Lionel Messi, the (sorry Cristiano) world’s best player, has not matched his ridiculous Barcelona success with Argentina. There are plenty of reasons, mostly revolving around the fact that the men of La Masia are like brothers and the muchachos de Argentina are not. International footballers don’t spend enough time together to create that type of bond.
As a result, all the “we’re going to play like Barcelona” from Argentina’s past coaches is bupkis.
Enter Alejandro Sabella. In a convincing piece, Jonathan Wilson argues the Albiceleste’s new head man has figured out how to use his wealth of attacking riches to maximize the talents of one Lionel Messi. The secret: spread them out, both on the field and on the bench.
Let’s talk matches against Brazil and Germany:
Both games were won, Brazil beaten 4-3 in thrilling fashion at the MetLife Stadium, Germany overcome by a rather more comfortable 3-1 in Frankfurt after their goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler had been sent off. In both of those games — games in which Argentina could not be guaranteed domination of possession, which they surely will be against a defensive Paraguay — Higuain played as the main striker with Messi just behind him, backed up by two banks of four. It’s solid, conservative and, seemingly, effective.
The ploy leaves some talent on the bench — Argentina has a murder’s row with Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Tevez, Angel Di Maria, Javier Pastore, and Ezequiel Lavezzi — but this is the price you pay. Sometimes less is more.
The highlights from Argentina’s recent 4-3 win over Brazil are below, if for no other reason than it’s Thursday afternoon and you deserve a break. Enjoy.
Southampton vs Wolves: How to watch live, stream link, team news
After a dreadful run of form which has seen new manager Nathan Jones lose six of his first seven Premier League games in charge, including a 3-0 drubbing at Brentford last week, Southampton sit bottom of the table. However, they are just three points from safety and badly need a win to unite their fanbase, players and coaching staff.
Wolves are looking so much better under new manager Julen Lopetegui as they hammered Liverpool 3-0 last time out to move further away from the bottom three. Lopetegui has won three of his six Premier League games in charge but they remain just two points off the relegation zone.
How to watch Southampton vs Wolves live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday TV Channel: USA Network Online: Stream via NBCSports.com
Key storylines & in-form players to watch
Saints are in freefall and if they lose this game it feels like Nathan Jones will lose his job. The Welsh coach went on a bizarre rant following their shellacking at Brentford and said he has pandered to others and hasn’t done his job properly ever since he arrived at Southampton in November. The owners are backing him, for now, but in midweek they admitted results have to improve. After spending big on deadline day to bring in forwards Paul Onuachu and Kamaldeen Sulemana, now is the time for Southampton to drag themselves off the bottom. If not, they could have a third manager of the season very soon.
Wolves were brilliant against Liverpool and have found a great system for the players they have with the 4-4-2 working wonders. Lopetegui is famed for having a solid foundation defensively but the big change has been Wolves being much better on the counter and finally finishing off chances. After bringing in Sarabia, Cunha, Lemina and Dawson in January they have added experience and quality in key areas and it seems to have given the entire club a lift.
Southampton team news, injuries, lineup options
Kyle Walker-Peters should be fully fit after a recent hamstring issue, while Alex McCarthy remains a doubt and Valentino Livramento and Juan Larios are definitely out. Onuachu and Sulemana should start, while Nathan Jones has favored a 3-5-2 formation in recent weeks so it will be intriguing to see if he persists with that despite fan unrest towards his tactics.
Wolves team news, injuries, lineup options
Chiquinho, Sasa Kalajdzic and Boubacar Traore remain out, while Pedro Neto will miss this game. Mario Lemina is a doubt, while Hwang Hee-chan is out after suffering a thigh injury. Adama Traore, Daniel Podence and Joao Moutinho could come into the starting lineup given these injuries.
The Hammers have improved in recent weeks as they beat Everton and drew at Newcastle last time out. David Moyes’ men are still hovering just above the relegation zone but it looks like they will now kick on in the second half of the season and they usually fare well against their bitter London rivals Chelsea.
As for the Blues, they have won just once in their last six Premier League games but they are becoming very tough to beat, and score against, under Graham Potter. Three shutouts in a row have them on a three-game unbeaten run and now they have all of their January additions on board, expect Chelsea to climb closer to the top four.
