Alfie Mawson

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Biggest flops of the Premier League season

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We’ll try not to be too harsh as our review of the Premier League season continues with the most disappointing performances of 2018-19.

[ SEASON REVIEW: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal ]

[ SEASON REVIEW: Man United, Wolves, Everton, Leicester, West Ham ]


— Fulham — You can’t pin it on any single manager, nor a single transfer flop. There was just something around Craven Cottage that didn’t allow the men to mesh on the big stage. Andre Schurrle petered out, Alfie Mawson stumbled when healthy, Jean-Michael Seri wasn’t as advertised, and Claudio Ranieri couldn’t summon any saviors after Slavisa Jokanovic also failed to find the right chemistry.

— Max Meyer, Crystal Palace — The 23-year-old just couldn’t quite adapt after being hailed by many including us as a remarkable free transfer from Schalke.

— Gonzalo Higuain, Chelsea — Part of this blame lives with us: The expectation that came with Maurizio Sarri‘s favored man arriving to make good on the failures of Alvaro Morata was too high; Higuain finished with five goals in 1100 minutes.

— Mohamed Elyounoussi, Southampton — Maybe his Premier League adjustment will come in Season Two, but zero goals and plenty of days outside the Saints’ 18 hardly make for good value.

Fred, Manchester United — Cost the Red Devils about $3.5 million per league appearance. Shoulder shrug emoji, as Pep Guardiola also reportedly viewed the Brazilian as a fix for his midfield.

— David De Gea, Manchester United — While not a new signing, the Red Devils’ perennial savior was not close to his standards in 2018-19. In fact, the Spaniard was basically league average and couldn’t bail out his defenders (which underscores Jose Mourinho’s assertion regarding their quality).

Premier League Preview: Fulham v. Liverpool

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  • Fulham manager Scott Parker could have forward Andre Schurrle (virus) available, but Alfie Mawson and Marcus Bettinelli (both knee) remain sidelined for Fulham.
  • Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson is ruled out after sustaining an ankle injury in midweek, although Naby Keita (minor injury) could return. 
  • The Reds are unbeaten in their last 11 PL matches against promoted sides (W10 D1), winning the last eight in a row. They have scored 31 goals and conceded just four in that run since a 2-0 loss at Hull City in February 2017.

Liverpool showed in midweek that they have the quality to make another deep run in the UEFA Champions League. Now, back in Premier League action, Liverpool will look to jump-start major pieces of their attack with a trip to Craven Cottage to face Fulham on Sunday (Watch live, 10:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Mo Salah has scored 17 Premier League goals this season, but none in the past five games in all competitions. Likewise, outside of a brace last week against Burnley, Roberto Firmino hasn’t scored in six of seven games played since the start of February. Against Fulham’s struggling defense, those two found find their form in front of goal.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

It’s been a rough season meanwhile for Fulham, which looks incredibly likely to be relegated to the Championship. Fulham hasn’t won since January, is on its third manager of the year, and needs 12 points to survive another season in the Premier League. Against Liverpool, it might be a case of just hoping for a draw, or keeping the score close.

What they’re saying

Fulham coach Scott Parker on facing a title contender: “Hopefully we’ll have an influence on the title race. We’ve got some very good footballers at the club and we need to start getting the best out of them. They have a chance at the weekend in front of the cameras to prove how good they are. If we play the way we want to play, we can cause an upset and we can get points. I’ve seen an upturn daily in the players in the way they’re training. Their standards have gone up tenfold.

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp on the impact of beating Bayern: “Last year I think when we came through it was always about a sensational, free-flowing kind of football in a specific way: scoring from all areas, stuff like that. This was, from my point of view, the most mature performance we had so far in all European competitions since I am in and I like that a lot. It was really good. I said after the game, in a game like this it’s pretty rare that one team is shining completely and the other team has a bad hair day or whatever. It doesn’t happen a lot, so you have to work for each yard, for each inch, and that’s what the boys did. In the decisive moments you have to be there defensively and offensively. It was really good, I was really happy and it was not to expect in that way. People spoke about ‘Bayern was not really like Bayern usually is’ – I would say all the credit to my boys because we didn’t let them. That’s all we have to do in game like this.”

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Prediction

Liverpool can go top of the league with a win, and even coming off the emotional high of beating Bayern Munich, they should still have more than enough quality to defeat Fulham. Liverpool 3-0 Fulham

 

PL Sunday preview: Merseyside, west London derbies on tap

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A big weekend of Premier League derbies wraps up on Sunday, when Merseyside and west London showdowns take center stage with plenty of title and top-four implications.

