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EFL accepts Liverpool’s Carabao Cup Semi-final postponement

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It has been confirmed that Liverpool’s request for the postponement of the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg encounter against league rival Arsenal has now been granted.

Liverpool’s management lodged an official request to the EFL for the postponement of their Semi-final match due to the rising cases of COVID-19 at the club which resulted in a temporary closure of their training centre yesterday.

The number of fresh cases aren’t known but a report of Liverpool’s assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders who led the team against Chelsea at the weekend surfaced, claiming that their assistant manager has tested positive to COVID-19. The test report was published after Liverpool had already lodged an official request for the postponement.

As per the new update, the games have now been rearranged, with the first leg to be played at Anfield on 13th January, and the second leg to be played at the Emirates stadium on the 20th of January.

Meanwhile, Liverpool’s FA Cup encounter against Shrewsbury on 9th January is still scheduled to go ahead bar any other complications…

On the other hand, Arsenal’s away match vs North London rival Tottenham Hotspur will still go ahead on the 16th of January. As it stands, Arsenal’s Premier League match against Burney (scheduled for Saturday, 22nd January) will be pushed back to a later date.

Amidst all this, Arsenal fans will be happy with the news about their manager’s return to the dugout when they play against Nottingham Forest on Sunday.

Although, yesterday, Nottingham Forest had their league game cancelled due to COVID-19 outbreak in their squad. The FA Cup match still has the prospect of being played on Sunday.

         












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Premier LEague

Toffees closing in on Vitor Pereira for the vacant role

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If we think about Everton’s current, woeful, situation. The first thing that comes to the mind is the club’s managerial problems. It is getting more and more painful for the supporters, as well as the players and the staffs involved.

In Everton’s defense, they did not have enough days to find a replacement after the sudden departure of Carlo Ancelotti. Since then, the toffeemen have struggled to lift up their level of performances from the rut.

That being said, even the appointment of Rafa Benitez did not bring any good fortunes over at the Goodison Park. Although, the players did well at the starting couple of months. In comparison with the last few months, that have been pretty much shambolic. They were able to manage just a single victory in the last 11 games, that the Toffees played under the ex Liverpool and Newcastle Gaffer. A run that has left the Blues scrambling at the 16th position, in the Premier League this season.

While sacking brought relief amongst the Everton faithful. The only thing that did hurt them was, that the Board took this long to see there is a change required in the camp. Although, it is ironic. Since, the Spanish’ stint lasted only for about a 6 months.

The departure has left a big void at the core settings of the Everton camp. Leaving the upcoming managers with a huge task at hand. Not just to rebuild the team’s spirit. But also to do it in less than 6 months. It is asking for someone special to come to the blue Merseyside and cast their spell.

Call for a Savior; is Vitor Pereira really the one?

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In a surprising turn of events, Everton are closing in on Vitor Pereira for the position oh head coach. Known as a serial winner in parts of Portugal. The former Portuguese player turned manager, is mainly known for his heroics at Porto. Where he guided the Portuguese outfit to lift back-to-back Primeira Liga titles during his stint there, from 2011-2013.

Although, Pereira has not really been busy since then. He remains the prime choice of Mishori, owner of the Everton Football club. Many ex Players, Pundits, and even fans supporting the club have not really been able to express their thoughts on the news. Since there is not a lot to judge upon, the potential new arrival at the Goodison Park. It is Pereira’s turn to shine and level up.

However, if stats are anything to go by. The Portuguese actually fair than most, in that respect. Pereira has coached in over 500 games in his career throughout, so far. Though, his success has not been much talked about. The man from Portugal, has over 55% of wins. A statistic, similar to that of some of the top level managers currently in the Premier League. Klopp (54%), Tuchel (56%), and Conte (58%). Where, only the Liverpool Gaffer has managed in more than 900 games in total.

What can The Toffees expect from the Portuguese?

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Often being praised for the defensive strengthening of his teams. Pereira is glamourized due to his abilities of organizing his teams. It is a conventional, yet a very affective and a tested method, nonetheless. Known to have played a key role in the development of the likes of, James Rodriguez, Hulk, Joao Moutinho, Radamel Falcao, during his time at Porto. Pereira is in the list of the few of the great managers to have led Porto to the league triumphs.

