League Table
EPL TEAM OF WEEK 3
The top of the Premier League table is starting to take shape as Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United maintained their 100% winning starts to the season. Champions Leicester and Arsenal also won for the first time this campaign, while Everton continued their impressive start against Stoke, who drop to the bottom of the table. Team of the week: Goalkeeper - Artur Boruc (Bournemouth) The penalty save from Crystal Palace midfielder Yohan Cabaye was important but the stop from Andros Townsend was better. Artur Boruc has a habit of saving penalties, which is just as well because Bournemouth have a habit of giving them away. However, what is becoming abundantly clear is the appalling inconsistency surrounding the new directive for holding in the penalty area. Referee Mike Dean did precisely what the directive told him to do and penalised Charlie Daniels for the infringement on Christian Benteke. So why the leniency with Swansea's Jordi Amat and Federico Fernandez on Leicester's Robert Huth? Or Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen on Liverpool's Joel Matip? All clear penalties based on the evidence and yet nothing given. Boruc's penalty save did not help the debate but it certainly helped Bournemouth win a point. Defender-Curtis Davies (Hull) Yet another sterling performance from the Hull City captain Curtis Davies. He has been immense so far this season and it was only down to the brilliance and composure of Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney that he and his team-mates did not share the points with a rampant United. However, Hull and their skipper have only been as good as their caretaker manager Mike Phelan, who has done a remarkable job in extraordinary circumstances. When is the Hull board going to stop faffing about and give Phelan the job on a permanent basis? Defender - Scott Dann (Crystal Palace) What a header. The great Denis Law could not have scored a better headed goal. Crystal Palace were in desperate need of inspiration when Eagles manager Alan Pardew directed Scott Dann to join the fray up front and make something happen. Well, he did far more than that. The defender nodded home a superb equaliser the Law man himself would have been proud of Defender - Wes Morgan (Leicester) What a finish by the Leicester captain. You normally associate this sort of strike with PFA player of the year Riyad Mahrez or striker Jamie Vardy but not defender Wes Morgan. The volley proved to be a very important goal for Leicester as Swansea finished strongly. The champions needed this win after their rather sluggish start to the season. Midfielder - Danny Drinkwater (Leicester) It was something of a travesty that this lad wasn't taken to the European Championship. However, it would have been a bigger travesty if Sam Allardyce had not included the Leicester midfielder in the England team to play Slovakia next week. This player has really grown into an enforcer. Admittedly, he is missing his former team-mate N'Golo Kante but so would any team member. Nevertheless, he seems to be coping and not moping and he was the driving force behind Leicester's victory over a very dangerous Swansea. Midfielder - David Silva (Manchester City) It was David Silva's craft and genius that got Manchester City through a tricky game against West Ham. He provided the opening for Raheem Sterling's first goal and generally bossed what was a very impressive first half by City. If Sterling is manager Pep Guardiola's version of Andres Iniesta, then Silva must be Xavi. Midfielder - N'Golo Kante (Chelsea) Every team has one and every team needs one but very few are as good N'Golo Kante. We have all become mesmerised by the player's energy and his capacity to cover the ground. The Frenchman's ability to read the game is at the heart of his success, not to mention his many interventions. Normally, players with such competitive instincts have enormously high booking rates but not Kante. His interceptions are so clean. He will occasionally get booked by the very nature of his game but they will be against teams that pose a much greater threat than Burnley. Sorry Burnley. Midfielder - Eden Hazard (Chelsea) If body language, demeanour or state of mind has anything to do with the quality of a footballer's performance then Eden Hazard is back at his best. The Belgian looked so happy and content with his game. What a contrast to the player that was substituted against Paris St-Germain in last season's Champions League last-16 second leg. The player that played that night was a mere shadow of the artist that destroyed Burnley at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. This had nothing to do with the quality of the opposition either but everything to do with the player's state of mind. He is happy again. Midfielder - Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) This player is brave. Alexis Sanchez is not afraid to go in where it hurts. This was perfectly illustrated when the Chilean had floated into the box in readiness to accept a beautiful lofted pass by Mesut Ozil, only to be flattened by Watford midfielder Nordin Amrabat. This is a feature of players who have a desire to score goals. They must put themselves on the line, which Sanchez has always been willing to do. His goal was world class and the cross for Ozil's header had me jumping out of my seat on Final Score. He was the difference between Arsenal and Watford and why the Gunners demolished the Hornets in the first half. Midfielder - Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) Raheem Sterling's first goal was very well taken but his second epitomised the confidence manager Guardiola has injected into his game. What is also abundantly clear is that Guardiola sees Sterling as his version of Iniesta, his former player at Barcelona. He is insisting that Sterling stays as wide as possible but when he receives the ball he must make things happen. This new-found confidence is a very exciting prospect for England but the question is, can Sam Allardyce pull out the same qualities in Sterling as Guardiola? No-one can deny the qualities exist. Striker - Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) This kid is going to be a massive star. Marcus Rashford is not afraid of the big stage and he certainly does not fluff his lines when the spotlight is on him. Against Hull - who were magnificent by the way - Rashford's appearance in the 71st minute was the spark that ignited United's flame and his goal indicative of the player's desire.