[ MORE: Man City win, lose KDB | Man United come back, beat Southampton ]

Watford v. Leicester City — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Brendan Rodgers is set to make his return to the PL when he debuts as Leicester manager on Sunday. Rodgers, who was appointed the Foxes’ new boss earlier this week, was in attendance for his new side’s 2-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday — a result that snapped the six-game winless skid (five losses) that ultimately cost Claude Puel his job. It was Leicester’s first victory since New Year’s Day. Rodgers was hugely successful at Celtic — two league titles, two Scottish Cups and three League Cups in two-plus seasons — his first stop after being fired by Liverpool in October 2015.

Up first is a trip to eighth-place Watford, a side that went to Anfield and suffered a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Liverpool on Wednesday, just five days after hanging five goals of their own on Cardiff City. The Hornets, under first-year boss Javi Gracia, haven’t lost back-to-back games since the first week of December, a streak which included a 2-1 defeat to Leicester in these sides’ first meeting of 2018-19.

INJURIES: Watford —  OUT: None | Leicester — OUT: Marc Albrighton (hamstring), Daniel Amartey (ankle)


Fulham v. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Fulham’s first season back in the PL will almost certainly end with the west London club making an immediate return to the Championship, but that fact hardly suffices to explain the Cottagers’ struggles this season: following Claudio Ranieri‘s dismissal and the appointment of Scott Parker as interim manager, Fulham have now employed the same number of managers as they have won games (4). The deficit they must overcome to pull off the greatest escape the PL has ever seen? 10 points with 10 games left to play, beginning with a visit from nearby Chelsea on Sunday.

Speaking of managers coming under fire of late, Maurizio Sarri‘s situation at Chelsea is hardly any better these days. Not only have the fans turned on him, but the Blues have lost three of their last five league games while also falling flat in the League Cup final. That league form has seen them tumble to sixth in the PL table, now five points back of fourth-place Manchester United, though Chelsea now have a pair of games in hand. Sarri says Kepa Arrizabalaga will reclaim his place as first-choice goalkeeper in one of the next two games after refusing to be subbed off in that final defeat, giving way to Willy Caballero to keep the clean sheet in a 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.

INJURIES: Fulham —  OUT: Alfie Mawson (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Andre Schurrle (illness) | Chelsea — OUT: Danny Drinkwater (undisclosed)


Everton v. Liverpool — 11:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Sure, Liverpool would be delighted to complete their second double over Everton in three seasons’ time, but the Reds will have their sights set much higher than Merseyside dominance on Sunday. Now two points back of Manchester City in the PL title race, Jurgen Klopp‘s side needs all three points from one of its toughest games each season to keep pace with the defending champions and remain on pace to lift England’s top-flight trophy at Anfield for the first time since 1990 (pre-PL era). Having only beaten the Toffees in the season’s first meeting via one of the stranger goals you’ll ever see, the trip to Goodison should prove more difficult than Everton’s ninth-place standing might indicate.

Everton have a bit more confidence now than they would have had this, the 233rd edition of the derby, been played earlier this week. After losing three straight, by a combined score of 6-1, Marco Silva‘s side bounced back with a 3-0 thrashing of Cardiff on Tuesday — a result that might have just bought the first-year Portuguese manager a bit of time. Of particular worry for Everton: star forward Richarlison, who paced the side with 10 goals until Gylfi Sigurdsson‘s brace against Cardiff pulled him one ahead, went without a goal for the entire month of February and has scored just one PL goal since Boxing Day.

INJURIES: Everton —  QUESTIONABLE: Leighton Baines (ribs) | Liverpool — OUT: Dejan Lovren (hamstring), Joe Gomez (ankle), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Roberto Firmino (ankle)

PL Sunday preview: Man City, Spurs visit relegation favorites

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Title/top-four contenders v. relegation favorites — that’s the name of the game on Sunday, when a pair of Premier League giants visit the bottom two teams in the league table…

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 23 ]

Huddersfield v. Man City — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The good news for 20th-place Huddersfield Town: the Terriers’ eight-game losing streak came to an end last weekend. The (still) bad news: a 0-0 draw against one of the other two teams currently occupying a relegation spot, Cardiff City, didn’t very little to chip away at what is now a 10-point gap between themselves and safety. Steady worse news, depending on how you look at it: manager David Wagner stepped down on Monday, leaving the club with interim boss Mark Hudson in charge. The (far) worse news: second-place, and resurgent, Manchester City are set to visit John Smith’s Stadium on Sunday.

