Premier League Preview: Everton vs. Burnley

Leave a comment

• Everton can win a third successive game against Burnley for the first time since 1968-70, when they enjoyed a four-match winning streak.

• Burnley are without a league goal in four hours and 59 minutes since George Boyd’s winner in the 1-0 victory over Manchester City.

��� The Toffees are one of only three possible Premier League teams with an unbeaten home record in 2015 – along with Arsenal and Chelsea. They have won two and drawn four since a 1-0 defeat against Stoke on Boxing Day. (BBC Sport)

Burnley held ground against Arsenal last week and will have a normal, week-long turnaround away from home, facing a competitive Everton squad on Saturday.

The first competition between these two outfits in October ended in a clear Everton victory, 3-1, as Samuel Eto’o’s brace ultimately made the outcome possible.

The Toffees were once in the dead middle of the Premier League table at 10th place. However, they’ve dropped two spots, although Roberto Martinez’s side has pulled together to finish the last four games unbeaten.

The highlight in that stretch was a 3-0 win over Newcastle United, with Romelu Lukaku nailing a penalty kick and Ross Barkley burying the final goal in the last minute.

In other good news for Everton, the gifted striker Lukaku, who has been out for the past month due to a groin injury, will likely take the pitch tomorrow.

[RELATED: Prince-Wright’s PL picks for the weekend]

Burnley is coming off the toughest eight-match period of the season, no doubt. Their opponents included Chelsea, Manchester City, Southampton and Liverpool, and luckily, the Clarets managed to steal one on home turf—a 1-0 win against City.

From now until the end of the year, Sean Dyche will aim to jump the ranks in order to stave off relegation.

Currently, his team sits at 19th place with 26 points but other squads are close to that tally. Leicester City, in last place, has 25 points, while Hull City is three points ahead and one spot out of the danger zone.

Catch the Everton-Burnley live on NBC Sports Live Extra at 10 a.m. ET.

What they’re saying

Everton boss Roberto Martinez on Kevin Mirallas’ return and stay with the Toffees (Liverpool Echo): “Kevin picked up a really difficult injury when you are a sprinter like he is. He has had a soft tissue problem so we need to be careful. Now he is getting to 100% and Kevin has been a really important player for us in the last two years and his goal scoring threat is something that we really need in the team.”

Burnley manager Sean Dyche on squad/transfer flexibility (Sky Sports): ”It’s recognised we’ve tried to do something different from the norm – which is to throw money at every situation…We’re trying to build something on and off the pitch. There are challenges that come with that because it is quite hard to get players in who don’t need developing, who can just go in and do it on the money we’ve spent.”

Match injuries/absences

As mentioned earlier, Lukaku is back. Leon Osman’s groin injury will probably keep him out. Although going strong in training, Bryan Oviedo’s hamstring injury will be fully healed in May, while Aiden McGeady also shouldn’t see time on the field in this one.

The Clarets have to deal with the extended nonappearances of Dean Marney and Kevin Long. Steven Reid (calf) and Ross Wallace (knee) are doubts for Burnley as well.

Prediction

You can’t deny that Everton’s been hot as of late, but it’s still unclear when their run of form will end. Against a desperate Burnley, regardless of Lukaku’s impact, the Toffees should hit the five-game unbeaten mark. Everton 2-1 Burnley.

Struggling Atleti in unfamiliar territory under Simeone

Photo by Oscar J. Barroso / AFP7 / Europa Press Sports via Getty Images
Leave a comment

MADRID — This is uncharted territory for many Atletico Madrid fans.

Few other times in recent years have they seen their team struggle so much under Diego Simeone.

[ VIDEO: Haaland has played 59 minutes, scored 5 goals for Dortmund ]

Few other times have they seen their coach fail so often while trying to put the team back on track.

Atletico hit a new low under Simeone on Thursday when it was eliminated by third-division club Cultural Leonesa in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey. The 2-1 loss in extra time was the team’s worst result in the cup competition since losing to third-tier club Albacete at the same stage in 2011-12.

Two days after that loss in 2011, Atletico hired the then-mostly unknown Simeone to replace Gregorio Manzano, a move that kick-started one of the club’s most successful eras and led to a Spanish league title, two Europa League trophies and two Champions League final appearances.

Atletico did go through difficult moments under Simeone, including when the team failed to advance past the group stage of the Champions League a couple of seasons ago.

“There were always complicated moments in past seasons, maybe after we didn’t make it in the Champions League, or when we lost in the Champions League finals,” Simeone said. “After being at the club for so long, things like this can happen, although they shouldn’t happen.”

There is a greater sense of urgency about the team’s struggles this time.

In addition to Wednesday’s embarrassing Copa del Rey elimination, Atletico lost the Spanish Super Cup final to Real Madrid on Jan. 12, and already is eight points off the Spanish league lead after 20 matches.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

Before, there used to be a notion that Simeone would quickly turn things around and put the team back on track, but this time there aren’t many signs things will improve again soon.

