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Liverpool vs Southampton: Match Preview

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This weekend brings us the 13th gameweek of the 2021/22 Premier League season, and the season has been an all-round exciting experience for all. There is a huge amount of talent and quality on show in the league this season, and with more than half of the season to go, the fans are excited to drink in every moment of action. This weekend, Liverpool host Southampton at Anfield, as the Merseyside Reds look to put pressure on their title-rivals Man City and Chelsea.

The Reds have been in brilliant form all season, and it was evident in last week’s win against Arsenal. They bounced back from the shock defeat at West Ham, to obliterate Arsenal 4-0, and prove that the loss was just a minor bump in the road. Jurgen Klopp’s men followed up the win against the Gunners with another win in the midweek against Porto in the Champions League. Klopp was able to rest many of his stars, with the Reds already qualified for the last-16 stage of the UCL. The rotational players took full advantage of the opportunity provided to them, as they performed well in a 2-0 victory at home. Based on the last two performances, it seems Liverpool is back to their very best and will be looking to continue the same form against Southampton.

Southampton suffered a surprising 2-1 defeat at Carrow Road last time out, with Norwich stunning the Saints to grab a late winner. They were expected to cruise to an easy win against bottom-of-the-table club Norwich, but the Canaries showed great character to get the win, which was just their second of the season. The loss put Southampton in the 13th position in the Premier League, six points behind 6th placed Wolves. Their tricky period of games continues against Liverpool, with games against Brighton, Arsenal, Leicester City and West Ham to come in the next weeks. Ralph Hasenhutl will be hoping his players can show better form against what is a much better opposition on Saturday.

WHEN AND WHERE?

Date: Saturday, 27th November 2021
Time: 15:00 HRS BST
Venue: Anfield, Liverpool

OFFICIALS

Referee: Andre Marriner.
Assistants: Simon Long, Scott Ledger.
Fourth official: Kevin Friend.
VAR: Lee Mason.
Assistant VAR: Simon Beck.

TEAM NEWS

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Liverpool have a few injury boosts ahead of the game against Southampton, with midfielders James Milner, Neco Williams, and forward Divock Origi all returning from their injuries against Porto in the midweek fixture. However, a few players are still away from full recovery, with up to 4 players not returning to training yet.

Striker Roberto Firmino and youngster Curtis Jones are expected to miss out on the weekend’s game. Alongside them, defender Joe Gomez and long-term absentee Harvey Elliot have also been ruled out of Saturday’s game.

For Southampton, Moussa Djenepo is set to return to the team after recovering from a knock. Nathan Redmond, who missed the defeat to Norwich last week due to the birth of his son, is also available for selection and will be in contention for the weekend. However, Stuart Armstrong’s return to the squad has been delayed, after manager Ralph Hasenhutl confirmed that the Scottish international is out with a calf injury. There is some good news for the Saints, with defender Jack Stephens returning to training after a two-month layoff following a knee injury. However, it seems unlikely he will be involved against Liverpool and is set to miss the trip to Merseyside.

MATCH ANALYSIS

RAMPANT REDS TO CONTINUE HOME DOMINATION?

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Ever since the arrival of Jurgen Klopp at Anfield, Liverpool have turned the stadium into a fortress. He transformed the team and won the support of the Anfield faithful, which contributed heavily to making the ground a dreaded place for the opposition. The atmosphere that the crowd creates at the 53,000-something capacity ground is intimidating and capable of striking fear into the hearts of any newcomer.

Building on that in recent years, Liverpool have proven that they are at their very best at home. They are pretty hard to beat, and teams visiting Anfield need a tremendous effort to get a result there. This season they have continued that form as well, with no losses so far in 6 games played in the league there. Although they suffered hiccups against a resurgent Brighton, they have been unconquerable so far at Anfield. They have scored a whopping 14 goals in 6 games at home, which not only showcases how comfortable they are at home, but also their superb attacking strength.

So far this season, Liverpool have been in top form. However, the loss against West Ham has provided lesser teams like Southampton a sort of blueprint to counter the charging Merseyside Reds. West Ham were brilliant in that game when they hit Liverpool on the counter and ran riot amongst their ranks. Ralph Hasenhutl will undoubtedly keep that in mind when he faces them at Anfield on Saturday. He has got some very threatening players in form of Adam Armstrong, James Ward-Prowse, Che Adams, and they could hurt Liverpool if given the chance.

