Premier League Playback: Ranking the superstars, so far

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WHICH STARS HAVE BEEN TOP-CLASS, SO FAR?

This season the Premier League is littered with glittering superstars. Wherever you look, star players are lining up for the top teams but have all of them lived up to the hype?

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Below is a look at how the so-called “world class” players have performed so far this season, with a mark out of 10 for each of them.

There are two players from each of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham with the main attacking talents deemed to be the “world class” by most, although plenty of other players can certainly be classed in and around this upper echelon.

It’s time to grade the stars…


Alexis Sanchez – 10/10 – They don’t call him “El Nino Maravilla” for nothing. Sanchez has been on another planet this season and his sensational hat trick against West Ham this weekend (see video above) summed up how dangerous he is. He can beat players with pace and power, plus has stunning technique and can finish. His best role is probably out wide but he’s being used as a central striker and is ripping teams apart. Easily the best player in the Premier League this season. Easily. His new contract value must be going up by the day as Arsenal try and lock him down long-term.

Diego Costa – 10/10 – Okay, so Diego Costa isn’t far behind Sanchez and the Spanish international has been a huge part of Chelsea’s incredible eight-game winning streak. With 11 goals and five assists, he has been the focal point of Antonio Conte‘s attack and Costa looks more controlled this season. He is focused and fired up to prove the doubters wrong. Boy, is he doing that. An absolute beast of a striker when he’s fit and focused.

Mesut Ozil – 9/10 – The Gunners playmaker has flown under the radar this season but his numbers, especially in terms of goals scored, are impressive. The big arguement about Ozil is his end product but clearly the German international is getting it right in the final third. He’s already scored eight goals this season which matches his tally from the whole of the 2015-16 campaign. Like Sanchez, he is currently in talks about signing a new deal and in this form he has Arsenal fans dreaming of another league title.

Philippe Coutinho – 9/10 – Such a shame that he’s gone down with an ankle injury and will miss five to six weeks in a busy stretch of the season. The Brazilian playmaker has been the creative heart of Liverpool’s high-pressing unit and delivers quality, goals and assists by the bucket full. Along with Adam Lallana, Sadio Mane (more on him shortly) and Roberto Firmino, that quartet has delivered hope to the Kop that Jurgen Klopp‘s project can yield trophies. Coutinho makes Liverpool tick.

Harry Kane – 8/10 – He is back fit after a lay off and Kane is on fire. After signing his new long-term deal at Spurs last week, he has now scored six goals in his last five Premier League games. Kane’s importance to Tottenham is undoubted and at the age of 23 he’s only just getting started.

Eden Hazard – 8/10 – Talking of getting started, Hazard has got going again and is on the way back to his best. You still feel like the Belgian wizard is playing in fourth gear but he can crank it up to fifth whenever he wants. In the 3-4-3 system at Chelsea he has more freedom and more cover from Marcos Alonso on the left flank. That is allowing Hazard to flourish.

Sadio Mane – 8/10 – The Senegalese flyer has been a revelation since arriving at Anfield in a big $45 million transfer from Southampton in the summer. Mane has scored seven goals and added three assists in 13 Premier League games, but it is his searing pace which terrifies opponents and is a perfect blend for the trickery of Coutinho and Lallana. A fine start to the season and Mane is becoming a bonafide star in the PL after two-and-a-half stellar campaigns.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 7/10 – We know Zlatan can talk the talk but he has also proved he can walk the walk. Despite a lean spell when he failed to score in six games, he has scored 12 goals in 21 games in all competitions for United. Ibrahimovic is United’s main attacking threat and their top goalscorer. At the age of 35, he still has star power and he’s being managed perfectly by Jose Mourinho… as things stand.

Kevin De Bruyne – 7/10 – It has been a stop, start season or KDB so far but that’s mostly been down to injury. 7 out of 10 may be a little harsh, especially after his dominant displays at Manchester United in the PL and against Barcelona in the Champions League, but De Bruyne has gone missing in some games which is unlike him. He’s been played centrally by Guardiola and he still seems to be figuring out the best way to be dangerous in that role.

