Michail Antonio

Premier League Preview: Sheffield United v. West Ham United

Leave a comment

The Premier League gets back in business on Friday at Bramall Lane when Sheffield United hosts West Ham United (Watch Live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Their table fortunes are indicative of the Premier League’s lack of clear tiers so far this season.

Blades are two points off fifth and seven back of the Top Four, while West Ham is two points off the drop zone and a win off 11th.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

West Ham cruised past Bournemouth in opening David Moyes‘ second tenure with the Irons, while the Blades are coming off back-to-back losses and are winless in three.

The sides met Oct. 26 in London, with Lys Mousset‘s goal leveling the line after Robert Snodgrass put West Ham up at home.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE


Injuries/suspensions

Sheffield United: OUT —  None. QUESTIONABLE — Michael Verrips, Simon Moore.

West Ham United: OUT — Michail Antonio, Andriy Yarmolenko, Ryan Fredericks, Mark Noble, Jack Wilshere. QUESTIONABLE — Aaron Cresswell, Mark Noble.


Probable lineups

Sheffield United: Henderson; Egan, Basham, O’Connell, Stevens, Norwood, Fleck, Besic, Baldock, Mousset, McGoldrick.

West Ham United: Fabianski, Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Fredericks, Rice, Noble, Fornals, Anderson, Snodgrass, Haller.


What they’re saying

Blades defender John Egan on rebounding from tough losses: “They were really tough trips to (Man) City and Liverpool. They’re probably the two best teams in the country, so going away to them was always going to be tough. The Man City game, we were quite unlucky not to get a result. … The Liverpool game was a bit of an eye-opener for us. We weren’t at our best, which we have to be to try and get a result. We came away from those two games, saw where we went wrong and we have to learn from it. All we can do is try and get better so next time we play these teams we have a better chance of getting a result.”

West Ham boss Moyes on transfer links: “I think West Ham have been linked with just about every player in the country and I’m here a week and a half, so it’s interesting, but I think that’s the norm for here. Quite often we are linked with a lot of players. We won’t be bringing in a bundle of players in, but obviously we’d like to add to the squad if we can. Gedson Fernandes is one name we’re talking about. He’s a young player with potential, probably more for the future. From that point of view, I’d like to bring young players in for the future, players we can look to build to get a strong, young team, but I also have to be wary that I need players who are ready for now and can feature in the first team as well.”


Prediction

The Blades are a handful, but West Ham’s new lease on life also feels pretty real. How about another split of the spoils and 1-1 at Bramall Lane?

Ayew wondergoal completes Palace comeback v. West Ham

Leave a comment

Jordan Ayew‘s solo wondergoal won all three points for Crystal Palace in a 2-1 defeat of West Ham United at Selhurst Park on Thursday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Robert Snodgrass had put the Irons in front, but former West Ham man Cheikhou Kouyate equalized as all the goals came after halftime.

Palace moves 11th with 24 points, while West Ham slips 17th with 19 points.


Three things we learned

1. Ayew delivers a beautiful winner: The Palace forward joined Wilfried Zaha in being a proper threat, but his winner was all about him. The 28-year-old Ghanian cut toward the 18 and moved free with a spinning turn before using a delightful chip to leave Roberto pawing at air.

https://twitter.com/NBCSportsSoccer/status/1210241099492671491

2. Pellegrini’s inconsistent Irons put him at risk: Michail Antonio was strong and Sebastien Haller had moments atop the attack, but the Irons attack only managed a pair of shots on target. Felipe Anderson and Manuel Lanzini came off the bench to decent effect, but certainly are nowhere near their top form. Irons boss Manuel Pellegrini must be at wits’ end.

3. Quality, not industry, denies West Ham: The Irons won more challenges — 28-14 in the air — and had more tackles, interceptions, and clearances. Some of those are down to Palace’s time with the ball, but it’s worth noting that for as poor as the Irons have been, they have not quit on Pellegrini.

Man of the Match: Ayew was phenomenal. He was everywhere, involved in 22 duels while completing 8 of 9 dribbles and making three key passes. The goal was the moment, of course, but it was the richly-deserved reward for a day worth of work.


[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Wilfried Zaha’s marvelous dribble down the left was deserving of an opening assist, but Palace’s right side didn’t run through the six to meet his pass.

Max Meyer found the loose ball and slid an invitation back through the box, but Jordan Ayew’s sliding effort went wide of the goal.

Ayew bossed Cresswell into a turnover but couldn’t rip a shot past Roberto.

The Irons went in front when Antonio created space and slipped through Snodgrass, who had the better of Patrick Van Aanholt and swerved home.

Van Aanholt nearly made amends but dragged his effort wide of the far post.

Kouyate equalized against his former club and declined celebration as the Selhurst Park faithful did plenty in his stead. Ayew popped a James McArthur cross onto the path of Kouyate for an unmarked finish.

