ProSoccerTalk’s Premier League Narratives: Matchweek 31 (Part Two)

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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.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images
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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

whufc.com
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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.