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Uttiyo Sarker

An unbiased Manchester United die-hard. Lover of the beautiful game. Addicted to the Premier League and beyond. Hopeful writer in the search for the greater good.

Manchester United vs Liverpool Matchday 9 Preview (Man U Edition)

Avatar October 15, 2019

Who: Manchester United vs Liverpool
When: Sunday, October 20th @ 11:30am ET
LineManchester United +340 | Draw +310 | Liverpool -137

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(Also read: Manchester United vs Liverpool preview – Liverpool edition)

The biggest task of Manchester United’s quickly derailing season awaits when runaway league-leaders Liverpool visit town for the first derby. Considering how the win against Chelsea now seems a big fluke, there’s a need for United to prove themselves capable of tussling against the best.

Momentum, however, is not on their side.

One win in their last four Premier League games underlines a worrying problem under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Norwegian’s under fire to start getting the results, with rumours of former Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri being interested in his seat only amplifying the pressure on OGS.

As much as one can blame lack of luck for their distraught situation, United are just not playing up to the mark and look completely toothless going forward. Inability to recruit properly in the summer is taking its toll.

A win against an undefeated Liverpool, however, can completely change the mood around the club. I think it can also reinvigorate the players and properly kick start their campaign towards a more fruitful direction. Jurgen Klopp’s side were responsible for inflicting the lethal blow on Jose Mourinho’s reign last December. It remains to be seen whether the same is dealt on Solskjaer.

Manchester United Likely XI

De Gea, Young, Lindelof, Maguire, Rojo, McTominay, Pogba, Pereira, Mata, James, Rashford.

The injury bug has still not worn out from the United squad. Paul Pogba’s been working hard in the middle east to recover from his ankle knock, which means he should start if everything going well. Anthony Martial’s FINALLY back, but is a doubt to start. Jesse Lingard & Luke Shaw’s injuries mean that Solskjaer has limited options and must construct a strong defensive stance to counter Liverpool’s fiery attacking threat.

Liverpool Likely XI

Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane.

Well, the good news for Liverpool is that Alisson is back in contention to make his return! Joel Matip’s also ready to go, reforming his strong partnership with Virgil Van Dijk. Xherdan Shaqiri and Nathaniel Clyne remain their long-term absentees.

Manchester United vs Liverpool preview

While the United board are adamant to retain their faith on OGS for the long-term, a heavy defeat to bitter rivals Liverpool will automatically dent the fans’ trust on the manager. It doesn’t matter whether the Reds are flying high playing like Champions, a positive result is quintessential to prove that the Norwegian can be trusted.

So how exactly do you defeat the side who are on a 17-match winning streak, much of that without their best goalkeeper? Well, I think it’s time Ole pulled out a rabbit from his hat to prove that United still have that competitive mojo inside them.

Perhaps rekindling that night in Paris, after which things started sloping down for United, would work a treat in reigniting that missing fire. The good thing is that Pogba, Martial are both gunning to return. They’ll automatically upgrade their lethality going forward, injecting pace and creativity into their otherwise dull attack.

United need to be clever with their approach to breach Liverpool’s organized defence, led by an impeccable Van Dijk. Going for the aerial route is pointless thanks to their towering individuals in defence.

However, Liverpool have been somewhat susceptible to quick-linked passing moves throughout the season. Their defence isn’t as strong as last season, which means there’s still a ray of hope to create timely opportunities. As much as United need Martial & Pogba, everyone must tap into their creative best to work moves as a solid unit.

Marcus Rashford and co also must start taking their chances, capitalizing on the little opportunities created to at least test the goalkeeper. This game is written for Liverpool to dominate, but United’s feisty counter-attacking skills have worked a treat ever since OGS came on board.

Dan James’ unbridled pace will be key, while there’s hope surrounding that Rashford finds back his 17’ form when he slotted two past the Reds. Now, apart from keeping their attacking moves clean, United must be at their very best defensively to keep Liverpool at bay.

Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino & Sadio Mane are dangerous as ever with a bag full of tricks in their arsenal. Andy Robertson & Trent Alexander-Arnold’s dynamic marauding runs will also test the Red Devils, who must prove why they’re the 4th best defensive side in the league by digging their heels in deep to frustrate the Reds if they aspire to see out a result.

Prediction

As much as this looks another inevitable loss, I’ll roll the dice and say United get out a result. I think it’ll be a draw, which should be enough to reduce pressure on Solskjaer’s job.

What Changes Must Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Make to Save His Manchester United Job?

Avatar October 11, 2019

Well, the wheels are sadly coming off for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign at Manchester United.

After finding his team sitting at a horrible 12th place in the Premier League, the Norwegian has lost his smile. United were once cruising like a Ferrari under him but have now been reduced to a broken-down truck. What’s worse is there are no signs of improvement either. Rumours of getting the sack are getting louder.

While I can obviously sympathize with his situation as the players underperforming nature hasn’t helped, but OGS is also at fault for the tactical errors. He’s trusted upon the wrong kind of players. He’s showcasing signs of stubbornness in sticking with players who are just not good enough.

