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Premier LEague

Man United vs Wolves: Match Preview

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Manchester United host Wolverhampton Wanderers in either sides’ first league game of the new calendar year as they both look to improve their standings over the remainder of the campaign. An impressive outing against Burnley saw the Red Devils display a promising performance, while a nil-all draw against Chelsea contributed to Wolves’ ambitions of qualifying for Europe next season.

Six league games unbeaten heading into the fixture on Monday, United will be keen on improving their performances and gaining consistent results over the coming weeks. Ralf Rangnick’s side have shown signs of promise vis-à-vis to a refreshing approach, however, with the team in need of results heading into a pivotal part of the season, the game against Wolves serves as a crucial juncture in United’s ambitions over the coming weeks.

Having secured only one victory in their last five league fixtures, Wolves will be keen on witnessing an upturn in results over the coming weeks. Although Bruno Lage’s side have remained consistent in their approach, a lack of favourable results could potentially impede their ambitions for Europe heading into the final months of the campaign. Facing a promising United side, Wolves will be hopeful of causing an upset at Old Trafford later this evening.

WHEN & WHERE?

Venue: Old Trafford.
Date: Monday, 3rd of January 2022.
Time: Kick-off at 17:30 BST.

MATCH OFFICIALS

Referee: Mike Dean.
Assistants: Darren Cann, Eddie Smart.
Fourth official: Robert Jones.
VAR: Andre Marriner.
Assistant VAR: Gary Beswick.

TEAM NEWS

Manchester United

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Bruno Fernandes is likely to return to the starting line-up after serving a one-game ban against Burnley last week. Although Eric Bailly allayed fears of a potential injury, the centre-back is unlikely to find himself in contention against Wolves given his involvement in the AFCON starting this weekend. Paul Pogba remains the only name sidelined with injury, with the fellow international, Anthony Martial, too, expected to remain out of contention given his desire to move elsewhere during the January transfer window.

With Harry Maguire unspotted amongst the match-squad, United could potentially line up with Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof later this evening. Having displayed a promising performance against Burnley, Rangnick is expected to make minimal changes amidst a need for consistent improvement over the coming weeks.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

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Having been impacted with a cluster of Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, Wolves will be hoping to display a comeback performance later this evening. Pedro Neto and Jonny continue recovering from long-term injuries, with the likes of Willy Boly, Hwang Hee-Chan, and Yerson Mosquera, too, out of contention for the game against United.

Rayan Ait-Nouri remains an additional name on the sidelines as the youngster continues recovering from a groin injury. With the team lacking depth in personnel, Bruno Lage is expected to retain the same XI that saw them earn a point against Chelsea, though the game at Old Trafford could prove comparatively challenging later this evening.

MATCH ANALYSIS

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With both teams in desperate need of results and consistency, Monday’s encounter could provide a palatable match-up for all viewers. While the Red Devils are yet to stumble under the new manager, the team have struggled to display convincing performances as they look to improve on their approach and execution over the coming weeks. Wolves, on the other hand, have repeatedly failed in emerging clinical in front of goal, having netted only 13 times in the ongoing campaign as they look towards finding positive results over the remainder of the season.

Having shown gradual improvement in their defensive shape under Rangnick, United will be keen on building upon the recent positives under their new manager. Facing a Wolves side proactive in possession and capable of playing through United’s compact defensive system, the Red Devils will be keen on nullifying the visitors’ midfield transitions and the impact of their attacking wing-backs later this evening. With United in desperate need of adopting a refreshing approach despite positive results, Rangnick will be keen on avoiding any hiccups over the coming fixtures.

Meanwhile, having taken only five points from their last five league games, Wolves will be keen on improving their results heading into the final months of the campaign. Facing a United side struggling for cohesion, the visitors will be keen on capitalizing on the home side’s weaknesses across the backline and midfield; hoping to impede their progression up the pitch whilst pinning their full-back backs within their own half for most of the ninety minutes. However, with the team having missed out on boxing day given a postponement, Wolves will be wary of delivering an unpalatable display later this evening.

KEY PLAYERS

MANCHESTER UNITED – SCOTT MCTOMINAY

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Amongst United’s most consistent players in recent weeks, McTominay will be expected to deliver a dominating performance on Monday. Given Wolves’ comparatively experienced and ingenious midfield partnership, the Scotsman’s tenacity combined with his physicality will be vital to United’s ball retention and build-up play later this evening.

Having been deployed in a relatively advanced role against Burnley, McTominay will be hoping to improve his output from a potentially similar role later this evening. However, with the visitors keen on a result amidst comprising a comparatively cohesive midfield, McTominay’s weaknesses and attributes are likely to be tested later this evening.

