Aymeric Laporte

Simulating the 2019/20 Premier League finish

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April 30, am I right?

The Premier League season piledrives forward from August until May most seasons. The pause in this, due to the coronavirus, has left us looking for matches.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

With Liverpool so close to its first Premier League title, uneven giants battling for European places, and three clubs tied for 18th place on the table, well, we needed somewhere to turn.

We went with FIFA20 to see how the table will play out, who will claim the FA Cup, and which Premier League sides might thrive in the Champions League and Europa League.

Let’s follow the path, starting with two postponed matches.

Postponed matches: City pulls back within 22 points of Liverpool, as Mikel Arteta doesn’t come close to outfoxing his old boss Pep Guardiola. Meanwhile, Mbwana Samatta strikes late to steal a point for Villa and pull them within a point of West Ham, Watford, and Bournemouth.

Man City 4-1 Arsenal
Villa 1-1 Sheffield United

Matchday 30: A historic kind of day, as Man City is the only host to win a match. Spurs’ Jose Mourinho gets a draw versus Man Utd, while Liverpool crushes Everton behind a Sadio Mane hat trick.

Norwich City 0-0 Saints
West Ham 0-1 Wolves
Bournemouth 2-2 Palace
Brighton 1-2 Arsenal
Everton 1-3 Liverpool
Spurs 1-1 Man Utd
Villa 0-2 Chelsea
Watford 1-2 Leicester City
Newcastle 1-1 Sheffield United
Man City 2-0 Burnley

Matchday 31: Arsenal moves four points clear of Spurs, who fall to an inspired West Ham. The Irons pull out of the drop zone… for good.

Newcastle 2-0 Villa
Burnley 0-0 Watford
Wolves 2-1 Bournemouth
Liverpool 2-0 Palace
Leicester City 3-0 Brighton
Norwich City 1-1 Everton
Spurs 0-2 West Ham
Southampton 1-3 Arsenal
Man Utd 3-0 Sheff Utd
Chelsea 2-4 Man City

Matchday 32: Liverpool wins the league in stunning style. A draw is all the Reds need to take the trophy. Raheem Sterling gives City a 1-0 lead in the first half, only to see a Trent Alexander-Arnold free kick supply the league-winning point.

Nigel Pearson‘s Hornets move out of the drop zone with 31 points.

West Ham 1-2 Chelsea
Arsenal 4-1 Norwich
Everton 1-0 Leicester City
Palace 2-0 Burnley
Brighton 1-5 Man Utd
Bournemouth 0-3 Newcastle
Watford 2-1 Saints
Man City 1-1 Liverpool
Sheffield United 1-2 Spurs
Villa 0-4 Wolves

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images,)

Matchday 33: Norwich City gets within a win of Brighton by beating them at home behind an Emi Buendia penalty. Arsenal draws Wolves to pull within three points of the top five.

Burnley 2-1 Sheff Utd
Leicester City 2-2 Palace
Saints 1-5 Man City
Spurs 0-3 Everton
Wolves 1-1 Arsenal
Liverpool 4-0 Villa
Norwich 2-1 Brighton
Newcastle 2-2 West Ham
Man Utd 0-0 Bournemouth
Chelsea 4-0 Watford

Matchday 34: It’s getting congested in the top four, with third-place Leicester winless in four following a loss at Arsenal. Palace draws Chelsea, allowing victorious Wolves and Manchester United to pull within two points of fourth.

Norwich City wins again, passing Aston Villa and joining 18th-place Brighton on 29 points.

Sheffield United 0-2 Wolves
Watford 1-2 Norwich City
West Ham 4-1 Burnley
Bournemouth 2-0 Spurs
Everton 2-2 Saints
Man City 3-1 Newcastle
Palace 0-0 Chelsea
Arsenal 1-0 Leicester City
Brighton 0-2 Liverpool
Villa 0-2 Man Utd

Matchday 35: Sheffield United snaps a four-match losing streak with a draw against Chelsea, but the top seven hopes are dead.

Burnley takes a point at Anfield as City moves back within 20 of the Reds.

Brighton 1-4 Man City
Norwich City 1-2 West Ham
Villa 1-1 Palace
Watford 2-3 Newcastle
Wolves 2-1 Everton
Spurs 0-2 Arsenal
Sheffield United 1-1 Chelsea
Bournemouth 1-2 Leicester City
Man Utd 2-1 Southampton
Liverpool 1-1 Burnley

Matchday 36: Villa surprises Everton to move within a result of safety in a five-horse race to avoid the drop. Chelsea, Manchester United, and Wolves all win to hit the 62-point mark, two back of third-place Leicester City.