There are major changes needed for him to survive at least till January, when United can buy big and save themselves from clinging onto this relegation battle. He might not be the most experienced manager, but it’s now time for Ole to prove his grit by inspiring his players to bring back their A-game (preferably by getting a positive result against Liverpool). Here are the changes he should make to save his job.

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1. Replacing the aging players with talented youngsters

At the start of the season, Solskjaer reiterated how he would give youngsters (especially Mason Greenwood) more chances over the older players. However, persisting with players past their best now makes him look like a hypocrite. He must discard the likes of Ashley Young, Juan Mata & Nemanja Matic who offer absolutely no creative edge.

They are too static, one-dimensional & frustrating with their slow, unresponsive contribution. OGS must take risks now with his back against the wall and trust upon the youngsters to offer an olive branch. Greenwood is more than capable of leading the line, being a much better finisher than the misfiring Marcus Rashford.

Even Angel Gomes has that fiery, creative eye which Mata seems to have lost. James Garner also deserves chances to light up United’s midfield with his energetic, skilfull presence. It’s a go-hard or go-home situation for Ole, who must give the popular youngsters their chances to turn things around for United.

2. Improving the set-piece style

To say that United are horrible at set-pieces would probably be an understatement. Ashley Young’s botched crosses barely help, neither do instances like Harry Maguire scuffing a free header wide against Newcastle United. It’s been nearly seven months since they last scored off a set-piece which is the longest among any other side in the Premier League. It’s not like they don’t have enough quality.

Apart from Maguire’s “slabhead,” there are resounding players like Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba to pounce in powerful headers. The delivery needs to be right. Ole must work extensively on improving this in the training ground and find a proper set-piece taker who at least gets the ball into dangerous areas.

When it comes to free-kick, they need improvement with Marcus Rashford’s attempt to imitating Cristiano Ronaldo is failing miserably. Of course, relying upon goals from scrappy set-pieces could be considered a cheap way to success. But even that’s better than not scoring at all. Ole must find a better set-piece taker(perhaps make Andreas Pereira work on his perfecting his delivery) and instruct his players to capitalize on chances in corners+free-kicks.

3. Appoint better leaders on the pitch

What was evident in United’s lifeless display against Newcastle is they’re badly lacking some strong characters in the pitch. Liverpool have Virgil Van Dijk & Jordan Henderson. Man City has got David Silva & Sergio Aguero.  Arsenal have Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang. But United don’t have anyone to take games by the scruff of their necks and turn things around.

OGS has earmarked Maguire as a future captain, while also hailing Axel Tuanzebe’s efforts, but handing the captain’s armband to Young itself is a bad choice. His consistent errors in defense or frustrating crosses manage to dim down the players than charging them. United do possess players who can make their voices felt by ordering their team-mates how to deal with pressure, but Ole must give them the freedom to do so.

Indeed, the likes of Maguire, McTominay or Victor Lindelof must be given responsibility to re-energize the players with confidence or rallying them forward with their overbearing personalities. Unless they have dominant characters to inject liveliness into their performances, OGS can’t do anything about stopping this free-fall or his own potential departure.

Three Things Christian Pulisic Can Fix to Earn Minutes at Chelsea

Avatar October 10, 2019

Life at Chelsea hasn’t started in the most grandeur fashion for Christian Pulisic.

He finds himself reduced to the bench, with Frank Lampard trusting his academy disciples’ to get the job done instead. Failing to start with such a big price-tag over his head is inviting doubts, even though his manager has backed him to take time adapting to the Premier League’s intensity.

Nonetheless, Pulisic isn’t getting the playing time he–or his American fans–would like to see. This happened to him last season at Borussia Dortmund as Jadon Sancho emerged as the German squad’s top attacking option.

The good news for Pulisic is he’s not the first high-priced player to take time adapting to the Premier League. Liverpool’s defensive center-mid Fabinho struggled to earn minutes and find quality on the pitch early last season. He’s now one of the first names on the sheet.

Here are three things Pulisic can do to break into Chelsea’s starting XI.

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1. Be More Clever With His Movement

While he might have all the technical skill in the world, Pulisic will never be able to win over Lampard unless he starts working harder. He can’t expect to be prioritized ahead of the others if he doesn’t display his work-rate in chasing down opponents, pressing them high up or intercepting possession in dangerous areas.

He must anticipate which opposition player to press or when to commit to challenges and win back possession. Perhaps he needs a dose of Mason Mount’s urgency in anticipating defenders’ frailties when distributing possession.

Moreover, rather than just trying to display his raw pace, he must be patient with moving into promising spaces so that those behind him can send him free through on goal. If he’s more relaxed and smarter in predicting the pockets of spaces to run into the final third, Pulisic should  get more involved in their attacks.

2. Link-Up Better With Abraham & Co

Of course, transitioning from the Bundesliga to the Premier League is no easy feat. Both leagues are different in terms of tactical styles, atmospheres as well as the competitive level. Pulisic can’t be blamed for taking his time, but he must start creating chemistry with Chelsea’s regulars upfront. On atop the list is the in-form Tammy Abraham, who’s scoring whenever he pleases in his breakout season.