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS – ADAMA TRAORE

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Wolves’ most threatening presence in the attacking third, Traore’s pace combined with his physicality is likely to cause problems for United’s backline later this evening. Provided the visitor’s sense with an opportunity on the counter-attack, given United’s passive defending, and look to attack the space down the flanks, Traore is likely to emerge as a significant presence across the attacking front.

Although the winger is yet to find consistency in his finishing, given his ability in delivering crosses and United’s susceptibility in defending them, Wolves could potentially hurt the home side on numerous fronts. Nevertheless, provided he finds himself ahead of space on the flanks, Traore is likely to cause issues to United’s backline this evening.

PREDICTED LINEUPS

Manchester United (4-2-2-2)  David De Gea; Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Nemanja Matic, Luke Shaw; Scott McTominay, Fred; Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes; Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (3-4-3) – Jose Sa; Max  Kilman, Conor Coady, Romain Saiss; Ki-Jana Hoever, Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho, Fernando Marcal; Adama Traore, Raul Jimenez, Daniel Podence.

MUST READ:

– Hwang Hee-Chan: Unconventional yet Exciting – A unique addition to Wolves’ ranks

– Adama Traore is Unique – Here’s why!

– Francisco Trincão: The Latest Addition to Wolves’ Terrifying Forward Line

         












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Premier LEague

Huddersfield Town vs Nottingham Forest: Match Preview

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Huddersfield Town and Nottingham Forest square off at Wembley Stadium on Sunday with a place in the Premier League up for grabs for the winner.

Helped by a strong second half to the season, the two clubs finished in third and fourth place respectively in the Championship standings and will feel that they deserve the opportunity to join Fulham and AFC Bournemouth in the English top flight.

Last season, Huddersfield and Forest finished in 20th and 17th respectively. This campaign, they have considerably transformed those fortunes. There was even a time when Nottingham Forest occupied the bottom spot in the division before Steve Cooper arrived at the helm. Such is the unpredictability of the division that the two clubs will square off once more for the coveted last place in the Premier League, and their spots in the showpiece are justified after outstanding years in the second tier.

Between December 4 and March 11, Huddersfield put together a 17-match unbeaten streak in the league, and just two defeats have come from 28 matches at this level.

Meanwhile, since Steve Cooper’s first game in charge on September 25, Forest have accumulated 76 points from 38 games, the best return in the Championship regular campaign over that period. Makes you wonder what might have been had the Midlands club appointed the former Swansea boss heading into the 2021/22 campaign.

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Forest conceded five goals fewer than any other team during that period, also the two clubs lost fewer games than Fulham and Bournemouth over the same stint.

Nevertheless, the playoffs were not straightforward clashes for both clubs who were tested to their limits. Huddersfield Town were pushed all the way by Luton Town, the Terriers requiring a late Jordan Rhodes in the second leg at the John Smith’s Stadium to prevail 2-1 on aggregate.

The drama was saved for Nottingham Forest’s reverse fixture with Sheffield United, Cooper’s team seemingly home and dry when leading 3-1 on aggregate at half-time at the City Ground before the Blades took the game to extra time, even almost winning the tie in the final seconds of the added 30 minutes.

All of the momentum was with the visitors until the heroics of Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba, who saved three penalties to earn his team a spot at Wembley.

The fact that Nottingham Forest toiled under the weight of expectancy during the normal time will only encourage Huddersfield boss Carlos Corberan, and his team who were one of just a few teams to win a league fixture at the City Ground during 2020-21.

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All things considered, that will certainly count for little.

The money and prestige on offer mean that both teams will be under intense pressure on Sunday, even if it is Forest who will be looking to end a 23-year absence from the big time.

Huddersfield supporters will be taking the positives from their last two playoff finals ending in victory, most notably five years ago when they defeated Reading on penalties to earn a first-ever appearance in the Premier League.

WHERE AND WHEN?

Venue: Wembley Stadium.
Date: Sunday, 29th May 2022.
Time: 16:30PM (BST).

MATCH OFFICIALS

Referee: Jonathan Moss.
Assistant referee: Marc Perry, Tim Wood.
Fourth official: Craig Pawson.
VAR: Paul Tierney.
Assistant VAR: Ian Hussin.

LEAGUE FORM (LAST SIX):

Huddersfield: WWWWDW

Nottingham Forest: WWLDWL

TEAM NEWS

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Having proven his fitness with two substitute appearances during the playoffs, Keinan Davis could return in attack for Forest.

Steve Cooper will certainly need the Aston Villa man’s energy, intensity, bullish strength and hold-up play in attack in order to take control of proceedings better than they managed last time out against Sheffield United in the second-leg of their Play-Off semi-final tie.

That would see Sam Surridge drop down to the substitutes’ bench in what is likely to be the only alternation made by Cooper.

Huddersfield are hoping that Danny Ward can take his place down the centre of the front three after coming off injured during the second leg versus Luton.