Leicester City 0-0 Sheffield United
Arsenal 0-1 Liverpool
Everton 1-2 Villa
Man City 3-0 Bournemouth
Newcastle 0-4 Spurs
Burnley 0-2 Wolves
Chelsea 3-0 Norwich City
West Ham 2-0 Watford
Palace 0-2 Man Utd
Saints 1-1 Brighton

Matchday 37: All of the top five combatants stumble except Wolves, who jump into third with a win over Crystal Palace at the Molineux.

Spurs 2-0 Leicester City
Wolves 2-0 Palace
Brighton 0-4 Newcastle
Bournemouth 0-3 Southampton
Villa 0-3 Arsenal
Sheffield United 0-3 Everton
Norwich City 0-2 Burnley
Man Utd 1-1 West Ham
Watford 1-3 Man City
Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea

Matchday 38: Talk about a dramatic final day, all things considered!

Manchester United gets a leaping Bruno Fernandes penalty to send Leicester City tumbling into sixth despite most of the season in the top three! The Red Devils climb into third because of what happens at Stamford Bridge.

Hosts Chelsea need a win over Wolves to take back fourth, as the visitors enter the day three points ahead with a one-goal advantage in differential. Christian Pulisic sets up a Willian winner to give Chelsea fourth by virtue of total wins (19).

Liverpool takes the league with a 2-0 defeat of Newcastle at St. James’ Park, completing the season with a 20-point advantage on Man City. Arsenal completes the European picture, havng been settled in seventh for some time.

The relegation scene is pretty nuts, with five teams finishing the day within three points of the bottom. All five lose, with Bournemouth and Watford staying up despite season-ending losing streaks. Nigel Pearson’s Hornets finish the season with 31 points, the same total they had after Matchday 32.

Arsenal 3-0 Watford
Burnley 2-1 Brighton
Chelsea 1-0 Wolves
Palace 2-1 Spurs
Everton 3-0 Bournemouth
Leicester City 0-1 Man Utd
Man City 1-0 Norwich City
Newcastle 0-2 Liverpool
Saints 3-1 Sheffield United
West Ham 3-1 Villa

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

STANDINGS

  1. Liverpool — 105 points (UCL)
  2. Man City — 85 points
  3. Man Utd — 66 points (UCL)
  4. Chelsea — 65 points (UCL)
  5. Wolves — 65 points (UCL)
  6. Leicester City — 64 points. (UEL)
  7. Arsenal — 62 points (UEL)
  8. Spurs — 51 points (UEL)
  9. Everton — 51 points
  10. Burnley — 50 points
  11. Crystal Palace — 49 points
  12. Newcastle United — 49 points
  13. Sheffield United — 47 points
  14. West Ham United — 44 points
  15. Southampton — 43 points
  16. Bournemouth — 32 points
  17. Watford — 31 points
  18. Brighton and Hove Albion — 30 points
  19. Aston Villa — 30 points
  20. Norwich City –29 points

FA Cup: A Manchester derby ends 4-0 to City, Leroy Sane scoring twice to join Gabriel Jesus and Aymeric Laporte on the score sheet. Two assists each for Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez.

Europa League: Manchester United gave Roma permission to use loanee Chris Smalling, and the defender powers a 13th-minute header home that stands until Anthony Martial delivers a goal three minutes from time. David De Gea is the star in penalty kicks, as United wins 4-3.

UEFA Champions League:  Pep Guardiola leads Man City into its final UCL game for two seasons, and it’s against his old pals Barcelona. Quique Setien’s side flusters City’s attack, and Lionel Messi wins it at the hour mark for the Blaugranas.

Leroy Sane speaks about difficult rehab as Man City return nears

Leroy Sane
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Manchester City will return from the coronavirus suspension with not one but two big pieces.

Aymeric Laporte‘s absence was short-term, but Leroy Sane has been missing from first-team action since tearing his ACL in the Community Shield defeat of Liverpool.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Sane was injured while the transfer window continually linked him to a move to Bayern Munich. After six months out, he played 57 minutes in PL2 action on Feb. 28.

Now add a further wait because of coronavirus.

From ManCity.com:

“It was the hardest and longest injury that I’ve ever had in my career. It is difficult. Especially the first day after the surgery because you can’t move at all and that’s not something any of us athletes are used to.”

He also said he got special help from teammates Ilkay Gundogan and Benjamin Mendy, who’ve rehabbed similar injuries

When Sane does return, City will have an attacking piece as good as any in the league.

