UCL roundup: Arsenal, Barca start slow; Chelsea win

Leave a comment

Just like that, Matchday 1 of the 2015-16 UEFA Champions League group stage is done and dusted. For the four sides representing the Premier League, it wasn’t the best 24 hours England’s top flight has ever had — one win and three defeats in four games played.

Dinamo Zagreb 2-1 Arsenal MORE

Olivier Giroud had a really, really bad night out in Croatia. The French striker had a pair of close-range chances saved in before the hour mark and was eventually sent off shortly before halftime. With just 10 men on the field, Arsenal shipped a second goal to the reigning Croatian champions and currently find themselves third in Group F.

Chelsea 4-0 Maccabi Tel Aviv MORE

Back in London, Chelsea made fairly easy work of Maccabi Tel Aviv, despite a stumble out of the blocks that included a skied penalty attempt from Eden Hazard. Willian, Oscar (penalty), Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas provided the Blues’ haul of goals on the evening, sending the reigning Premier League champions top of Group G.

Roma 1-1 Barcelona

Roma midfielder Alessandro Florenzi did this, which was pretty memorable. On second thought, it was an all-time great Champions League goal. Luis Suarez scored Barcelona’s only goal of the game off a header from close range. Lionel Messi appeared in the 100th Champions League of his career, and for what seems like the first time ever, failed to mark the occasion with a goal.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

Olympiakos 0-3 Bayern Munich

Not wanting to feel left out in the wake of Florenzi’s stunner, Thomas Mueller scored a cheeky chip of his own, though it felt more like a wayward cross that crept inside the far post. That made it 1-0 in the 52nd minute. Mueller completed his brace in the 89th minute, two minutes after Mario Goetze had made it 2-0 to the Bavarian giants. The reigning Bundesliga champions are top of Group F.

Bayer Leverkusen 4-1 BATE Borisov

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez scored his first goal for Leverkusen (WATCH HERE), which made the score 3-1 in the 58th minute. Hakan Calhanoglu, who is widely recognized as “the free kick master,” bagged a brace as Leverkusen rolled to a 4-1 victory and the top spot in Group E.

Valencia 2-3 Zenit St. Petersburg

Hulk bagged a brace, including one particularly notable laser beam from 25 yards out — typical Hulk stuff, you know — to cancel out a goal scored by Andre Gomes and an own goal pushed over the line by Zenit midfielder Axel Witsel. It was Witsel, though, who scored the eventual winner in the 76th minute to put the reigning Russian champions top of Group H.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Dynamo Kyiv 2-2 Porto

Porto’s Vincent Aboubakar bagged a brace of his own, but goals scored by Oleg Gusev and Vitaliy Buyalsky — the latter coming not until the 89th minute — meant the points were to be split between the reigning Ukrainian champions and Portuguese league runners-up.

Gent 1-1 Lyon

Christophe Jallet gave Lyon a 1-0 lead int he 58th minute, but Danijel Milicevic equalized 10 minutes later for the reigning Belgian champions to rescue a point at home.

Manchester United season restart preview

Manchester United season restart
Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Manchester United is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Red Devils when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: Very, very good. While United supporters will feel aggrieved to know their club cannot. catch their two biggest rivals, you wouldn’t laugh off the idea of them finishing as high as third given a wildly straight-forward fixture list and the fact that we are about to see Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, and Marcus Rashford together for the first time. Perhaps those players will have some growing pains, but the club has the depth to finish in the Premier League’s top four, challenge for the FA Cup, and win the Europa League.

[ MORE: Ranking every Man Utd player’s 2019-20 PL season ]


Tactical analysis: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s favorite formation this year has been a 4-2-3-1, though he turned to a 3-4-1-2 in memorable wins over Chelsea and Man City just before the coronavirus pause.

We don’t know his plans to produce an attack with Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, and Marcus Rashford together, but the best possible XI is going to leave out some very good players. Playing Scott McTominay and Fred, both revelations, leaves out either wide players or puts Pogba or Fernades out of position (unless he opts for a 4-4-2 which will ask a lot of Rashford and Anthony Martial).

