Co-owned by Pep Guardiola and the City Football Group, Girona isn’t your average minnow. However, what Girona did on Wednesday is worthy of a closer look.
Girona came back from a goal down on two occasions, eventually scoring on a breath-taking counter attack in the 88th minute to advance past Atletico Madrid, 4-4 on away goals at the Wanda Metropolitano. With the draw, Girona advances to the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey, the farthest it has ever gone so far in the competition.
Nikola Kalinic put the hosts up 1-0 early, but that was before Valery Fernandez, who made his first-team debut in La Liga just last month, became a household name around Spain and the talk of the internet. Fernandez touch a touch on a cross into the box with his chest and then on the volley, rifled a goal past Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Antonio Adan.
Cristhian Stuani and Angel Correa traded goals, before Antoine Griezmann put Atleti back in front with a goal in the 84th minute.
But four minutes later, a turnover in midfield led to a break for Girona, where veteran forward Seydou Doumbiare-directed a shot from Borja Garcia in to give Girona the result it needed.
1 – Atletico de Madrid have been knocked out at the last 16 stage of the Copa del Rey for the first time with Diego Simeone as manager. Surprise. pic.twitter.com/H46WL8cAqy
Focusing on Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Saints, they have rebounded superbly after that humbling 9-0 defeat to Leicester City in late October. Hasenhuttl’s young side have gone back to basics and have a pretty favorable run of games to finish the season. They still aren’t totally out of the relegation battle but three more wins should keep them up and there is a renewed sense of belief about their future as the boss recently signed a new contract.
Let’s take a closer look at all things Southampton when it comes to the season restart.
Outlook: The season started very badly and hit rock bottom with that hammering by Leicester. Hasenhuttl then went back to his tried and tested 4-2-2-2 formation and kept things simple, as previously he messed around with several formations and his players seemed confused. A run of seven wins from 11 games around the turn of the year pushed them up the Premier League table and they are seven points above the relegation zone with nine games to go. Danny Ings is their main man with 18 goals in all competitions and their high-pressing style often catches out opponents. Defensively they still need to improve but Hasenhuttl has recently signed a new four-year contract extension and there’s a clear plan in place for the future. Saints have some talented young players coming through again and even though they haven’t got a lot of cash to spend, Hasenhuttl has made his team horrible to play against and they should be a solid PL club for the next few seasons.
Tactical analysis: The 4-2-2-2 formation that Hasenhuttl perfected at RB Leipzig has worked well since November with Southampton possessing plenty of speedy attacking players who use this system perfectly. Nathan Redmond, Shane Long and Ings lead the charge, while Sofiane Boufal and Moussa Djenepo are wild cards off the bench. Having extra defensive stability has been key with Hojbjerg and Ward-Prowse playing in deeper midfield roles, plus Stuart Armstrong a perfect blend of a central midfielder and a winger. This formation is very narrow but Saints have pressing from the front mastered and when it works, it works very well.
Home: Arsenal, Man City, Brighton, Sheffield United
Away: Norwich, Watford, Everton, Man United, Bournemouth
Predicted finish: This really could go one of two ways for Saints. Hasenhuttl has just signed a new contract and there is finally some stability at the club after several managers have come and gone, the Chinese ownership group has said the club has to be self-sustaining and previous star players haven’t been replaced. In theory Saints aren’t really in this relegation battle but if they fail to pick up any points from their first three games, they will be looking nervously over their shoulders. On the other hand, if the pressure is off they could easily push for a top 10 finish as they have a favorable run-in, but is playing a bunch of teams in the relegation spots really a good thing at this time of the season?
Bayern Munich can take another huge step towards winning an eight-straight Bundesliga title when they travel to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday at the BayArena and below are details on how you can watch Bayer v Bayern in the USA.
This will be a beauty of a game as Hansi Flick’s side have been in sumptuous form, but so too have Bayer with Kai Havertz leading the line. Leverkusen have won three of their four games since the restart and remain firmly in the top four battle as they sit in fifth-place but are just four point behind second-placed Borussia Dortmund. Havertz has scored five goals in his last four games and Real Madrid have reportedly offered over $85 million for him this week, which was rejected.
As for Bayern Munich, they are seven points clear at the top of the table and are ripping teams apart with Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Alphonso Davies and Co. in fine form. Bayern have won all four games since the restart, scoring 13 goals in the process, and barring a catastrophic late collapse they will waltz to the title. Philippe Coutinho remains out injured but they aren’t missing him with Serge Gnabry and Kinglsey Coman in fine form.
Below is how to watch Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich on TV in the USA this Saturday, while above you can follow the action live, as the three points are so valuable to both clubs.
