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Premier League Action with Manchester City and Liverpool

Another crazy weekend in the Premier League witnessed Manchester City closing the point gap on Liverpool, who are currently at the top of the log, along with loads of movement in the middle of the table. We also witnessed how Manchester United made Klopp and The Reds very unsettled with their promising performance. Let’s take a closer look at these games.

Manchester City managed to dodge a massive bullet against Crystal Palace over the weekend. Will this be able to change their Premier League season going forward? After defeats against Wolves and Norwich, it’s wasn’t far-fetched to believe that Crystal Palace could provide a fatal blow to their hopes of the Premier League title, especially when Rodri and Fernandinho were bundled together as a centre-half duo.

However, Pep Guardiola’s squad managed to find a way to destroy the competition on Saturday afternoon, scoring a phenomenal second goal with David Silva, and providing a stellar performance that gives the impression that the crisis is now a thing of the past. Manchester City will soon enjoy home games against Southampton and Aston Villa before they make their way to Anfield to face their formidable foes. Last year, Man City took advantage as soon as Liverpool provided signs of faltering. Will the same thing

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp will likely think back to his conversation minutes after the 1-1 draw against Manchester United on Sunday afternoon where he said to his team to defend against Man Utd. This is definitely not a fair comment by any means, and deep down, we are sure Klopp knows it too.

While Manchester United wasn’t exactly on fire, they provided loads of ambition during the first half of the match, so much so that their leader was well-deserved. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was virtually playing as a winger, while Marcus Rashford and Daniel James provided loads of spectacular runs that gave Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk plenty of problems that they wished didn’t happen.

Liverpool, on the other hand, seemed rather passive until the second half got underway. Their full-backs were unable to showcase their usual initiative, and the midfielders were outperformed thanks to Andreas Pereira, Fred, and Scott McTominay. After Adam Lallana managed to score an equaliser, it looked like Liverpool would win the match as Manchester United seemed to get more and more tired towards the end of the game.

However, Jurgen Klopp was more frustrated with the two VAR calls that managed to go against his squad, and he knew he missed a golden opportunity to extend his lead in the Premier League, primarily by defeating Manchester United at Old Trafford. Fortunately, it provided the Manchester United manager with a bit of hope, as the overall result was good, and it took some heat of the head coach who has been doubtful in his position up until now.

Senegal Claims WAFU Cup

Senegal managed to become the new champions of the prestigious WAFU Cup of Nations in 2019 after a 3-1 victory against Ghana in a penalty shootout after 120 minutes of intense football with a score of 1-1 on Sunday at the Stade Lat Dior in Thies.

Ghana nearly claimed the lead during the 10th minute after Habib Mohammed received a left-sided free-kick delivered by Augustine Okrah. However, his header from 8 yards away, unfortunately, struck the post. Senegal provided the next threat from a beautiful right-sided free-kick during the 13th minute after the cross from Ousseynou Niang met Philippe Paulin Keny. However, his header missed the post by mere inches without any pressure from Ghana’s defence.

Two minutes later, Senegal managed to cause more damage during a set-piece when Moustapha got onto a corner-kick delivered by Ibrahima Drama. However, the header went just full of the posts from 12 years away. After the corner-kick, both teams decided to tighten up their defences and seemed quite timid when it came to attacking. This reduced scoring chances for both sides just before half time rolled around.

Second Half Drama

Senegal performed well during the second half of the match, and in all honesty, should have taken the lead during the 57th minute after Assane Mboji received a corner-kick which was placed at the back of the posts. However, his header went wide by a few yards. Within a minute, Mboji was back at it again thanks to a marvellous turn on the edge of the penalty box to defeat his marker. However, his glorious shot managed to skim the top of the crossbar.