SERIE A – THERE WAS ONCE A LEAGUE
On the 1st of September, 2014, fans of football teams all over Europe waited anxiously for last minute transfers that would boost their team at the tail end of the transfer window. While Manchester United brought in six players during the window with the likes of Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria being the most notable ones and Barcelona got Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic, Italian teams were relatively quiet in comparison with other top European leagues. The few Italian teams that brought in notable names got unwanted players and players at the dusk of their career from other clubs, the likes of Fernando Torres who is considered as a £50million flop by Chelsea fans and Diego Lopez who is unwanted at Real Madrid joined AC Milan whereas AC Milan’s striker Mario Balotelli joined Liverpool to replace Luis Suarez. Throughout the transfer window, there was really no rumour that top Italian teams were bidding for the hottest talents in the games. In the past, the likes of Arjen Robben and Toni Kroos (who were linked with Man United) or Diego Costa (who ended up at Chelsea) would have been linked with the likes of Juventus or AC Milan. Instead, the few quality players in Italy were linked with clubs from other countries. Arturo Vidal was linked with Manchester United while Paul Pogba was linked with a move to Chelsea. The inability of Juventus (Serie A’s best) to attract world class players was one of the reasons given by Antonio Conte for his exit. Suffice to say, input is a function of output, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that no Italian team has qualified for the Semi-final of the UEFA Champions league since 2010 when Inter Milan (under Jose Mourinho) won the tournament. Back then, the wages of Serie A players could be compared to that of their counterparts in other top European leagues. Samuel Eto’o was on a £160,000 per week contract during the 2009/2010 season at Inter Milan. Today, Daniele De Rossi who earns £100,000 per week is the highest paid player in Seria A while Inter Milan’s highest paid player today is former Manchester United Captain, Nemanja Vidic who receives £50,000 a week. Despite being hailed as one of the most talented young players in the world, Paul Pogba earns £23,000 per week which is about 10% of Luke Shaw’s wages at Manchester United. The awesome Arturo Vidal who was linked with Man United all summer earns £61,000 at Juventus which is about the same with Tom Cleverly. When Serie A’s average wages are compared to the sum paid to top players in other leagues, the margin is too wide. For instance, Fernando Torres who now earns £60,000 per week at Italy was getting £175,000 per week at Chelsea. Wayne Rooney earns about £300,000 a week in Manchester United while the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo receive over £250,000 per week in Spain. It is rational for footballers to strive to play in top leagues where there is intense competition and where they are highly valued and right now, such places do not include Italy. This can be identified as one of the reasons why Seria A players are no longer nominated for the Ballon D’or award. Gone are the days when the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Pavel Nedved of Juventus, Ronaldo de Lima of Inter Milan, Andriy Shevchenko and Ricardo Kaka of AC Milan won the European and World Player of the year award while plying their trade in the Serie A. It is really a sad story of Italian Football as fans no longer troop to watch matches and the attendance record is now very low. But can anyone blame the fans? Fans that were once used to watching the likes of Jaap Stam, Alessandro Nesta, Rui Costa, Luis Figo, Alessandra Del Piero, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Patrick Viera would definitely not want to spend their hard earned money watching the likes of De Sciligio Matia, Amero Estifer, Stephen Mbia or Cristian Zaccardo. This present rot started around the time of the Caliciopoli Scandal when the likes of Juventus were relegated and AC Milan Milan were fined and top players left the league. Ten years on, the effect is still being seriously felt. Before then, Juventus were a powerhouse in European football reaching the 2003 Champions League Final at Old Trafford. Then three years on, Luciano Moggi, the managing director of Juventus at that time, was indicted in a series of bribery and match fixing scandal. Other top clubs like AC Milan were also indicted with the likes of Andriano Galliani of AC Milan receiving a five month ban from all football activities. The rational right now is that every top player wants to play in a country where the system is free and fair and Serie A’s reputation has been damaged by the past sins of club administrators. Right now, lovers of Serie A can only hope the situation changes for the better or the league risks losing its rating has one of the top leagues in Europe.
10 STARS TO WATCH OUT FOR THIS PREMIER LEAGUE WEEKEND
As we crawl into the premier league season, the excitement gets more moving into matchday 3 . Fansbox18 looks ahead of the weekend premier league games and highlights 10 stars expected to star for matchday 3 1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic ; His arrival into the premier league raised eyebrows from some quarters as to whether a 34 year old can deliver as much as needed . The Big Swede has wasted no time in repeating what he knows how to do best which is to bang in the goals regardless of the league . He has 3 goals registered in the premier league already in two games and he looks like a sure bet to get at least a goal against the surprise team of the league so far Hull city. Zlatan is obviously the man to watch this weekend as there is a high chance he’ll star again on matchday 3 2. Kun Aguero ; Aguero has two goals in the league already and has proven to flourish under any Coach . He is important to his side and more than capable of leading the lines for the citizens . The new Manchester city under Pep Guardiola seem to be getting in their groove after hitting Stoke for 4 on a windy Saturday afternoon on matchday 2. It’s expected that Kun Aguero will star on Premier league matchday 3 against a westham side that have been struggling so far this season under Slaven Bilic 3. Diego Costa ; The intense and fiery striker who always hit the headlines for the right and wrong reasons can’t be overlooked for a star performance this weekend against Burnley at Stamford bridge . His two goals this season have come as match winning goals that have bailed Chelsea out of tight corners against Hull city and westham united . Expect the temperamental striker to be a star performer this weekend and also with the hope he doesn’t get sent off anyway ! 