Premier League Playback: Guardiola to Chelsea, Mourinho to United?

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MANAGERIAL MERRY-GO-ROUND

With Jose Mourinho out at Chelsea, he seems to be the first domino in the pack to fall.

Manchester United’s Louis Van Gaal is looking over his shoulder nervously with the Red Devils now winless in six, while Manchester City’s Manuel Pellegrini will also be nervous as his team is six points off the top spot on Christmas Day.

[ MORE: Pep to Chelsea?

With several perennial Premier League giants struggling, the buck has to stop with the managers. Even more concerning for those in the hot seats is that Pep Guardiola, and now Mourinho, are lurking with intent in the background.

Reports suggest Guardiola could be lined up by Chelsea — Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail reports the Blues are willing to grab the outgoing Bayern Munich coach at any cost — and his wife favors living in London to Manchester but City remain the favorites to secure his signature. Bayern’s chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge stated that he believes Guardiola’s mind is already made up as to his next destination, as it seems like an all-out battle between City and Chelsea will take place.

As for Mourinho coming in at United, the Portuguese coach is looking to rebound quick and despite being fired by Chelsea following a dismal start to this season — nine defeats in their opening 16 games for the reigning champs — and reports of a player revolt, he is still the most successful coach in Premier League history in terms of his points per game ratio.

It was said that Sir Alex Ferguson favored Mourinho to replace him at Old Trafford when he retired in 2013 but the directors at United didn’t want to deal with Mourinho’s antics and instead plumped for David Moyes.

With performances dipping under van Gaal and the Dutchman spending over $400 million on new players in his opening 18 months in charge, the pressure is on. Despite finishing fourth last season United are out of the top four as things stand and crashed out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage.

[ VOTE: Should Man United make move for Mourinho?

Mourinho would, as he always has done, bring short-term success and right now that’s exactly what United need.

With some of the greatest managers of this generation now available on the open market, expect to hear plenty more managerial chatter between now and the summer as the incredible merry-go-round among the top clubs in the PL and Europe keeps turning.


WATFORD FOUR-MIDABLE

Premier League Schedule – Week 17

Result Recap & Highlights
Arsenal 2-1 Man City Recap, watch here
Chelsea 3-1 S’land Recap, watch here
Everton 2-3 Leicester Recap, watch here
Man Utd 1-2 Norwich Recap, watch here
N’castle 1-1 A. Villa Recap, watch here
Saints 0-2 Tottenham Recap, watch here
Stoke 1-2 C. Palace Recap, watch here
Swansea 0-0 W. Ham Recap, watch here
Watford 3-0 L’pool Recap, watch here
WBA 1-2 B’mouth Recap, watch here

Watford beat Liverpool 3-0 on Sunday to secure their fourth-straight Premier League win. The Hornets could have won by more.

In Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney that have a destructive partnership who will cause any defense in the Premier League problems. Ighalo, 26, has scored 28 goals in 2015 and 32 league goals in 52 league outings for the Hertfordshire club.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The powerful Nigerian striker has 12 goals in his debut PL season — five in his last four games — and the way he bullied Liverpool’s backline on Sunday on his way to two of Watford’s three goals typified his importance to the Hornets.

Ighalo is adored by Watford’s fans but the fact of the matter is, if he keeps scoring at this rate then a bigger PL team could come in for him in January or the summer.

Both he and Deeney are spoken to regularly by manager Quique Sanchez Flores — who, by the way, in his first season coaching in England has built a very impressive squad more than capable of holding its own in the PL — and he has already expressed his wishes for both to remain past this season.

Watford’s only two previous forays into the PL have both ended in immediate relegation but after making one of the best starts by a newly-promoted team in Premier League history (see below) they find themselves one point off the top four heading into Christmas Day.

There are Hornets fans dreaming. Most of the dreamers are middle-aged and will remember the days of John Barnes and Luther Blissett in the early 1980’s when they finished second in the top-flight and FA Cup runners up, plus played in Europe.

Those heady days aren’t too far away from returning to Vicarage Road and if the Pozzo family — who own both Udinese in Serie A and Granada in Spain — are serious about turning the Hornets into the jewel in their crown then spending big in January is key. Barring a monumental collapse in the second half of the season, Watford won’t be relegated this season and for the first time in the PL era they’ll be sticking around for at least back-to-back seasons.

I’m fine with that, and if Ighalo stays, because it means their incredible ode to Ighalo — inspired by 80s band Spandau Ballet and their hit tune “Gold” — will be sung loud and proud many more times. Check out the video below from the Rookery Stand for a taster.

With Watford and plenty of other PL minnows unexpectedly excelling this season, the stench of nostalgia is strong in the air as we head into the holiday season.


LEICESTER LEAD UNDERDOG’S FEEL-GOOD FACTOR

Leicester City are leading the charge of the Premier League underdogs as Claudio Ranieri‘s side continue to defy belief and sit on top of the Premier League table at Christmas.