During the 68th minute, Ghana finally managed to create their very first shot on goal during the second half when a terrific run from Okrah witnessed him sail through the middle of the field. However, the goalkeeper for Senegal was quick off his line to deny the goal. Ghana almost took the lead during the 82nd minute thanks to a corner-kick that saw Shafiu Mumuni get into position a mere 6 yards from the posts. However, his incredible header was beautifully recovered by Pepe Ndiaye. This was mainly the last chance for both teams to score as the regulation time came to an end.

Extra Time

Senegal came extremely close to scoring a goal during the 105th minute when Youssouph Badji received a cross from Niang. However, his 8-yard strike hit the post. Fortunately, the second half of extra time saw Badji finally score a goal with another fantastic cross from Niang. Ghana managed to equalize during the 110th minute thanks to a free-kick opportunity where Joseph Esso scored the equalizer. Neither side was able to find another goal which caused the game to go into a penalty shootout. During the shooting, Ndiaye made two incredible saves that allowed Senegal to become victorious and claim the WAFU Cup of Nations eventually.

Big Questions Surrounding the Euro Qualifiers this Weekend

Club matches might be on a break for the next couple of days, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any football matches to look forward to until then. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the biggest questions surrounding the Euro Qualifiers.

Will the Netherlands Deliver on their Promise?

The last 12 months have witnessed an emerging revival within the Netherlands’ fortunes when it comes to football. After not qualifying for two major competitions, the Dutch national team ripped made a name for themselves in the Nations League and ended up second behind Portugal. Are they back, well they are still getting there thanks to an improved selection of talent., This includes Matthijs de Ligt and Virgil van Dijk, both of whom are considered to be the best defensive duo in international football.

However, the team is still not back in full force because they are still not automatic qualifiers for the tournament. They are currently 3 points behind Northern Ireland but have a game in hand at least. They definitely need to win the match to make their journey more comfortable. If they can, we might just see a spectacular comeback from the Dutch national team.

Can Iceland Provide an Exciting Upset?

A huge potential upset can occur in Reykjavik, where a somewhat depleted France squad will travel to face Iceland in a ticklish tie. Due to the fact that France is suffering with injuries in Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, and Hugo Lloris, along with a range of ailments, the French aren’t exactly in excellent health for this game.

France managed to defeat Iceland 4-0 earlier this year, but since then Didier Deschamps’ side has been very unconvincing. Add in the unexpected defeat against Turkey they will enter this match in third place on the leaderboard, 3 points ahead of their opponents on Friday. France will also have the opportunity to get revenge against Turkey on Monday. But they will first need to survive a match against Iceland on Friday. This could be a massive upset if Iceland can pull it off.

Will England Deal with More Racism?

Even though its quite disheartened to deal with such a problem in 2019, there are still loads of fears that the black players on the England side will once again be the primary subject of racism once they make their way to Sofia to face Bulgaria on Monday. It’s been a massive problem prior to this match before, and we expect that the same issue will arise once the match gets underway in Bulgaria again.

It’s unnecessary that Tammy Abraham should be placed in this position. However, the forward for Chelsea confirmed earlier this week that should the racist card be played, that the entire England team will ignore the three steps policy prescribed by UEFA and simply appeal over the PA. Thereafter, they will suspend the game and then abandon it by simply walking off the field. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this.

Liverpool Survives Against Salzburg

Liverpool managed to survive an unexpected scare and claim their very first Champions League points of the year with a nail-biting 4-3 victory against Red Bull Salzburg in an epic encounter that took place at Anfield. Liverpool obtained a comfortable lead early on in the game after a marvellous exchange between Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane produced a goal before Andy Robertson transforming the cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold into a second goal before Mohamed Salah made it a 3-0 lead from close range. However, the powerful striking ability from Hwang Hee-Chan managed to get Salzburg back into the match, and the visitors were able to level the scoreboard only 15 minutes into the second half, leaving Liverpool shell-shocked. Thankfully, the hosts managed to retake the lead during the 68th minute after talisman Mohamed Salah netter his second goal of the match to eventually secure 3 points for the Reds.

