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West Ham vs Leeds United: Preview

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The Cup fever that was at its peak last week has now evaporated with teams back in Premier League action. Gameweek 22 is upon us & it promises to be an exciting one, to say the least! From a mammoth fixture at the Etihad where Manchester City face Chelsea in a top of the table showdown to the relegation 6 pointer between Newcastle & Watford, the gameweek is filled with exciting matchups at both ends of the table. The fixture in focus for today turns our attention to the London Stadium where the Hammers take on Bielsa’s Leeds United. West Ham are flying high in the league & David Moyes seems to have finally turned the club’s fortunes upside down. On the other hand, Leeds are lingering in the bottom half of the table with the pressure rising on Marcelo Bielsa & his men.

West Ham defeated the league’s bottom side Norwich City in their previous fixture that propelled the Hammers into the Top 4. Having already reached the Europa League round of 32, David Moyes’ bandwagon is riding in full swing. In contrast to all the merriment in East London, a cloud of gloom has cast its shadow over Elland Road. After a successful campaign upon returning to the top flight last season, Marcelo Bielsa has struggled to replicate past season’s performances with an injury-ravaged squad. Covid outbreaks & injuries to key players has left the high flyers of Leeds lingering in 16th, locked in a relegation scrap. Let us look at how the teams stack up against each other & what we can possibly expect from this matchup.

When & Where?

Venue: London Stadium.
Date: 16th January, 2022.
Time: 2 pm GMT.

Match Officials:

Referee: Mike Dean.
Assistant Referees: Eddie Smart & Mark Scholes.
Fourth Official: Simon Hooper.
VAR: Craig Pawson.
Assistant VAR: Darren Cann

Team News

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West Ham have managed to avoid losing their major players to Covid or injuries & it has certainly helped them in their quest for European football. The Hammers will be without the services of Said Benrahma who has departed to participate in the African Cup of Nations. Tomas Soucek missed the last league game against Norwich after testing positive for Covid but it seems that the Czech midfield general will be available for selection. Apart from this, notable absentees in the Hammers squad include the likes of Kurt Zouma, Fredericks & Ogbonna who continue to recover from major injuries.

Leeds are a side who have suffered numerous injuries to key players that has derailed their season. Marcelo Bielsa will again have to deal with the unavailability of key players as he prepares to face the mammoth task of going to the London Stadium & stealing points off the Hammers. Leeds will be without Liam Cooper, Kalvin Phillips, Tyler Roberts, Joe Gelhardt, Jamie Shackleton and Charlie Cresswell as they continue their recovery. However in some rare positive news, Bielsa is hoping that his talisman Patrick Bamford along with Rodrigo Moreno will be available for selection after a spell on the sidelines.

Match Analysis

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West Ham comes into this matchup in fine form having won their previous 3 premier league outings. David Moyes will undoubtedly set up his side to play on the front foot & add to the wave of elation that has engulfed the Hammers faithful. With Soucek expected to come straight into the side, Manuel Lanzini might be pushed up the pitch after starring in the midfield pivot against Norwich. With Leeds expected to play their usual brand of attacking, pressing & flamboyant football, the Hammers midfield will surely have their work cut off. West Ham will be forced to play through Leeds’ intense press but they will most probably be able to exploit the vast spaces left between the lines, especially on the counter-attack.

Leeds on the other hand have shown no signs of changing their expansive approach even after their poor run of form. Bielsa will order his troops to keep the ball & constantly progress it forwards as soon as possible. The midfielders, especially Klich and Foreshaw or Koch will be tasked with breaking the defensive lines & providing balls for the likes of James & Harrison to run onto. If Bamford returns to the starting lineup, then Leeds will finally have a target man in front of the goal & his tenacity in the 18-yard box can be used to good effect. Bamford’s indispensable build-up pay will potentially play a pivotal role in this must-win fixture for Bielsa’s men.

Key Players

Declan Rice:

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The England International has cemented his position in the Hammers setup as a deep-lying, box to box midfielder who can carry the ball forwards & also provide defensive cover for his team. Rice perfectly fits the profile of a David Moyes team which has propelled him to be the captain of his team at such a young age. His leadership & ability to galvanise the squad will be needed to resist the Leeds pressing onslaught. Rice will be tasked with breaking the opposition press & making surging runs up the pitch to join the Front Four in the attack. His defensive abilities will surely be tested with Leeds’ intricate short-passing maneuvers & he will have his work cut out while trying to follow the Leeds midfielders making late runs into the box. But with a player of his ability, Moyes will be expecting his club captain to take the game by the scruff of its neck.

Patrick Bamford:

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In a huge sigh of relief, Leeds are expected to welcome back Patrick Bamford into their squad after he successfully recovered from his injury. More often than not, Leeds have missed a target man upfront who can slot away the chances created by the forward players. Although Tyler Roberts managed to do a decent job in Bamford’s absence, it’s clear that Bamford is an indispensable figure in Bielsa’s squad. With him back, players such as Dan James, Harrison & Klich will be tasked with providing service for the English forward who will be hungry to make an instant impact upon returning to the starting lineup. If he’s at his best then Bielsa & his boys can certainly pull off a major upset in East London.

Predicted Lineups

West Ham United predicted XI: Fabianski, Coufal, Dawson, Diop, Cresswell, Rice, Soucek, Lanzini, Fornals, Bowen, Antonio.

Leeds United predicted XI: Meslier, Dallas, Ayling, Koch, Firpo, Forshaw, Klich, Raphinha, James, Harrison, Bamford.

         



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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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