PL Playback: Scramble for second place

Leave a comment


Manchester City can go 16 points clear atop the Premier League table with 10 games to go if they beat Arsenal this Thursday so, aside from a monumental collapse from Pep Guardiola‘s men, the made scramble for second place is on.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Yet this isn’t just about being the “best of the rest” behind City’s historic season. Oh no. In the absence of a tight title race, the top four battle is increasingly becoming the story of the season.

Increasingly the question being asked is “who will finish second in the Premier League?”

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Let’s take a closer look at where each club is at in that battle.

Manchester United
Current position: 2nd (59 points)
Remaining schedule: Crystal Palace (A), Liverpool (H), West Ham (A), Swansea (H), Man City (A), West Brom (H), Bournemouth (A), Arsenal (H), Brighton (A), Watford (H)
Second worthy? – Not the most attractive team in the PL but Mourinho’s men are grinding out wins and Romelu Lukaku is doing the business. Games against Man City, Liverpool and Arsenal (the latter two at home) will be key in deciding if they finish second. Runners up behind City, an FA Cup title and a place in the UCL last four would be a very good season for Jose Mourinho and show significant progress. Now, he just needs to get Paul Pogba firing and get some of his key defenders back to full fitness and they can have a real go in Europe and in the FA Cup.


Current position: 3rd (57 points)
Remaining schedule: Newcastle (H), Man United (A), Watford (H), Crystal Palace (A), Everton (A), Bournemouth (H), West Brom (A), Stoke (H), Chelsea (A), Brighton (H)
Second worthy? – No doubt about it, along with Man City and Tottenham, Liverpool are one of the best teams to watch in the Premier League. Jurgen Klopp‘s side boast star attackers in Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane who are ripping teams apart. Just one defeat in 19 PL games proves their consistency and many will say Liverpool are worthy of second place. Their game at United is huge in deciding where they will finish as Klopp will also eye at least reaching the UCL last four with more than one foot in the last eight. Liverpool’s schedule, on paper, is the easiest of the current top four.

Tottenham Hotspur

Current position: 4th (55 points)
Remaining schedule: Huddersfield (H), Bournemouth (A), Newcastle (H), Chelsea (A), Stoke (A), Man City (H), Brighton (A), Watford (H), West Brom (A), Leicester (H)
Second worthy? – Like Liverpool, they are right up there when it comes to being attractive to watch. Mauricio Pochettino‘s youngsters have matured this season and they seem set to make the UCL’s last eight too after their coming of age display at Juventus. The FA Cup has been troublesome for Spurs but they should make the semifinals and a second place finish and an FA Cup final along with a deep run in the UCL would be a phenomenal return after their problems at Wembley early on this season. Harry Kane deserves to win some type of silverware but a second-consecutive runners up spot in the PL would be another massive achievement and Spurs’ remaining schedule is pretty kind.

Current position: 5th (53 points)
Remaining schedule: Man City (A), Crystal Palace (H), Burnley (A), Tottenham (H), West Ham (H), Southampton (A), Huddersfield (H), Swansea (A), Liverpool (H), Newcastle (A)
Second worthy? – No, not really. Chelsea have huffed and puffed all season long and there’s something not quite right about Antonio Conte‘s men. We all know there are issues behind-the-scenes and would genuinely be a shock if Conte was still in charge next season. On their day they are still able to beat anyone, but Chelsea haven’t got much momentum and have now won just four of their last 13 games in all competitions. They badly need Alvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud to deliver key goals late in the season to secure a top four spot (they play thre of the current top four), go deep in the FA Cup and to try and somehow get past Barcelona in the second leg of their UCL quarterfinal.

Current position: 6th (45 points)
Remaining schedule: Man City (H), Brighton (A), Watford (H), Leicester (A), Stoke (H), Southampton (H), Newcastle (A), West Ham (H), Man United (A), Burnley (H), Huddersfield (A)
Second worthy? – Nah. Not even top four worthy. Eight points off the top four with a game in hand (albeit against Man City this Thursday) means that Arsene Wenger‘s men have a chance of sneaking in the top four but it’s a very slim chance that will happen. After the League Cup final hammering at the hands of Man City, confidence will be low as it proved just how far Arsenal have fallen. It’s all about winning the Europa League now for Arsenal as that is their most realistic chance of making it into the Champions League next season.

Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

International preview: What is to come over the next week

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the 2018 World Cup less than three months away, countries are taking these last moments to see players within their selection pool and make tweaks to the squad and tactics.

This week’s international window has already kicked off with the likes of South Africa, Liechtenstein, and Andorra taking the opportunity to see the field, and World Cup countries take the field tomorrow – two, to be exact. And they play each other.

Denmark and Panama meet in a rare friendly between countries set to take part in the summer festivities, with the match taking place in Bronby at 3pm ET. The two countries chose to play knowing they cannot possibly meet in Russia 2018 until at least the quarterfinals, with their respective Groups C and G split apart across the knockout rounds.

The hosts are fantastic from set-pieces and focus their attack around Tottenham star Christian Eriksen. Panama’s midfield rock Gabriel Gomez will likely be tasked with keeping Eriksen quiet, something the Republic of Ireland was unable to do last time Denmark took the field as Eriksen bagged a hat-trick. Defender Andreas Christensen is headed towards the World Cup in fantastic form with Chelsea, having earned a starting spot with the Blues. With some injuries at the back, Christensen has also played out wide along the back line before as well, something to keep watch for.