Since making his Manchester United debut on February 1, Fernandes leads the club in all competitions in shots (33), shots on target (12), assists (4) and chances created (24), and ranks third in goals (3).


Possible XI (4-3-1-2) 

—– De Gea —–

— Wan-Bissaka — Lindelof — Maguire — B. Williams —

—– Fred — Pogba — McTominay —–

—– Fernandes —–

—– Rashford —– Martial —–

This lineup excludes Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata, Daniel James, Odion Ighalo, Marcus Greenwood, and Eric Bailly. That’s a very decent bench. Solskjaer could also put a lot of responsibility on Fred or McTominay by putting Fernandes and Pogba in the center of the pitch with him and using a three-man forward line of Rashford, Martial, and another.

[ MORE: The 2 Robbies assess Man Utd’s chances ]


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Sheffield United, Bournemouth, Southampton, West Ham
Away: Spurs, Brighton, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Leicester City

Predicted finish: Depending on your faith in Leicester City, United will probably be favorites if not heavy favorites in seven or eight of their nine matches. Their home matches feature sides both surprising and desperate but it’ll be stunning if a side that found its groove to the tune of a five-match unbeaten run before the coronavirus pause and returns Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford fails to finish in the top four.

Newcastle’s Saint-Maximin, Liverpool’s Lovren speak against racism

Leave a comment

Newcastle’s Allan Saint-Maximin and Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren are speaking out on their squad photos that showed both Magpies and Reds taking a knee against racism at the center circle of pitches earlier this week.

All 20 Premier League clubs and a large number of players and coaches spoke out against racism earlier this week, and players have continued momentum. The gestures were born from the May 25 killing of American black man George Floyd, who died in handcuffs after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes even after he stopped moving and pleaded for air in Minnesota.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Saint-Maximin said he was inspired in part by his French youth national teammate Marcus Thuram, who took a knee last weekend after scoring for Borussia Monchengladbach.

“I have one big friend of mine who scored a goal, Marcus Thuram, and he did a great celebration,” Saint-Maximin said, via NUFC.co.uk. “It’s important that everyone knows this is not a joke. You have to claim that this is important. Everybody has to know this doesn’t have to happen again. It’s a difficult time for everyone. Even if it’s not you, or it’s not your brother or sister, you cannot know if this will happen again.”

Saint-Maximin said he experienced racial problems especially in his youth, and admitted that it meant a lot for his teammates to kneel together and make a statement as one.

“Everyone wanted to stay together because we all humans,” he said. “For me, everybody is the same. I have some things I can’t understand and some I don’t want to understand, too.”

As for Lovren, the Liverpool center back has never been shy around microphones.

His words to Sky Sports on Thursday echo Saint-Maximin and many of their peers.

Sky asked him why the Liverpool players took a knee as a team earlier this week.

“I felt we needed to do it. What happened in America is unacceptable. We are all equal and we wanted to share it to the world. We did it and it’s unbelievably great that people are getting this message. Everyone should be treated equally.”

Lovren, whose family became refugees from Yugoslavia when he was young, also stressed the import of footballers using their public platform for good, saying, “I want to be recognized also as a man who is spreading love and positivity. I’m looking at myself and it’s like I have a duty.”

Liverpool season restart preview

Liverpool
Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they are at ahead of the final nine weeks of the season as Liverpool are up next.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Focusing on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, they need five more points to seal the Premier League title as their 30-year wait for the English title is almost over. With just one defeat during the 2019-20 season so far, Liverpool have dominated the Premier League and have a 25 point lead over second-place Man City. Liverpool will be crowned the Champions of England soon after the resumption and they are on track to break many records.

[ MORE: Every PL season restart preview ] 

Let’s take a closer look at all things Liverpool when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: This has been a truly historic season for Liverpool and Klopp. They pushed Man City all the way last season but just came up short but they won the UEFA Champions League. In this very rare instance, the Premier League trophy would mean more to every Liverpool fan than the Champions League title. A supreme defensive unit led by Virgil van Dijk and Alisson perfectly balanced the attacking trio of Salah, Mane and Firmino, surging full backs Alexander-Arnold and Robertson and captain Jordan Henderson has taken his game to a whole new level in midfield. Across the board Liverpool have been sensational as they won the FIFA Club World Cup and are about to be crowned the Premier League champions. The wait is almost over and Klopp has constructed one of the best teams the Premier League has ever seen with their high-pressing, speedy attacking unit complemented by a sturdy backline.