4. Etienne Capoue ; It’s been a dream start for the former Tottenham player who has scored two goals already this season with the goal against Chelsea an absolute belter . The confidence he seems to have after his first two games in the premier league this season is expected to inspire another good performance this weekend against the gunners even though they might not be winning the game 5. Paul Pogba ; The world record signing announced his return to old Trafford on matchday 2 with a monstrous and commanding midfield performance . He’ll surely build on this against hull city as another one week of training with his team mates would have helped him settle down more .WE should expect anything from excellent coming from Paul Pogba against Hull city 6. Raheem Sterling ; Sterling looks a lot better under Pep Guardiola and seems more refined and mature on the ball . He would surely be a menace in attack as his city side face westham united on Sunday 7. Eric Bailly ; Gradually making a serious mark for Jose Mourinho’s Men as a potential ‘’Vidic’’ in the making . His commanding performance in the center back position has been one of the reasons the manchester united backline is gradually getting air tight . He has been consistent and is expected to put in another outstanding performance against Phelan’s Hull city this weekend 8. Alvaro Negredo ;The Spaniard on his return to the premier league has been inspiring for Aitor Karanka with 1 goal and 2 assists already . He should come up with another star performance this weekend as he should either find the back of the net or register another assist . 9. Eden Hazard ; Can’t bet against an electrifying performance by the Belgian at Stamford bridge against Burnley . Despite his occasional inconsistencies that we saw for the whole of last season ,he needs no introduction as to what he can do on his good day. Expect his ‘A’ game against Burnley this weekend 10. Saido Mane ; Mane can be a thorn in the flesh of any defense line and his physically empowered electrifying pace will give Tottenham a long afternoon as they square up in the first game of matchday 3 . Expect him to star for the reds as they battle Tottenham
LESSONS LEARNT ACROSS THE EUROPEAN WEEKEND GAMES
1.) EPL Golden boot race between Ibra and Aguero It’s still Week 2 of the EPL but the race for the highest goal scorer is heating up. It already looks like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sergio Aguero will fight for the award till the end of the season barring injuries and other unforseen circumstances. While Aguero is no stranger to the physicality of the EPL, some sections of the footballing world argued that Zlatan Ibrahimovic would find the EPL difficult to adapt to. How wrong were they? He has taken the league by storm scoring four goals in three games. The surprising part is that he has scored from headers against the best physical defenders the league has to offer in Leicester’s City Wes Morgan and Southampton’s Jose Fonte. While there are other notable mentions like Stuani of Boro, Coutinho of Liverpool, Sergio Aguero and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are the two names that can guarantee you goals all season. 2.) Arsenal will struggle to keep up Some sections of Arsenal fans will argue that the club in the past few years hardly start the season well but this season is different because of the managers in the league. It is no surprise that Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte have secured six points from the opening two games with their respective clubs. What most ardent followers of this managers know is that once they overtake you, its hard to strike back. Arsenal has secured just one point from two albeit tough games but a team of Arsenal’s repute should offer much more. If Arsenal is to become title challengers, she needs reinforcement in attack and defence. 3.) Liverpool is still erratic A friend joked, ‘ Liverpool is like a university student that passes tough compulsory departmental courses in flying colours but fails simple but fails simple though compulsory general studies test’. After the ecstasy of beating Arsenal at the Emirates, they lost to a disciplined Burnley side. EPL is unlike the Bundesliga or Spanish La Liga where games between the big two determine the winners of the league. In England, it is matches against the so called small teams i.e. Sunderland, Watford, Burnley etc. that matters more. Louis Van Gaal can testify to that. Apart from the defeats to Arsenal and Spurs away, Man Utd didnt lose to any of the big teams but what got him sacked was defeats to Bournemouth, Southampton, West Ham and the likes. If Liverpool is to challenge for the league or secure a UCL slot, the team has to stop dropping points against English minnows. Its not enough to beat Manchester United, City, Chelsea if you mess up against smaller teams, 6th may be the best position you end up at. 4.) Chelsea is the new Man Utd Under Sir Alex Ferguson, Man Utd was well known for scoring late goals. The biggest of them came in the 1999 UCL final where the club scored two late goals to defeat Bayern Munich. Chelsea have done something similar in the last two games against West Ham and Watford. While this shows the tremendous team spirit and the never say die attitude of the team, it also points to a fundamental problem early in the season, the team looks like it lacks the sharpness exhibiting by its Manchester rivals in killing clubs early in the game. While this team can continue its late magic style, they will have problems replicating it against disciplined defensive sides like Everton. Leicester or Stoke City. 5.) Pogba is a midfield wizard Before Friday’s game against Southampton, the major story was about Pogba’s debut. Even though he didn’t get a goal or assist, his performance was excellent. While he lacks the ability to control a game from start to finish, his attacking verve and control is second to none, he was spraying passes up and down in a way not seen since Paul Scholes hanged his boot. With Pogba in the team, Man Utd have the missing glitter they have lacked since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. 6.) Suarez and Messi are not slowing down After two consecutive La Liga titles and a Pichichi, one would think Luis Suarez would take things slow but that seems wrong. He showed that he still has his scoring boots with a hat-trick against Real Betis. Lionel Messi seems to have put his tax evasion conviction behind him with an excellent performance notching up two goals in the process. He was everywhere on the pitch dictating play and controlling the midfield. It seems he has added the skill set of Xavi to his wonderful attributes. Game on, CR7 and Real Madrid. 7.) Bale is ready to lead Before I could position myself to stream the Real Madrid game vs Real Sociedad, the ball was in the net. Gareth Bale got on the end of a wonderful delivery from Daniel Carvajal to open Real Madrid’s account for the season. In a game in which pre-match analysis was about the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, Bale soon made sure Zinedine Zidane didn’t miss his french compatriot and Portuguese goal scorer. He also put the icing on the score line late in the game after an injury scare. 8.) Higuain is still in form After another disappointing display in the Copa America final against Chile, Gonzalo Higuain showed his scoring boots is still in Italy with a late winner for new club, Juventus in the Serie A opener. In a game which looked to be heading for a stalemate, the Argentine made the difference to secure all three points for Juventus, it appears that with him leading Juve’s attack, the Turin giants may not really miss Paul Pogba and Alvaro Morata.