Likewise, if we look at the Everton side. They have struggled at the back throughout this season. Their priority being a defensive foothold, where Pereira excels. If Everton manage to seek the services of the Portuguese, then it could a treat for the toffees. We are looking at side that can well and truly be unbeatable at the back. A force to be reckoned with up front. And an organized unit as a whole under their potential new Head Coach.

He might have come at a surprise to many of the Everton faithful. But, he is not unfamiliar around these parts of the Merseyside.

After his successful couple of years in Portugal, back in 2013, Pereira was the frontrunner to join the Everton camp. He came short, just because of his inability to communicate in English. With the language not being a hindrance this time around. It looks as if the Christmas gift might be arriving late at The Goodison Park.












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Arsenal

The Gunners Target Luka Jovic

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Arsenal Transfer News: The Gunners are finding it difficult to persuade Dusan Vlahovic to join them in January. Hence they are now looking for a short-term loan move to Real Madrid’s Luka Jovic. 

The Gunners have been in pursuit of Dusan Vlahovic since the start of the January transfer window. Owing to this, Arsenal had also placed a bid of €60m. Fiorentina accepted the bid. 

But Dusan Vlahovic and his representatives are not very keen on a move to North London. As per the Fiorentina sporting director, Vlahovic’s representatives are not even responding to complete negotiations. 

As per reports, Dusan Vlahovic has rather set his heart on a move to Juventus. Owing to this, he could wait until the summer transfer window before joining the Serie A giants. 

Could Luka Jovic join Arsenal in January? 

Arsenal Transfer News: The Gunners target Luka Jovic as Dusan Vlahovic prefers moving to Juventus

As per The Sun, It looks likely that Arsenal will not be able to sign Dusan Vlahovic in January. Owing to this, the Gunners are now looking at the possibility of signing his national teammate Luka Jovic from Real Madrid. 

The report states that Real Madrid has informed Arsenal that they are willing to let Luka Jovic leave on loan. Hence, helping Arsenal to cater to their short-term attacking crisis. 

Real Madrid and Arsenal have shared a good relationship in recent years. Mesut Özil, Martin Ødegaard, and Dani Ceballos have made the switch from Madrid to London in the past. 

Luka Jovic has not had the best of times at Real Madrid this season. The Serbian who is behind Karim Benzema in the pecking order has made 11 substitute appearances and has just scored 1 goal for Los Blancos.  

Real Madrid had signed Luka Jovic from Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt in 2019. The striker had a stellar two seasons in Germany, scoring 36 goals in 75 appearances for Frankfurt. 

The Serbian International has not gotten enough chances for Real Madrid. Hence he was sent out on loan to Eintracht Frankfurt last January as well. He scored 4 goals in 18 appearances during his loan spell. 

Any other targets for the Gunners?

Apart from Luka Jovic and Dusan Vlahovic, the Gunners have also been interested in Real Sociedad’s Alexander Isak. The Swedish striker had a good 2020/21 season but has failed to replicate his form in this term. 

Mikel Arteta himself said recently “Any player that comes in must be able to take us to the next level. We want much better standards than we already have.” Hence it has to be seen who the Gunners would pick in the January transfer window. 



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Premier LEague

Morocco vs Malawi: Match Preview

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After the shock exit of Nigeria and the elimination of Gabon, the Round of 16 continues – the battle for the continental trophy is getting keener by the day.

This time 1976 AFCON winners, Morocco come up against Malawi. Morocco will be seeking to win their 2nd Africa Cup of Nations title in 18 attempts , their first in 46 years. Malawi, on the other hand, have managed to make their 3rd AFCON appearance( the other two being 1984 and 2010).

After missing the last 5 AFCON tournaments, the Flames of Malawi are back with a bang. They have qualified to the knock-out stage of the AFCON for the 1st time in their footballing history. A huge task lies ahead of them, beating the Atlas Lions of Morocco who are seeking for a 46 year trophy drought.

Morocco, currently ranked 28th in the world and 2nd in Africa faces a Malawian team ranked 35th in Africa and 128th in the world. This a case of David vs Goliath. With the results the tournament has churned out so far, any “David vs Goliath affair” tends to produce surprising outcomes.

Equatorial Guinea beating Algeria, Sierra Leone holding Ivory Coast and Algeria to a draw, Gambia beating Tunisia and Comoros beating Ghana are typical examples.

