Top Premier League storylines: Week 11

1 Comment

Matchweek 11 of the 2019-20 Premier League season is here, as the table starts to take shape as we head into November.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Below we take a look at the key storylines to keep an eye on across the PL this weekend.


Liverpool’s stars fresh for trip to Villa

  • Aston Villa v. Liverpool, Saturday, 11 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Jurgen Klopp‘s squad rotation worked perfectly in midweek, as his star players were rested and Liverpool’s youngsters got some great experience, and a penalty kick win, against Arsenal. The A squad now travel to Aston Villa as they remain top of the table and unbeaten after another gritty win against Tottenham. Fabinho is emerging as a leading man for Liverpool as the balance he provides in midfield is key to Klopp’s counter-press being launched, while Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah continue to chip in and go about their business.

Joel Matip being out injured is a little bit of a concern, with neither Joe Gomez or Dejan Lovren taking their chance to prove they should be the permanent stand-in for Matip. Aston Villa are sweating on he fitness of captain Jack Grealish, while Wesley‘s battle with Virgil Van Dijk is one to watch in this game. Newly-promoted Villa will cause Liverpool problems but Klopp’s side will expect to leave Villa Park with all three points as their grit and focus has been spot on in the opening months of the season.


Man City aim to batter sorry Saints

  • Man City v. Southampton, Saturday, 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Manchester City beat Southampton 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday in the League Cup and that didn’t tell the whole story. Pep Guardiola‘s side, which was littered with teenagers, dominated possession and chances and only when they took their foot off the accelerator in the final 30 minutes did Saints pull a goal back and look somewhat dangerous in attack. Man City will bring the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Fernandinho back into the starting lineup and that’s a scary prospect for a Southampton side still reeling from that historic 9-0 defeat at home against Leicester City last week. Guardiola’s City are ruthless and if there’s any sign of Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s Saints feeling sorry for themselves, another 9-0 drubbing could be coming up…


Pulisic aims to regain momentum as Chelsea face stingy Watford

  • Watford v. Chelsea, Saturday, 1:30 p.m. ET, on NBC

Christian Pulisic‘s perfect hat trick against Burnley stole the headlines last Saturday, but the USMNT star came back down to earth with a bit of a bump on Wednesday. He started and played 70 minutes in Chelsea’s 2-1 home defeat to Man United in the League Cup, and he underwhelmed on the left flank. Pulisic, 21, is still learning and his game is adapting to England and he will have these ups and downs. It is also possible that in games against teams like Burnley and Watford will be the ones where he has more space and can show off his supreme pace and dribbling skills.

Watford will not give Pulisic (if he starts ahead of Willian and Hudson-Odoi) and Chelsea’s other attackers much space, as Quique Sanchez Flores has shored things up since the 8-0 drubbing by Man City. Watford have drawn each of their last three games in the PL and Ben Foster has been in inspired form in goal. He will need to keep that going against in-form Chelsea this weekend, and all eyes will be on Pulisic to see if he can regain the momentum from last week.


Man United aim to continue away day run

  • Bournemouth v. Man United, Saturday, 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Three away wins on the trot has Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and United in a buoyant mood heading down to the South Coast this weekend. Marcus Rashford is scoring goals, Anthony Martial is back fit and the Red Devils are finally showing an end product, even if scoring penalty kicks is still a struggle for them…

Bournemouth have shored things up defensively but surprisingly they are struggling to score goals. That has never been a problem for Eddie Howe‘s side and the balance of the Cherries just seems a little off early in the season. United need a win to push closer to the top four and something seems to have clicked for Solskjaer’s side with Scott McTominay and Fred putting up a shield in midfield and the pace of Daniel James, Martial and Rashford reunited in attack. This will be a tight encounter but United should have the extra quality in attack to edge it.


Who needs the win more: Everton or Tottenham?

  • Everton v. Tottenham, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Two teams languishing in the bottom half of the Premier League table and desperate for a win meet at Goodison Park. Everton and Spurs can both say they’ve been unlucky so far this season, and it’s hard to disagree with that. Maybe that is why both Marco Silva and Mauricio Pochettino seem fairly relaxed even though their teams have struggled. For Everton, late VAR drama cost them at Brighton last time out as Silva’s side didn’t take their chances and were punished.

That said, their home form has been impressive this season with all three wins coming at Goodison. For Spurs, they’ve been wretched on their travels and even though they took the lead at Liverpool last weekend, the disjointed nature of their display in midfield and the shaky defensive performance showcased why Pochettino is pulling his hair out. Trying to shoehorn Kane, Son, Eriksen and Alli into the same team remains an issue for Poch, and the same could be said for Everton as they tweak their frontline with Richarlison, Walcott, Bernard and Calvert-Lewin in attack. Both team are desperate for a big three points, and this game will not be pretty.