The 24-year-old German was arguably City’s best piece during the side’s 2017/18 run to the Premier League title. He posted 10 goals and 15 assists in 2423 minutes.

Pep Guardiola cut his minutes by more than 500 minutes last season and Sane still posted 10 and 10 while raising his Champions League output from two assists in 2017/18 to four goals and four assists.

Where will he fit? Raheem Sterling has taken the wealth of his minutes at left wing, while Riyad Mahrez has been very, very good on the right side.

Maybe his move to Bayern, Barcelona, or Real Madrid is inevitable, but Man City’s quest for the Champions League and FA Cup should have a few more runs with one of the best playmakers in the game.

Special PST roundtable: Premier League suspended season

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It’s been a head-spinning period for the world, and the soccer world has been shuffled to the back of the pack as we concern ourselves with the vulnerable population in the face of the coronavirus.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

How will this season play out? Seemingly, Europe is going to do everything in its power to complete all fixtures. Whether it does or not, we’ve got ideas.

The pausing of the Premier League season, like many things, shows the gravity of the COVID-19 situation. Is there one story in the soccer world that stood out to you the most this past week?

Joe Prince-WrightSoccer is secondary in this horrendous time for the world. From a Premier League perspective I think the quick announcements one after the other that Mikel Arteta and then Callum Hudson-Odoi had tested positive were moments when this all became very real, very quickly for people in the UK, the Premier League and PL fans in general.

Nick Mendola: The steady stream of young footballers at the peak of their physical lives carrying this virus, whether Daniele Rugani or Ezequiel Garay, really put in perspective the danger of the asymptomatic carriers. Then to see a focal point of the season like Mikel Arteta affected, let alone the Spanish youth coach passing away, has reinforced my will to self-sacrifice and stay home.

Kyle Bonn: The financial impact of this public health crisis is catastrophic, and the soccer world isn’t immune to that effect. The knowledge that smaller soccer clubs could be severely impacted is devastating to read, and really brings to the forefront the effect this pandemic has on all facets of society.


Obviously the situation is dire for so many people, and soccer not so much. Still, we’ve got more than a few big items to resolve. Which club is hurt more by an extended break in terms of table Fortune? Which club could see the biggest boost by a prolonged reset?

Joe Prince-Wright: I’m sure teams who were getting into a good rhythm like Chelsea and Man United may be impacted but then again so many teams will use this time to get players back to full fitness and they could both benefit from that. If and when the PL season resumes, it seems like Spurs have the most to gain with Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son both expected to play in the majority of their remaining games. If we get to that point.

Nick Mendola: Let’s start with the second question. The delay may move Jose Mourinho’s Spurs from injury-addled and hoping for a Europa League to a top four probability once Harry Kane, Heung-min Son, and back fit and firing. Not to mention Mourinho and clubs with good tactical managers having all this time to reassess best practices. Let’s not forget Pep Guardiola may get to roll out healthy Leroy Sane and Aymeric Laporte. This could sting Arsenal and Manchester United, who had been going really well and now may have a super-congested fixture list after some serious time off the pitch.

Kyle Bonn: Obviously Liverpool’s title chase is severely impacted, and given their long drought and hard work to rise under Jurgen Klopp, an argument could be made that the Reds are the most negatively affected club of the lot. However, their form seemed to be dipping of late, and while the pandemic didn’t come quickly enough to save their Champions League fortunes, their domestic form could see a reversal as they avoid limping to the finish line in league play. Similarly, Tottenham could benefit greatly from this break. Spurs’ play on the field had been abysmal and their attack was stifled by injuries to key players who could now return before the end of the season. Conversely, Chelsea had put a small difficult stretch behind them and had turned a new leaf, and while their significant injury list could be alleviated with the time off, the Blues will rue the break from the aspect that they had only recently topped Liverpool in Cup action plus the win over Tottenham in late February and the clobbering of Everton just before the stoppage.


Let’s delve into the theoretical: If the season was not allowed to conclude, how would you favor solving the relegation picture? With three teams on the same amount of points between 16th and 18th and zillions of dollars at stake, this one’s big.

Joe Prince-Wright: I think it would be incredibly unfair to relegate the three teams in the bottom three right now. All three have a real chance of getting out of the relegation zone. I’d be in favour of relegating nobody and then promoting West Brom and Leeds, if that’s the route they go down.

