapt to what they did because we prepared for something else,” he said.

Fabregas said the win was big with second-place Spurs watching at home. Tottenham plays at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

“We needed a good response after the Man United game. We have to keep going with five games to go, to keep it up and make the last push. It would be a big shame if now we relaxed. We just have to push now more than ever,” he said.

“It’s a statement for (Spurs), for us, for everyone, but most of all for us.”
Eden Hazard agreed.
“We scored four beautiful goals,” said the Belgian, who scored the game’s first goal. “It’s good to play before and put pressure on them.”