Rhodes is on standby should the club’s top goalscorer miss out, while Sorba Thomas will almost certainly come back into the team after shaking off a knee issue in time for the semi-finals.

Duane Holmes will likely miss out as Corberan may almost certainly show preference to a back three in order to match the formation of their opponents.

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

LEVI COLWILL

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The teenager has been a first-team regular in Huddersfield Town’s promotion push ahead of their Championship Play-Off final, featuring in 29 of their 48 games.

There will almost certainly be scouts from a host of Premier League teams in attendance at Wembley, with Crystal Palace, Southampton, Everton, Arsenal and Brighton among the others who reportedly want the talented centre back.

The 19-year-old has been a monstrous and colossal presence at the back for Corberan’s side, helping them to 11 of their impressive 20 clean sheets this campaign.

Throughout, he’s averaged a scintillating 1.3 interceptions per game, 1.8 tackles, 4.1 clearances and also winning 65% of his total duels and 64% of his aerial duels highlighting his tremendous all-action defensive style at the heart of the Huddersfield backline.

Where his immediate future lies is unclear, with a host of Premier League clubs scouring for his services this summer. His parent club Chelsea do want him back for preseason in July, with a view to providing him with first-team opportunities next season, but even that looks unlikely seeing as Thomas Tuchel will certainly be strengthening an ageing backline.

Another loan move may be on the agenda for him, as his development and maturity is showing no signs of letting up. A stupendous defensive talent.

BRENNAN JOHNSON

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Wales manager Robert Page certainly thinks Johnson could play for a top-six Premier League team now and those clubs who wanted him in January have seemingly missed out.

The Forest forward heads into Sunday’s final on the back of a tremendous breakthrough season for club and country. “Brennan is the future of Welsh football and I think he’s top-six (Premier League) now,” Page said.

Arguably the most gifted footballer in the second tier, the 21-year-old holds a superb record heading into the Wembley showpiece, registering 18 goals and 10 assists in 48 outings for Steve Cooper’s men.

Any chance Forest have of entering the Premier League for the first time in 23 years will again rest on his young and broad shoulders.

Exceptional work ethic, athleticism, dynamism, courage and technical ability on the flanks that even most wingers in the English top-flight would kill for.

Johnson is indeed a Premier League-quality player, and he’ll be hoping he is gracing such a prestigious competition with his beloved boyhood club.

PREDICTED LINEUPS

Huddersfield predicted XI vs Nottingham Forest: Nicholls (GK); Lees, Hogg, Colwill; Pipa, Russell, O’Brien, Toffolo; Sinani, Ward, Thomas.

Nottingham Forest predicted XI vs Huddersfield: Samba (GK); Worrall, Cook, McKenna; Spence, Yates, Garner, Colback; Zinckernagel; Davis, Johnson.

SCORE PREDICTION

Huddersfield Town vs Nottingham Forest: 1-2












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Why Eddie Nketiah staying makes sense for Arsenal

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Eddie Nketiah staying at Arsenal is all but confirmed with David Ornstein reporting that the 22-year-old is now set to change his mind and sign a new deal with the club

Let’s take a look at why it made so much sense for both parties in the end.

BUMPY ROAD

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Nketiah came into the season off a really positive pre-season. But even with that in mind, he was still our 3rd striker in the pecking order. As the season went on, the opportunities were limited…

With both Aubameyang and Lacazette on the roster and wings spaces filled by genuine wingers, all of his appearances came in the cups. He started all of Arsenal’s cup games up until the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup. He scored 5 in 5 games in the Carabao and 0 in 1 in the FA Cup.

Noted, most of these games, except one, came against non Premier League opposition and that makes it hard to stand out.

When Aubameyang left for Barca in January, Lacazette picked up form and Eddie found it hard to nail down a starting spot despite the rise in minutes. His off the bench appearances weren’t enough for him to showcase just how much he’s grown as a player.

“People have so many expectations of you, but bro I’m coming on for 9 minutes. We’re winning 1-0, the aim is to hold on to the lead. When I’ve had substantial time like 15-20 (Palace, Wolves, Brighton), I’m able to do something and show myself.” [Eddie Nketiah on @Podcast_TBG]

SPACE TO GROW

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Lacazette’s form dipped and the results warranted a change. Nketiah’s minutes gradually increased until he became a nailed-on starter for the last 8 games in the Premier League.

With 5 goals in 8 games, he’s shown he CAN be trusted. But goals don’t tell the full story of his breakthrough this season.

We’ve seen a player who’s matured. He wasn’t getting pushed over, he used his body well in duels, he didn’t have a problem with intricate plays outside of the box and he pressed well. And the stats back it up.

eddie-nketiah-stats

image credit: @oh_that_crab / instagram

The sample size is small with ten ’90s played but you can see how much of a well-rounded player he transformed into. He used to have noticeable balance and on-ball issues alongside the game being played at too fast of a pace for him sometimes. Ironically, his balance and speed of movement look like his strengths now. He ironed out a lot of his flaws and he keeps working on improving his skillset as a centre forward.

