How Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham Can Finish in the Top 4

The title race for the Premier League between Liverpool and Manchester City is alive and well. However, when you look at the clubs behind them, things are equally compelling in the fight for the top-four places. With just 3 points between Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham, it’s finally possible to make a case as to where each team might end up.

Tottenham Hotspur

The wait is finally over for Tottenham to make their return to White Hart Lane. The stadium has offered a crucial morale boost for the club that is currently struggling after they only made 1 point in the last five games. The 2-0 win against Crystal Palace doesn’t solve the question entirely of how well each player adjusted, but fans are much happier in the great new arena, following two years of travelling from London to Wembley. A place that never honestly felt like home. Tottenham Hotspur also has a relatively easy run going forward. Apart from Manchester City, they can enjoy a few simple home games against Everton, West Ham, Brighton, and Huddersfield along with an away trip to face Bournemouth.

Arsenal

The 2-0 win against Manchester United in March represented the last fixture against a Big 6 club, which means their remaining run is much easier on paper. Arsenal has also managed to collect 16 points in their previous 6 matches. Unai Emery has also managed to get the perfect balance with his team after spending the first half of the season changing and chopping. If things continue down this glorious path, Arsenal will be in the top 4 of the Premier League.

Chelsea

The 3-0 win against Brighton might prove crucial, especially when you consider that Maurizio Sarri’s brand-new changes made a significant impact on the field. Fans of Chelsea remain anti-Sarri. However, the use of Loftus-Cheek and Hudson-Oddi proved very popular on the pitch, giving Chelsea a breath of fresh air going forward. If the club can create a winning streak going forward with new players on the field successfully doing what they need to do, Chelsea can make a significant impact on the top 4 teams in the Premier League.

Manchester United

Manchester United has four matches at home out of 6, with the away games being played against Huddersfield and Everton. There’s also a feel-good atmosphere at Old Trafford, and while the likes of Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba haven’t been in the same form, they showcased during the first few months under Solskjaer, the overall improvement on the tenure of Jose Mourinho is very clear. Manchester United are the least favourite team to make it to the Champions League semi-final this year because they are playing against La Liga giants, Barcelona. However, this gives them the perfect opportunity to place all their focus on the remaining Premier League games to ensure they reach the top four.

Bold Moves From Germany Pay Off in Euro 2020 Qualifier Against Netherlands

Fifteen years performing at the highest level provides a coach of a national team loads of sporting capital. For instance, enough to survive a World Cup first-round exit and relegation from the Nations League. It also provided Joachim Low to make bold moves which he did when Germany made their way to the Netherlands during the 2020 Euro qualifiers.

Joachim Low’s System

Having already dropped Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels, and Jerome Boateng, Low decided to draw a 3-4-1-2 system that featured two wingers, including Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane, masquerading as forwards, while the forward runs of Leon Goretzka offered the heft from the number 10 position along with the creativity from Toni Kroos and Joshua Kimmich in midfield. It’s a system that seemed reasonable in theory but required field-testing that doesn’t exist when it comes to international matches.

Having already been defeated 3-0 by the Netherlands in October 2018, it was a massive call from Low. Fortunately, it paid off. Gnabry and Sane provided the Dutch with no reference points, and they assisted with a 2-0 lead for Germany, before the Dutch managed to tie the game at 2-2. Thankfully, Nico Schulz eventually obtained a winner during the final moments for Germany whose forward runs were devastating down the left for most of the game.

You are left to wonder whether we will see this scheme again frequently from Germany. The Gnabry-Sane partnership matched up well while playing against the back four of the Dutch because the defenders of Koeman’s team lacked the athleticism to successfully counter the pair as the midfield were more focused on creating as opposed to destroying. However, if they face an opponent with more defence, the lack of a central striker can be problematic.

It’s also worth mentioning that although Germany seemed reasonable during the first half of the match, Ryan Babel produced two phenomenal chances that needed some Manuel Neuer excellence to stop them. Therefore, Germany is still considered a work in progress at the moment, but it’s quite encouraging to witness how Low is making bold moves to win games.