SERIE A REVIEW (MATCHDAY 1)
AC MILAN STARTS WITH A WIN Carlos Bacca scored a hat-trick but AC Milan needed an injury-time penalty save from teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma to hold on for a 3-2 win against Torino in their Serie A opener on Sunday. Colombia striker Bacca bagged his first with a diving header after 38 minutes but three minutes into the second half Torino, managed by Sinisa Mihajlovic who was sacked by the Rossoneri last season, were level when Andrea Belotti headed home at San Siro. Two more goals from Bacca, the second from the penalty spot, saw him complete his hat-trick and put Milan in control, but Torino made things interesting when Daniele Baselli made it 3-2 in stoppage time before the visitors were awarded a penalty in an incident which saw home defender Gabriel Paletta sent off. However, Belotti, who won the penalty, saw his spot-kick saved by 17-year-old Donnarumma as Milan ensured Vincenzo Montella made a winning start to the league campaign following his appointment in June. CHIEVO DOWNS INTER It was not such a good day for new Inter Milan coach Frank de Boer, though, as his side crashed to a 2-0 defeat at Chievo. Valter Birsa bagged both goals in the second half to leave De Boer, who replaced Roberto Mancini as manager less than two weeks ago, with much to ponder. LAZIO SURVIVE ATLANTA SCARE There was goals and drama aplenty in Atalanta, where visitors Lazio held off a second-half fightback from their hosts to claim a 4-3 victory. Lazio looked to be cruising as goals from Ciro Immobile, Wesley Hoedt and Cristiano Lombardi put them 3-0 up inside 34 minutes, but a quickfire brace just after the hour by Franck Kessie brought Atalanta back into it. Lazio made it 4-2 in stoppage time through Danilo Cataldi but they were made to sweat for the points after Atalanta hit back again through Andrea Petagna. NAPOLI HELD AT PESCARA Last season's runners-up Napoli were also given a scare, needing a second-half double from Dries Mertens to salvage a 2-2 draw against Serie A new-boys Pescara at Stadio Adriatico. First-half goals from Ahmed Benali and Gianluca Caprari had put Pescara, promoted via the play-offs after finishing fourth in Serie B, in control but Mertens struck twice in the space of three minutes just after the hour to drag Napoli level. GENOA STARTS WITH A BANG Genoa also had to stage a fight back before beating promoted Cagliari 3-1. Marco Borriello's 67th-minute goal put the visitors ahead but Genoa responded with three goals in the final 11 minutes from Olivier Ntcham, Diego Laxalt and Luca Rigoni to take the points. BOLOGNA LATE DRAMA Bologna got their campaign off to a winning start after beating newcomers Crotone 1-0 with a late Mattia Destro goal, while Luis Muriel's 38th-minute effort earned Sampdoria a 1-0 triumph over an Empoli side who lost Massimo Maccarone to a late red card. PALERMO FALTER FROM DAY 1 It was a similar story at Palermo, where visitors Sassuolo claimed a 1-0 win thanks to Domenico Berardi's 32nd-minute penalty before the hosts had Slobodan Rajkovic sent off in the closing stages. HIGUAIN GRABS THE HEADLINE Gonzalo Higuain scored the winner on his league debut to clinch reigning Serie A champions Juventus a 2-1 opening-day win over Fiorentina. Argentina international Higuain, signed from Napoli for #75.3million in July, fired home from close range in the second half after Fiorentina striker Nikola Kalinic had cancelled out Sami Khedira's brilliant first-half header. Juve secured a fifth straight Scudetto last season and appeared to be cruising in the first period, but they only had Khedira's goal to show for their dominance and nearly paid the price for wayward finishing when Kalinic stole in for a shock 70th-minute equaliser. But Higuain, who equalled an 87-year-old Serie A record when scoring 36 league goals for Napoli last season, popped up when it mattered to spare Juve's blushes, ensuring they made a winning start. ROMA ON FIRE Roma launched their league campaign in style at the Stadio Olimpico thanks to two second-half Diego Perotti penalties and strikes from Edin Dzeko and Mohamed Salah in a 4-0 win against Udinese. Argentinian midfielder Perotti, a 56th-minute substitute for Stephan El Shaarawy, converted two spot-kicks in the space of 10 second-half minutes before striker Dzeko added a third in the 82nd minute, with Salah completing the scoring with his first league goal two minutes later.