How to watch West Ham vs Chelsea live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 7:30am ET, Saturday TV Channel: USA Network Online: Stream via NBCSports.com
Key storylines & in-form players to watch
The Hammers are slowly getting back to their best and Nayef Aguerd has been in fine form at center back and is now fully fit after arriving in the summer. Jarrod Bowen, Lucas Paqueta and Michail Antonio have been among the goals in recent games and there is a menacing look to West Ham on the counter.
Chelsea’s new signing Enzo Fernandez made a great impact on his debut against Fulham last time out, while Badiashile has also impressed at center back, while Mudryk and Madueke are both getting up to speed on the wing. Joao Felix will finally be available again after he missed the last three games due to his red card on debut.
West Ham team news, injuries, lineup options
Kurt Zouma (thigh) and Maxwel Cornet (calf) remain out, while Gianluca Scamacca is battling back from a knee injury. Alphonse Areola and Thilo Kehrer are struggling with hamstring issues. It will be intriguing to see if Moyes starts with January signing Danny Ings up top in this game or if he continues with Michail Antonio as the focal point.
Chelsea team news, injuries, lineup options
N’Golo Kante, Christian Pulisic and Armando Broja remain out, while Wesley Fofana and Mateo Kovacic are close to being available. Denis Zakaria and Edouard Mendy are out too, but Joao Felix is back from suspension which gives Potter a very lively option up top and it would be no surprise if the Portuguese stars starts this game.
There is something somewhat dull about knowing the identity of the 2022 Golden Boot winner, the lone curiosity being the final number of his final tally, we get it, but most of what Haaland is doing this season is simply marvelous and to be admired without much fear.
Haaland’s Premier League-leading 25 goals have him eight goals clear of the next closest challenger: Tottenham’s Harry Kane.
The Norwegian star piled up 20 goals in a single Premier League season faster than any player in history… by seven games (Kevin Phillips of Sunderland did it in 21). Now he’s within five goals of equalling Kevin Phillips’ record for most goals in a debut Premier League season.
And the later this season goes with him projected so far over the current record, the less chucking is accompanied by marking out the pace (especially considering Haaland was not beaten up by the World Cup, as Norway was not in the tournament). And even though Haaland is currently overperforming his expected goals total, it’s clear that projecting him for the Premier League record is rather realistic.
Haaland may not be likely to hit 50 goals given the schedule congestion to come for Man City, but the Premier League record is very well under assault and that figure isn’t entirely absurd. He’s played in 20 of Man City’s 21 games, scoring 25 goals.
Mohamed Salah holds the 38-game season record with his 32 goals scored for Liverpool during the 2017-18 season, while Newcastle’s Andy Cole and Blackburn’s Alan Shearer bagged 34 during 42-game seasons in the 20th century’s final decade.
Haaland also could topple the record for goal involvements (goals plus assists) in a single season, including beating the 42-game record. Alan Shearer put up 47 over 42, while Thierry Henry holds the 38-game record with 44.
Other records that Haaland could legitimately tie or topple:
30 goals in a first Premier League season (Kevin Phillips, Sunderland, 1999-2000)
Goals in 24 different Premier League matches (Salah, Liverpool, 2017-18)
Most goals in a Premier League match (Five tied with five)
11-straight Premier League games with a goal (Jamie Vardy, Leicester, 2014-15)
Read on to see the latest Premier League goal totals for the 2022-23 season, as Haaland looks to claim a Golden Boot in his first PL season.
Who’s looking like title contenders and/or favorites?
Almost at the halfway mark of the 2022-23 season, Arsenal and Manchester City are looking head and shoulders above the rest though Newcastle is not going away and Manchester United has surged into contention.
Uneven Tottenham are hanging in the top four battle, while Liverpool is struggling to stay in the Champions League scrap. Chelsea has some work to do while surprising Fulham, Brentford and Brighton are hanging around on the periphery with fine campaigns.
Who are the candidates for relegation?
Everton, Bournemouth, and Southampton currently occupy the relegation places.
But Leicester, West Ham, Wolves, and Leeds all find themselves within a few points of the bottom three after a topsy-turvy season so far.
Below you will find the latest Premier League table.