Kyle Bonn: I think, for this reason alone, the Premier League (and many others) will do everything in their power to finish the season. However, if that’s not possible, there are a few solutions. One is to just go off the table as-is, and while that’s difficult from a competitive balance perspective because the teams have played an unbalanced schedule, it would be more fair than other, less desirable options such as leaving the leagues the way they are for next season which is no fun. Here are a few more fun, but less likely options:

  1. A full-on promotion/relegation tournament – basically an expanded version of what Germany has…take, say, the bottom 6 teams in the PL and the top 6 teams in the Championship and let them duke it out.
  2. A 23-team Premier League next season with four relegation places – send up the two Championship teams in automatic qualifying positions, hold the Championship playoff as planned (if time), but don’t relegate anyone. Then slowly taper it back to 20 teams over the next 3 seasons by relegating one more team than promoting.

Nick Mendola: The most proper way to go would be to bring up Leeds and West Brom and keep a 22-team division with five sides to get relegated next season. The Championship’s playoff sides would feel aggrieved, but pulling the big money from the PL sides seems more egregious than denying someone a spot in the mix (especially since there really aren’t any clearly terrible sides stinking up the table this season).


How about the top four?

Joe Prince-Wright: This is a little different to the relegation situation but equally as tricky. I would suggest a playoff, if possible, between the teams who are within reach of fourth spot but that would include almost half the league. Maybe an agreement could be made to keep the top four as it is.

Kyle Bonn: I think, unfortunately, the best way to resolve this is to leave it the way it is. Teams in the current top four (five? Man City?) get the Champions League bids. There’s really no other fair way to do this

Nick Mendola: I’d like to see a playoff here, too, because fifth is likely involved due to Man City’s UCL ban. Allow the top three their places, and maybe Chelsea if you want to limit teams. Then fifth plays eighth, sixth versus seventh. Winners go for fifth, the other go to UEL. It only adds three matches. This, of course, assumes that the UCL and UEL qualifying rounds are also adjusted.


Lots of interesting ideas have been proffered to solve calendar issues (A mini-tournament or single leg ties to decide the Champions League; Starting the league calendar later until the winter World Cup in 2022). Are there any you think could prove to be better than the current system?

Joe Prince-Wright: I think the 2019-20 season should be finished, whatever that means. If it has to resume again in September and be played until October, that is fine by me. We can then start the 2020-21 campaign early and play through one or two international breaks to catch up. If the league doesn’t start again until September, players will have had a lengthy break off and will be ready to play.

Nick Mendola: I’ll be laughed out of the room, and that’s fine, but I’d love to see the season start and finish a bit later. Wayne Rooney‘s proposal was just to get to the winter World Cup of 2022, but a dramatic rearrangement of the FIFA international calendar would be nice. Maybe a couple 3-week international breaks instead of five 2-week hits.

Kyle Bonn: Simple answer: no. Current format is really fun.


Did you find yourself trying to feast on any soccer that was televised, hypercritical of anyone who kept playing, or both?

Joe Prince-Wright: I watched games on TV from Liga MX and listened to some lower-tier English leagues on the radio but I think the soccer world has come to the correct conclusion to at least ban all fans from stadiums. In different parts of the world the situation is different but it seems that now the universal plan is to stop playing all games until things improve. That is the correct call. I love soccer but I obviously love humanity, life and this world we live in a billion times more.

Nick Mendola: It was a fun idea to tune into the Istanbul derby, especially with American winger Tyler Boyd playing, but realizing most of the players would’ve rather been with their families, well, that took a lot of joy out of watching that or the Liga MX matches. Stay home, and let’s celebrate together when we can.

Kyle Bonn: I honestly found myself hyper-critical of teams still playing, especially seeing the reaction from players, going so far as to protest their forced employment.

More coronavirus connections to soccer:

Preview: Man City v. Arsenal

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  • Man City have lost 7 Premier League games this season, one more than they had in their previous two campaigns combined.
  • Arsenal are unbeaten in their last seven away league games.
  • Man City have won their last six games in all competitions against Arsenal. 

Man City host Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday (Watch live, 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in a rearranged game due to the League Cup final.

Pep Guardiola‘s Man City are now 25 points behind Liverpool and if they lose against Arsenal it will give Liverpool the chance to win their first-ever Premier League title by winning away at Everton on Monday.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Mikel Arteta, who left Man City in December after three years as Guardiola’s assistant, has turned Arsenal into a tough team to beat and defensively they have made huge strides forward in recent months. They have won three-straight in the Premier League and have lost just one of Arteta’s first 10 PL games in charge.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The Gunners will move to just five points off the top four if they win this game in hand and with fifth-place potentially resulting in Champions League qualification this season, Arsenal would move just two points off of that with nine games to go.


