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Premier LEague

Man City vs Chelsea: Match Preview

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As the weeks pass, our favorite league is becoming more exciting to watch as the Premier League clubs and their managers face the mammoth task of managing their teams without key players who are serving national duties in AFCON and making sure that the available players get ample of rest between cup games and the league. Premier League has many sub-races in the title race and one of them is the top 4. Things are getting exciting here, as what looked like an easy berth for Chelsea, the top-4 spot is now being challenged by multiple clubs.

A big task on Thomas Tuchel will be to cement his club’s position on 2nd when they face table-toppers Manchester City in their on oil -*cough* backyard. Although the German manager has an upper hand against Guardiola in terms of their history against each other, last time they locked horns, Guardiola made sure that people still find his name as a synonym to ‘the best’ as his side outclassed Chelsea in the 3-0 encounter.

The result of this match will be crucial for all the clubs present in the top 5 as a Manchester City win would open up opportunities for the likes of West Ham and Arsenal to climb up the table by closing on the points gap. Whereas Chelsea’s win may not change much in terms of the top 4 race but, stealing points from City means giving audiences hope of an exciting title race.

WHEN & WHERE?

Date: January 15, 2022.
Kick-Off: 12:30 pm (UK)
Venue: City Of Manchester ‘Etihad’ Stadium, Manchester.

OFFICIALS:

Referee: Craig Pawson.
Assistant Referees: Lee Betts and Richard West.
4th Official: Jon Moss.
VAR: Darren England.
Assistant VAR: Sian Massey-Ellis.

TEAM NEWS:

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Manchester City got hit by a COVID-19 outbreak and had to isolate 7 first team members as well as Guardiola and Lillo. It remains to be seen the number of players recovered in the mean time.

John Stones is returning from a knock while his fellow Englishman Phil Foden along with Zinchenko are believed to be isolating. Riyadh Mahrez has flown to Africa to fulfill his commitments in AFCON. Ederson was spotted in training means he will likely be 1st choice going into the game while Nathan Ake could make way for Spaniard Aymeric Laporte in the backline.

Tuchel will have some regular players miss out this fixture as Chilwell, Reece James, Trevoh Chalobah miss due to injuries and knocks. Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy will be an absentee due to AFCON tournament. Kante and Thiago Silva could start the fixture as both recovered from Covid-19 last week. This game asks for experience and hence, Alonso could be handed the starting place ahead of Malang Sarr.

Rest assured, Kai Havertz will be recalled in the starting lineup ahead of Timo Werner.

ANALYSIS:

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Last time around we saw Guardiola field a good quality lineup against Swindon despite many first team players not included in the squad. But, this time he is not facing any normal English side, it’s Tuchel’s Chelsea who snapped away Guardiola and City’s dream of winning Champions League from them. Guardiola is expected to field his best available XI and we may see some players from the squad against Swindon Town keep their place in the starting lineup.

Guardiola, as he has did for almost all the matches will play a strikerless 4-3-3 formation. As Chelsea are a team who are also comfortable in winning the ball back, Guardiola will likely field a lineup of players comfortable in keeping the possession. Likes of Jesus, Bernardo Silva and Gundogan will have big responsibility on their shoulders to keep the ball in their feet and let Kevin De Bruyne travel to important positions of the play.

Absence of Algerian wizard Riyadh Mahrez may affect Guardiola’s natural game plan and hence, we could see him making some minor yet crucial changes in regular tactics for the game.

Chelsea has enjoyed a disappointing run of form in last 5 Premier League games. Tuchel’s side has won just once and drew the rest in those weeks. This sudden dip in form has resulted in Manchester City extending their lead to sit comfortable at the top of the table. Tuchel will look to reinstall his dominance against Guardiola amid all the odds.

Looking at high defensive line of Manchester City, Tuchel will likely field Mount and Havertz on the wings / inside forward roles as the duo can exchange quick passes while simultaneously moving forward on the pitch. To add more intensity to the press, Lukaku can be recalled in the lineup as the Belgian has put everyone’s sorrows behind now.

Handling the mobility of Manchester City’s midfield will be a big task for Jorginho and Kante or Kovacic but, the Italian star knows how to work against such midfield and hence this is going to be an exciting match for a normal football spectator.

