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Can Aston Villa put an end to Coutinho’s Barca nightmare?

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Philippe Coutinho, the young Brazilian who came from Inter and lit up Anfield during his spell at the club is desperately looking for a way out of Barcelona. The Catalan giants spent a whopping 142 million euros to acquire the services of the Brazilian maestro in 2018 but he has massively underperformed in a Barcelona shirt. A player who had established his status as the star attraction at Anfield had always dreamed of a move to Catalunya. But his Barcelona career has been nothing short of a nightmare and his former teammate Steven Gerrard might just have offered him an opportunity to end his misery. With Aston Villa looking to lure him out of Catalunya, let us look back at his career & how a return to the Premier League might make sense.

Early Beginnings & time at Inter:

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Coutinho joined the youth academy at Brazilian outfit Vasco da Gama and spent a decade at the club. He flourished in their youth setup & caught the attention of Italian giants Inter Milan who signed him for 4 million euros at the age of 16. He spent 2 seasons on loan with Vasco da Gama’s first team before joining the Nerazzuri in 2010. Although Inter manager Rafa Benitez labelled Coutinho as thefuture of Inter Milan,” the Brazilian failed to make an impact at the San Siro. He failed to cement his position in the starting 11 and was loaned out to Espanyol in January 2012 in order to get some first-team action. He impressed in his spell with the Spanish club, making 16 appearances & scoring 5 goals in the process. Despite impressing on loan, Coutinho had to spend the 2012-13 season on the bench which ultimately led to Inter sanctioning his sale to Liverpool in 2013.

Becoming a star at Liverpool:

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Liverpool signed Philippe Coutinho for a reported 8 million euros. It is widely believed that it was Rafael Benitez who recommended his former club to go and out and acquire the services of the Brazilian. Coutinho was eased into the Premier League and made only 13 appearances in his debut season, followed by 37 in the following season.

The 2015-16 Premier League campaign turned out to be Coutinho’s breakthrough season in English Football. He starred for Liverpool and was a major figure in their deep Europa League campaign where they lost in the final. Coutinho was nominated for the PFA Player of the Year award which he ultimately lost to Eden Hazard. Despite a disappointing end to the season, the Liverpool supporters massively appreciated the Brazilian, labelling him as their “Little Magician.”

After the arrival of Sadio Mane & Mo Salah, Liverpool’s attacking prowess reached another level. The combination of Firmino, Coutinho, Salah & Mane came to be known as the “Fab Four” & it certainly lived up to its name. Coutinho’s performances in a Liverpool shirt earned laurels throughout the footballing world with pundits labelling him as one of the best-attacking midfielders in the Premier League.

Transfer Saga & the move to Barcelona:

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In the summer of 2017, Barcelona made an attempt to lure Coutinho out of Anfield. The Brazilian even handed out a transfer request to join the Catalan giants but Liverpool’s valuation was never met. Although he continued to perform at a high level, it was clear that his heart was set on a move to Barcelona.

Coutinho got his wish and joined Barcelona in 2018. With players such as Messi & Suarez at the club, he was signed as an ideal replacement for Neymar on the left wing. Although there were patches of brilliance during his spell at the club, he never really managed to cement a position for himself in the team. Barcelona proved to be too big a club for the Brazilian who got submerged in the ocean of expectations at Barcelona. He was loaned out to Bayern Munich as a result of his struggles but the Bavarian outfit refused to sign the Brazilian on a permanent deal. Coutinho impressed during his time at Bayern but financial obstacles prevented him from joining the club permanently. Upon his return to Barcelona, he has hardly featured for the Catalan club and is now looking for an opportunity to revive his career.

Will Coutinho fit in at Aston Villa:

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Aston Villa are flying in the Premier League under the leadership of their new manager Steven Gerrard. Gerrard has revitalized a squad that was low on confidence and has managed to transform the fortunes of the club. His side are now playing fast, proactive, attacking football which is a joy to watch. With the January transfer window open, Gerrard is looking into the possibility of bringing in his former teammate Philippe Coutinho to Villa Park.

The move seems to benefit both parties. There is no denying the fact that Coutinho is an immensely talented player who somehow needs to get out of Barcelona in order to salvage his career. Xavi has made it perfectly clear with the team selections that he doesn’t count on the Brazilian & that he is way down the pecking order at Barcelona. With the Qatar World Cup on the horizon, Coutinho needs to start playing regularly at club level in order to book a spot on the Brazilian national team.

Coutinho can easily fit into Gerrard’s system owing to his versatility. He can play as a classic Number 10, a box to box number 8 or even as a winger on either flank. His close ball control & dribbling ability coupled with his set-piece prowess can wreck havoc in the opposition defence. Coutinho will also be helped by the fact that he’ll have a head coach like Gerrard who has shared the dressing room and can possibly act as the catalyst for the revival of his career.

Denouement:

A player who was once called the magician at Liverpool is in desperate need of a lift. The move to Barcelona has seemingly destroyed the former Liverpool starkid who was once called the “Little Magician.” If Aston Villa manages to pull off this signing then it will certainly be a gamble on their part. But the move does make sense because if it’s a loan then even if Coutinho doesn’t manage to succeed, the club won’t endure a loss. But the Villa fans will be hoping that the Brazilian can bring some of his Brazilian flare to Villa Park and terrorize the opposition defenders with his tenacity & ball-playing ability.

         












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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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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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