Liverpool ground out a 4-3 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday to stretch the Reds’ lead back to seven points in the title race. Put simply, Sunday’s fixture is a must-win scenario for Pep Guardiola‘s side, no matter the opponent, but doubly — or, triply — so against a side like Huddersfield. After losing three out of four PL games in mid-December, the defending champions have regained a bit of form in their last three games, winning all three — including a season-saving victory over Liverpool — and conceding just two goals in the process. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are back amongst the goals, having between them scored five of the eight during the current run.

INJURIES: Huddersfield —  OUT: Aaron Mooy (knee), Danny Williams (knee) | Man City — OUT: Benjamin Mendy (knee), Claudio Bravo (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Vincent Kompany (undisclosed)


Fulham v. Tottenham Hotspur — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Tottenham’s latest spell without star striker Harry Kane (ankle) begins on Sunday, with a trip to Craven Cottage to take on relegation-threatened Fulham. Mauricio Pochettino‘s side will also be without Kane’s most logical replacement, Son Heung-min, as he is with the South Korea squad at the Asian Cup. Kane was lost for up to two months in last weekend’s narrow defeat to Manchester United, a result which saw Spurs fall five points back of City and their respective leads on Chelsea (one point) and Arsenal and Man United (then seven, but since reduced to four) eroded as well. Either Fernando Llorente will start up top, or Pochettino will opt for a striker-less formation and rely upon the fluidity and attacking versatility of Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela.

As for Fulham, the Cottagers wish their greatest concern was as simple as losing a forward or two. Instead, Claudio Ranieri‘s side sits 19th after 22 games, now seven points (and another 17 goals in the goal-differential column) adrift of safety following Newcastle United’s emphatic victory over fellow relegation battlers Cardiff on Saturday. With just one win in their last nine league games (two in their last 19; three all season), the west London club’s return to the PL appears to be a one-season wonder before an immediate drop back down to the Championship. Having conceded 49 goals in 22 games, Fulham are on pace to give up 87 goals. The last side to concede more 80 goals in a season was — you guessed it — Fulham (85), the last time they were relegated in 2013-14.

INJURIES: Fulham —  OUT: Alfie Mawson (knee), Aboubakar Kamara (disciplinary) | Tottenham — OUT: Harry Kane (ankle), Lucas Moura (knee), Moussa Sissoko (groin), Victor Wanyama (knee)

Fulham defender Mawson undergoes knee surgery after bizarre injury

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Fulham owns the worst defensive record in the Premier League, and while things have improved under new manager Claudio Ranieri, the club now has to navigate an injury to its best center-back that occurred in bizarre fashion.

Alfie Mawson, who joined this summer in one of the more infamous spending sprees in Premier League history, was withdrawn at halftime of the 1-0 win over Huddersfield Town just before the new year. At the time, Ranieri offered little information on the injury other than it was a knee problem and that he wasn’t sure how long Mawson would be out.

In his pre-match press conference ahead of Fulham’s home match against Tottenham at Craven Cottage this weekend, Ranieri finally opened up on Mawson’s injury, revealing exactly how the defender was struck down…doing one of the most mundane daily tasks a professional soccer player can participate in.

“It was a very strange injury,” Ranieri said. “He changed his boots. It was unbelievable.”

That’s right, London-born defender was injured lacing up new kicks.

Ranieri didn’t offer much more, failing to specify the extent of the injury or even what knee was hurt. Mawson missed the start of the Premier League season as he recovered from offseason knee surgery, but Ranieri did not say whether the new problem was present in the same area. “I don’t know if it was the same knee or the other,” Ranieri said. “It was a very strange injury.”

It’s been a rough season for Mawson, who was inadvertently punched in the face by his own goalkeeper Sergio Rico just two matches earlier, down in a heap and tended to by trainers in a lengthy delay, although he was able to continue and complete the full 90 minutes. The 25-year-old struggled to find a place in the team early in the season as he adapted to his new squad, but eventually found his way into the starting lineup consistently and even became Fulham’s most consistent defender despite the club’s Premier League-leading 49 goals conceded this season.

In addition to Mawson’s ridiculous injury, Fulham has also dealt with turmoil surrounding Aboubakar Kamara, who has clashed with teammates on the field of late. He stole a penalty off designated penalty-taker Aleksandar Mitrovic in the Huddersfield match and proceeded to miss – which drove Ranieri to claim “I wanted to kill him” after the match – and then was involved in an on-field argument with Mitrovic in the 4-1 loss to Arsenal last weekend. Kamara was dropped from the squad for the most recent match against Burnley, and is reportedly set for another game on the sideline this weekend.

The season has been a wild and weird one for Fulham, which fell 2-1 to Burnley last time out on a pair of own-goals despite Burnley failing to record a single shot on target of its own. The club sits 19th in the Premier League table, five points back of safety.