Sergio Aguero – 6/10 – Like KDB, this ranking may be a little harsh, especially when you consider Aguero has 10 goals thus far. However, he also has a bit of an issue with lashing out and he was lucky to get away with a vicious elbow on Winston Reid earlier this season and has since been banned four games for his horrendous lunging tackle on David Luiz last weekend. All of that has soured Aguero’s fine finishes a little.

Dele Alli – 5/10 – Tottenham’s playmaker just hasn’t got going so far. Again, he’s had a few injuries but he’s also been involved in plenty of controversy with a few dives for penalty kicks in the box. Alli had such an incredible first season in the Premier League that there was bound to be a drop off but just three goals and one assist thus far prove he’s well below the standard he set for himself last season.

Paul Pogba – 5/10 – Well, when you become the most expensive player on the planet plenty is expected of your right away. Just ask Gareth Bale… Pogba has scored a stunning goal against Swansea and a header against Leicester and apart from that he’s been in and out of games with Mourinho struggling to find his best position on the pitch early in the season. As the campaign has worn on, Pogba has looked more comfortable in an attacking midfield role in the center yet he still has plenty of work to do to prove he’s one of the best midfielders on the planet.


CHELSEA WIN BATTLE OF BACK THREE

It was one of the most eagerly-anticipated tactical battles of the season between two new managers who had excelled at top teams across Europe.

Antonio Conte beat Pep Guardiola in the tactical battle as both deployed three central defenders and wing backs.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

In truth, the 3-1 scoreline in Chelsea’s favor doesn’t tell the whole story of a game which had everything. Guardiola’s City looked uneasy early on but found their feet and deservedly led at half time through Gary Cahill‘s shocking own goal. But as Chelsea has shown in recent games, they’re now capable of handling a blow and striking back.

Diego Costa took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half as he scored the equalizer and set up Willian for the go-ahead goal and Eden Hazard clinched the win late on to put some extra gloss on the scoreline.

[ MORE: Recap as Chelsea win ] 

From an attacking standpoint there wasn’t much in this and if anything City had better chances but failed to take them via a combination of bad misses (Kevin de Bruyne hit the bar, somehow, from four yards out) good goalkeeping from Thibaut Courtois and goal line clearances. Big calls also went Chelsea’s way, especially in the first half when Aguero and Luiz tangled, but overall Chelsea proved that their defensive solidity will help them grind through games and get wins.

City’s defense looked shaky for most of the game as their two wings backs were basically wingers in Leroy Sane and Jesus Navas in a 3-1-4-2 formation. Neither could defend and as the game wore on Chelsea’s wing backs in a more conventional 3-4-3 formation dominated with Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso providing plenty of width and attacking intent. Without Vincent Kompany in central defense, City struggled and the decision to not play the likes of Pablo Zabelta in a wing back role really backfired for Guardiola. Defensively his side must improve if they’re going to challenge Chelsea, and others, for the Premier League title this season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Conte won the battle of the three-man defenses and his Chelsea team also put down a huge marker of how good they are with an eighth-straight Premier League win which in turn hands Guardiola plenty of food for thought.

BONUS: The fact that Pep will be without leading scorer Aguero for four games and influential midfielder Fernandinho for the next three will also be concerning for City, as a mass melee at the end of the game ensued. Aguero’s horrendous tackle on David Luiz started it all off and Fernandinho‘s pushing and grabbing of Cesc Fabregas’ throat meant he joined Aguero in getting sent off as City finished the game with nine men.

On top of that, both teams have been charged with failing to control their players by the FA which should result in hefty fines. That said, this incident highlighted just how much this game meant to both sets of players as the title gauntlet has been thrown down earlier by Chelsea. Now, can City find a way to respond and kick on Guardiola’s project quickly?


BIG SCRAP AT THE BOTTOM

The race against relegation is quickly getting ugly and frenetic.

At this point of the season there’s usually one or two teams cut adrift from the rest. That’s not the case this season and it is making plenty of players, managers and owners nervous as we gear up for the busy festive period.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]   

Looking at the table below (before Middlesbrough’s game against Hull City on Monday) you can see Bob Bradley‘s Swansea City are rock bottom as they suffered a 5-0 thumping at Tottenham Hotspur. The Swans have nine points, and a rather favorable schedule coming up, and are just two points off safety.