ZLATAN STARS AGAIN !;EPL TEAM OF MATCHDAY 2
After just two weeks of the Premier League season there are only four teams left with a 100% record. Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea have all started in excellent form, while Hull City have surprised many by claiming two deserved wins. Everton collected their first win of the season with success at West Brom while Burnley stunned Liverpool and Middlesbrough claimed the derby spoils with victory over Sunderland. Here is my team of the week: Goalkeeper - Eldin Jakupovic (Hull City) Eldin Jakupovic's save from Gylfi Sigurdsson was sensational. How he got his fingertips to the ball in order to push the shot on to the bar, I will never know. In real time I never realised Jakupovic had actually made the save but the replay provided conclusive proof that, without the keeper's heroics, it would have been a certain goal. These are extraordinary times for Hull City and no-one knows what the future holds for the players or their caretaker manager. However, six points from their first two Premier League games and a clean sheet away from home says volumes for the goalkeeper and the spirit within the team. Great all-round performance. Left Back – Cesar Azpilicueta If you blinked, you would have missed it. It was the most superb first-time pass from Cesar Azpilicueta to Cesc Fabregas that set the ball rolling for Chelsea's equaliser at Watford. The full-back just loves to get involved in the action down Chelsea's left flank and was part of the phase of play that set Fabregas free to instigate Chelsea's comeback. It's not often you see a full-back play a forward pass like an attacking midfield player. This was a big result for Chelsea and an even bigger one for manager Antonio Conte. The Italian knows all about winning titles in Italy and, by the looks of things, has his eyes firmly fixed on the Premier League title. He has been very astute, made very few changes from the team who downed tools under Jose Mourinho, and Azpilicueta seems central to his plans. Centre Back – John Stones Well, it seems the celebrated song by Everton fans "Money can't buy you Stones" wasn't true after all. Pep Guardiola's audacious £47.5m signing of the centre-back for Manchester City has put paid to that. However, what I have noticed already in the very short time Stones has donned City's sky blue shirt is he is far less inclined to take the ridiculous risks he was prepared to take at Everton under Roberto Martinez. It would appear Guardiola has insisted Stones concentrates on what is in the best interest of the team and not himself. His performance against Stoke was outstanding and he looks like a player who is carrying out the instructions of his manager and not just what makes him look good. Centre-back - Mason Holgate (Everton) What is it about Barnsley that makes them keep producing top-class defenders? It was Mick McCarthy who first brought my attention to the famous Yorkshire club, then John Stones and now Everton's Mason Holgate seems intent on continuing this amazing sequence. The youngster was very impressive against West Brom, looks quick, tall and versatile and appears to be worth every penny of the £2m the Toffees paid for him. Everton boss Ronald Koeman was a world-class defender, although not from Barnsley! If he can produce the authority and resilience of McCarthy and confidence of Stones in Holgate then he will be a sweet purchase. Right-back - Matthew Lowton (Burnley What happened to Liverpool? Matthew Lowton stuck to his task brilliantly, forcing Milner to come in on his right foot on numerous occasions. A club like Liverpool should not be struggling in this department; neither should they be losing to teams like Burnley. Lowton's performance, along with the entire Burnley defence, required courage, which used to be a minimum requirement for Liverpool players under managers such as Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley. It seems to me that Jurgen Klopp could do with showing a little courage himself and put an end to Liverpool's Jekyll and Hyde character. Midfielder - Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea) I don't normally pick a player in my team of the week who is on the pitch for only 18 minutes. But when a substitute comes on the pitch and has such a profound effect on the game, you have to acknowledge their contribution. Cesc Fabregas must have left Watford fans utterly bemused by what they saw at Vicarage Road. The Spaniard's first touch found Eden Hazard in space and his shot resulted in Michy Batshuayi's tap-in. He then threaded the most exquisite through ball between Craig Cathcart and Sebastian Prodl for Diego Costa to score the winner. That said, what the already booked Costa was actually doing on the pitch at the time after such a blatant dive earlier in the game was a complete and utter mystery to me. Midfielder - Tom Huddlestone (Hull City) How long will the Hull City hierarchy leave their players and caretaker manager hanging? Mike Phelan can only just about field a team, but these boys are fighting like Tigers. In amongst that tenacity is Tom Huddlestone, who was immense against a Swansea side who seemed to lose their nerve. Huddlestone quietly carved Swansea to pieces with his beautiful precise passing. In fact, Huddlestone strikes a ball like Ken Rosewall's backhand slice. You think it's going to drift out of play but it always seems to drop on the baseline. Forward - Cristhian Stuani (Middlesbrough) I don't think we'll see a better strike all season than Cristhian Stuani's first against Sunderland the ball flew past Vito Mannone. Until that point, either side could have won the game. I must say, for a newly promoted side, I thought Middlesbrough looked more interesting in possession but Sunderland remained unconcerned until Stuani unleashed an Exocet missile. If that didn't rip the heart out of Sunderland then what followed certainly did. Middlesbrough put together the most delightful string of passes that seemed to hypnotise Sunderland and, in the process, allow Stuani to apply the finishing touch to their winning goal. What a way to open your Premier League account! Forward - Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) What did Ryan Shawcross not understand? The referees' new directive this season could not have been clearer - any holding in the penalty area will be penalised. The Stoke City centre-back seemed to completely disregarded the warning and handed Manchester City and Sergio Aguero in particular the perfect gift. The infringement provided the catalyst for one of the most comprehensive demolition jobs I have seen for some time. Aguero is once again on cue for another 25 goals this season. If the Argentine were to reach that incredible landmark for the fifth consecutive campaign we may have to consider him Premier League player of the decade, never mind the season. Forward - Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) Last week it was Sunderland who got the runaround but this week it was Stoke. I totally agree with Phil Neville's MOTD analysis - that the player is starting to look good under Pep Guardiola but needs to add goals to his game. Sterling has enormous potential but lacks belief in his own ability. Guardiola knows the ingredients that make football superstars, having managed his fair share at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. The big question is can he turn Sterling into one? Striker - Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United) How good and imposing does this guy look in a Manchester United shirt? That's the second time this season that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has attacked the ball as well as the defender in order to score the perfect headed goal. He did it to Leicester City's Wes Morgan in the Community Shield and again against Southampton's Jose Fonte, who had a fantastic European Championship, by the way. Most centre-forwards find it difficult to attack the ball and the man at the same time but not Zlatan. The former Sweden international has buried both defenders in the process. If Ibrahimovic carries on like this, centre-backs are going to need security!