The American International must work harder alongside him in training, getting to know his strengths & weaknesses thoroughly. If he creates that intuitive bond, there won’t be stopping him from supplying deadly passes for Abraham to finish. Not only Tammy, but he also must work on building partnerships with Mount, Jorginho, N’Golo Kante along with the full-backs.

Being able to connect better with them will help him build his way into getting into goal-scoring situations. If Pulisic wants to start regularly, he must synchronize himself to their quick-paced style and implement more finesse to his link-up play.

3. Start Operating More Centrally

So we all know that Christian Pulisic is naturally a winger. However, he has all the traits of being a successful playmaker or #10 for club & country. His creativity has really been amplified since joining Lampard’s side. In the modern-day tactics, wingers are compelled to move more centrally in a bid for try scoring or creating chances more often.

With Chelsea opting for overlapping wing-backs in Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta, it gives Puliisc enough freedom to roam into the middle. His impressive assist for Michy Batshuayi recently proves how slick his final-delivery is from central areas. Pulisic also boasts better expected assists per game than Chelsea’s regular attackers, which proves how distinctive his creative vision is.

Moreover, he could also make more penetrative runs inside the box and try taking more shots on goal to start scoring for the Blues. He could show off all he wants down the wing, but Pulisic’s real contribution is when operating through the middle which he should do to add another dimension to Chelsea’s attack.

Who Manchester United Should Buy in January to Keep from Being Relegated

Avatar October 8, 2019

Well, I never thought we would come to this situation when Manchester United find themselves closer to relegation than the Premier League top-four.

Indeed, after another shallow defeat to Newcastle United, they sit merely two points above the drop zone. There’s a relegation party being organized in May just in case. They are +7000 to be relegated.

It looks unlikely things will improve anytime soon. The players simply aren’t performing. Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s tactics have become obsolete and there’s just no life in the team. Lethargic is perhaps the perfect word to sum up their situation, with clear-cut chances hard to come by. Not like their current attackers are decisive enough to finish the little ones that do come by.

United clearly didn’t spend enough during the summer, meaning major reinforcements must be made to revitalize their attack. With pressure piling on distancing themselves from a he relegation zone, here are a few players United could buy in January to turn things around for them.

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5. Steven Bergwijn

United have had a persistent problem attacking through their right-flank, with pointless delivery from that side rendering them useless due to the lack of talent. Everyone thought Daniel James as the fix, but he’s more a natural left-winger who loves cutting in. Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s a sturdy defender but still lacks that delivery sense from the right.

They still need to address their right-winger problems, but Steven Bergwijn can be a clever solution. The Netherlands international is a feisty figure through the right, having the pace along with the dribbling skills to torment defenders. He has a WhoScored rating of 7.41 when playing through the right, having scored one and assisted twice from that.

Moreover, his 3 key passes & 1.8 per game proves he’s a creative, electric figure moving through the wings. A tricky winger like Bergwijn, who can cross & cut from the right, is ideal to bring another dimension to re-energize United’s front-line.

At 22, the PSV Eindhoven winger fits the right age profile as well for a Man U squad that should build through youth.

4. Sean Longstaff

What United lacked in their embarrassing loss to Newcastle United was the passion which Sean Longstaff displayed for the Magpies. While his younger brother Matty stole the show with his winner, Sean’s been among the best things to come out from their youth system in ages. He’s determined, tough-tackling and possesses a valuable never-say-die spirit.

Of course, Scott McTominay wears his badge with pride, having produced some inspired performances recently, but he often gets overrun with little back-up. Nemanja Matic is too slow, while Fred is too clumsy. Longstaff’s expected assists per 90 are superior to all three aforementioned players, proving he possesses that cutting creative edge.

He tends to run his socks off, make crucial interceptions and drive his side forward with lung-busting runs. Longstaff was linked with United in the summer, as his recent fiery performance proves he’s the one needed to run oppositions to the ground.

He’s also 21 and from England, fitting key criteria United are after in their rebuild.

3. Mario Mandzukic

Another one that got away for United in the summer, Mario Mandzukic was there for the taking as Romelu Lukaku’s replacement. However, OGS couldn’t get it done due to wage issues, instead deciding to trust Marcus Rashford & Anthony Martial to come up with the goods.

Well, that hasn’t worked out. United is only scoring 5 goals in 7 games since that Chelsea drubbing. Mandzukic hasn’t appeared for Juventus this season, but is again available in January. The 2018 FIFA World Cup finalist is everything United need in a warrior in the attack.

Manduzkic is hard-working, versatile enough to even move through the wings and a terror inside the area. He’s very clinical inside the area, with the effectiveness for scoring on big occasions. His bullish presence is also unnerving for defenders. The Croatian can battle his way into scoring goals, with his elite mentality making him the ideal mentor for United’s growing strikers.