Overall, there are seven teams separated by just three points from 19th to 13th and there are some big teams down there struggling.

pl-table-dec-5-2016

 

Reigning champions Leicester City continue to falter after losing at Sunderland (see video, below) and Claudio Ranieri‘s side are yet to win away in the Premier League this campaign. Making simple defensive mistakes is costing the Foxes dear and up top Jamie Vardy has just to goals in the Premier League this season, while Riyad Mahrez is struggling to create. Leicester is in real danger of getting dragged into the thick of the relegation battle and so is West Ham after they were smashed 5-1 by Arsenal. Manager Slaven Bilic admitted after that hiding that his team is in a relegation battle but he has already received the dreaded vote of confidence from the owners.

With all three newly promoted teams down at the bottom, plus Swansea, Sunderland, Leicester, West Ham and Crystal Palace in and and around the bottom three, we are all set for plenty of “relegation six-pointers” in the coming weeks.

It seems very soon to be saying that but with so many tights tightly bunched together at the bottom as we approach the halfway point, the relegation battle this season is proving to be yet another tight one.


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

Southampton – Tottenham: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

Southampton - Tottenham
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Southampton – Tottenham: This will be a tight game on Sunday (Watch live at 7am ET, online via Peacock) at St Mary’s as Ralph Hasenhuttl and Jose Mourinho have locked horns three times already in 2020.

SOUTHAMPTON – TOTTENHAM STREAM LIVE

Saints have won the league game, draw an FA Cup game at home and lost the FA Cup replay away at Tottenham and all three of those games were tightly contested encounters. With Spurs having a quick turnaround given their Europa League qualifying win in Bulgaria on Thursday, plus League Cup and Europa League games next midweek, Mourinho may be forced to shuffle his pack.

After losing their opening game of the Premier League, both clubs will want to get back on track quickly.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Tottenham this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Southampton – Tottenham (INJURY REPORT)

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl has been without Stuart Armstrong through injury, while Nathan Redmond suffered a knock in their surprising League Cup defeat to second-tier Brentford in midweek. Saints have yet to get going this season and Hasenhuttl may shake up his squad.

Mourinho has Giovani Lo Celso back in training, while there is perhaps the possibility that Gareth Bale and Sergio Reguilon could feature but it may be too late after their impending arrival from Real Madrid on Friday.


What they’re saying

Ralph Hasenhuttl on Southampton not being fully fit to start the season: “We are not playing quick enough at the moment. Not aggressive enough without the ball. We are not at the fitness levels we had last season. This is not surprising we had no pre-season where we could work together. But yes we should go quickly to a different level otherwise it’ll be difficult.”

Eric Dier on Tottenham’s congested fixture schedule: “If you look at the schedule, it isn’t showing any care for players’ physical welfare. It’s common sense really, trying to ask someone to play Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday. It doesn’t seem like there is any care for players’ welfare in that situation.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Southampton are the underdogs (+210) but have matched up well against Tottenham in recent meetings. Spurs are favored (+130) but the draw (+235) looks likely in this one and Mourinho will probably take that given all of their recent games.

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Prediction

Danny Ings can cause Tottenham problems and if Saints start quickly, as they like to do, they can catch Spurs out. Tottenham will sit back and then look to hit Saints on the counter and hope the quality of Son, Kane and Co. will see them through. I’m going for a draw. 1-1.


How to watch Southampton – Tottenham stream and start time

Kickoff: 7 am ET Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Chelsea – Liverpool: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Chelsea – Liverpool: This is always one of the biggest games of the Premier League season and on Sunday (Watch live at 11:30am ET, online via Peacock) at Stamford Bridge we can expect all-out attack between these two stacked heavyweights.