Liverpool will be expected to brush off the Saints quite comfortably at home like they did against Arsenal last weekend and against Porto in the midweek UCL fixture, and countless others so far. However, the Premier League has proven time and again that is capable of springing up a surprise, and Liverpool will be foolish to take this game lightly. The Saints have performed well against the bigger teams this season, and although Liverpool are superior in every aspect, Southampton could very well get a result here.

KEY PLAYERS

Mo Salah

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The Egyptian scored in his last two games, taking his tally to 17 goals in 17 games this season. His astonishing goalscoring record does not seem likely to stop anytime soon, and he looks set to break many records. His performances this season have been mesmerizing and defenses across the country are surely fearing the prospect of facing the winger. He loves playing against Southampton, with the winger playing against the Saints 8 times and scoring 7 times. He has been in devastating form of late and his form will be crucial to propel the Reds to a 20th league title. Salah has provided energetic displays throughout this season so far, and he has destroyed almost every fullback he has faced this season. Southampton will need to neutralize him in the game to stand any chance of getting a result.

MUST READ: Why it is important that Mohamed Salah signs a new contract at Liverpool

Adam Armstrong

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Adam Armstrong has been in good form this season, taking his chances whenever they come. He has formed a good partnership up-front with Che Adams and works well with Armando Broja as well. The new signing from Blackburn Rovers will naturally take some time to adjust to the fast-paced life of the Premier League, but has gelled in well with his new team. He is the leading goal and assists getter for his team, with two each. It has been a statement on how poor the Southampton attack and chance creation is as well, with the Saints scoring just 10 goals in 11 games so far this season. He has scored or assisted a goal (3 G/A) in each of his last three Premier League appearances, more than he had in his first 23 matches in the competition with Saints and Newcastle combined (1 goal, 1 assist). Although the Saints had a tough time against Norwich last weekend, falling to a shock 2-1 defeat, Armstrong did well in the game and provided an assist for Che Adams to open the scoring. However, he failed to do more and could not help his team avoid a defeat.

PREDICTED LINEUPS

Liverpool: Allison; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, Andrew Robertson; Thiago, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson; Mohammed Salah, Diogo Jota, Sadio Mane.

Southampton: Alex McCarthy; Tino Livramento, Mohammed Salisu, Jan Bednarek, Kyle Walker-Peters; Nathan Redmond, James Ward-Prowse, Oriol Romeu, Mohamed Elyounoussi; Che Adams, Adam Armstrong.

MUST READ: How fullbacks are changing the Premier League: A breakdown!

         












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Gabon vs Morocco: Match Preview

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Gabon will be facing the Atlas Lions of Morocco in their last group match after enjoying a promising spell since the commencement of the African Cup of Nations tournament. They won their first game against Comoros and drawn their second against Ghana. A draw against Morocco will hand them a place in the round 16th stage of the competition.

For Morocco, they have already booked a ticket to the next round of the competition after winning their first two games. Morocco eased past Comoros with a convincing 2-0 victory, thanks to Selim Amallah and Zakaria Aboukhlal’s goals.

Morocco lies currently on top of their group standings with 6 points. Gabon places second with 4 points, Ghana have only a point after two games and debutant Comoros places 4th with no points. They are expected to stamp their authority to emerge as group winners with a 100% record in the group stages. Morocco will be going into this game with the mentality of securing the three points.

They have met in the AFCON finals just once so far, with Gabon recording a 3-2 win in the group stage fixture during the 2012 edition.

WHEN AND WHERE?

Venue: Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium (Rabit City)
Date: Tuesday, 18th January 2022
Time: 19:00 HRS BST

TEAM NEWS

Gabon:

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Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed Gabon’s Africa Cup of Nations draw with Ghana on Friday after scans revealed “heart lesions” following a bout of Covid and would be sidelined once again in their last match in the group.

Gabon FA has confirmed that, 5 other players are ruled out of the Morocco clash due to Covid-19.

Players like Mario Lemina, Sambrissa David, Bouanga Denis, Eneme Ulrich, Ngoualim Serge and Fotso Junior are the notable names together with Pierre-Emerick Aubamenyang who would be out of this showpiece.

Morocco:

Morocco have a fully fit squad available for selection this time around but Ayman Barkok will need a clearance from CAF before he can join the squad for the match.