LEICESTER CITY V SWANSEA CITY (MATCH PREVIEW)
LEICESTER CITY VS SWANSEA CITY DATE- 27/08/2016 TIME – 3PM VENUE – KING POWER STADIUM TEAM NEWS Leicester have midfielder Nampalys Mendy out with an ankle injury and Jeff Schlupp also has a muscle injury. Danny Drinkwater is set to start after signing a new five-year deal with the club on Thursday. Wales defender Neil Taylor will miss out for Swansea as he recovers fitness after his Euro 2016 campaign.. Record signing Borja Baston's thigh injury keeps him out. Scotland Under-21 striker Oliver McBurnie, scorer of two midweek goals, is added to the squad. WHAT THE MANAGERS HAVE TO SAY Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri: "Last season everything we did was fantastic - this season we have to fight a lot to score and win the match. "Last season the wind was behind us and we pushed so well. Everything went well. Now is too early to say if the wind is behind us. "Arsenal was important because last season we conceded five goals on the counter-attack. This season we covered the counter-attack much better." Swansea City head coach Francesco Guidolin: "It's important to remember that we conceded seven goals against Leicester last year. "We need some reflection on those results and play a courageous game against a very good team. "Leicester are a strong team - they are almost the same as last season. But it is very difficult to repeat the same result in the Premier League." PREDICTION "I'm not predicting the Swans will be relegated, but what I am saying is that, as things stand, would I be surprised if they finish 15th or 16th? I would say no. "I also do not see them getting anything at Leicester. The Foxes' draw with Arsenal was a bit of a nothing game but I think they will be back on song for this one." Prediction: 2-0 MATCH FACTS Head-to-head • Leicester have won four successive home league matches against Swansea and are unbeaten in 10 since a 3-2 defeat in the old Second Division in October 1950. Leicester City • The reigning champions are unbeaten in 16 home Premier League games since losing 5-2 to Arsenal 11 months ago (W10, D6). • The Foxes have kept eight clean sheets in 14 league matches and conceded just nine goals. • Leicester could go four league matches without a win for the first time in 17 months. • If Leicester lose they will become only the sixth defending top-flight champions to take one point from their first three games of the following season. The last team to do so were Arsenal in 1991-92. • Jamie Vardy is yet to register a shot in target in the Premier League this season. Swansea City • Swansea could earn three Premier League away wins in a row for the first time in two years. • They have earned 28 points from 18 matches under Francesco Guidolin, an average of 1.56 points per game. • Wayne Routledge has created nine chances in this season's Premier League - more than any other player, prior to this weekend.
EVERTON V STOKE CITY (MATCH PREVIEW)
EVERTON VS STOKE CITY DATE- 27/08/2016 TIME – 3.00PM VENUE – GOODISON PARK TEAM NEWS Everton manager Ronald Koeman could hand first Premier League starts to new arrivals Ashley Williams and Yannick Bolasie, but Seamus Coleman remains out with an ankle injury. James McCarthy, Darron Gibson and Tom Cleverley are deemed "small doubts" by Koeman but could still feature. Swiss playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri could return from an ankle injury for Stoke. It is still too early for injured pair Jack Butland and Glen Johnson to make their first appearances of the season. WHAT THE MANAGERS HAVE TO SAY Everton manager Ronald Koeman on new signings: "There is no interest [in Joe Hart]. We have a game at Stoke on Saturday and that is more important than all the rumours. "We are improving. We are close to 100% but I think some players did not get game time in pre-season. "Maybe they need one or two weeks more to get everybody on the highest level." Stoke City manager Mark Hughes: "We enjoy going [to Goodison Park]. We had a fantastic game there last season. "Clearly the result went our way, but it could have gone either way. It was a great game for everybody who was there just to watch it. "I'd take the same result, but maybe with less dramatic moments because there were too many goals and too many incidents." PREDICTION Everton have made a strong start and have integrated their new players in nicely, and I am backing them to continue that on Saturday." Prediction: 2-0 MATCH FACTS Head-to-head • Everton ended a run of three successive defeats in this fixture by winning 3-0 at Stoke in February. Everton • A win would give Everton their highest points tally after the opening three matches of a season since 2006. • They only earned 23 points at home last season, their lowest points total in the Premier League. • Romelu Lukaku has failed to score in 10 Premier League appearances since March, his longest goal drought in the division. Stoke City • Stoke have failed to win either of their opening two games for the sixth time in seven seasons. • They have gone 12 league games without a clean sheet and conceded 41 league goals in 2016 - the most of any side currently in the division. • The Potters have only earned eight points from their last 10 away matches (W2, D2, L6).