Great Effort from the Netherlands

As for the Netherlands, kudos for the effort. Matthijs De Light might be two years removed from his debut for the national team, but he is only 19 years old. To see this young talent stumble and then recover with a brilliant goal along with some impressive defensive work during the second half of the game is evidence that processes the right stuff. The young footballer has the stigmata of a not too distant future captain.

Praise can also be given to Memphis Depay. Even though he isn’t as prolific as he was last season, he showcased yet again that he can produce game-changing results. If De Jong and De Light are considered the future of the back and midfield, Depay is then indeed the future up front.

Manchester City Can Become Immortal

Manchester City is currently chasing history. The team’s journey to Craven Cottage to play against Fulham on the 30th of March 2019 will make the first of a potential 15 matches in 64 days. This journey will end with Manchester City and Pep Guardiola becoming immortals in the world of football.

There hasn’t been an English club that has managed to achieve a clean sweep of the competition in a season. In 1999, Manchester United claimed victory in the Champions League, the FA Cup, and the Premier League, while in 1984, Liverpool won the European Cup, the League Cup, and the Premier League. Liverpool also managed to win a treble of cup competitions, including the UEFA Cup, League Cup, and FA Cup in 2001.

An Unprecedented Quadruple

After winning the Carabao Cup against Chelsea with a penalty shoot-out last month at Wembley, Manchester City are still hunting down a quadruple. Every win will take them one step closer to success in their quest. After the controversial and dramatic 3-2 victory against Swansea on the FA Cup quarterfinal on Saturday, Pep Guardiola admitted that he was tired and was in desperate need of a break. However, although the international fixtures provide a much-needed break for the players and the manager. It will only be a brief interval as the next two months will be career-defining, draining, and hectic.

Manchester City will head into the final 15 matches after an incredible run that has witnessed the team winning 18 matches and losing one from 20 fixtures in every competition they participated in. The draw against Chelsea ended in a win thanks to penalties which means they won 19 matches of the last 20. If they can maintain this kind of form, there’s no doubt that the record books will be rewritten. However, fatigue will come into play as Manchester City will need to overcome several elite opponents to claim victory in all four competitions. Their journey to the quadruple has recently been confirmed, and Manchester City is heading for a difficult two months to achieve it.

Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League

Manchester City still has 8 matches to play in the Premier League and are two points behind Liverpool at the moment. In the Champions League, Manchester City is well aware that a win against Tottenham Hotspur in the quarterfinals will set them up for a semi-final battle against either Juventus or Ajax. In the FA Cup, only Hove Albion and Brighton stand in their way to reach the FA Cup Final where they will either face off against Wolves or Watford on 18 Mat 2019.

The Premier League will be the most difficult to claim, while the Champions League is undoubtedly the most prestigious tournament to claim in 2019. Manchester City will take the FA Cup this year, but are they able to claim victory in the other two competitions to successfully rewrite history with a quadruple?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Proves His Worth at Manchester United

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer recently admitted that he wanted to give the best interview possible during his temporary spell as manager for Manchester United. He already managed to do this before his club defeated PSG to advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League. However, this incredible victory will surely confirm that he is indeed the perfect man for the permanent role.

Solskjaer can’t do more to prove that he is the man to become the full-time successor at Manchester United after the match against PSG. The 3-1 result and performance being showcased in front of Sir Alex Ferguson, Avram Glazer, and Eric Cantona, it was an evening that felt like an inauguration.

The next time United makes a public announcement, it will be about Solskjaer as the new manager for United. If not, supporters of the team are going to storm the club in protest, and who would blame them?

PSG vs Manchester United

Never before had Manchester United lost a home game in a European tournament. Managing not to qualify for the next round after that. Never before, in a total of 106 attempts, had a football club fought back from a 2-0 defeat at home to progress.