Roberto denied Connor Wickham on a long solo run toward goal, a heavy touch defying the sub a wonderful moment.

Jaro Riedewald slid to deny Snodgrass’ 87th minute bid for a winner.

Ayew won it late with a classy maneuver into the 18 to dink over a fooled Roberto.

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 17

Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Some housekeeping ahead of this week’s club power rankings.

1) We’ve made a universal “up next” instead of labeling the next match, because the festive fixture season is nuts. We may squeeze in some CPRs before the end of the fortnight. Here’s the full list.

2) Never let ’em see you perturbed, they say, but let’s address a scratchy run of comments that come every time we roll out our latest litmus test of Premier League clubs.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

We call them power rankings, and it’s become the norm for someone to load up their snark cannon and fire off a “Just look at the table!” or something along those lines.

To you, we say two things:

  1. The fixture list is not even close to balanced until at least Week 19
  2. A fifth place team on a four-match losing streak might not rate as highly as rising 10th place team who just beat them.
  3. Why do you hate fun, Mr. and Mrs. Serious Jones of Dullorado?

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Watford — They’re taking shots, but the Hornets aren’t getting them on goal. The 3.2 shots on target per game is tied with Palace for lowest in the league.
Last week: 20
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Liverpool
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

19. Norwich City — Nice point at Leicester City, but it will be surprising if it can get another one versus a stung Wolves. If they do, it’s because Emiliano Buendia is looking like a proverbial canary in a coal mine (with all due respect to Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell).
Last week: 19
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Leicester City
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

18. Aston Villa — Okay, yeah, we’re worried now (and honestly seeing it in the immediate rear view of being outshot at home by a bunch of Liverpool kids isn’t helping).
Last week: 16
Season high: 8
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Sheffield United
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

17. Southampton — The finishing was just so bad against West Ham.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 1-0 v. West Ham United
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

16. West Ham United — Moving forward while only accruing a modicum of momentum is possible. Sebastien Haller scoring could be huge, though, and he looked great in combination with Michail Antonio. Two powerful presences.
Last week: 18
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 1-0 at Southampton
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

15. Bournemouth — The losing streak is over, and Eddie Howe celebrated like a madman, but the performance really wasn’t there.
Last week: 17
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 1-0 at Chelsea
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

13. Everton — Got a lucky goal and a fortunate point, and no Blue on Merseyside is saying anything but, “Yeah, and?”
Last week: 14
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Manchester United
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

13. Arsenal — I’ll say it. The Mikel Arteta hire is good if you’re going to “do a United” and give him Ole level patience. Like at least three windows. That said, there are 3-0 losses to Man City that look a lot worse than Sunday.
Last week: 13
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Man City
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

12. Newcastle United — Needs a dynamic, committed center midfielder in a bad way. Then again, most clubs do…
Last week: 11
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Burnley
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

11. Burnley — Three points are three points, but we’re still worried about a side that relies way too much on a big target man putting away scant few chances. Where is their Lys Mousset, their Emiliano Buendia?
Last week: 13
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 1-0 v. Newcastle
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

10. Crystal Palace — Injuries are gonna test the Eagles, but Newcastle will give them the ball and that might help a team which is the only PL club averaging under 10 shot attempts per game.
Last week: 9
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Brighton
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

9. Brighton and Hove Albion — Another quality point to extend their unbeaten M23 Derby run. Saturday’s visit from the Blades is sneaky intriguing in the 10 a.m. ET window.
Last week: 8
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Palace
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

8. Chelsea — Sometimes you out-perform the opponent and lose because Dan Gosling has a moment. Okay, rarely… but sometimes.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 1-0 v. Bournemouth
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

7. Sheffield United — Nice defeat of Villa, and a tangle with Brighton should provide plenty of entertainment.
Last week: 9
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Aston Villa
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

6. Manchester United — Wanted more out of a visit from Everton, but it’s easy to forget they’re still without one of the top attack-minded midfielders in the world.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Everton
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

5. Wolves — Somehow, we came away from a home loss feeling more confident in Wolves chances of crashing the Top Four party.
Last week: 3
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Spurs
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

4. Manchester City — Kevin De Bruyne didn’t have a league assist for over a month, then got one in London. Checking the leaderboard… yep, still leads the league.
Last week: 6
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Won 3-0 at Arsenal
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

3. Tottenham Hotspur — An extremely impressive win at the Molineux, and Spurs have a chance to really do some damage over the festive period if they claim fourth place with a defeat of Chelsea this weekend.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 2-1 at Wolves
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

2. Leicester City — Duds happen, and the xG analysis says James Maddison‘s new club probably should’ve lost to its old one. Also, Kelechi… dude.
Last week: 2
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Norwich City
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

1. Liverpool — If the Reds come back from Qatar and wax the Foxes, there will only be one more fixture on the schedule that truly seems a threat to a loss-free league season.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Watford
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

El Clasico: Deadlocked Barca, Real aim to seize control of La Liga

Leave a comment

A wonderful Wednesday of football will see El Clasico served up to a public that’s been waiting a few extra weeks for the celebrated meeting of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Barcelona and Real Madrid are set for a 2 p.m. ET Wednesday El Clasico at the Camp Nou in Catalonia, where the jailing of nine Catalan separatists caused an initial postponement.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Both teams on a league-high 35 points and Barca ahead on goal differential.