These results are a portent to Morocco not to be complacent and lose focus like the Super Eagles did against Tunisia as it may cost them their place.

Morocco are the team to beat at the African Cup of Nations so far, especially with the strong defensive performances having kept clean sheets in two of their three games. The Atlas Lions of Morocco beat Ghana 1-0 in their opening game and defeated Comoros 2-0 in the next game before drawing 2-2 with Gabon.

After returning to Africa’s continental showpiece for the 1st time since 2010, Malawi stole a point from Senegal and staged a comeback against Zimbabwe and eventually defeated Guinea to qualify to the next stage. The Flames came through the group stages as one of the highest-ranked third-placed teams at the AFCONS and are enduring a miserable return in front of goal having failed to score goals in two of their three outings and may bow out of the tournament this week.

For Malawi, a case for respite is the fact that at the last AFCON in 2019, Morocco was eliminated by Benin, a lower-ranked side. Since finishing as runners-up in 2004, the Atlas Lions of Morocco have made it to the quarter-finals only once(in 2017).

That should jolt the Flames into shocking the Atlas Lions. Morocco’s 2-2 draw with Gabon is also an indication that victory is not far fetched.

The Flames are currently on a 2 game unbeaten run while 6 of Morocco’s last 8 AFCON victories have ended in 1-0.

WHERE AND WHEN

Venue: Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium, Yaounde
Date: 25th January 2022
Time: 19:00 HRS BST

TEAM NEWS

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Ilias Chair, the attacking midfielder came off injured early in Morocco’s game against Gabon. The QPR player is the player who is doubtful for the Atlas Lions ahead of Tuesday’s game.

For Malawi, Captain Limbikani Mzava came off injured against Zimbabwe and is expected to miss Tuesday’s clash. The central defender is the only injury concern for manager Mario Marinica.

Lawrence Chaziya will be expected to be in his stead.

PRE-MATCH ANALYSIS

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Malawi have tried the 3-4-1-2 formation on 2 occasions against Guinea and Zimbabwe. However, in the final group game, they also implemented the 4-4-2 formation against Senegal. It is fair to say the formation worked to perfection and will be maintained a very potent Moroccan attack.

The 4-4-2 formation will provide the Malawians with a solid basic structure with defensive depth and attacking numbers, with clearly marked roles. In defence, the Malawians will have eight men defending the goal which will, in turn, make it numerically impossible for the Moroccans to threaten the goal.

Without the ball, the four defenders and four midfielders will cover the entire width of the field. The Moroccans will really need to be creative and resort to long through balls to wreak havoc on the Flames.

For Morocco, they have experimented with the 4-1-4-1 formation and it seems to be what Head Coach Vahid Halilhodžić will be employing against the Flames. Sofyan Amrabat will be the holding midfielder for the Moroccans who will have about 5 players in attack.

For the Atlas Lions to triumph over the Flames, they will need Selim Amallah, Imran Louza, Sofiane Boufal and Ayoub El Kaabi to be firing from all angles. Amalgam, Boufal and Ayoub El Kaabi have already got their names on the scoresheet for the team already and will be seeking to add more to their tallies.

The 4-1-4-1 is supposed to cushion the team into creating a lot of chances, holding on possession and controlling the game.

PREMIER LEAGUE PLAYER FEATURE

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Romain Saïss

The Wolverhampton Wanderers Centre back has featured in all 3 games so far, keeping 2 clean sheets against Ghana and Comoros. He has been defensively solid for the Atlas Lions and will be expected to bring his experience to bear.

Adam Masina

Watford‘s Masina has also been solid for the Moroccan team featuring actively in all 3 matches and will be in the thick of affairs for the team.

PREDICTED LINE-UPS

MOROCCO: Yassine Bounou; Achraf Hakimi, Romain Saiss, Nayef Aguerd, Adam Masina; Sofyan Amrabat; Tarik Tissoudali, Selim Amallah, Imran Louza, Sofiane Boufal; Ayoub El Kaabi

MALAWI: Ernest Kakhobwe; Denis Chembezi, Lawrence Chaziya, Gomezgani Chirwa; Francisco Madinga, John Christopher Banda, Chimwenwe Idana, Stanley Sanudi; Gabadinho Mhango; Richard Mbulu, Khuda Muyaba

MATCH PREDICTION

Morocco 2-0 Malawi












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