However, Solskjaer’s team, missing a total of 10 senior football players due to injury. Including Paul Pogba as an 11th due to suspension, managed to rewrite the history books while playing in Paris to successfully book a place in the final eight.

To further add to the list of achievements created by Solskjaer, this was the ninth consecutive win for Manchester United, a club record. However, when asked after the match whether he had the permanent position, Solskjaer stated that he is still waiting to hear.

“No, I’m going to keep doing my job to the best of my abilities and see where it takes me,” Solskjaer stated. “It’s been a phenomenal time with the staff and players that I have working with me.

“I will continue to enjoy my job for as long as I have it. I will smile and enjoy it for as long as I can.”

Solskjaer’s Road at Manchester United

When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived at Old Trafford in December 2018. He answered an SOS from his former club who managed to drift badly off course under Mourinho in the Premier League.

Manchester United was 11 points away from the top 4 teams, and most of the senior players had various issues with Mourinho at the time, especially Paul Pogba. Solskjaer was called by the executive vice-chairman of United, Ed Woodward, to steer the ship back on course. They were salvaging something from the current season while they searched for someone else to take the role.

Mauricio Pochettino was obviously at the top of the list of Woodward. However, Solskjaer managed to restore believe with United supporters, repaired the dressing room that was broken, and placed a smile back on the face of the club.

Liverpool’s 5-0 Victory Against Watford

Liverpool’s outstanding performance in the 5-0 whipping of Watford was an example of how football should be played. The Reds produced their most significant victory of the season and managed to maintain their one-point lead against Manchester City in the title race for the Premier League trophy.

After two consecutive goalless draws, Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane managed to score at Anfield. While Divock Origi also found the back of the net in only his third start of the Premier League season.

Comments from Jurgen Klopp

“This is exactly what I wanted from my team,” Klopp stated during the post-match press conference. “Even though tomorrow will bring new challenges for Liverpool, today we managed to deliver some outstanding football.

“I’m extremely happy for my players because they deserve it so much. We, unfortunately, drew against Manchester United and Bayern Munich and everyone starts talking. I’m not 100% sure what they talk about, but it all comes down to showing reactions.

“We would love to play like this in every single match, and that’s perhaps possible at times. You need to be stable, and the players on the field were constantly stable and truly fluent offensively. It was fantastic and a great example of how football should be played. We now need to do it again and again.”

Liverpool vs Watford Match Analysis

Since Roberto Firmino was injured, the Liverpool manager had to decide to let Mane lead the front line of the team against Watford, while Origi lined-up on the left0hand side. Mane managed to score two goals within 20 minutes, the first with a leaping header and the second with a creative backheel kick past Ben Forster.

“I didn’t see the backheel goal,” Klopp stated. “However, I loved the first goal, especially when he jumped so high. “Mane was placed in a new position, and he played it exceptionally well. He managed to assist in the build-up situation because he is that kind of football. However, we also needed him in the box.

“Mo Salah also played phenomenally. He wasn’t playable tonight. However, in a match where he didn’t score, he still produced an exceptional performance for his team.

“Divock is not a natural defender as a wing. However, he managed to perform quite well offensively and was a constant threat on the field. He also scored an incredible goal. Both my full-backs were flying down the wing, while the midfield produced good passes and was very flexible and aggressive. “Overall, it was just an outstanding performance. I’m delighted with my players. It was exceptional, and it helped a great deal.”

The victory witnessed Trent Alexander-Arnold become the youngest footballer to assist with three goals in a match. He managed to produce inviting delivers to both Van Dijk and Mane which allowed them to score. He was absent during the game against Manchester United, but he quickly made up for it when he played against Watford.

Juventus To Face Atletico Madrid in Champions League Round of 16

It might not offer the most impressive technical football in Round 16 of the Champions League. There’s something amazingly intriguing about the match between Juventus and Atletico Madrid when they clash in the first leg on Wednesday evening.