HULL CITY V MANCHESTER UNITED (MATCH PREVIEW)
HULL CITY VS MANCHESTER UNITED DATE -27/08/2016 TIME – 5.30 PM VENUE – KCOM STADIUM TEAM NEWS Hull City defender Harry Maguire is available after recovering from an ankle injury. However, caretaker manager Mike Phelan may be reluctant to make changes after back-to-back league wins. Manchester United could name the same starting line-up that beat Southampton 2-0. Midfielder Jesse Lingard is in contention after returning to full training this week following an injury sustained in the Community Shield. WHAT THE MANAGERS HAVE TO SAY Hull City caretaker manager Mike Phelan: "I can't praise the players here enough. There's a great atmosphere around the place and everyone is smiling. "It's another tough Premier League test for us on Saturday. It will be hard, but the players are relishing the challenge." Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho on Phelan: "I hope he gets the job [despite] losing the match. "I think the reality is he's one of the most successful assistant managers in the country, in the Premier League. "Now he has this job and he has managed to motivate and organise the people. Are they defensive? Yes. But that's the way they have found to get points. I think he deserves the job PREDICTION Hats off to Hull for their start to the season with six points out of six, and the way they are playing too. But this is the Tigers' toughest game so far by a long way. This Manchester United side can score goals from all over the pitch and they are starting to get their swagger back too. Prediction: 0-2 MATCH FACTS Head-to-head • Hull City are winless in their past 11 league and cup games against Manchester United, losing 10 of those matches. • The last meeting saw Hull claim their first Premier League point against the Red Devils on the final day of the 2014-15 season. That match saw the Tigers relegated (results elsewhere meant even a win would not have kept them up). • United have had a player sent off in their past two visits to Hull (Marouane Fellaini and Antonio Valencia). • Hull's last win against Manchester United was a 2-0 home victory in a second-tier game on 23 November 1974, when Malcolm Lord and Ken Wagstaff scored. Hull City • Hull caretaker manager Mike Phelan has made just one substitution in two league games so far - with the player he brought on, Shaun Maloney, registering a goal and an assist after coming off the bench at Swansea last weekend. • Victory would see Hull become only the second newly-promoted side to win their opening three Premier League games, following in the footsteps of Bolton in the 2001-02 season. • Only once before has a team been relegated after winning their opening two Premier League games (Wolves in 2011-12). No side has gone down after beginning with three consecutive victories. • Hull have used the fewest players in the Premier League this term (12) but have had the most different goalscorers (four). • Abel Hernandez has scored five goals in his past seven league games for Hull, excluding the play-offs. • Ahmed Elmohamady has appeared in every one of Hull City's 78 Premier League matches since the start of 2013-14. Manchester United • United have won their opening three matches of a Premier League season on four previous occasions (2003, 2005, 2006 and 2011) but only in 2006-07 did they go on to win the title. • They are one short of 700 away defeats in the top flight. • The Red Devils are also two short of becoming the first team to score 800 Premier League away goals. • Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored three goals in his first two league appearances. • The player to score the most goals in their first three Premier League games is Pavel Pogrebnyak - who netted five times in three matches for Fulham in February 2012. • Ibrahimovic has scored in 25 of his past 31 league appearances (41 goals in total). • Wayne Rooney has scored seven goals in his last five Premier League games against Hull City.
WATFORD V ARSENAL (MATCH PREVIEW)
WATFORD VS ARSENAL DATE- 27/08/2016 TIME – 3PM VENUE – VICARAGE ROAD TEAM NEWS Watford have new signings Roberto Pereyra, Younes Kaboul and Daryl Janmaat available. Boss Walter Mazzarri will not include all three players in his starting line-up and is unlikely to make many changes from the side beaten by Chelsea. Arsenal's Mesut Ozil could start his first game of the season after being eased back to action after Euro 2016. Per Mertesacker, Carl Jenkinson, Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey remain sidelined by injuries. WHAT THE MANAGERS HAVE TO SAY Watford head coach Walter Mazzarri on record signing Roberto Pereyra: "Pereyra is an eclectic player, he can play in many different positions. He can play on the wing, as a striker and is a more offensive player. "He can play in lots of different roles in the different formations: 3-5-2, 4-3-3. "He is a runner with good dribbling abilities and in my opinion we needed him. He was the missing point in our squad. He has got different characteristics to other players." Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "It was a strange transfer market. I expected it to be easier than ever but it was more difficult than ever. Not a lot has happened. "It looks like when you meet other clubs and you have an English passport, you hit these prices which are very difficult to understand compared to the quality of the players. It looks like it will be frenetic for me in the last three days. "Everybody has sat on their pounds until now. We know they will all splash out now. I expect the next three days to be very, very busy, so be on alert!" PREDICTION The Gunners looked a lot stronger defensively with Laurent Koscielny back in the side against Leicester and I think they will pick up three points here. Prediction: 0-2 MATCH FACTS Head-to-head • Arsenal have won their last six league games against Watford, scoring a total of 16 goals. • But the Hornets claimed their first win against the Gunners for 28 years when they knocked them out of the FA Cup in March. • Rick Holden got the only goal the last time Watford beat Arsenal in the league in April 1988. Watford • Watford have won only two of their 10 Premier League home games in 2016 - with those victories coming against now relegated Newcastle and Aston Villa. • The Hornets have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 13 league games. • Watford have had the fewest shots on target (3), fewest total shots (11) and lowest number of touches in the opposition box (20) so far in the 2016-17 Premier League. • The average age of Watford's starting line-up in each of their two league games this season has been over 30. No other club has picked a team with an average age of over 30. • Etienne Capoue could become the first Watford player to score in each of the Hornets' opening three top-flight matches. Arsenal • The Gunners could equal their club record of five consecutive away league draws, set in 1948. • The Gunners have lost just one Premier League away game in 2016 (W2, D7)) - fewer than any other side (excluding this season's three promoted clubs). • Arsenal's tally of one point from their opening two league games is their lowest tally at this stage since 2011-12 (when they also had one point). • Alexis Sanchez has scored two and assisted one more in his two previous Premier League appearances against Watford. • Arsenal are three short of becoming the second team, after Manchester United, to score 700 Premier League away goals