At 33, he’s long in the tooth for a rebuild. But like our #1 on the list, he will solve United’s biggest short-term need in their quest to stay above relegation.

2. Bruno Fernandes

When Man United fans begged for a creative centre-midfield to take some pressure off Paul Pogba’s shoulders, they decided to just raise the responsibility on the wantaway Frenchman. Ander Herrera was never replaced, nor was Marouane Fellaini.

The results of doing nothing are showing, with United’s static midfield barely influencing their results. Bruno Fernandes is still at Portuguese side Sporting, but United must go on with a big bid in January. He’s scored six goals and assisted five from attacking midfield this season. Those numbersthe entire United midfield haven’t been able to match.

The industrious, creative Fernandes has that cutting-edge which they lack. Be it his bombing long-shots, ripping through-balls or a hard-working tenacity, Fernandes is the proactive, multi-layered workhorse. He would spark their creativity as well as solve their goal-scoring issues from midfield.

1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The more troubles start creeping up on United, the more it becomes confusing why they let go of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the first place. He was “replaced” with Lukaku after sustaining a terrible injury, but letting him go without a proper plan now seems unnecessary.

Zlatan’s since gone onto take the MLS by storm, scoring 52 goals in 56 games for LA Galaxy! He’s reaffirmed himself the King of MLS, scoring incredible efforts to inspire them to many victories. However, here at High Press Soccer, we feel Ibra would be a perfect buy for United in January. He still has that hunger in him after having successfully recovered from the injury.

Ibra’s a beast aerially, rarely scuffs his chances & the ideal finisher United need to creep in their limited chances. Zlatan’s already reiterated he’d be open to returning to Old Trafford, as they shouldn’t make any second guesses when it comes to resigning this lethal goal-scorer.

Manchester United Player Ratings vs Newcastle (Premier League Matchday 8)

Avatar October 6, 2019
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Manchester United fell to a terrible 1-0 loss to Newcastle United in the hunt to continue their horrible away winless streak. The Red Devils started as drably as they were in mid-week Europa League fixture against AZ Alkmaar, showing little inspiration going forward.

United had the lion’s share of possession(66%) in the first half, but Newcastle were much better in getting more chances. They were unlucky not to score, as Harry Maguire also scuffed a free header wide to rob his side of a fortunate lead.

Newcastle kept the visitors quiet and a thunderous counter-attack in the 72nd minute led to debutant Matthew Longstaff scoring a brilliant long-ranger to give his side the lead. United huffed and puffed, but were unable to create anything concrete, falling to another shameful away defeat. Liverpool next and things won’t get any better anytime soon. Here are the player ratings for the game. 

Manchester United Player Ratings

Manager

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (4.0) –

For all his ramblings of promoting youth, Solskjaer is persistently trusting upon bygone oldies who offered no productivity. His United are shockingly tame going forward, look clueless creativity and even the good players are losing their touch. Unless he changes his tactics and mentality, things won’t get better any soon.

Goalkeeper

David de Gea (5.5) –

DDG’s distribution still isn’t the most convincing. Lucky to see Matty Longstaff’s long-range screamer hit the post in the 27th after he’d been beaten all ends up. However, he was unable to do anything when he struck a bullet into his bottom right corner in the 72nd to give Newcastle the lead. 

Defenders

Axel Tuanzebe (6.5) –

Tuanzebe’s second start in as many games, but he doesn’t seem fearful of the towering Joelinton’s threat. Kept the Brazilian quiet with persistent marking and tackling. Later moved to the right and retained his confident defensive solidity with timely challenges. A slight bright spark in United’s dark day. 

Harry Maguire (6.0) –

Despite not having his regular partner, Maguire’s comfortable moving possession forward or clearing danger. Makes a brilliant block in the 38th to save a certain goal from Almiron. Heads a glorious scoring opportunity wide in the 45th. Should’ve scored that! Not doing so cost him, with Newcastle taking the win despite him being composed with defensive work. 

Diogo Dalot (6.0)-

Getting his first Premier League start, Dalot looks ready for the challenge against the pacy Saint-Maxim. Gets one shot(read: attempted cross) on target in the 21st. Did a pretty good job keeping up with him and making timely challenges. Offered little going forward and worsened United’s situation by picking up an injury before the hour-mark.

Ashley Young (5.5) –

The nervy captain makes a promising start with an important block in the first minute. Regains his buffoon reputation with a botch minutes later. Was off and on with his delivery, but defensive frailty proved again tonight with another wonky showing. 

Midfielders

Fred(4.0) –

Already looks all over the place. Made an unnecessary challenge to concede a free-kick in the early minutes and looks nervous with his distribution. Played it safe with predictable passes and overrun by Newcastle’s midfield.  Scuffed a long-ranger over late on, summing up his evening. 

Scott McTominay (5.0) –

Monday night’s hero looks a bit ruffled today. Lost the ball on different occasions in the first 15 minutes to allow Newcastle forward. However, he’s regained his urgent demeanor driving United forward. Frustrations led to a terrible challenge on Sean Longstaff to get booked at the half-hour mark.