Juventus vs Atletico Madrid

These two elite teams in the competition have both been defeated finalists on two occasions. Juventus are losing to Real Madrid and Barcelona in 2017 and 2015, and Atletico Madrid is falling to Real Madrid in 2016 and 2014. However, that status, and the fact that both Massimiliano Allegri and Diego Simeone are struggling to finish another evolution within their clubs shouldn’t hide the fact that both teams have been punching way above their weight classes recently. Juventus transformed Series A into a parade and Atletico Madrid converting the big two for Spain into a big three.

Both teams have managed to achieve success thanks to clever tactics and disciplined defending, and in an era where Europe’s elite clubs are obsessed with delivering attractive football, these two teams manage to place the result above the scene.

While Atletico Madrid is forced to be more proactive within La Liga, they are less concerned about scoring goals and more focused on keeping a clean sheet when it comes to the knockout stages of the Champions League. When playing against technical-minded opponents, defending deep usually does the trick, with Atletico Madrid refusing to let anyone disband their low block. However, against Juventus, their practical approach could prove fatal.

Christiano Ronaldo and Mario Mandzukic

Juventus is somewhat of a throwback when it comes to the threat they pose in the penalty box. Most elite sides no longer provide an aerial specialist. However, Juventus currently has two. The arrival of Christiano Ronaldo has allowed Juventus to place him in the same team as Mario Mandzukic, allowing Juventus to become a fearsome opponent once the ball is out full.

The journey to Madrid is unique for both these players. Christiano Ronaldo will undoubtedly be booed as a legend for Real Madrid, while Mario Mandzukic only wore the colors of Atletico Madrid for a single season before he decided to switch over to Juventus. Even if you take that connection away, they will still be considered key players in this match.

Juventus rarely field a 4-4-2 system. It usually includes a 4-3-1-2 system, but they like to take a hybrid approach on the pitch where Mario Mandzukic will act as a wide midfielder when he doesn’t have the ball and a second striker when the motors forward, usually getting into the penalty box quite late. Together, these two players form a fantastic duo where Ronaldo needs other players to do his running and defense work, while Mario Mandzukic maximizes the ability of other players. He is never the football star on the pitch, but usually the center-forward for a very successful side. This will all have a huge role to play on Wednesday evening.

Mauricio Pochettino Proves His Worth at Tottenham Hotspur

By now, everyone should know better than to doubt the skills and abilities of Mauricio Pochettino. The dismantling done by Tottenham Hotspur against Borussia Dortmund was a clear reminder that Pochettino will be able to pick where he wants to go when the time comes. The hierarchy of Manchester United are obviously aware of the talents that Pochettino brings to the table. However, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid have also started showing interest in the Tottenham Manager. Moreover, after witnessing the limitations of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer against PSG, you can understand why there no rush to give him the permanent job at Manchester United.

Mauricio Pochettino’s Strategy Against Dortmund

When the announcement was made that Tottenham Hotspur would play against Dortmund, there were loads of questions and head-scratching with regards to the line-up. Four centre-backs? Did Pochettino lose his mind? He placed Serge Aurier on the pitch to mark Christian Pulisic. When you considered that the last six goals by Dortmund were conceded from a cross, why didn’t Fernando Llorente start? What this the match where Pochettino got every wrong? We were quite foolish to think so…

No one can question the wisdom of Pochettino. This season alone he managed to conjure a match-winning player in Moussa Sissoko, created a persistent midfielder from Harry Winks, managed to lose more than half of his goals due to injuries to Dele Alli and Harry Kane and still managed to find a way to win matches. There’s even been a moment when it seemed like he would resurrect the Georges-Kevin Nkoudou wreck.

This is certainly one man you can trust. If Mauricio Pochettino said he will fix your car with a sledgehammer and string, you can give him your keys because he knows what he is doing. This time around, the secret to his success was made by Jan Vertonghen in a left wing-back position as opposed to full-back which he occasionally plays. The centre-back from Belgium let loose as he provided one of the most impressive crosses to Son Heung-Min to score their first goal. Later during the match, he managed to arrive at the perfect time to provide the second goal for Tottenham.