Dazzling like a star on top of the tree, Leicester’s duo of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez led them to a 3-2 win at Everton this time out — Mahrez scored two PKs, with Vardy having a hand in winning both and also setting up Shinji Okazaki‘s clincher — as suddenly the Foxes have won three on the spin and eight of their last 10 to rack up 38 points and lead second-place Arsenal by two points. That horrendous six-game run they had coming up that everyone was talking about… yeah, they’ve won the opening three of those.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Danny Drinkwater (who has one of the best names in soccer) has been an unsung hero of their success but on Saturday the midfielder was out injured for the win at Everton. However, he perhaps typified one of the main reasons why teams like Leicester, Bournemouth, Watford and even Norwich are being lauded.

The down-to-earth midfielder sat in the away end with Leicester’s fans to watch the game and celebrated as his teammates secured the win. Take a look at the photo below. Brilliant. Also, Leicester’s Thai owners have announced they will be supplying a bottle of beer to every Foxes’ fans during their final game of 2015 against Manchester City at the King Power as they want to celebrate a stunning year with the fans.

The rise of the underdogs is the overriding theme of the PL so far this season as injury-hit Bournemouth followed up wins against Chelsea and Manchester United by beating West Brom away to rise to 14th, while Norwich beat Man United at Old Trafford for the first time since 1989 and even Crystal Palace made it three wins from the last four to rise to sixth and are only out of the top four on goal difference.

This season is unlike any other. Now, can the underdogs threaten the household names in the second half of the season?


GET READY FOR BOXING DAY

The Boxing Day extravaganza is almost here folks. That’s right, an entire day of Premier League game with all 20 teams in action.

The first game, Stoke City vs. Manchester United, starts at 7:45 a.m. ET and the final game kicks off at 2:45 p.m. ET, with Southampton hosting Arsenal. You can find all of the details here as, like always, every single game is available online or via your TVs.

Below is the full schedule for all 10 games on Boxing Day, with a Premier League doubleheader coming to the main NBC channel for the first-time ever.

7:45 a.m. ET: Stoke City vs. Manchester United – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Chelsea vs. Watford – USA [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Liverpool vs. Leicester City – NBCSN  [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Manchester City vs. Sunderland – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Aston Villa vs. West Ham United – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. Crystal Palace – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Swansea City vs. West Brom – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Norwich – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Newcastle United vs. Everton – NBC [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Southampton vs. Arsenal – NBC [STREAM

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

Premier League injuries, 2020-21

Premier League injuries
Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images
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Premier League injuries: With the 2020-21 Premier League season set to kick off this weekend, it’s time to take a look at the players who might be unavailable for the opening weekend.

[ MORE: 2020-21 Premier League season previews, all 20 clubs ]

Prior to every matchweek of the 2020-21 season, we’ll update this Premier League injuries page with the latest news and update, so make sure to check back regularly to see how your favorite — or least-favorite — club is getting on.

Note: Any player listed for COVID-19 reasons — whether a positive test or additional precautions — will always be deemed “questionable” until they make their return to action.

Arsenal injuries

QUESTIONABLE: David Luiz (back) | OUT: Gabriel Martinelli (knee), Shkodran Mustafi (thigh), Pablo Mari (ankle), Calum Chambers (knee)

Aston Villa injuries

OUT: Tom Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), Ahmed El Mohamady (thigh)

Brighton & Hove Albion injuries

QUERSTIONABLE: Ben White (ankle) | OUT: Jose Iquierdo (knee), Florian Andone (knee), Christian Walton (ankle)

Burnley injuries

OUT: Jack Cork (ankle)

Chelsea injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Christian Pulisic (hamstring), Timo Werner (thigh), Hakim Ziyech (knee), Cesar Azpilicueta (thigh), Ben Chilwell (ankle), Thiago Silva (undisclosed) | OUT: Mateo Kovacic (suspension)

Crystal Palace injuries

OUT: James Tomkins (thigh), Mamadou Sakho (thigh), Nathan Ferguson (knee), Patrick van Aanholt (shoulder), Christian Benteke (ankle), Gary Cahill (thigh), Jairo Riedewald (undisclosed)

Everton injuries

OUT: Mason Holgate (ankle), Cenk Tosun (knee), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (calf), Fabian Delph (calf)

Fulham injuries

OUT: Jean Michael Seri (undisclosed), Stefan Johansen (ankle)

Leeds United injuries

OUT: Gaetano Berardi (knee), Adam Forshaw (groin)

Leicester City injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Wes Morgan (thigh) | OUT: Ricardo Pereira (knee), Jonny Evans (thigh), Filip Benkovic (groin)

Liverpool injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Xherdan Shakiri (undisclosed), Konstantinos Tsimikas (COVID-19) | OUT: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee)

Manchester City injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Sergio Aguero (knee), Bernardo Silva (undisclosed) | OUT: Aymeric Laporte (COVID-19), Riyad Mahrez (COVID-19)