Real failed to seize a measure of control in the race for first place when it drew Valencia on Sunday, a day after Barca did the same against Real Sociedad.

Don’t blame Lionel Messi for Barca’s slip-up. He remains the highest-rated player in the world at age 32, with 12 goals and six assists in 901 league minutes.

Frenkie de Jong had admired Messi from afar, but having him as a teammate elevates that respect.

“Everyone knows how important Messi is to us,” De Jong said. “It’s no longer surprising if he scores three goals in a match. He’s so much better than the rest. Any team that faces Messi is always more nervous, I would be too.”

Even with Real Madrid’s defending as good as it’s been in ages, manager Zinedine Zidane admits that the Argentine remains the biggest X-factor in El Clasico.

“We know what we’re facing, we know they have Messi, but we also have our weapons,” Zidane said. “We want to play a good match against Barcelona, who also hope to do the same.”

Zidane’s counterpart Ernesto Valverde knows he has some players making their El Clasico debut. While Antoine Griezmann is used to mixing it up in derbies versus Real from his time at Atleti, De Jong will experience it for the first time.

“It’s a game that is has something different about it and it is played at a different pace,” Valverde said. “They will experience it first hand. You can tell it is a Clásico from the players’ tunnel before you come out.”

Barca is unbeaten in its last six Clasicos.

West Ham outlasts wasteful Southampton

Haller West Ham
Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images
Leave a comment

West Ham United allayed some of the pressure on manager Manuel Pellegrini by holding on for a 1-0 defeat of Southampton at St. Mary’s on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sebastien Haller scored the lone goal and Michail Antonio had one pulled back by VAR, but Saints missed myriad promising chances to draw level.

West Ham moves 15th with 19 points, while Saints remain behind 17th place Aston Villa on goal difference.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]


Three things we learned

1. Haller ends drought: Sebastien Haller’s early season honeymoon at West Ham was the thing of dreams. The big money Eintracht Frankfurt signing scored five times in seven matches. His chemistry with Felipe Anderson and company was wonderful. Then came eight matches without a goal and just one start in three matches. Manuel Pellegrini played him in attack with and not instead of Michail Antonio, and the pair delivered a goal.

2. Saints fail reward their own production: Southampton, quite frankly, should’ve claimed at least one point. Yes, West Ham also misused chances to score when it was 1-0 in its favor, but Saints had extreme problems in finishing what should’ve been great team goals. Ings hit the bar, which, yeah it happens, but Stephens and Hojbjerg’s second half chances have this 2-1 on another day.

There were similarities to their last outing, a 2-1 loss at Newcastle.

3. Antonio and Haller an answer for Pellegrini? Manuel Pellegrini likely bought himself more time with the win, but it wasn’t as convincing as it could’ve been had Antonio not been denied by VAR or Haller’s header not been saved by McCarthy. The big men were a problematic duo for the Southampton defense, and Pellegrini may opt to combine them again in future days.

Man of the Match: Antonio was a handful as usual, winning a half-dozen aerials and completed just as many dribbles.


Declan Rice had a first minute goal ruled offside (and properly so).

Sebastien Haller hit a glorious bass to Michail Antonio in the 17th minute, but the striker’s poor touch caused a handball.

Two West Ham players appeared to be fouled in the box on the same play, but Martin Atkinson saw nothing and VAR stayed with him.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

The Irons took the lead on a well-worked team goal, Antonio crossing to the back post for Pablo Fornals. He headed back for Haller, who kissed the ball off the far post.

Fornals looked to have his first Premier League goal in the bag one minute after the break, but was defied by Alex McCarthy.

Antonio had it 2-0 for a moment, but VAR spotted his handling of the ball early in the dribble that led to his would-be marker.

Danny Ings struck a ball off the cross bar and Long butchered the rebound as Saints bid for an equalizer.

McCarthy made an outstanding save on an off-balance Haller header in the 78th, while substitute Andriy Yarmolenko couldn’t keep his 79th minute effort under the bar.

Jack Stephens made the least of a terrific set-up in the 81st minute, though he would’ve had to do well to level the score.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was the next to miss a back post effort, wide of the frame.