Atletico has yet to impress since undergoing its biggest squad revamp under Simeone at the end of last season, when it lost Antoine Griezmann and other veteran players such as Filipe Luis and Diego Godin. Young Portugal forward Joao Felix, who arrived to replace Griezmann after a transfer from Benfica worth more than 120 million euros ($133 million), has yet to meet expectations.

More concerning, Atletico is not being nearly as effective as it used to be, when it always seemed to find a way to win matches despite not playing well.

The team remains solid defensively — it has the second-best defense in the Spanish league with 14 goals conceded — but it hasn’t been able to do much in attack recently.

“Everything is harder when you can’t score,” Simeone said.

Only seven teams have scored fewer goals than Atletico’s 22 in the 20-team standings.

Diego Costa has been mostly out injured, and Victor “Vitolo” Machin and Alvaro Morata haven’t done much in attack. Morata is the team’s leading scorer with 10 goals in all competitions, and no one else has more than five.

“We have to be humble enough to be self-critical,” Simeone said. “We need to keep working to try to be ready for the challenges that we have ahead of us. We have a very good squad and I’m sure that the results that we want will start arriving soon.”

Atletico biggest chance to rebound will come next month against European champion Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League. The first leg will be on Feb. 18 in Spain.

Mourinho in favor of PL’s winter break, but says timing all wrong

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho seems to be quite happy that the Premier League will implement its first-ever winter break next month, allowing players a bit of rest and recovery time during a marathon campaign, but says its timing makes the break almost worthless for clubs competing in European competitions.

[ VIDEO: Haaland has played 59 minutes, scored 5 goals for Dortmund ]

The next four weeks will play out as follows for Tottenham Hotspur: FA Cup against Southampton this weekend; PL fixture against Manchester City next weekend; the following weekend off which results in two weeks without a game; PL fixture against Aston Villa the following weekend; Champions League first leg against RB Leipzig three days later.

In Mourinho’s perfect world, that first round of PL fixtures following the break would be held a week earlier, leaving the seven English clubs competing in the Champions League and Europa League with a week and a half between games before setting out once again to chase European glory. Instead, Tottenham, Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea will all have a quick turnaround from PL action to UCL competition — quotes from the Guardian:

“It is what it is. I’m not happy that the break comes in the wrong moment. The break should be before the Champions League and, in the end, before the Champions League we don’t have the break. We have to play Aston Villa on the Sunday, playing [RB Leipzig three] days later. So we don’t really care about the break, honestly.”

Mourinho’s point is a solid one: if the winter break is going to exist — and it should — then why shouldn’t its benefits be maximized? Non-European sides — typically those with smaller squads — would still have the full two weeks between games, while those in Europe are able to better leverage their slightly larger squads with only 10 or 11 days between games — still a lengthy break relative to the rest of the season.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

It’s only the first year of the winter break in the PL, so perhaps hopefully they’ll receive Mourinho’s criticism — and that of any other managers — constructively.

Serie A: AC Milan extends unbeaten run since Zlatan’s arrival

Leave a comment

BRESCIA, Italy (AP) Ante Rebic scored his third goal in two matches, goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was superb and AC Milan won 1-0 at relegation-threatened Brescia on Friday to climb into the Europa League places in Serie A.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

Rebic, who scored twice in a win over Udinese last weekend, pounced on a loose ball directly in front of the goal following a cross from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 71st minute.

Since Ibrahimovic’s return to Milan over the holiday break, Milan is unbeaten with four wins and a draw across all competitions.

Donnarumma produced several difficult saves to deny Dimitri Bisoli and Ernesto Torregrossa.

Also, Milan fullback Theo Hernandez hit the crossbar in the closing minutes.

The Rossoneri moved up to sixth place, four points behind fifth-place Atalanta.

[ MORE: Solskjaer’s transfer update; positive on rebuild ]

“Our goal is to qualify for Europe,” Donnarumma said. “We’ve got to continue like this and not rest for a moment. There’s another big Italian Cup match coming up with Torino midweek and we want to reach the semifinals.

“We’ll take it one game at a time and try to keep this momentum going.”

Brescia was without Mario Balotelli, who was suspended for two matches after protesting a booking last weekend that ended up with the striker being sent off.

Brescia remained one point above last-place Genoa.

FA Cup: Sheffield Wednesday into 5th round; Derby headed for replay

Photo by James Chance/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sheffield Wednesday became the first club to reach the fifth round of the 2019-20 FA Cup by beating Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road on Friday.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

The Owls took a 1-0 lead into halftime after Morgan Fox squeezed his shot past the goalkeeper from a tight angle, and Sam Winnall put the EFL Championship side 2-0 up by slotting the ball home just before full-time. QPR pulled a goal back through Nahki Wells just moments later, but it wasn’t enough and the game finished 2-1.

It’s the second time in three seasons that Wednesday has reached the fifth round after doing so just twice in their previous 17 seasons.

[ MORE: Solskjaer’s transfer update; positive on rebuild ]

Elsewhere, fellow Championship side Derby County, featuring Wayne Rooney who played all 90 minutes, couldn’t see off League Two side Northampton Town and will be forced into the dreaded replay after struggling to a scoreless draw away from home.

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.