Tactical analysis: One of the most intriguing parts of this Liverpool side is that even though they rely on turnovers and counter attacks to create a lot of chances, they have averaged 63 percent possession this season which Man City only better with 66 percent. In turn, Liverpool have the third-fewest interceptions (266) and fourth-fewest tackles won (258) in the Premier League this season simply because they have the ball so much. That is a change from their previous seasons but since Klopp took charge they have won 2,139 tackles (third-most in the PL) so that shows you that breaking up the play has been key to his philosophy but that clearly hasn’t been the case this season. Liverpool have kept hold of the ball more, their defenders are recycling possession when options aren’t open and they are being more patient. That has been the big change in 2019-20 but they also have the devastating pace of Mane, Firmino and Salah on the counter which remains their main weapon. Tactically, Liverpool have evolved and that is why they’ve been so dominant this season.


Possible XI (4-3-3) 

—– Alisson —–

— Alexander-Arnold — Gomez — Van Dijk — Robertson —

— Henderson — Fabinho — Wijnaldum —

—- Mane —- Firmino —- Salah —-


Remaining schedule:
Home: Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Burnley, Chelsea
Away: Everton, Man City, Brighton, Arsenal, Newcastle

Predicted finish: Well, I think we can all answer this question. They will win the Premier League and rightly so. There’s just no way they aren’t going to win the league and even though there will be no fans present in the stadium when they lift the title, every Liverpool fan around the world will be a ball of emotion. Jurgen Klopp promised trophies when he arrived in 2015 and he has duly delivered. It will be intriguing to see if Liverpool can break the records for most wins, points etc. in a season in the final nine games.

Transfer news: Werner to Chelsea; Jade-Jones to Liverpool

Werner
Getty Images
Leave a comment

In the latest transfer news Chelsea are said to be closing in on Timo Werner, while Man United and Liverpool have been tracking youngster Ricky Jade-Jones.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

First up, Bild say Chelsea are now the favorites to sign Timo Werner and he could sign for the Blues next week as they will meet his $62 million release clause which expires on June 15. Reports state that Liverpool want Werner but he has chosen to sign for Chelsea instead. This is a massive boost for Chelsea.

Werner, 24, has dazzled at RB Leipzig this season (31 goals and 12 assists in 40 games in all competitions) and is widely expected to leave with Liverpool, Man United and many others clubs across Europe chasing his signature with his release clause relatively low. Per a previous report, Chelsea have center back Antonio Rudiger working hard to convince his close friend, and former Stuttgart teammate, Werner that west London is the place for him.

Chelsea are one of the few clubs who have a healthy transfer budget as they had a transfer ban for a whole year and Frank Lampard has just spent $44 million on one new signing so far, bringing in Hakim Ziyech who will not arrive until later this summer.

Werner is exactly what Chelsea need. They have created so many golden goalscoring opportunities and although Tammy Abraham was putting them away at the start of the season, his form and fitness was a concern in the last few months before the suspension. Chelsea have created 361 chances this season, which is the second-most in the Premier League, behind only Man City (421). That is staggering and if they had a poacher like Werner around, they’d surely be challenging for the title.

Olivier Giroud is their only other forward option and Werner would be perfect to finish off the chances this attack-minded Chelsea team create. Even better for him, he would actually play at Chelsea which may not be the case at Liverpool and Man United given their stacked attacking lineups.

Jade-Jones Liverpool Man United
Getty Images

Switching to Man United and Liverpool, they have both been linked with a move for Peterborough forward Ricky Jade-Jones.

The 17-year-old has been dubbed ‘the next Jamie Vardy’ and our partners at Sky Sports in the UK state that the two Premier League giants, plus Arsenal, are keen on the League One striker.

In recent years Liverpool have worked hard to scour Europe for the best young talents and Jade-Jones is said to have searing pace which has caused opposition defenses plenty of problems. That pace would work in the systems of both Liverpool and Man United and it will be intriguing to watch this situation play out.