Andreas Pereira (4.5) –

A fish out of water on the right-wing, the Brazilian is almost obsolete apart from a few recoveries. Moved towards the left later on and had an attempted curler saved in the 41st. Horribly played Williems onside leading up to the goal. 

Forwards

Marcus Rashford (3.0) –

Rashford’s showing signs of the known pace, but unable to get into any promising position behind Newcastle’s packed backline. Almost looked uninterested at points with shoddy movement and offered very little in terms of penetrativeness. He showed no signs of even being a centre-forward with another invisible showing. 

Daniel James (4.5) – 

Unusually weary in possession. James isn’t being able to find space to move forward and being countered by Newcastle’s deep defence. Kept mostly quiet, but had a promising cross in the 70th scraped clear by Schar. The bad form is starting to affect his game as well. 

Juan Mata (4.0)

Playing at his preferred #10 role, Mata hasn’t shown any signs of creativity in the early phase of the game. Moved into pockets of space throughout, but offered little in terms of killer-passes required. Another drab showing. 

Substitutions

Marcos Rojo (5.5) –

The Argentine was unable to do anything for the goal, but had a header scrap over the bar in the 75th. Booked minutes later for a typically unnecessary aggressive challenge. 

Mason Greenwood (6.0) –

The 17-year-old automatically lifted his side’s attack by displaying his natural striking attributes. Laid in a clever ball to send Young through in the 69th, but saw it horrible wasted. Tried powering a frail cross into goal in the 85th, only to see it collected. 

Tahith Chong (N/A) –

Came on very late on and unable to do anything about the scoreline.  

MAN OF THE MATCH

Tuanzebe was probably United’s best player with his defensive solidity, but nobody from the Red Devils really deserves MOTM today.

 

Newcastle United vs Manchester United Matchday 8 Preview

Avatar October 4, 2019

Who: Newcastle vs Manchester United
When: Sunday, October 6th @ 11:30am ET
LineNewcastle +340 | Draw +245 | Manchester United -114

Manchester United’s season is already getting dangerously close to being dead in the water. Of course, lady luck hasn’t been on their side ever since the opening weekend drubbing of Chelsea, with injuries as well as botched opportunities not allowing them to live up to their expected points hype.

Now two games without a win in the league, United travel to the land of the Geordies hoping to at least keep up with the top six, if not the top-four. Newcastle United themselves are stuck in a ditch, having picked up that single win and sitting shamefully in the relegation zone.

Steve Bruce’s tactics aren’t working at all, with Newcastle being an absolutely drab side going forward. New signing Joelinton has not being able to do it all by himself and even their normally solid defence was ripped apart by a Leicester City thrashing last weekend. The pressure is mounting on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as his side must turn up big against the struggling Newcastle or risk falling deeper into obscurity.

Newcastle United Predicted XI

Dubravka, Yedlin, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Longstaff, Ki Sung-Yueng, Almiron, Saint-Maxim, Atsu, Joelinton

Newcastle are themselves experiencing an injury crisis of sorts, with first-teamers Jonjo Shelvey, Jetro Williems & Matt Ricthie all injured. Dwight Gayle & Florian Lejeune remain out, while Isaac Hayden will also miss the game after his red card against Leicester.

Manchester United Predicted XI

De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young, Matic, McTominay, Pogba, Pereira, James, Rashford.

For OGS, Luke Shaw is still out for an unidentified period of time despite having started light training recently. Paul Pogba was left out of their squad for the Europa League game against AZ Alkmaar with issues on his foot injury but, I think, should be back on Sunday. Anthony Martial’s also a doubt, with a return against Liverpool after the international break seeming a more realistic time-frame.

Newcastle United vs Manchester United Preview

Nothing is going Manchester United’s way these days. With only two wins from the first seven in the new Premier League season, they’ve experienced the worst start to a league season in 30 years!

Of course, the statistics are continuing to work onto their favour, showing them to being unlucky to not have been in the top five or scoring more goals. When it comes to realistic output, their players have come up short ever since that opening week brilliant show against Chelsea.

For a side with so much quality in their ranks, they must amp up their attacking intensity by being more effective and quicker at creating chances. Their finishing needs improving, with Marcus Rashford especially doing no favours to his reputation with consistently scuffing easy chances.

Daniel James has remained a bright spark with his electric running and will use that to strike fear into Newcastle’s defenders. Scott McTominay’s playing with his heart on the sleeve, as his tenacity and clever movement, for me, is assured to create some sparks at Tyneside.

Pogba, I think, must improve his productivity going forward and work on his finishing or timing his passes as well. United’s defence did well apart from that one error leading to Arsenal’s goal on Monday night, but their physical aptitude will be tested by a Newcastle side hooping in long crosses. However, it’s their underperforming strike-force which must roll its sleeves, dug in and finish off the little chances they manage to create.

Newcastle are now goalless in more than two games, having last scored in the early minutes against Liverpool. Despite some exciting players up-front in Joelinton, Allan Saint-Maxim & Miguel Almiron, there’s very little productivity thanks to Steve Bruce’s stone-age tactics.