KEY PLAYERS

Kevin De Bruyne

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Manchester City’s ever present star Kevin De Bruyne has started to make his performances matter in the end results of the match. Belgian maestro has a good record against Chelsea and he loves to score against his first English club. City fans will be expecting him to find the back of the net as many times as this modern day rivalry is one of the most important fixtures in calendar year. De Bruyne will probably have a mixed role, as he has the license to roam free inside the box but, his favorite position has been to be on the flanks and just behind the edge of the box. With quick forwards like Foden and Jesus in the team, De Bruyne is the ideal player to initiate the move for Manchester City.

He will likely come up against Jorginho and Kovacic and hence, fellow midfielders Rodri, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan will be expected to keep the Chelsea duo busy.

Thiago Silva 

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Problem with Chelsea currently is that they are leaking goals in games where they are expected to keep the clean sheets. Absentees of Rudiger and Reece James has caused them problem to protect themselves from the edge and hence, it will be down to Thiago Silva to take Chelsea out of any danger. Despite the age, Thiago Silva has been a top class player for Chelsea this season and the blues will be expecting him to defend with high intensity when he goes up against Manchester City’s attack.

As City are not providing any physical threat, Thiago Silva specializes in handling technical players well, Tuchel will expect him to take charge of defence and dig them out of any potential Manchester City attack.

PREDICTED LINE UP:

MANCHESTER CITY: 4-3-3: Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan; Jesus, Bernardo Silva, Sterling.

CHELSEA: 3-4-2-1: Kepa, Christensen, Thiago Silva, Rudiger; Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Mount, Havertz; Lukaku.

         












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Premier LEague

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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Burkina Faso vs Ethiopia: Match Preview

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Burkina Faso were gifted a lifeline to stand a chance of qualifying from Group A after beating Cape Verde in their second group game in the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations.

The Stallions will now face Ethiopia in the last group game on Monday, January 17 as they looked to cement their place in the knockout stages.

Hassane Bande was the match-winner in the game against the Blue Sharks as Burkina Faso recorded a 1-0 win to earn their first three points.

Ethiopia’s tournament seems all over following a demolishing defeat to host nation, Cameroon in their last game. The Walyas were on the receiving end of the first four-goal scored in the competition as braces from Karl Toko Ekambi and Vincent Aboubakar ensured a 4-1 victory for the Indomitable Lions.

The last group game is crucial for Burkina Faso considering they are levelled on points with Cape Verde, who face Cameroon in their last game.

WHERE AND WHEN?

Venue: Kouekong Stadium.
Date: Monday, January 17.
Time: 16:00 GMT.

TEAM NEWS

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Burkina Faso have a number of injuries to worry about ahead of the important clash against Ethiopia. Captain, Bertrand Traore is yet to recover from testing positive for coronavirus. He missed the win over Cape Verde last week and will see out this game as well. Dango Ouattara, Saidou Simpore and Soumaila Simpore are doubtful for the game but their presence has not been ruled out.
Bande, who came in and scored as the replacement for Traore should keep his place in the team for the game against Wubetu Abate’s side.

The one-time  AFCON champions have no injury concerns for the upcoming game while Yared Baye, who received a red card in the opening game is set to return to the team after serving his game ban. With no chance left, Abate will look to give opportunities to some players who are yet to receive any appearance in the competition.

PRE-MATCH ANALYSIS

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Burkina Faso stands out as favourites in this game but they will have a lot to do to get past Ethiopia with ease. A tactically disciplined side, Ethiopia’s lack of goals has been due to their failure to take their created chances. Abate’s side have put on a good show in their opening two games, creating openings and clear cut opportunities but failing to take them.

Burkina Faso were clinical with their only big chance against Cape Verde, and if that feat will be followed, they could be gaining six points from three games. Traore’s absence may be a worry, but it should Kamou Malo’s team the needed confidence to play collectively on the attack.

PREMIER LEAGUE PLAYER FEATURE

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Aston Villa may not be missing Bertrand Traore after all following their return to Premier League action saw them record a dramatic 2-2 draw with Manchester United. However, on the path of the player, he may not be having a spot tournament. The 26-year-old has just one appearance and will miss the third group game due to testing positive for covid. With regards to goal contribution, Traore has just one assist and a knockout qualification could see him return to action.

PREDICTED LINEUPS

Burkina Faso: Koffi; E.Tapsoba, Yago, Dayo, Kabore; Toure, Guira, Sangare; A.Tapsoba, Bayala, Bande.

Ethiopia: Shanko; Yusef, Tamene, Debebe, Hamid; Yohannes, Alemu, Dagnachew; Nesir, Hotessa, Gebremichael.

MATCH PREDICTION

Burkina Faso 2-0 Ethiopia












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