Mauricio Pochettino Is The Real Deal

Pochettino is definitely the real deal. A proper football coach that can occasionally feel dissatisfied with the players available to him, he is thankfully proactively of the best way to utilise them as opposed to complaining about it excessively.

“Football is a beautiful sport where everyone, unfortunately, has their own opinion,” Pochettino stated. “It’s my responsibility to create the perfect strategy. Everyone is welcome to their own opinion. However, in the end, it’s only we that truly know,  it’s only us that can successfully measure the level of a specific player and what we ultimately want from each match. Our knowledge, our intuition, our feelings. We have all the necessary information to make the correct decisions.”

Manchester City’s Impressive Goal-Scoring Chart

The hat trick scored by Sergio Aguero against Arsenal in the Premier League was the 10th of his career which places him just one behind Alan Shearer with a record of 11 hat tricks. It was arguably the easiest treble he scored in his career from a combined distance of only 12 yards. It composed of two open goals and a header that was impossible to miss.

That is exactly why it was such a stunning hat trick by Sergio Aguero. Not because it emphasises the finishing ability of Aguero, not because it rivals Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s for The Blues against Tottenham Hotspur in 2002 or Dennis Bergkamp’s for Arsenal against Leicester City in 1997 for the quality of their strikes, but because it flawlessly emphises everything Man City is all about. 

Manchester City in the Premier League

Manchester City is currently playing catch-up for the title but remains the most potent attacking force in the league, having scored ten goals more than Liverpool who are currently in the lead. The primary reason they boast with more goals is not that they take the most shots on goal, but because they take shots from close range. Pep Guardiola emphasised how vital it is to work the ball in scoring positions with the highest percentage of getting it past the goalkeeper. This is evident when you look at how regularly Manchester City finds an empty net when they score.

Sergio Aguero’s third and second goals were both open goals during their match against Arsenal, making it the 6th and 7th time Man City have scored open goals this season. Sergio Aguero has managed to score three of those goals while the rest were provided by Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling, and Leroy Sane.

Sergio Aguero is considered an excellent finisher in front of goal, while Sterling is regarded as erratic when he is in front of goal. Aguero has transformed into a ruthless goal scorer of late, not because he improved on his finishes, but because he always finds himself in the perfect position to ensure a shot on goal is unmissable.

Manchester City’s Metrics for Scoring

There are several metrics to emphasize Manchester City’s shooting range. For instance, they take the most shots from inside the 6-yard box, with a total of 36, City’s shots are closer than any other club, apart from Burnley, and City boasts with the highest expected-goal value, ranking in at 63.06. However, the most appropriate aspect is simply that the team consistently score open goals. So how on earth does Manchester City do it each and every time?

Well, there are four key factors that play a role in their scoring chart. They manage to stretch the opposition’s defense both in depth and in width. They provide perfect balls for wingers after patiently building up a play. They assist with low crosses from positions that are deemed quite narrow, and they manage to run on the blind side when it comes to centre-backs.

Neymar Could End His Season After Foot Injury

Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain football star Neymar could potentially have his second successive football season ended due to a metatarsal injury after a source confirmed that he might need to go for surgery to rectify his latest problem on his right foot.

Neymar was hobbling off in tears in the second half during their 2-0 victory over Strasbourg last week in the Coupe de France round of 32. His availability to clash against Manchester United in the round of 16 for the Champions League in February has been one of the hottest topics ever since.

Neymar’s Injury

According to sources, the Paris Saint-Germain forward has managed to fracture the same metatarsal as last year, although not in the same location. That means its quite impossible for him to recover completely before the squad makes their way to Old Trafford on 12 February 2019 to face Manchester United in the Champions League.

With Rodrigo Lasmar, the doctor for the Brazil national team, currently in France to attend to Neymar’s injury, attention has turned to this year’s Copa America in Brazil as well as the final two months of Neymar’s season for PSG.