Positives & Negatives

The Reds can be forgiven for being a little nervous before kickoff took place. However, the attacking force of Liverpool witnessed them taking an incredible 3-0 lead. Even though there was nearly a massive slip-up during the second half of the game, The Reds managed to display major character to retake the edge which allowed them to take 3 points in the Champions League. Liverpool didn’t have Joel Matip on their side due to injury which meant that Joe Gomez had to replace him for this match at centre-back. Liverpool completely fell apart once the second half got underway and were almost brutally punished for their mistakes as Salzburg nearly took a point home. On any other evening, this match could have ended in a very different way when the final whistle went off.

Notable Players

Jurgen Klopp – Nobody anticipated that The Reds would throw away a comfortable 3-0 lead. However, when the unthinking occurred on the pitch, Klopp quickly reacted with the introductions of Divock Origi and James Milner. Their mixture of energy and experience allowed Liverpool to regain the lead in the match when things almost turned into a disaster.

Goalkeeper Adrian – He was given no chance against a powerful Hee-Chan strike and will be very thankful that a tame clearance didn’t allow for another goal to be scored. Even though three goals were conceded, it’s primarily due to his centre-backs that didn’t perform as they should have.

Trent Alexander Arnold – Provided another energetic performance during the match but unfortunately left Joe Gomez exposed at times which allowed the visitors more space when they attacked. Thankfully, provided a low cross that helped Liverpool score once again with Robertson on the receiving end of that cross.

Virgil Van Dijk – This will undoubtedly be the weakest performance from the player this season as he was turned upside down by Hee-Chan who managed to unleash an incredible strike against Adrian who was utterly helpless. After he went an entire season without being beaten when it comes to the dribble, it’s going to be a very long time before that retakes place, especially at Anfield.

Norwich City Defeats Manchester City

What happened on Saturday at Carrow Road is one of the primary reasons why we love football, even if Manchester City fans feel somewhat differently towards this statement. By contrast, disbelieving fans of Norwich City must be pinching themselves to believed what they witnessed, as their club’s 3-2 victory marks the biggest sensation in the Premier League season thus far.

The newly-promoted team were supposed to be no-hopers, with bookmakers in Britain quoting them at a staggering 20 to 1 in a two-horse race. This team filled with injuries offered the worst defensive record in the league, and no one expected them to perform well against the lethal attack of Manchester City who has been unbeaten since late January against Newcastle. Norwich City has only managed to spend £1.4 million during the summer transfer window, while Manchester City cost nearly £1 billion when you accumulate the cost of each player in the squad.

Norwich City’s Incredible Achievement

The impossible mission that Norwich City had to face on Saturday quickly transformed into a victorious day which we consider to be one of the most dramatic matches in recent years. So, how exactly did this happen? Was Manchester City that bad or Norwich City that good? The answer probably involves a bit of both, even though most of the explanation can be found in the exhilarating performance portrayed by the home side, who managed to pull off a unique tactical trick that no one knew was part of the team’s repertoire.
Norwich is usually a front-foot, bold team, moving the ball exceptionally quickly to create more chances for Teemu Pukki who is their ace scorer. The defence has always been seen as an optional extra. However, this time around the manager requested that his squad close down every avenue and defend deep while facing Manchester City. This required three players, who made their very first league start, to play critical roles in this victory, including Alex Tettey, Ibrahim Amadou, and Sam Bryan.

Norwich City’s Clever Tactics

The covering and concentration by Norwich were so exemplary that Manchester City looked wholly flat and complacent. Kenny McLean managed to put Norwich City in front after only 18 minutes, allowing supporters of the team to start believing. The front four of Todd Cantwell, Marco Stiepermann, Emiliano Buendia, and Pukki ensured that all breaks were made with menace and craft, allowing Pukki to provide the second goal for Norwich City, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

When Aguero managed to pull one back, it seemed like everything would return to normal. However, an error made by Nicolas Otamendi allowed Pukki to score once again, taking place only 5 minutes after the start of the second half. The final score of 3-2 remained on the scoreboard, allowing Norwich City to defeat one of the most reliable team’s in the Premier League while claiming 3 points for their remarkable efforts. Let’s hope their performance continues to surprise people this year!

