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Analyzing the Premier League relegation battle

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The battle at the bottom of the Premier League table has intensified over the past few weeks, as eight teams are now embroiled in the relegation scrap.

This is getting intense.

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Big wins for Cardiff City, Burnley and Newcastle have muddled the situation, while only Fulham and Huddersfield seem doomed for the drop. That means six teams are scrapping to stay out of 18th place.

Below we take a look at the situation for the bottom eight clubs with 12 games to go, while the likes of Leicester, Bournemouth, West Ham and Everton will also be looking over their shoulders nervously.


Huddersfield

The Terriers are already prepping for next season in the second-tier under Jan Siewert and haven’t won a PL game since November. Scoring goals has been their big problem, and they have plenty of big boys to play in the final weeks of the season. Adding another 11 points from their final 12 games seems a tad generous too…

Current position: 20th
Current points: 11
Games remaining: Newcastle (A), Wolves (H), Brighton (A), Bournemouth (H), West Ham (A), Crystal Palace (A), Leicester (H), Tottenham (A), Watford (H), Liverpool (A), Man United (H), Southampton (A)
Projected final points tally: 22 points


Fulham

The Cottagers are really up against it now and they play three of the top five in their remaining games. They can still get out of trouble, but it seems very unlikely. Claudio Ranieri is being lambasted by his own fans and even though they look capable of scoring, Fulham’s defensive displays have been ghastly all season long.

Current position: 19th
Current points: 17
Games remaining: West Ham (A), Southampton (A), Chelsea (H), Leicester (A), Liverpool (H), Man City (H), Watford (A), Everton (H), Bournemouth (A), Cardiff (H), Wolves (A), Newcastle (H)
Projected final points tally: 29 points


Southampton

Not beating any of Cardiff, Palace and Burnley in their last three was a huge blow fore Saints after a good run of wins. Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s men will likely go into the final week of the season with a chance of staying up. For the second season running Southampton are in big trouble and their hopes rely on Danny Ings staying fit. Saints’ survival hopes will go down to the wire once again.

Current position: 18th
Current points: 24
Games remaining: Arsenal (A), Fulham (H), Man United (A), Tottenham (H), Watford (A), Brighton (A), Liverpool (H), Wolves (H), Newcastle (A), Bournemouth (H), West Ham (A), Huddersfield (H)
Projected final points tally: 39 points


Cardiff City

The Bluebirds have been in great form recently with big wins against Bournemouth and Saints boosting their survival hopes. They have games against each of the top four remaining, but they have momentum. Neil Warnock‘s side will have the neutrals support in the run-in, but do they have the goals to seal the deal?

Current position: 17th
Current points: 25
Games remaining: Watford (H), Everton (H), Wolves (A), West Ham (H), Brighton (A), Chelsea (H), Man City (A), Burnley (A), Liverpool (H), Fulham (A), Crystal Palace (H), Man United (A)
Projected final points tally: 39 points


Newcastle United

Newcastle have played really well in recent weeks and look sharp going forward. Miguel Almiron will be key, but their schedule is extremely favorable as their toughest games remaining are against Arsenal and Liverpool, with the latter at home.

Current position: 16th
Current points: 25
Games remaining: Huddersfield (H), Burnley (H), West Ham (A), Everton (H), Bournemouth (A), Arsenal (A), Crystal Palace (H), Leicester (A), Southampton (H), Brighton (A), Liverpool (H), Fulham (A)
Projected final points tally: 42 points


Burnley

Sean Dyche‘s men have been in fine form recently and despite a tough final few months of the season (schedule wise) they’ve turned the corner. The Clarets should be fine, just about, but their final four games are very tough. Have to get points on the board ASAP.

Current position: 15th
Current points: 27
Games remaining: Tottenham (H), Newcastle (A), Crystal Palace (H), Liverpool (A), Leicester (H), Wolves (H), Bournemouth (A), Cardiff (H), Chelsea (A), Man City (H), Everton (A), Arsenal (H)
Projected final points tally: 40 points


Brighton & Hove Albion

If there’s one team everyone is expecting to get dragged into the bottom three it is Brighton. They have won one of their last 11 PL games and Chris Hughton‘s side are making big defensive mistakes. They still have to play four of the top five. If Glenn Murray doesn’t regain his form, Brighton are in big trouble.

Current position: 14th
Current points: 27
Games remaining: Leicester (A), Huddersfield (H), Crystal Palace (A), Cardiff (H), Southampton (H), Tottenham (A), Bournemouth (H), Wolves (A), Newcastle (H), Arsenal (A), Man City (H), Chelsea (A)
Projected final points tally: 37 points


Crystal Palace

The addition of Michy Basthuayi and the return to form of Wilfried Zaha means Palace will be fine. They aren’t great to watch, but Roy Hodgson will get the job done. Not the easiest schedule remaining, but they are more than capable of picking up a few shock wins.

Current position: 13th
Current points: 27
Games remaining: Leicester (A), Man United (H), Burnley (A), Brighton (H), Tottenham (A), Huddersfield (H), Newcastle (A), Man City (H), Arsenal (A), Everton (H), Cardiff (A), Bournemouth (H)
Projected final points tally: 41 points


Solskjaer: ‘We just need consistency’

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In a vague, general word, Manchester United manager knows exactly what his club have been missing. Consistency.

More specifically, consistent success.