PRE-MATCH ANALYSIS:

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Gabon would be going into this game with their familiar 3-4-1-2 system. A system that helped them secure a draw against Ghana. A few changes with regards to the starting line-up is expected to change. Gabon are expected to be compact in the midfield leaving no spaces for their opponents to dwell on to create chances. Once again, Gabon would depend on quick transitions and counterattacks to get their goals in this game.

For Morocco, they would be going into the game with a 4-1-4-1 with the team creating a lot of chances, holding on possession and controlling the game.

They are adapted to either playing the 3-5-2 system or the 4-3-3 system with an aggressive attacking play committing a lot of players into the opponent’s half but they should be mindful of counterattacks from the Panthers when committing a lot of players into their opponents half.

PREMIER LEAGUE PLAYERS TO FEATURE:

Gabon:

The absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubamenyang will once again leave a void in attack for Gabon. He is renowned for his pace, finishing, and off-ball movement. Creating and finishing clear cut chances for Gabon in this game would be difficult without Aubamenyang.

Morocco:

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The skipper of the Atlas Lions, Romain Saiss who plays for Wolverhampton Wanderers will be in action on Tuesday. He was fantastic in the first game against Ghana and was on point against Comoros too as he won most of the aerial duels he faced in the match. His presence in this game will also provide his team with the needed leadership on the field of play.

Adam Masina of Watford F.C would also be in contention to play on Tuesday. Adam Masina is an energetic, tall and physical defender. He has the ability to play either as a left-back, a left wing-back or a left-sided midfielder. This indicates his flexibility to acclimatize himself to any kind of system and formation.

Midfielder Imran Louza who players for Watford F.C is also expected to feature in this game. His presence will help his team to create more chances and make final third passes in the game.

PREDICTED LINE-UP:

Gabon Predicted XI (3-4-1-2): Jean-Noël Amonome; Anthony Oyono, Bruno Ecuele Manga, David Sambissa; Louis Ameka Autchanga, André Biyogo Poko, Serge-Junior Martinsson Ngouali, Johann Obiang; Jim Allevinah; Denis Bouanga, Aaron Boupendza

Morocco Predicted XI (4-1-4-1): Yassine Bounou; Achraf Hakimi, Romain Saiss, Nayef Aguerd, Tarik Tissoudali; Sofyan Amrabat; Faycal Fajr, Munir El Haddadi, Sofiane Boufal, Imran Louza; Zakaria Aboukhlal

MATCH PREDICTION:

Gabon 1-2 Morocco












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Burnley vs Watford: Match Preview

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Burnley will be back in Premier League action for the first time since January 2, hosting Watford at the Turf Moor on Tuesday, January 18.

Just like Burnley, Watford are also struggling upon their return to the Premier League, as they find themselves without a win in their last eight matches across all competitions.

The Hornets held Newcastle to a 1-1 draw over the weekend  Joao Pedro scored late in the game to salvage a point for Claudio Ranieri’s men.

Burnley are rocked-bottom of the league table after taking just 11 points from their opening 17 games in the top-flight. Sean Dyche’s side has won just one game all season, coming against Brentford back in October.

Since then, the Clarets have struggled to find a good run of form as they only managed four draws since that win over Brentford.

A game against Watford could be the opportunity Burnley so much need to pick up their best run of form with interesting fixtures lined up for them.

After the game against Watford, the Clarets face Norwich City, West Ham United and Brighton & Hove Albion in their next three games.

Watford’s draw over the weekend means they are just a point above the relegation zone and Ranieri would have a lot of work to do if he does not sort out the challenges in his team.

WHERE AND WHEN?

Venue: Turf Moor
Date: Tuesday, January 18
Time: 19:30 GMT

TEAM NEWS

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If Burnley are struggling, it’s quite understandable as Dyche’s team have had some notable injury concerns. Going into the game against Watford, the team could be without Johann Gudmundsson, Nathan Collins, Dwight McNeil, Charlie Taylor, Erik Pieters, Connor Roberts and Matej Vydra. Maxwel Cornet’s absence is due to the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations while Ashley Barnes will also sit out.

Watford on the other hand also have injury concerns in their team. Kwadwo Baah and Ismaila Sarr are out due to injuries while the AFCON has taken the attention of William Troost-Ekong, Adam Masina and Imran Louza.