The Biggest Questions in the Premier League

The Premier League is back in action this weekend, making it the perfect time to answer some of the biggest questions that face some of the most elite teams in Europe. With that in mind, let’s take a look at issues that need some serious answers.

Newcastle United is undoubtedly one of the most active clubs in the Premier League this year. There’s no denying that they are pretty uninspiring, but the team has managed to defeat Tottenham Hotspur a couple of weeks ago and is also the last team to beat Manchester City in 2019. Both victories during the 2019/20 Premier League season were achieved by stubborn, reliable, and perhaps dull defensive work that somehow provided incredible results, allowing them to frustrate their opponents and claiming the vital points ultimately.
So this begs the question, can they do the same to a side like Liverpool? One will never even think of this question when it comes to players like Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane. However, given the fact that they destroyed two other elite teams in the Premier League, it’s possible. Liverpool has quite the challenge ahead of them, but everyone is sure that they will be victorious at the end.

Tottenham Hotspur

When you look at the fixture list, you can assume that the Crystal Palace vs Tottenham Hotspur game is the perfect opportunity for Tottenham to get back on their feet. However, when you take into account that only Manchester City and Liverpool have managed to accumulate more points than Crystal Palace since the start of the season, you will quickly understand that nothing is as black and white as it was before.

Mauricio Pochettino recently stated that his team needs to focus again for the season ahead and that he had an hour-long discussion with them after they returned from their much-needed break. A win against Palace will give the team the needed boost. However, if they lose, it will create even more problems for the team going forward.

Quique Sanchez Flores

When Watford decided to dismiss Javi Gracia, no one was shocked. What was far more of a shock to the Premier League world was the reappointment of the football player Quique Sanchez Flores. However, there is a bit of logic to the reappointment that you might have missed. The strength of Flores in his previous position was to keep the defence tight, and Watford hasn’t been able to keep a clean sheet since the start of the season.

We can’t expect too much from the player this weekend as he has only been back for a week. However, if he wants to test himself immediately to resolve things from the back, he can do so this weekend with Arsenal along with the front three as a backup.

England’s Dominance Against Bulgaria

There’s no denying the importance of Harry Kane in the England soccer team. After he managed to score a hattrick in the 4-0 win against Bulgaria in the Euro 2020 qualifier at Wembley, the forward for Tottenham Hotspur impresses with 25 goals in a total of 40 appearances for England. However, is Kane too central or too critical when it comes to the plans set forth by Gareth Southgate? England, despite all the goals scored by Kane, need a Plan B if the squad is keen on winning an international tournament. However, the consistency portrayed by Harry Kane is making it impossible for the England manager to come up with an alternative plan.

Harry Kane’s Record

For the statisticians and historians, Kane is currently ranked in 14th when it comes to the all-time list of goal scorers for England. He is one ahead of Geoff Hurst, who is the World Cup-winning hero of 1996, and one behind Bryan Robson, who is the former captain for Manchester United.

Alan Shearer (30 goals) and Frank Lampard (29 goals) are now within reach for Harry Kane and he could easily surpass both football legends by the end of the Group A campaign for England thanks to two matches against Kosovo, a game against Montenegro, a game against the Czech Republic, and a clash against Bulgaria still on the horizon. Seeing as Kane is currently in his peak, he firmly believes that he can eclipse Wayne Rooney as the leading scorer for England with 53 goals.