Bournemouth appoints Jason Tindall as Eddie Howe replacement

Bournemouth new manager
https://www.afcb.co.uk/
Leave a comment

There were questions as to how Bournemouth would address finding a replacement forr an institution after Eddie Howe left the club following the Cherries’ relegation from the Premier League.

Would Bournemouth go outside the box like they did with Howe the first time, hiring the 31-year-old following a stint as a player-coach and then youth coach at the club? Would they opt for a manager who’s led a club to Premier League promotion after relegation again? Or might it not be a big departure from the norm at all.

Meet the new boss. Familiar with the old boss.

[ MORE: Premier League announces VAR, subs rules ]

Bournemouth named Howe’s longtime No. 2, Alex Tindall, to lead the Cherries’ first ever bid to return to the Premier League following relegation.

Tindall is 14 days older than Howe and has assisted his former Bournemouth teammate since 2008: twice with the club and also during Howe’s year at Burnley.

:Given the success of the club over the last 12 years, with Eddie in charge and me by his side, I’m not going to come in and rip everything up and start again,” Howe said. “I would be a fool to do that. But I’m my own person with my own ideas and I will be looking to implement them as soon as we get back on the training ground.

“I know the Championship is a very tough league but my aim is to get this club back into the Premier League at the first time of asking. This is a challenge that I feel I’m ready for and one I’m looking forward to.”

This is intriguing and exciting for a club like Bournemouth, still steeping its top-level tradition after an impressive five Premier League seasons including a finish as high as ninth.

What will be most interesting is to see if Tindall can have more success arranging the defense. A former striker, Tindall takes the reins of a club which allowed 67, 67, 61, 70, and 65 goals in their five PL seasons. The club was a bit unlucky this year, scoring just 40 and underperforming expected goals scored and conceded.

Champions League, Europa League: How to watch, odds, start time, predictions

Champions League odds
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The UEFA Champions League and Europa League action has resumed and I’m going to reveal my predictions for this next round as well as the latest odds for Europe’s top two continental tournaments.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

With Manchester City still in the Champions League and Manchester United and Wolves among the favorites to win the Europa League, there is a lot on the line for Premier League clubs in the coming weeks.

Just because the Premier League season is over, that doesn’t mean the action is over. Far from it. Both Manchester clubs are the bookmakers favorites to seal their respective European glory.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the next few days the Europa League and Champions League quarterfinals will take place as the mini tournaments begin.

Man City beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate, while Chelsea lost Bayern 7-1 on aggregate as they crashed out of the Champions League. Man United and Wolves are both in the quarterfinals and favored to go far.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, while the Europa League games will be hosted around Germany.

Below is a look at my predictions, the odds for the games this week and how to watch and follow all of the fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


JPW’s Champions League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)
Wednesday, August 12: Atalanta 2-3 PSG
Thursday, August 13: RB Leipzig 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Friday, August 14: Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich
Saturday, August 15: Manchester City 3-1 Lyon


JPW’s Europa League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
Monday, August 10: Inter Milan 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Monday, August 10: Manchester United 3-1 Copenhagen
Tuesday, August 11: Wolves 1-2 Sevilla
Tuesday, August 11: Shakhtar Donetsk 1-2 Basel


Champions League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)

(+210) Atalanta v. PSG (+117). Tie: +275
(+225) RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid (+135). Tie: +220
(+235) Barcelona v. Bayern Munich (+115). Tie: +255
(-305) Manchester City v. Lyon (+750). Tie: +450

Outright winner
Manchester City (+220)
Bayern Munich (+325)
Paris Saint-Germain (+500)
Atletico Madrid (+800)
Barcelona (+800)
Atalanta (+1000)
RB Leipzig (+1700)
Lyon (+3500)


Europa League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
(+112) Inter Milan v. Bayer Leverkusen (+240). Tie: +250
(-385) Manchester United v. Copenhagen (+1000). Tie: +480
(+235) Wolves v. Sevilla (+120). Tie: +230
(-106) Shakhtar Donetsk v. Basel (+290). Tie: +255

Outright winner
Manchester United (+180)
Inter Milan (+325)
Sevilla (+500)
Bayer Leverkusen (+650)
Wolves (+700)
Shakhtar Donetsk (+1100)
Basel (+2500)
Copenhagen (+6000)

Barcelona reach 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal

Barcelona - Napoli
Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Barcelona – Napoli saw Lionel Messi and Co., book the eighth and final place in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, by way of a 3-1 victory on the night (4-2 on aggregate) on Saturday.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

It was, as it so often tends to be, Messi who shone brightest and stole the spotlight en route to Barca’s 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal appearance.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

Barca entered Saturday with the slimmest of advantages, knowing that a scoreless draw would see them through to the quarterfinals after grabbing a vital away goal in the first goal. Lyon knew that no matter what, they needed to score at least once or they would be out. That threat was reinforced, and strengthened, when Clement Lenglet headed the Blaugrana ahead in the 10th minute.