On Friday, the heavyweights begin to see the field as Uruguay hosts Czech Republic. The South American nation received a friendly draw in World Cup Group A, but brought in a solid European side to match wits with after the Czechs finished third in their qualifying group. Japan also takes to the pitch on Friday, playing Mali on a neutral field in Belgium. The Japanese will need to be at the top of their game come summer, matched into Group H against Colombia, Poland, and Senegal.

England and Argentina have both scheduled games against European sides that disappointed by failing to make the 2018 tournament. On Friday, England travels to Amsterdam to take on a Netherlands squad in turmoil, while Argentina travels to the Etihad to meet Italy.

Russia and Brazil meet in Moscow on Friday, with over 50,000 tickets already reportedly sold for the match at Luzhniki Stadium. The hosts will then get another stiff test as they take on France four days later on Tuesday. If Russia’s squad has lots of work to do before hosting the World Cup, we’ll know in a week.

The main event on Friday will be Germany and Spain meeting in Dusseldorf in a matchup of the last two World Cup winners. Germany will be without Manuel Neuer and Marco Reus, but still fields one of the deepest squads in the entire world. The Germans don’t then get the week off, having to meet Brazil on Tuesday. If Jogi Low’s side comes out of those matches on top, they could cement their status as favorites headed into the summer.

France has a stiff test as well, meeting Colombia on Friday. Like Denmark and Panama, the two countries reside in Groups C and H, meaning they could not rematch in the World Cup until at least the quarterfinals. The French then go to take on Russia next week.


Denmark vs. Panama
Slovakia vs. UAE
China vs. Wales
Algeria vs. Tanzania
Malta vs. Luxembourg

Germany vs. Spain
Italy vs. Argentina
Russia vs. Brazil
Netherlands vs. England
France vs. Colombia
Portugal vs. Egypt
Uruguay vs. Czech Republic
Mexico vs. Ireland
Poland vs. Nigeria
Austria vs. Slovenia
Peru vs. Croatia
Austria vs. Slovenia
Greece vs. Switzerland
Norway vs. Australia
Mali vs. Japan

Sweden vs. Chile

Kuwait vs. Cameroon
Nicaragua vs. Cuba

Portugal vs. Netherlands
Bulgaria vs. Kazakhstan

Russia vs. France
Germany vs. Brazil
England vs. Italy
Spain vs. Argentina
United States vs. Paraguay
Tunisia vs. Costa Rica
Colombia vs. Australia
Belgium vs. Saudi Arabia
Egypt vs. Greece
Denmark vs. Chile
Japan vs. Ukraine

Alexis Sanchez says he “expected better” from himself at Manchester United

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alexis Sanchez isn’t happy with his performance so far at Manchester United.

The Chilean superstar has scored just one goal for the Red Devils in 10 appearances since joining from Arsenal, and the club has lost three of those games and has been knocked out of the Champions League by Sevilla.

Speaking with Chilean media on national team duty in Sweden, Sanchez said he expects more of himself and that he’s so far let himself down. “As I am self-demanding, I expected something better,” Sanchez said. “After my arrival at United, it was hard to change everything very quickly. I even hesitated to come here [to join the national team].”

Chile missed out on World Cup qualification, and has friendlies with Sweden and Denmark scheduled over the next week. With so little at stake, Sanchez was poised to take time off from the national team, but says he was convinced by Manchester City goalkeeper and Chilean captain Claudio Bravo to stick it out.

“The change of club was something that was very abrupt – it was the first time I’ve changed clubs in January – but many things have happened in my life that are difficult,” Sanchez said. “I had asked permission to miss these games, but then I thought better and spoke with Claudio and told him that we should all be united.”

Once the international break is over, Manchester United resumes Premier League play against Swansea at the end of March before an April 7th derby meeting with Manchester City.

James Collins injured in West Ham friendly

Getty Images
Leave a comment

West Ham defender James Collins hobbled off the field in the 29th minute of the Hammers’ friendly against Dagenham & Redbridge on Wednesday, a big blow to the club’s already paper-thin back line.

With the league on an international break, West Ham agreed to play a friendly against Dagenham & Redbridge to help raise money for National League club that could be in serious financial trouble. However, it could be detrimental to the short-term future of the Hammers, who are hoping to stave off relegation, sitting just two points above the drop.

The 34-year-old defender has missed significant time this season due to injury, with an ankle injury keeping Collins out for nearly three months in 2017. West Ham has lost just four of the 12 Premier League matches Collins has appeared in this season, with three clean sheets. However, two of those have come in the club’s last three games, thrashed by a combined 7-1 scoreline between 90 minutes against Liverpool and Burnley.

The injury comes at the worst possible time, with West Ham set to play Southampton in a critical relegation matchup between teams in the in 17th and 18th in the Premier League table. The Hammers are already without defender Winston Reid who remains out for the season with a knee injury, while the club sold center-back Jose Fonte to Chinese club Dalian Yifang F.C. in late February.

West Ham was hoping to do its part to help save the London club. Former director Glyn Hopkin abruptly resigned and pulled all financial backing in early February, leaving the club fearing for its immediate future. They reportedly need $353,000 just to stay afloat the rest of the season, even with zero club debt.

Men In Blazers podcast: Mohamed Salah continues to shine

Men In Blazers
1 Comment
Rog and Davo marvel at Mo Salah’s four goal, one dime haul in Liverpool’s 5-0 beatdown of Watford, analyze Jose Mourinho’s recent rants about football heritage at Manchester United, and recap Rog’s family trip to Stoke vs. Everton.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

Subscribe to the podcast OR to update your iTunes subscriptions ]

Click here for the RSS feed ]