Injuries/suspensions

Man City: QUESTIONABLE — Sergio Aguero, Aymeric Laporte, Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane

Arsenal: OUT — Cedric, Shkodran Mustafi, Lucas Torreira, Calum Chambers, Sead Kolasinac. QUESTIONABLE — None.

Projected lineup

Man City: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Mendy; Gundogan, Rodri, Bernardo; Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling

Arsenal: Leno; Sokratis, Mari, Luiz, Saka; Ceballos, Xhaka; Pepe, Ozil, Aubameyang; Nketiah


What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola on his former assistant being in charge of Arsenal: “I was convinced he would be a manager when the opportunity comes and this was the opportunity for him. His ideas are already in the team, his positional play is getting better. I’m convinced Arsenal will get better.”

Mikel Arteta on returning to Man City and his ‘inside’ knowledge of Pep’s team: “It’s going to be a very special night, I am very excited to get back there. I have some fantastic memories, a lot of friends, a lot of people that I like. But obviously now I am in a different position, another bench and I will defend my club as well as I can. It gives me a very clear idea of what they are trying to do, what they will be looking to do, but it’s something different to be able to stop that and as well create the issues that I think we can create for them. That has to happen on the day, when they are at their best, we know what they are capable of doing, the variation they have. At the end of the day, it’s about the players on the pitch and their performance.”


Prediction

This will be a tight game between two teams who are trying to play the same way. City have pretty much washed their hands of the Premier League this season and will finish in second anyway but ahead of their Champions League round of 16 second leg they will be hoping to get back to form after a torrid showing in the Manchester Derby. Pep’s boys will get the job done against Arteta’s Arsenal but it it will be far from easy. 2-1 to Man City.

PL Sunday preview: All eyes on Manchester derby

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Two critically important matches to the Champions League picture take the field on Sunday as Chelsea hosts Everton at Stamford Bridge and Manchester United welcomes cross-town rivals Manchester City to Old Trafford.

Both Chelsea and Manchester United are hunting for European places, and the race is still wide open as ever after Saturday’s results. Chelsea currently holds the final Champions League place on 45 points, but both Wolves and Sheffield United are nipping at their heels on 43 points while Manchester United is right in the mix with 42 points.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

This week proves a critical opportunity for Manchester United especially given Chelsea’s heavy list of scratches. The Red Devils have the opportunity to catch and pass the Blues should the

Chelsea v. Everton  — 10:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Chelsea currently hold the coveted fourth spot in the Premier League table, but the Blues are limping to the finish line this season with a walking wounded squad that could ultimately cost them a place at the Champions League table. Tammy Abraham, N’Golo Kante, and Callum Hudson-Odoi all remain confirmed out for the Blues. Add to the list Christian Pulisic who remains unlikely to play in the match with his lingering thigh injury plus new injuries for Mateo Kovacic and Willian, with the former ruled out and the latter requiring a late fitness test to prove his availability. Sprinkle in a yellow card suspension for Jorginho and the Blues look seriously undermanned.

All that gives Everton a valuable opportunity to move back into the top half of the table, currently logjammed in 12th among the rabble. They could move as high as 10th with a win at Stamford Bridge, potentially pulling level with ninth-placed Arsenal on points. Carlo Ancelotti‘s side has looked far better and more organized since the Italian arrived, but the results remain inconsistent. The Toffees have won just two of their last six league matches, but have lost just twice in their last 13. The next step for Ancelotti is converting draws to wins, an important hurdle to clear before the end of the seasons.

Ancelotti has also admitted his return to Stamford Bridge, where he used to manage, will be an “emotional” one. Everton fans will hope he can bottle that emotion and save it for after the final whistle.

Manchester United v. Manchester City  — 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com

Champions League race aside, this rivalry has plenty of sting on its own. Manchester United is looking to complete a league double over its bitter rivals for the first time since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Man City seems firmly entrenched in second and does not appear to have much else to play for in league play, but their failings against United are a microcosm of what has gone wrong at times this season for Pep Guardiola‘s side. City out-passed United 588-199 in early December but created little in terms of good chances on net, able to put just five of its 23 shots on target. John Stones and Rodrigo were exposed on the counter, with Stones then left out of the squad for the entire rest of December.

Still, City come into this game in great form, having won their last five matches in a row across all competitions and conceding just two goals in that span. They have also won three straight at Old Trafford among all competitions and could record a fourth straight road victory at Manchester United for just the second time in club history. With Aymeric Laporte the only serious injury concern for the visitors, Manchester United will have to work hard for its place among the Premier League European places.