However, if England is interested in stepping up their overall performance and make it onto the world stage, the manager needs to find a way to avoid making Harry Kane the primary man. Think about it, when England required goals in the group stages of the World Cup in 2018, Harry Kane was unable to deliver against Croatia and Sweden as he did against Tunisia and Panama. He also fired blanks in the finals of the Nations League where he failed to score against Switzerland and the Netherlands. However, the England manager faces a massive dilemma with the striker from Spurs. He needs to select Kane because he is currently ranked as the number one forward.

England’s Other Attacking Players

England comes with an arsenal of attacking players in the squad thanks to Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho, and Marcus Rashford. There’s no doubt that Gareth Southgate has looked at these players to see if he could replicate the movement and pace of the attacking trio of Liverpool or perhaps the trio that Tottenham Hotspur has used when Harry Kane is unavailable. Kane becomes less and less important the more profound the England side goes into a tournament, and that is just a fact. So, how exactly will Gareth Southgate deal with this issue once England advances to the quarterfinals or even semi-finals in the Euro 2020 tournament? Something to keep in mind once the tournament rolls around.

Neymar Fails To Go Back to Barcelona

It was considered a modern transfer saga with an extraordinary football tale that will never be forgotten, making headlines across the globe for almost three months. Everything was set to go for the most massive transfer during the summer. Two years after arriving in France from Spain for a whopping £222 million, the 27-year-old Neymar decided its time to move back to Spain. His trusty agent Pini Zahavi, his father, and Neymar himself was convinced that the transfer would take place sooner rather than later.
However, despite being desperate to depart PSG, the superstar from Brazil is still a player for the French football club. Both PSG and Barcelona are frustrated, fans are heartbroken, and the football star is still stuck in France. So how exactly did we manage to get here?

The End of Neymar and the Transfer Saga

There were mainly two incidents that complicated everything for Neymar. On 15 August, Bartomeu had the opportunity to meet with Al-Khelaifi in Liverpool but eventually decided against it at the last minute. Two days after this occurred, Barcelona agreed to load Philippe Coutinho to Bayern Munich, who is a player that PSG was very interested in when it came to the Neymar deal. This created a significant step back in terms of negotiations. On 17 August, Barcelona lost both Dembele and Suarez to injuries and was defeated by Athletic Bilbao.

After the loan offer fell through, Barcelona had to return to the drawing board to come up with a new plan to obtain Neymar. Eric Abidal, the sporting advisor for Barcelona, attempted to convince Dembele to be part of the deal. However, both his agent and the player refused to be part of the negotiations as he wanted to remain at Camp Nou. On 27 August, there was a glimmer of hope as one of the directors informed the media that talks were close to reaching a final verdict. However, on 29 August, a final discussion occurred between the two clubs and at the end, the Catalans wasted loads of energy and time on someone that they could never actually afford.

Will the Neymar Saga Continue in 2020?

As of now, Neymar will be brought back to the PSG first-team squad. He is required to rebuild his relationship with the French football club. Thankfully, he is considered a significant asset for PSG when he plays at his best. It’s mostly down to the player to recover from this drama and to prove that he is still worthy of playing for an elite team like PSG. For the French club, this is a significant plus even to have such a remarkable football star on their side. No one knows if this transfer saga will continue next year. However, with players getting older with each passing year, it makes sense to move this drama over to next year’s transfer window and to wait and see what happens patiently.

Barcelona’s Deal to Retrieve Neymar

Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain have finally set a price for Neymar at around £170 million. However, details surrounding the payments are currently holding up the deal. The Ligue 1 side would like to receive the full refund upfront, while Barcelona would like to explore different ways to cover the payment due to their busy summer transfer window where they bought Junior Firpo, Neto, Frenkie De Jong, and Antoine Griezmann for £239 million in total.