In a sit-down interview with the BBC, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer mentioned striving for consistency in performances on no less than four occasions, including when speaking about Alexis Sanchez. Man United won eight straight matches in all competitions and 10 of its first 11 under the Norwegian manager.

[READ: De Ligt lands in Turin ahead of Juventus move]

And yet, the consistency wasn’t there late in the season, when Man United faltered down the stretch and won just two of its last ten matches to close the season on a sour note. Man United finished in sixth place, and while Solskjaer said he believed it would be a challenge to break into the top four, he said with some consistent performances, Man United could achieve its goals.

“We have to aim for further up than fourth,” Solskjaer told the BBC. “I would rather be an optimist and be wrong than a pessimist and be right. I am not used to us being fifth or sixth but that is where we are at. That is the size of the challenge. I love that challenge.

“We have to work with the players, sign the right types and gradually make our way to the challenging line. Our players do have quality. They do have a chance. We just need consistency. We have to keep working every single day and not take our eyes off the target. Everyone gets off line at some point but you can’t let it drift too far because then you won’t get to the overall goal.”

Some Man United fans have been mumbling and rumbling due to the slow start in this summer’s transfer window. Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia have both departed on free transfers, while only Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have come in. While it’s not the improvements some fans were hoping for, it’s helped give some of the young players, like James Garner, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenword, some hope that they can get minutes.

Perhaps the push from the young players for first team minutes will make Man United a bit more competitive in training again, which can only help in terms of having success on the field.

The big question remains, which Man United team will we see this season. The one from Solskjaer’s first two months on the job, or the one from his last six weeks.

MLS Notes: Shea out for season with torn ACL, and more

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It appeared Brek Shea had finally gotten his career back on track, only for a serious injury to end his season prematurely.

Atlanta United announced on Tuesday that Shea had suffered a “right knee injury” that will involve season-ending surgery. An earlier report from the Athletic stated it was a torn ACL, which could leave Shea sidelined into the start of next season.

[READ: de Ligt arrives in Turin]

Shea has made 10 starts out of 19 appearances so far this season for Atlanta, where he’s often played as a left wing back or left midfielder, offering speed down the flank and a deeper starting position to connect with Atlanta’s talented attackers. A good season from Shea could have propelled him back into the USMNT conversation, especially if he took part in next season’s January camp. Now, that option is off the table.

Here’s some more MLS news and notes:

(more…)

De Ligt lands in Turin ahead of proposed Juventus move

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s recruiting tactics with Matthijs de Ligt during the UEFA Nations League final appears to have worked.

[READ: Transfer Rumor Roundup]

Juventus posted a video on the club’s social media accounts that shows de Ligt arriving in Turin, Italy on a private jet, likely to sign his contract and get started with the club. It’s a huge precursor to an announcement for one of the top targets of this summer’s transfer market, and it represents a huge coup for Juventus.

Just a month ago or so, Juventus were on the outside looking in, with Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, and even Manchester United and Manchester City all mentioned in the race to sign the Netherlands and Ajax star centerback. And yet, PSG, which appeared in the lead at one point, lost ground to Juventus, and de Ligt now gets to compete alongside Ronaldo after facing him twice over the past season.

It’s the latest move in the incredible rise of de Ligt over the past three years. De Ligt was promoted to Ajax’s first team as a 17-year-old, and pretty quickly established himself as a huge talent for the Netherlands. Then Netherlands National Team coach Danny Blind called up de Ligt to start in a crunch World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria, with the Netherlands desperate for some defensive answers.

It’s didn’t exactly go well.

And yet, de Ligt has overcome those experiences and raised his game to new levels each of the last two years. Alongside Davinson Sanchez, Ajax made it to the Europa League final, and last year, de Ligt scored as Ajax defeated Juventus on the way to the UEFA Champions League semifinals. Ajax was just a few minutes away from the finals before Tottenham’s late winner.

At the same time, along with Virgil Van Dijk, they form one of the strongest centerback partnerships in Europe, and look set to lead the Netherlands to UEFA Euro 2020.

As mentioned before, it’s a massive get for de Ligt, assuming that the soon-to-be 20-year-old can settle in Turin. Juventus’ defensive corps continues to grow older, with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini both well into their 30s. De Ligt’s arrival can help give some stability at the back and allow Juventus to transition to the next generation of centerbacks.

Cameroon fire Seedorf, Kluivert

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Upset with how the national team was bounced from the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, the Cameroon Football Federation has taken a drastic and surprising measure.

[READ: Reports: Trippier set to join Atletico Madrid]

The Cameroon FF (FECAFOOT) announced on Tuesday that it had dismissed head coach Clarence Seedorf and his coaching staff, which includes Seedorf’s former Netherlands and Ajax teammate Patrick Kluivert. Seedorf and Cameroon were defeated 3-2 by Nigeria in the Round of 16, knocking The Indomitable Lions out of the tournament.

Cameroon had won the last AFCON tournament and were set to host again, but the Confederation of African Football (CAF) removed the tournament from Cameroon due to the anglophone political crisis.

Seedorf signed a four-year contract last August, bringing Kluivert along with him in his first attempt to coach international soccer. However, it appears that the bosses in FECAFOOT expected more from Cameroon at the AFCON, and the results have embarrassed the federation enough to sack a promising coach.

The news should be a boost to club teams across Europe, which could pick up two of the top young coaches with a ton of playing experience, both of whom are free agents.