CHELSEA V BURNLEY (MATCH PREVIEW)
CHELSEA VS BURNLEY DATE -27/08/2016 TIME – 3.00PM VENUE – STAMFORD BRIDGE TEAM NEWS Willian could return for Chelsea after recovering from the calf injury that ruled him out of the win at Watford. Mikel John Obi, an Olympic bronze medallist with Nigeria, is expected to return after the international break. Burnley look set to revert to the team that beat Liverpool last weekend with striker Andre Gray returning. Forward Ashley Barnes (hamstring) is out until after the international break. Loanee Jon Flanagan is rested after playing 120 minutes in midweek. WHAT THE MANAGERS HAVE TO SAY Burnley manager Sean Dyche: "We know the main target this year. It doesn't mean we're diminishing the thought of a cup but the main goal is what we're trying to achieve in the Premier League, we know that. "We know the challenge that's ahead of us and we know there's a group that we'd more be hoping to get points against and we know there's a group that's more difficult to get points against, particularly away from home, and Chelsea come into that. "It is the beauty of football, that's why we all love it, when you can go away to these places with a bit of freedom, take on the game and see what comes your way." PREDICTION Expect Burnley to be in their usual 4-4-2 formation. They will be hard to break down, and will not care about not seeing much of the ball after winning last week with only 19% possession. But that was after they scored an early goal and I don't see the same thing happening again at Stamford Bridge." Prediction: 2-0 MATCH FACTS Head-to-head • Chelsea are unbeaten in seven top-flight matches against Burnley since a 1-0 away defeat 43 years ago. • Burnley's last win at Stamford Bridge came in April 1971. The Clarets have drawn three and lost six of their nine subsequent visits in all competitions, although they did knock Chelsea out of the League Cup on penalties in 2008 after one of those draws. Chelsea • Chelsea could record successive home wins in the Premier League, having failed to do so throughout last season. • Relegated Aston Villa were the only side to record fewer home victories than Chelsea's tally of five in 2015-16. • The Blues have conceded at least one goal in each of their last 13 league matches at Stamford Bridge since beating Norwich 1-0 in November 2015. It's their longest run without a clean sheet since a 25-match spell in 1960-61. • Antonio Conte has lost just one of his last 32 league games as a club manager (W29, D2, L1).
TOTTENHAM V LIVERPOOL (MATCH PREVIEW)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR VS LIVERPOOL TIME – 12.30PM DATE- 27/08/2016 VENUE – WHITE HART LANE TEAM NEWS Tottenham's Mousa Dembele serves the fifth game of a six-match ban but Kevin Wimmer returns after injury. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris remains sidelined by a hamstring injury but should return at Stoke on 10 September. Liverpool midfielder Emre Can is doubtful with an ankle injury, while Divock Origi will be assessed after suffering cramp against Burton. Sadio Mane missed the defeat to Burnley last weekend with a shoulder injury but returned in midweek and is available. Midfielder Philippe Coutinho is doubtful with a stiff hamstring and may not be risked. WHAT THE MANAGERS HAVE TO SAY Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino: "They [Liverpool] are quick, they have good organisation, they love to counter-attack. "It's different to us. We like to manage the ball, play in possession, play in the opposition's half - we are a different team with a different philosophy. "It'll be tough - they come from a difficult loss against Burnley and they'll want to give their best." Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on Daniel Sturridge's role in the team: "I don't want to play Daniel as a wide player but of course he can start there and play there but in the decisive moments he needs to be involved in all the finishing situations. "I think both goals [against Burton] he scored inside the box so he was not on the wing in this moment - that is flexible football. "That is how football works, it is not a fixed position [where you] stay outside and wait until you get the ball - especially not in Daniel's case. "Daniel is a very smart player in hiding himself in positions where it is not easy to defend and it is very often in a wing position. "I know him and when we have talks there is no issue." PREDICTION Tottenham have not really started firing properly yet but they have still shown why they are very hard to beat. I don't think Liverpool's defeat by Burnley will knock their confidence, but the way that game went for them could happen a lot this season. Prediction: 1-1 MATCH FACTS Head-to-head • Tottenham are winless in their last seven league games against Liverpool, losing five of those matches and conceding a total of 19 goals. • Both of last season's meetings ended in draws - 0-0 at White Hart Lane and 1-1 at Anfield. • Games between these sides have produced nine Premier League own goals - more than any other fixture. Tottenham Hotspur • Victory would give Spurs their best start to a league season since 2009-10 (when they won their opening four league games). • Tottenham lost just six league games last season - fewer than in any previous top-flight campaign. • Harry Kane is one short of 50 Premier League goals. He has failed to score in his last four top-flight games. • Kane has never scored a Premier League goal in August, despite playing nine games and 545 minutes on the pitch in this month. • Kane failed to score in his first six league appearances last season but still went on to win the Golden Boot. Liverpool • The Reds have only kept two clean sheets in their last 13 top-flight games, conceding 19 goals in total. • Liverpool have scored the most Premier League goals in 2016 so far (45), but they have also conceded 33 (the sixth most). • Sadio Mane has scored nine goals in his last nine appearances in the Premier League. • Simon Mignolet has conceded the last five shots on target that he has faced in the Premier League since saving a penalty from Arsenal's Theo Walcott. - See more at: http://fansbox18.com/index.php/blogs/view/109/#sthash.y8ZYBpK8.dpuf
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