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Premier LEague

Wolves vs Southampton: Match Preview

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On Sunday afternoon, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Southampton will face off in the Premier League, with Wolverhampton Wanderers hosting Southampton at Molineux. Wolves are in eighth place in the table, with 28 points from 19 league games this season, while Southampton are in 11th place, four points beneath their hosts.

Wolves have been gradually collecting up points for some time now, with Bruno Lage’s side presently eighth in the rankings, just three points below seventh-placed Manchester United, thus they may be regarded in the top-four hunt.

The Wolverhampton outfit have managed to pick up seven points from their last three league games, with victories against Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United, as well as a point shared with Chelsea at home. Wolves have also advanced to the fourth round of the FA Cup on Sunday, after defeating Sheffield United 3-0, with Lage’s side scheduled to face Norwich City in the following round in early February.

The hosts have triumphed over Southampton in their last two meetings, including a 1-0 victory at St Mary’s early in the season, in which Raul Jimenez scored the game’s only goal. Wolves finished a mediocre 13th in the league last season, but Lage has generated a strong impact in his first season in charge, and a win on Saturday would improve their European ambitions.

Southampton, on the other hand, will be coming off a 4-1 win over Brentford on Tuesday night, which took them up to 11th place in the Premier League table. Saints have endured their problems this season, but they are presently 13 points away from the drop and only four points behind eighth-placed Wolves, so Saturday’s match is crucial for both teams.

In all competitions, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s squad is undefeated in their past five games, drawing with Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur in the league, defeating West Ham and Brentford in the FA Cup, and defeating Swansea City 3-2 on January 8.

Southampton, on the other hand, will face Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, and Manchester United in their next three league games. The Saints have struggled to find stability on the road this season, collecting  just nine points from eleven games, although they did overcome Wolves in the FA Cup last season at Molineux.

WHEN & WHERE?

Venue: The Molineux.
Date: Saturday, 15th of January 2022.
Time: Kick-off at 15:00 BST.

MATCH OFFICIALS:

Referee: Michael Salisbury.
Assistant Referees: Darren Cann, Simon Long.
Video Assistant Referee: Robert Jones.
Fourth Official: Andre Marriner.

TEAM NEWS:

WOLVES:

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Wolves will be without two of their first choice center-backs in Willy Boly and Romain Saiss, as they represent their respective nations at AFCON. They will also remain without Yerson Mosquera, Pedro Neto, Hwang Hee-Chan and, Jonny Castro as they are all sidelined with injuries.

With Daniel Podence and Trincao certain to line up behind Jimenez, Adama Traore, who has been linked with a move away from Molineux, is uncertain to be selected for a start in the final third.

In midfield, Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho are both in fine form, while Saiss’ unavailability at the back could allow Leander Dendoncker to play in a three-man defense.

SOUTHAMPTON:

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Southampton will be without Valentino Livramento and William Smallbone owing to illness, while Kyle Walker-Peters is a concern due to COVID-19.

Moussa Djenepo is absent owing to his participation in the Africa Cup of Nations, while Alex McCarthy is a doubt due to a thigh injury. However, Armando Broja should be able to start despite a head ailment.

Last time out, Che Adams came off the bench to strike against Brentford and might possibly start in the final third, although Hasenhuttl is anticipated to remain in his 3-5-2 shape.

MATCH ANALYSIS

A battle for the European spots?

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Wolves have been silently gaining back their momentum and are on track to repeat the heroics of the 2019/20 season where they finished 7th in the Premier League table and went on to qualify for the subsequent season’s Europa League quarter-finals.

Bruno Lage has helped manage the Wolves to a newfound stability in their shape and has also heavily improved their defensive numbers when compared to the other teams in the league. While they might have scored the second-least amount of goals in the league, they have also conceded the second-least amount of goals this season. They are just a win away from occupying the seventh spot and could surely be on their way to yet another successful year in the Premier League.

Southampton, meanwhile, are on a run of their own. They have not lost in their past four league games and are in the eleventh spot on the table. They are however just four points away from Wolves and the matchup this weekend should nonetheless be interesting as it will be a cagey tactical battle between two defensively solid, 442-influenced managers. However, this does seem like a game where both the managers are likely to employ a more attacking approach with Lage using his trusty 3-4-3 and Hasenhüttl using a 3-5-2.

KEY PLAYERS:

WOLVES – MAX KILMAN:

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With Willy Boly and Romain Saiss both out on international duty while representing their nations at AFCON, the main defensive responsibility falls on Conor Coady, Leander Dendoncker, and Max Kilman. Kilman, however, has been the standout performer out of this Wolves team.

The 24-year-old can be considered one of the main reasons for the Wolverhampton outfit’s defensive resilience and compactness this season. Kilman has performed his duties as a wide center-back extremely well and has helped Wolves maintain a healthy defensive record of just 14 goals conceded in the league this season.

SOUTHAMPTON – JAMES WARD-PROWSE:

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James Ward-Prowse has become quite the household name when talking about the best midfielders in the league bar the ‘big six’. The 27-year-old has nailed down the box-to-box role that he has been asked to play since Hasenhüttl’s appointment and now can definitely be considered one of the best midfielders in England.

An exceptional dead-ball specialist, Ward-Prowse, has now also been asked to provide more upfront and he has done exactly that. The Englishman has scored five goals and assisted two in eighteen league games this season. It will be interesting to see how Wolves, a solid team when it comes to defending set-pieces, fend off the threat posed by James Ward-Prowse’s extraordinary dead-ball talent and the Saints’ underrated attack.

PREDICTED LINEUPS

Wolves (3-4-3): Sa; Dendoncker, Coady, Kilman; Semedo, Neves, Moutinho, Marcal; Podence, Jimenez, Trincao.

Southampton (3-5-2): Forster; Bednarek, Lyanco, Salisu; Tella, Diallo, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Perraud; Adams, Armstrong.

         












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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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