The experienced manager must prove his ability against his former side, making sure to utilize his attacking stars attributes perfectly. Newcastle have the ability to torment teams aerially as well as moving forward like a pack, but I feel are too cautious for their own good.

In order to take the game to an under-performing Man United, Bruce must allow his side to bomb forward even if it leaves their defence exposed. United need to ride the wind, unleash their unique creativity+ explosiveness going forward to break down the Geordies’ packed defence line to get a crucial win before the crucial Liverpool derby.

Prediction

At this point, predicting a Man United win feels like spelling my own doom. However, I’ll run the gauntlet once again to go with a 2-1 win for United at Tyneside.

Trouble In North London: What’s Behind Tottenham Hotspur’s Sudden Decline?

Avatar October 3, 2019

To fall from competing in the UEFA Champions League final in one season to being pumped seven goals at home takes some shocking backtracking. Well, Tottenham Hotspur have somehow managed to achieve this embarrassing task.

The drubbing to Bayern Munich validated their sudden vulnerability. While their shockingly poor away form in 2019 has been the talk of the town, many shushed opinions that they’ve gone downhill since that majestic night in Amsterdam.

Quite similar to Manchester United’s downfall following their Parisian delight in March, Mauricio Pochettino’s side has gone from among Europe’s best to operating like just another inconsistent Premier League mid-table side.

The pressure keeps mounting on the Argentine to face the sack if things don’t improve. With only a point in two games, Spurs need a small miracle to make it out the group. However, this worrying decline, which has been going on for nearly a year now, only manifested further after a brittle summer.

Daniel Levy comes up short in the transfer market AGAIN

Spurs were among the absolute rare clubs to not have spent a dime for three transfer windows stretching from the 2017 winter transfer up till the 2019 summer, when they started splurging again. Building a new state-of-the-art stadium posed an excuse, as Pochettino dug his teeth into getting the best of whatever he had.

Of course, he worked wonders for a certain period with the Champions League success. However, it was evident his thin squad needed more firepower. He soon made it clear it wasn’t him but chairman Daniel Levy-known for selling his star players for highly inflated fees- was handling the business.

Levy ended up securing three targets in Tanguy N’Dombele, Ryan Sessegnon and Giovani Lo Celso. When you look at how Sessegnon (a future star) still being injured and Lo Celso hasn’t even played an hour, the recruitment doesn’t seem that clever, does it?

Well, Levy’s inability to sign a top-quality centre-back or a replacement for the outgoing Kieran Trippier has clearly backfired. Spurs are conceding goals for days, looking unstable whenever having to defend and lack their explosiveness going forward.

They need at least two or three more players, including a feisty number #10 (Paulo Dybala rejected them in a last-minute deal) and a few strong defenders to mount a proper challenge. Levy took a risk trying to save money again, but his greed’s come back to haunt him.

Tactical & ego problems

Their off-the-field problems have integrated into their performance-levels this season, as Spurs have lost that hard-working mentality which allowed them to go past many obstacles last season. In a bid to complement lethal finishers Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son together upfront, Pochettino’s shifted to a two-man strike force this season.

As a result, we’ve seen a 4-3-1-2 or 4-4-2 formation be used on different occasions. While this does allow Son & Kane to link up smoothly going forward, it’s had a problematic effect on those behind them. However, these narrow formations has a toll on their midfielders and wing-backs, who tire out after being forced to put in extra shifts.

Their right-wing is posing to be a big problem, with the sloppy Serge Aurier consistently being wrong-footed and oppositions specifically targeting to attack via that side. Despite showing a never-say-die spirit last season, they get withered out too easily, allowing opponents to sit-back, soak in pressure and thwart them in swift breaks or counter-attacks.

How Spurs conceded five goals in the second half against Bayern, two against Leicester City and almost two near about the half-time break mark proves how their players switch off after a point. Hugo Lloris’ botchery doesn’t help and the ageing centre-backs can only do so much.

Adding to the problems is the fact that there are some tensed relationship between senior players. As per ESPN, some don’t think Spurs can go further after the UCL final last season and Pochettino recently questioning their mentality only proved not everything is swell in the dressing room.

Too many wantaway players

While Spurs have done well to overthrow the reputation for being a “selling club” over the last few years, they still aren’t elite enough for their top stars to commit themselves for life. Christian Eriksen, in particular, has been agitating for a move away.

He explained his wishes to leave North London in the summer but after Real Madrid simply ran out of money to sign him, the Dane was forced to stay. However, he’s almost guaranteed to leave soon with his contract running out in the summer of 2020. Moreover, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen’s contract are also expiring in May.

Unless a miracle, Spurs’ experience trio should be out by next summer. However, Eriksen’s pre-season antics and grumpy theatrics aren’t helping Pochettino. The Dane’s the enforcer in Spurs attack, but has seen himself benched on many occasions as Spurs prepare for life without him.