First up, Chelsea have had a pretty decent few months in the transfer window with Hakim Ziyech locked up, Timo Werner set to arrive in the next few weeks and now they are pushing hard to sign Ben Chilwell. Reports out of Italy say that Leicester want $85 million for Chilwell, who is under contract for another four years.
Multiple reports claim that Chelsea have reopened talks with Leicester over the England international, as a deal was discussed in January. The left back, 23, has been in fine form for the Foxes over the past few years, although talk of a potential move seemed to distract him from December onwards as his play took a nosedive.
As was previously reported, Chelsea have Nicolas Tagliafico lined up as a back-up option and the Ajax defender would certainly be a cheaper option. Is Chilwell worth this huge fee? He could be England’s left back for the next 10 years but there are a few concerning signs.
His crossing ability is undoubted and he’s a fine one-on-one defender, but his distribution and decision-making still needs some work. Chelsea badly need an upgrade in the left back, center back and goalkeeping department and Chilwell would start over Emerson and Marcos Alonso right away. Leicester are of course playing hardball over this price but given the financial impact of the coronavirus, this transfer fee does seem high for a player who only has a few seasons as a Premier League regular under his belt.
In other transfer news, Man United have been handed a boost in their pursuit of Wolves and Mexico star Raul Jimenez.
Jimenez, 29, has repeatedly been linked with Real Madrid, Juventus, Barcelona and Man United, with the powerful striker having a second-straight stellar season in the Premier League with Wolves.
A report from TuttoJuve states that Wolves may lower their asking price for Jimenez in the coming months as they know that transfer fees will drop significantly, but the Molineux club are obviously not in a hurry to sell their top goalscorer. Juve will reportedly offer $25 million plus Gonzalo Higuain for Jimenez.
Speaking to Medio Tiempo, Jimenez’s father recently said his son is flattered by the interest from big clubs but is happy with Wolves for now.
Quite why Wolves would lower their price for Jimenez remains to be seen but he is getting closer to the age of 30 and if they want to cash in on him, they will probably wait until 12 months from now.
Focusing on Daniel Farke’s Norwich, they sit bottom of the table but have shown enough promising displays this season to suggest they can surge out of the relegation zone late in the season. The Canaries are six points from safety but given their sensible spending and having the lowest budget in the Premier League, that is very good going. They have a chance of staying up but will likely need to win at least five of their final nine games. They’ve won five games from 29 games so far this season.
Let’s take a closer look at all things Norwich when it comes to the season restart.
Outlook: Look, the Canaries plan was to try and finish fourth from bottom and they still have a chance of doing that. Farke was given limited funds to spend and even if they are relegated, it is highly unlikely he will be fired this summer. Norwich play an open, expansive style of soccer and they are extremely entertaining to watch for the neutral. Defensively they need to improve massively but going forward, Teemu Pukki is always a threat, while midfielders Emiliano Buendia and Todd Cantwell are both destined for big things. With five of their final nine games at home and all looking pretty winnable, if Norwich can turn Carrow Road into a fortress, they can get out of trouble. Their away schedule is tough but they do play three times around them in their final nine games, so there are plenty of six-pointers which will be pivotal. No matter what happens, it has been fun to have Norwich in the Premier League this season and their status as a well-run yo-yo club continues. They’re in the FA Cup quarterfinals too, which shows their ability to deliver on one-off occasions.
Tactical analysis: The one thing Norwich do extremely well is get Pukki to play on the last shoulder of the defender and then both Buendia and Cantwell cut inside to support him and slot balls behind defenses to run onto. Norwich’s defensive deficiencies are clear for all to see. They have conceded the second-highest number of goals in the Premier League this season down to poor defending but also because they take a lot of risks in midfield and push both full backs forward. That is just the way Norwich play and they are exciting to watch. Farke didn’t alter his tactics at all following their promotion campaign in 2018-19 and they have stayed true to his philosophy. If they can manage to stay up this season, they will be able to improve their squad in certain areas.
Possible XI (4-2-3-1)
—– Krul —–
— Aarons — Hanley — Godfrey — Lewis —
—- Tettey —- McLean —-
— Buendia — Duda — Cantwell —
—– Pukki —–
Home: Southampton, Everton, Brighton, West Ham, Burnley
Away: Arsenal, Watford, Chelsea, Man City
Predicted finish: Look, they are probably going down. But they will go down with a fight. Beating Man City, Everton and Leicester at home, drawing against Tottenham and giving plenty of defenses headaches, Norwich are tougher to play against than their record suggests. If Pukki can catch fire again, they have a chance but they simply have to improve defensively if they’re going to give themselves a chance of staying up.