MUTUAL BENEFIT

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He previously stated that he wants to get games on the regular but there aren’t many Premier League clubs who in my opinion can offer that. Competition for places in this league is brutal, let alone for a 22-year-old striker. He would probably have to leave the league and drop down the level of the club he’d be playing for by a level or two.

Europa League, cups and acting as a deputy to the first striker seems like enough room for game time and continued improvement under Arteta.

With rumours over a new wage spike continuing to swirl, one has to question exactly why is that seen as that big of an issue? Arsenal will not find a similar level of a player who wants to be a “backup” for nothing less than £20m-£30m. In fact, Arsenal saved money by re-signing him.

Not only is his career on an upward trajectory, but his skillset is also very valuable and he’s already shown he’ll keep the starters on their toes and that’s EXACTLY how you raise the level of competition in the squad.

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Martin Odegaard: Arsenal’s very own Luka Modric
Profiling Arsenal target Gabriel Jesus: What will he bring to the Emirates?
Arsenal’s next talented Hale End product: Brooke Norton-Cuffy – Scout Report












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Does Richarlison emerge as stand-out option for Tottenham?

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An exciting period of rejuvenation under Antonio Conte saw Tottenham Hotspur secure a coveted Champions League spot in the recently concluded 2021/22 Premier League campaign. Now, with reports suggesting the Italian’s temptation to remain at the club despite having previously hinted at his ambition to move elsewhere ahead of the new campaign, Spurs are expected to spend lavishly in the transfer market as they look to bolster their squad in a bid to close the gap between them and the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City next season.

With certain positions expected to be addressed given the lack of quality personnel, Spurs will be keen on bagging their targets with minimal competition this summer, given the likelihood of numerous Premier League clubs needing to address key areas this summer. Moreover, with promising potential from across Europe and England’s lower tiers likely to take a big step to the Premier League, Spurs will be looking to identify, strengthen and prepare their squad for a potential title challenge following the upcoming campaign.

While the likes of Filip Kostic, Alessandro Bastoni, and Ivan Perisic have been sounded out as key targets for Spurs this summer, recent reports from the Daily Mail Online suggest the North-London club have added Everton striker Richarlison to their potential list of attackers this summer. Having played a pivotal role in Everton’s fight to avoid relegation, the Brazilian is expected to seek an ambitious given the club’s financial precarities, despite being contracted to the club until 2024.

An Appetite To Succeed

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With Spurs lacking an out-an-out backup to Harry Kane, the Brazilian’s versatility and tenacity make him a perfect addition to pair up alongside the Englishman or serve as an added force to bolster the attacking third under Conte. A blistering six goal in nine league fixtures ensured Richarlison played a significant part in Everton’s penultimate phase of the season, eventually culminating in the Merseyside club retaining their place in the Premier League for the forthcoming campaign.

Besides single-handedly guiding the team out of relegation, Richarlison remained pivotal to the team’s prospects throughout a testing Premier League campaign. The Brazilian emerged as Everton’s only player to hit double-digit figures in goal contributions (15) alongside having made the joint-fifth highest number of league appearances (30) in the recently concluded league season. Moreover, with Spurs in need of a Premier League proven option to compliment Harry Kane, the Brazilian serves as a refreshing candidate to fulfil the role.

A Transfer Soup

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With numerous clubs reportedly interested in securing the 25-year-old striker’s services, Spurs will be wary of engaging in a tussle for the Brazilian. Although Everton are yet to sound out potential suitors for the striker, given their need to raise funds through sales, Richarlison is likely to be listed on the transfer market sometime over the summer window.

Paris-Saint Germain are Real Madrid are reported to be the two other clubs interested in the player, however, with several promising strikers emerging across Europe, it remains unlikely the two European giants prioritize his signing over other areas this summer. Manchester United are the only other club expected to move for him provided they fail to land their priority striker, however, given their need to solidify other areas, it remains unlikely the Brazilian finds himself at Old Trafford next season.

While many expect Richarlison to remain at Everton given his long-term contract with the club, a tempting offer for his services could push the Toffees into considering a sale of their most valuable asset from last season. While the offering of a lucrative deal at Everton remains on the cards, given the club’s need to prioritize adequate funds for Frank Lampard, the potentiality of securing a decent transfer fee could see the Toffees cash in on numerous players this summer. Valued between £45mn to £55mn, the Brazilian could emerge amongst one of six players reportedly expected to arrive at Tottenham this summer, with Conte expected to target silverware with the North-London club heading into the 2022/23 Premier League campaign.

MUST READ: Fraser Forster closing in on Spurs’ move as he undergoes medical at Hotspur Way



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