CHELSEA – LIVERPOOL STREAM LIVE

Frank Lampard and Chelsea have spent close to $300 million on new players this summer and may spend even more as they look to make the leap from a top four team to title contenders. As for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp, the reigning champions had a scare in their opening day win against Leeds but will know they will have plenty of chances to score against Chelsea.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Chelsea – Liverpool this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Chelsea – Liverpool (INJURY REPORT)

Chelsea will be without USMNT star Christian Pulisic as Lampard revealed he suffered a minor injury setback from his hamstring issue. This game has also come too early for new signings Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva to make their debuts as they work their way towards full fitness. Timo Werner is fit after suffering a small injury on his debut.

Liverpool could have Kostas Tsimikas available as he’s back in training following a period of self-isolation after he tested positive for COVID-19. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be missing once again after he picked up a knee injury, while Xherdan Shaqiri is battling back from yet another injury. 


What they’re saying

Timo Werner believes Chelsea have similar quality to Liverpool: “We will improve game by game but now we have to play on Sunday and we try to win the game. We are playing against a strong team and they have such good players, not only Virgil van Dijk, the whole defending part of Liverpool are very good. They conceded the least goals in the league and it is a great team in every position. But we also have great players and we have the quality to beat them. It will be an interesting game.”

Jurgen Klopp on Mohamed Salah’s hat trick on the opening day against Leeds: “Of all the good performances Mo had for us obviously, this was for sure one of the better ones. So he should be proud of that because it’s very special to have these kind of numbers. ‘Long may it continue,’ I like to think in these moments, and this time I say it as well.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Chelsea (+215) are the underdogs but Liverpool’s odds are longer (+115) than many would expect. Chelsea have done well against Liverpool in recent seasons and seem to match up with them well, and the draw (+270) would be the smart bet in this one. Both teams would take that early in the season and move on.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction

I’m going for a goalfest here and I think both teams will have plenty of chances and it’s all about who is more clinical. Liverpool will try to shore things up at the back but I think Chelsea know how to get behind them and Werner, if he’s fit, will cause problems. I’m going for 3-3. This will be a classic.


How to watch Chelsea – Liverpool stream and start time

Kickoff: 11:30 am ET Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Is Gareth Bale’s return to Tottenham a good idea?

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Gareth Bale to Tottenham is a transfer which is romantic. It has Spurs fans everywhere reminiscing about the good old days of eight years ago when he was ripping up the Premier League. This season-long loan deal probably has Bale dreaming of being a star in the PL once again.

But is this Gareth Bale to Tottenham a good idea? Is joining this Tottenham a good idea for Gareth Bale?

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ] 

Bale, 31, has been hit by injuries hard in recent seasons but we’re talking about a player who has won four UEFA Champions League titles, two La Liga titles and every other major trophy possible since he left Tottenham for Real Madrid in 2013. Even though things have turned sour at Real in recent seasons — fallouts with Zinedine Zidane, the fans and the media amid the injuries — he is still one of the best wingers in the game, on his day.

The Welshman has always performed well for his country and is capable of scoring sensational goals and taking a game by the scruff of the neck at key moments. But can he do this week in, week out at Tottenham and in the Premier League right now? Does he have to?

As the ProSoccerTalk lads point out in the video above, Bale will have a lot more help from this current Spurs squad compared to when he bailed out (pardon the pun) Andre Villas-Boas’ side time and time again in the past. Harry Kane and Heung-min Son will carry the main goalscoring burden and Bale is around to help Spurs with his big game experience.

That should suit him well.

Jose Mourinho loves to bring in star players as short-term solutions because, well, he is rarely around for longer than three years at a club. See: Ibrahimovic, Zlatan and Sanchez, Alexis. He wants to win now and wants to be successful now and Bale helps Spurs immediately, as long as he can stay fit.

This is a risky deal for Bale and Tottenham, though. Best case scenario for Bale is that he flourishes and with a year left on his contract at Real Madrid he’s in a good position to get another big deal elsewhere, maybe even at Tottenham. Worst case scenario, Spurs have just blown a load of cash chasing nostalgia and Bale will return to Real Madrid next summer with his tail between his legs.

There’s no doubting his quality but with Tottenham, Bale and Mourinho all involved, this feels like we should be warming up our popcorn in the microwave.

Whichever way it goes, it will be eventful.

Premier League injuries, 2020-21

Premier League injuries
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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)