The fact that Dele Alli, who’s yet to score or assist this season, has gotten the nod over him on multiple occasions has also frustrated many senior figures. By having to deal with wantaway, disgruntled players on one side and underwhelming on another, Pochettino’s losing his patience.

All these problems have surmounted into a systematic issue for the Argentine. There are really no guarantees Spurs will be firing on all cylinders even if he calms down the storm this season. With big chances ahead, their manager’s future in potential and multiple stars slated to leave, it’s safe to say the high-flying North London giants have been brought back to the grim reality they lived in for years.

Chelsea Player Ratings vs Lille (Champions League October 2 2019)

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Chelsea travel to face Lille in their second 2019-20 UEFA Champions League group stage match. After a disappointing UCL start at home against Valencia, Chelsea need a good result if they want to make it to the knockout rounds. Oddsmakers like their chances, as Chelsea are -118 to win today.

The Blues looked desperate for that early goal with a  high-voltage start and found that in the 22nd minute when Fikayo Tomori came forward to whip in a cross for Tammy Abraham to expertly finish from close.However, Lille bit back quickly with a strong header from Victor Osimhen in the 33rd minute getting things back to level. 

Just when the game looked an inevitable draw, Willian struck a vicious volley past Mike Maignan to regain the lead in the 78th minute.That turned out to be the winner, giving Frank Lampard his first win as manager of the Blues. Here are the player ratings.

Chelsea Player Ratings

Manager

Frank Lampard (6.5) –

Lampard isn’t afraid of displaying his guts as he handed another youngster in Reece James his debut against Lille. He’s done a great job creating chemistry among his attack and his prodigal stars shined again. Terrific substitution to bring on Hudson-Odoi, who assisted Willian’s strike.

The transitioning from attack to defence must improve, but Frank’s injecting more confidence into his side with positive vibes.

Goalkeeper

Kepa Arrizabalaga (7.0) –

Kepa was fairly untested early on before being forced to come out from his goal to acrobatically head danger clear in the 20th minute. Dived superbly to his right making an important stop in the 31st after a dangerous Lille counter-attack. Another important fingertip save to keep out the hosts in the 52nd. He made some important high-risk challenges late on to make up for Tomori’s errors and get the win. 

Defenders

Cesar Azpilicueta (6.0) –

The captain looks more authoritative in a makeshift CB role by keeping his defensive shape compact, but unable to do anything to stop the counter-attacks. Later moved to right-back, where he looked more comfortable keeping Lille from penetrating through his wing. 

Fikayo Tomori (6.5

The teenager’s barely looking his age here, having been extremely accurate with his distribution as well as confident with defensive contributions. His confidence created the opening goal, as he brilliantly found Abraham free inside the area to score. However, Tomori was clearly outjumped by Osimhen for the equalizer. 

Struck a powerful header meeting Willian’s corner in the 54th, but it flew over. Made a suicidal backpass in the 84th, but saw Kepa save his blushes to keep the lead intact. Repeated the act in stoppage time, but Kepa scarily cleared it again. Very polarizing showing. 

Kurt Zouma (6.0)-

He looks at ease returning to his home country, having already sniffed out some dangerous passes to make timely clearances. Zouma should’ve done better heading out the corner which Osimhen scored standing just behind him. Otherwise, he was assertive with his defending and marshalled his troops well to keep Lille frustrated. 

Reece James (6.0) –

Making his debut in the Champions League, James is looking hungry to repay the faith shown in him by Lampard. Surged into the area to create a promising chance early on, while also making a crucial tackle in the 7th minute. Frustration led him to make a silly challenge to get yellow-carded soon after the equalizer. Apart from that brain-fade, James had a decent debut with timely challenges and whooping crosses later on. 

Marcus Alonso (6.0) –

The Spaniard seems early to get into the scoresheet, gliding into the middle without fear to try and meet the crosses. Had a quiet penalty shout denied following the opener after going down inside the area. Disappointingly scuffed a promising 42nd minute free-kick wide. 

Midfielders

Jorginho (6.0) –

Jorginho’s passing all over the park has been compelling as usual, but he’s finding it tricky to deal with Lille’s pacy attack. Almost compromised his defence by letting Ikone thread a ball past him in the early minutes. Looked visibly bewildered by Lille quick-passing attacking style, with the hosts penetrating past him too early on occasions. 

Clipped the post after a clever curler to end the half. Still too unresponsive and slow reacting to swift-breaks, something which must improve. 

N’Golo Kante (6.5) –

The three-lunged Frenchman’s started the game in a predictably proactive fashion, intercepting possession and winning battles to urge his side forward. Not offering much creativity in a more advanced role, but he’s dropped deeper in the second half to help protect his side and force the hosts to concede possession. 

Willian (7.0) –

Been unable to delivery that killer-blow with his passes, which haven’t been as impressive as his clever movement down the right. His poor wannabe trickery allowed Lille to counter-attack in the 30th minute, soon being followed up with the equalizer.  Threaded in a clever through-ball to relase Mount at the 73rd

After a quiet game, he came up with the game-changer thanks to a stunning volley from right-side of the box. Slowly living up to #10 shirt’s reputation. 