Messi slipped, Messi got back up, Messi slipped again, Messi got back up again, Messi rifled the ball inside the far post to score a(nother) fantastic solo goal and make it 2-0 (3-1) in the 23rd minute. It was only slightly more complicated than that for him (WATCH HERE). Messi put the ball in the back of the net again just a few minutes later, but the goal was taken off the board by way of a somewhat suspect handball decision upon video review.

Nonethless, that was just about that after Luis Suarez converted from the penalty spot early in first-half stoppage time. Messi won the penalty by sneaking around Kalidou Koulibaly and winning the ball in the blink of an eye, forcing the Senegalese center back to foul him on the edge of the box lest Messi walk in on goal for a virtual tap-in.

Lorenzo Insigne converted a penalty kick of his own a couple minutes later before the interval, but the threat level never peaked higher than a 2-out-of-10 for Barca.

Barca will face Bayern Munichin a sensationally mouth-watering, single-leg quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

3 things learned: Bayern Munich v. Chelsea

Bayern Munich - Chelsea
Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Bayern Munich – Chelsea, leg no. 2, looked eerily similar to leg no. 1, played back in late February, with the lone exception being the lack of fans inside the Allianz Arena for Thursday’s dead rubber.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

The eight-time Bundesliga champions were simply too good — and too healthy, by comparison — for Frank Lampard and the Blues to put up a reasonable fight from 3-0 down after the first leg. It was an unceremonious end to Lampard’s first season in charge at Chelsea, but a foregone conclusion before they boarded the plane back in London.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

With their 4-1 victory on the night (7-1 on aggregate), Bayern will face Barcelona in a sensationally mouth-watering quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

Here’s a look at what we learned from the Allianz Arena, as the I’s were dotted and the T’s were crossed in Bayern Munich – Chelsea.


NO DRAMA NECESSARY, BAYERN TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS EARLY

Credit to Bayern for their ruthless efficiency and disinterest in letting the tie descend into drama and tension. Robert Lewandowski scored early (10th minute) and Ivan Perisic did the same in the 24th, bringing the aggregate score to 5-0 with 65 minutes left to play. With so many key players out injured, Chelsea had virtually zero chance of pulling off the impossible comeback prior to kickoff, and Hans-Dieter Flick’s side made sure to keep it that way from the opening whistle. Corentin Tolisso put the tie further out of reach late in the second half (76th), and Lewandowski duplicated his side’s three-goal advantage from the first leg not much later.


CHELSEA’S ISSUES STILL AT THE BACK

For all of the development of young players that Frank Lampard was able to realize this season — and for all of the big-money signings either already confirmed or heavily reported to be imminent this summer — Chelsea still have serious questions to answer with regard to their defense. The below highlight is but one small example in a season full of defensive blunders at missed assignments (you’ll find another one below in the next section). Cesar Azpilicueta remains solid, but he’ll turn 31 this month and probably only has another year or two left to function at the UCL level. Reece James and Fikayo Tomori still have some way to go in their development to be UCL-caliber players. The likes of Kurt Zouma, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have all proven, time and again, they’re simply not at that level and probably never will be. All of that is to say, Chelsea need to execute a full-on rebuild of their defense this summer, or it might not matter how many goals they can score every game next season.


BAYERN’S END-OF-SEASON FORM IS TERRIFYING

Pop quiz: When was the last time Bayern simply didn’t win a game, let alone lost one? The answer: Feb. 9 (19 games ago). And their last defeat? Dec. 7 (28 games). They won all nine of their Bundesliga games following the season’s restart, plus another two in the DFB-Pokal and now the second leg against Chelsea in the UCL. Of course, things will suddenly become far more tricky when 1) the likes of Barcelona and Man City factor into the equation in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, and 2) each round is decided over a single leg rather than the traditional home-and-away format of the Champions League. And still, Bayern have the look of serious Champions League contenders, if not favorites, based on their scintillating form dating back to the start of the calendar year.