MATCH ANALYSIS

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Burnley may have won their last three games against Watford across all competitions with the Hornets winning only one (one draw as well), but Tuesday night’s fixture is far from the past games we have seen. Both teams seem to be struggling but Watford have fared better as compared to the Clarets.

Watford have failed to score a goal in the last three games against Burnley but that could be about ending following the likely involvements of Joshua King and Emmanuel Dennis with Pedro supporting them in the attack. The trio have been directly involved in 24 league goals already this campaign and have been the driving force for Watford. Pedro was in sight against Newcastle but the game against Burnley will need all three firing if Ranieri’s side are to walk away with the maximum points.

Burnley losing Chris Wood is a huge blow but it would now be the turn of the defence to help the team considering the departure of a key goalscorer for the rest of the season until a replacement can be brought into the team in time.

POSSIBLE STARTING XIs

Burnley: Pope; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; McNeil, Westwood, Cork, Gudmundsson; Rodriguez, Lennon

Watford: Foster; Femenia, Cathcart, Samir, Kamara; Sissoko, Kayembe, Kucka; Dennis, King, Pedro

MATCH PREDICTION

Burnley 1-2 Watford












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Aston Villa January Transfer Window 2022: Analysis

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Aston Villa fans are getting their hopes high for all the right reasons, it seems. As the new Villa manager, Steven Gerrard, has gone all guns blazing in the winter transfer window so far.

The Liverpool Legend is slowly making his way back into the Premier League. This time as a manager of an out of confidence Villa side. The early days have not been that telling for Gerrard though. But for sure it is looking a development in progress from Villa’s perspective. The Claret and Blue faithful are pretty much accepting the style of play that their new manager has brought with him.

Although, all of the developments were ongoing. Gerrard was still looking to add some fresh new faces to his squad through this transfer window. And so far as it turns out it has been a saving grace for the Lions. And the Villa fans could be hopeful for some more signings as the team looks to get back on track.

Coutinho returns to the PL

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In the blink of an eye it happened, and it is the dream duo back together! Coutinho and Gerrard reunite, but this time for a new outfit. Gerrard has made his intentions clear, after signing Coutinho on loan from Barca till the end of the season. The deal saw the Villa fans, as well as the Liverpool faithful around the globe appreciate the move. Although, it had been 4 years since the little magician left Premier League for Spain.

Aston Villa faced Manchester United in the Match day 22 of the Premier League. It is the 68th minute, Villa are 2 goals down and you can see some of the fans already leaving the Villa Park. On comes the Brazilian from the bench to mark his return in front of thousands of Villa fans, hoping for a masterclass from their main winter signing. What happened next is just football at its most beautiful.

But you just knew it had to be him. Coutinho returns the backing by an equivalent player of the match performance. Scoring and assisting upon his return to the English top tier football, and that too against Manchester United. You just cannot write such scripts.

If this return is anything to go by, then this is surely the beginning of something very major being about to happen at Villa Park. The Claret and Blue could be in for a treat if the Brazilian performs consistently throughout the rest of the season.

MUST READ: How will Coutinho fit in at Aston Villa

Digne, the answer to defensive woes?

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Digne in French means ‘worthy’. Lucas Digne was surely worthy of being handed his debut, just after getting transferred here to Villa Park. The Frenchman made the most out of the runout, and did not fail to impress his new gaffer. Steven Gerrard could take a big sigh of relief by his sudden signing, in this creative left back from the rivals at Merseyside. As per the recent changes are concerned, the signing of the French full back just increases the competition in the squad. Matt Targett’s position has come under an obvious threat, by the addition of the in-form Digne.

But at the same time it just ensures a healthy competition in the squad for the place in the playing XI. As a manager you want your players to give their best, game in game out. But you also need to make some strong changes to just let them know that their place in the squad is not invincible, even though they have not been performing up to the billing.  Luckily for the Villa fans the Frenchman comes in buffed with experience and a lot of skill-set to offer. Gerrard’s system requires a strong a flank play. That Villa were missing. Now with the addition of Lucas Digne, it looks all sorted. But we will still have to wait and see how this deal turns out in the long term.

In hindsight the transfer market for The Lions  have surely been eventful. Although, they will be watched keenly over the coming months, as to how things are shaping up. But given a good balance, and some terrific new signings, Villa could be a side to beat as we come to the business end of the Premier League season.












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