Meeting Between Barcelona and PSG

During the meeting between PSG and Barcelona earlier this week, an offer was made by Barcelona to pay the Ligue 1 side £40 million during 2019, while an additional £65 million will be paid in 2020 as well as 2021. However, PSG rejected this proposal and wants to have the entire fee paid in full during 2019. Barcelona is attempting to include Ousmane Dembele as a way to sweeten the deal. However, this could lead to another bump in the road as the agent for the French international would like the former Borussia Dortmund player to stay with Barcelona.

Several reporters have stated that the desire from Neymar to return to Camp Nou will play a vital role when it comes to negotiations, and that the forward for Brazil is genuinely involved with everything and has managed to take the first step to make his return to Camp Nou after he was transferred to PSG in 2017 when the club paid the full £222 million release clause. Both clubs will continue discussing the situation in the next few days. However, with the summer transfer window closing on 2 September 2019, these talks will need to conclude before it’s too late.

Current Situation for Both Clubs

Javier Bordas, the technical secretary for Barcelona, has recently stated that the meetings occurring between the two clubs are finally looking like a deal when compared to the last few days. Reporters have also said that PSG is more open to offers at the moment from Barcelona as opposed to the first couple of meetings where PSG rejected all proposals thrown on the table. PSG quickly rejected the initial offer that included Ivan Rakitic, Philippe Coutinho, and £80 million. The club also dismissed to take Coutinho on loan this year ahead of a permanent position next year. PSG was quite interested in taking Coutinho, but the footballer has recently joined Bayern Munich on investment, so that offer is off the table.

PSG are interested in ending the saga as soon as possible because Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe are both on the sideline for at least a month. The club needs to know whether they will have Neymar as a player this season or if they should look for new forwards before it’s too late. PSG is currently showing an interest in Mauro Icardi, Paulo Dybala, and Christian Eriksen. It simply boils down to when this deal will be done and dusted.

Lack of Leadership at Manchester United

Manchester United have managed to make huge leaps forward with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as their manager. They are hungrier, younger, and fitter than previous seasons. However, it took Paul Pogba a single missed penalty to highlight how far this club still needs to go before they are ready to face the elite clubs of the Premier League once again.

Manchester United vs Wolves

In all honesty, a 1-1 draw at Molineux against the Wolves after being defeated 2-1 in the FA Cup and the Premier League last season can be seen as progress for Manchester United. However, there is still a distinct lack of leadership and experience in the young team of Solskjaer with an average age of only 24 years, making United the most inexperienced team in the Premier League at the moment. Due to this, Paul Pogba managed to miss his fourth penalty since the beginning of the previous season, with Rui Patricio blocking the shot during the 67th minute of the game.

A mere eight days ago, Marcus Rashford managed to score from the same spot at Old Trafford during their incredible 4-0 victory over Chelsea in the opening weekend of the Premier League. The successful penalty has assisted Rashford to maintain his 100% record when it comes to penalties for both club and country and has managed to take several pressure kicks during that time for state and club. However, during their spell against the Wolves, Paul Pogba decided to brush him to the side and take the shot himself because he won the penalty kick after Conor Coady fouled him.

Lack of Experience in the Team

If the Manchester United squad were packed with experienced characters and players that were strong enough to intervene, Paul Pogba would have been instructed to walk away, leaving the penalty to Marcus Rashford, especially when you take into account his excellent record when it comes to penalty kicks. Unfortunately, the squad did not have a Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Eric Cantona, or Roy Keane in the mix, and no one on the current team had the guts to step up and take the penalty shot for Pogba.

The post-match explanation from Solskjaer on the penalty incident only made things worse, which indicated Manchester United’s lack of principles on the pitch at times. According to the manager, both Rashford and Pogba are the penalty takers for the club, so that means that even he is unable to decide which player should be considered the number 1 penalty shooter and who should be considered the second. The manager leaves the decision up to them at the end of the day, which causes loads of unnecessary confusion on the pitch when a penalty needs to be taken.

Manchester United was unable to control the tempo of the game due to lack of experience, and this is something that needs to be rectified before they face a much stronger and elite team down the road.