Both the Selecao Brasileira and the Ligue 1 giants are yet to comment on Neymar’s injury, and several sources confirmed that the two parties involved are still in debate whether surgery is Neymar’s only option going forward to fix the problem. However, Tite, the Brazil coach, confirmed that he wouldn’t be called up half-fit.

“We’ve been in contact with Neymar and visited the player since the injury occurred. It was a personal call from my end to see how he was doing. Should there be any information on his injury, the medical team and Edu Gaspar will pass it on. I am well aware that everyone is interested in knowing what is going on, but I know when to stay out of someone’s business, “Tite stated.

Edu Gaspar, the national team director, stated that officials in Brazil would further evaluate the situation once a full report has been submitted by Lasmar. “Keep in mind that Neymar is a player for PSG,” Gaspar stated. “We have to respect all decisions that are made by the club. Our doctor, Rodrigo Lasmar, will certainly aid him. Once that’s done, we will look at technical decisions. The club is quite conservative and invited Lasmar along with other specialists to assist Neymar before making decisions.”

Possible Surgery for Neymar

Should Neymar need surgery on his right foot, his recovery time will take much longer than the last time this occurred which means his second season for PSG will end prematurely and will threaten his participation in Brazil’s Copa America on home soil.

The Brazilian boss has also admitted that he is unsure whether he’ll be able to call Neymar for a friendly fixture in March when they face the Czech Republic. All we can do now is wait for the results from his doctor to see if surgery is needed.

Barcelona Pays £75 Million to Sign Frenkie de Jong

Barcelona has recently confirmed that the club will sign Frenkie de Jong from Ajax for an initial price tag of €75 million, beating Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain to the highly regarded midfielder.

Ajax will receive an additional €11 million in add-ons should De Jong succeed at Barcelona, where he has inked a 5-year deal with Camp Nou that will take him up until the 2023/24 season. De Jong is going to stay at Ajax until the current season is completed before he makes his switch to Barcelona during the summer.

“De Jong is one of the most promising midfielders in Europe at the moment,” Barcelona stated recently. “At only 21 years of age, De Jong is set to join the Camp Nou club after he proved himself as an incredible multifunctional footballer that has the ability to offer killer passes and can read a game extremely well.”

The Pursuit for Frenkie de Jong

Barcelona’s pursuit for de Jong goes all the way back to 2016. Robert Fernandez, the former sporting director for Barcelona, has been admiring the Netherlands international for a long time and made two offers for him previously. However, Marc Overmars, the sporting director for Ajax, stated that they were not even close to the player’s true value.

After failing with both their offers, Barcelona decided to withhold their interests until the season came to an end. However, after PSG surfaced with their interest in de Jong, Barcelona had to act quickly. A delegation from Barcelona quickly made its way to Amsterdam as de Jong seemed like he was leaning towards the offer made by PSG. However, Barcelona decided to up their offer and provide frequent playing time as well which is something de Jong was concerned about the most.

Earlier this week, Barcelona still didn’t have a clue if their efforts were enough for de Jong to make the trip to Camp Nou and simply had to wait for the decision from de Jong, knowing that there was fierce competition for de Jong’s signature.

One club that wanted de Jong was Manchester City. However, although they were quite interested in transferring the player, they already realized that de Jong was very interested in Barcelona and they couldn’t match the bonuses or salary to successfully sign the player.

Later in the week, de Jong finally informed Barcelona that he would sign the contract. To avoid another Antoine Griezmann fiasco, Barcelona quickly made plans to get the contract drawn up and let de Jong sign it before any other football club could interfere.

De Jong’s Career

De Jong initially joined Ajax in 2015 from Willem II and successfully progressed through the academy of the club, making his initial debut in early 2017. He managed to win his first international cap last June for the Netherlands and established himself as a vital player for the Ajax squad. His new deal with Barcelona will certainly see the player improve even more at Camp Nou.