Manchester United injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Paul Pogba (COVID-19) | OUT: Axel Tuanzebe (ankle), Phil Jones (knee)

Newcastle United injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Matty Longstaff (thigh) | OUT: Martin Dubravka (ankle), Fabian Schar (shoulder), Paul Dummett (thigh), Dwight Gayle (knee)

Sheffield United injuries

OUT: Lys Mousset (ankle)

Southampton injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Nathan Redmond (knock) | OUT: Stuart Armstrong (thigh)

Tottenham Hotspur injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Serge Aurier (undisclosed) | OUT: Japhet Tanganga (thigh)

West Bromwich Albion injuries

OUT: Kenneth Zohore (calf)

West Ham United injuries

OUT: Jack Wilshere (ankle)

Wolverhampton Wanderers injuries

OUT: Jonny (knee)

VIDEO: ProSoccerTalk team unfiltered – Review, preview, Power Rankings and more

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ProSoccerTalk is now on video as well as in written format. Unleash the beast, as they say.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ] 

Each week Joe Prince-Wright, Nick Mendola and Andy Edwards will tell us what they learned from the Premier League action, rank their top five PL players based on current form, preview the upcoming weekend and handle any other news from around the soccer world.

Expect opinions, analysis and insight, as well as plenty of friendly banter along the way.

Basically, they have these chats on their own anyway so we thought we would record them and let them loose on the Premier League, USMNT and everything in-between. This is going to be a lot of fun and a lighthearted look at all of the action from across the soccer world each week.

With JPW is based in England and heading to Premier League games and traveling to stadiums/ training grounds, plus Andy and Nick based Stateside, we will be checking in with them regularly to get their views on just about anything when it comes to Pro Soccer. Because, well, ProSoccerTalk.

Follow the ProSoccerTalk lads on Twitter below, and click play on the video above to watch ProSocccerTalk this week in full.

League Cup fourth round draw results

League Cup draw
LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images
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Following the completion of the second round of the League Cup on Thursday, the draw for the fourth round was held prior to the third round, which is set to be played next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

[ MORE: Spurs come from behind to beat 9-man Plovdiv in UEL qualifier ]

The potential gem of the round depends upon Chelsea beating EFL Championship side Barnsley, and Tottenham Hotspur getting past EFL League Two Leyton Orient. Liverpool v Arsenal is another tasty possibility.

The draws for the third and fourth rounds of the 2020-21 League Cup are as follows…

League Cup third round draw

Lincoln City v Liverpool
Bristol City v Aston Villa
Morecambe v Newcastle United
Luton Town v Manchester United
Preston North End v Brighton
Fulham v Sheffield Wednesday
Manchester City v Bournemouth
West Ham United v Hull City
Millwall v Burnley
Chelsea v Barnsley
Stoke City v Gillingham
Leicester City v Arsenal
West Brom v Brentford
Newport County v Watford
Fleetwood Town v Everton
Leyton Orient v Tottenham Hotspur

League Cup fourth round draw

Lincoln City/Liverpool v Leicester City/Arsenal
Millwall/Burnley v Manchester City/Bournemouth
West Brom/Brentford v Fulham/Sheffield Wednesday
Fleetwood Town/Everton v West Ham United/Hull City
Bristol City/Aston Villa v Stoke City/Gillingham
Leyton Orient/Tottenham v Chelsea/Barnsley
Newport County/Watford v Morecambe/Newcastle United
Preston North End/Brighton v Luton Town/Manchester United

UEL roundup: AC Milan, Rangers reach next qualifying round

Europa League results
Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
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Europa League results: AC Milan and Rangers were victorious in the second round of UEFA Europa League qualifying on Thursday, advancing to within two more wins of the group stage.

[ MORE: Spurs come from behind to beat 9-man Plovdiv in UEL qualifier ]

Shamrock Rovers 0-2 AC Milan

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored early and Hakan Calhanoglu added a second-half insurance goal to secure Milan’s passage into the third qualifying round.

Up next for Milan is a home clash with Norwegian side Bodo/Glimt with a place in the playoff round, the final level of qualification to reach the group stage, on the line.

Lincoln Red Imps 0-5 Rangers

James Tavernier, Connor Goldson, Alfredo Morelos (twice) and Jermain Defoe bagged goals for Steven Gerrard’s Rangers side as they cruised to a 5-0 victory over Gibraltarian side Lincoln Red Imps.

Rangers will now be away to Dutch side Willem II in the third qualifying round.

Notable Europa League results

Lokomotiv Plovdiv 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur (RECAP)
Kekesi 0-4 Wolfsburg
Hibernians 0-1 Fehervar
Coleraine 2-2 *Motherwell
Viking 0-2 Aberdeen
Servette 0-1 Reims
Budapest Honved 0-2 Malmo
Teuta Durres 0-4 Granada
FK Neftchi 1-3 Galatasaray