Forwards

Tammy Abraham (6.5) –

Tammy’s started the game rather sloppily, scuffing a few chances and displaying poor first-touch with some botched receiving. However, he made no mistake in the 22nd when left free to finish from close range after bringing Tomori’s cross down with a wonderful touch. 

Lively in the second half and threaded in a beautiful pass into the six-yard box at the 70th minute, but nobody could capitalize on it.

Mason Mount (5.5)

The youngster looked a bit frustrated against the compact defence of Lille. Had a great opportunity to open the scoring in the 17th, but his volley from open range scraped way wide of the target. Darted into open space inside the area at the 73rd, but his weak shot was tipped wide. 

Substitutions

Callum Hudson-Odoi (6.5)- 

Having come on for James in an attacking substitution, CHO tried for that heroic curler in the 72nd only to see it blaze over. Sprung in a clever cross to Willian for the second. 

Mateo Kovacic (N/A) –

Helped soak pressure and seal the deal towards the end.

Pedro Rodriguez (N/A) –

Injected energy into the side.

MAN OF THE MATCH

There were still signs of the frustration attributes holding him back, but Willian showcased sparks of brilliance throughout. Topped off with a stunning goal to award his side all three points and for that, he’s my MOTM.

Manchester United Player Ratings vs Arsenal (Premier League Matchday 7)

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Manchester United played out a 1-1 draw against  Arsenal in the Premier League’s marquee fixture for matchday 7.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side look revitalized in a rainy night at Old Trafford, taking the fight to Arsenal in the early minutes. The game lost its after a lively start, but ended in thunderous fashion with David De Gea making a double-save before Scott McTominay finished off a counter-attack with a fantastic strike to give his side the lead in the 45th minute. 

Arsenal went hard for the equalizer after the break and got it in the 58th when a defensive error allowed Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang to score his 8th goal this season. The game opened up after that with chances for both side, but neither could take them. Splitting points helps Arsenal get back into the top-four, while United are now on 10th place!

Manchester United Player Ratings

Manager

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (5.0) –

OGS is making me lose patience by showcasing blind faith on consistently underperforming players like Lingard, Young and Pereira. This was the perfect opportunity for an in-form Mason Greenwood to prove himself, but he was brought on late on.

The once-great substitute still can’t get his changes in order. Even though United’s counter-attacks are lethal under him, they still lack shape and order going forward. The pressure mounts with no win in two league games.

Goalkeeper

David de Gea (6.5) –

DDG’s distribution looks off today, but isn’t helped by skitty surface at a wet Old Trafford. Makes a routine dived save off Pepe in the 35th.  A terrific double save to keep the game-level, denying Saka and then Guendouzi brilliantly off the rebound. Helpless for the goal, but DDG’s regained his confidence in goal.

Defenders

Axel Tuanzebe (5.5) –

A surprise inclusion at left-back of all places, he’s proved his worth maintaining a composed nature. A clever run forward before the 10th minute incurred delightful jeers. Super work in the 18th to cut off Chambers and stop a tricky attack.

 Displayed impressive confidence throughout with strong challenges, but makes that one vital mistake with a botched pass leading to Aubameyang’s equalizer. Looks a bit rattled after that. Not suited for a wing-back role despite defensive strength.

Harry Maguire (6.5) –

Maguire looks pumped for this big battle already. He’s made a few decent clearances including one decisive one in the 6th to steer Pogba forward. Struck a wild header to create an early chance, but Rashford couldn’t read his attempt.  A master in the air today, winning every aerial thrown at him. 

Unlucky playing Aubameyang on for the goal, but he almost redeemed that forcing a solid stop from Leno in the 72nd with a thunderous shot.

Victor Lindelof (6.0)-

Victor has his job cut out for him with Aubameyang flanking around him. But he’s done well to keep him quiet so far throughout the first half-hour, making some composed challenges as well. Lost track of Torreira in the 51st, but thankfully saw him botch his shot from range. 

Couldn’t salvage Tuanzebe’s pass leading to the equalizer, but did make a crucial block to skim Saka’s shot forward minutes later.

Ashley Young (4.5) –

Young’s first game as a right-back this season isn’t going well as expected. A horrifying botched cross early up summed why he’s been replaced with Wan-Bissaka in the first place. Repeatedly getting outsmarted by a guy nearly half his age in Saka. Had one good set-piece header over by McTominay, but defensive clueless against pace. Crosses overhit as usual. 

Midfielders

Paul Pogba (5.0) –

Returning from injury with a brand new hairstyle, he’s already frustrated with a few sloppy passes in the early minutes. Tried a fancy flick forward in the 20th but ended up wasting an opportunity. Another shoddy botched one-two touch sparking a counter-attack in the 34th

Finally wakes up in 43rd to win possession and spark a counter-attack, but sees his peach-perfect through-ball to Rashford wasted.  Sees his attempted curler go agonizingly wide at the 64th. Despite minute moments of brilliance, The Frenchman had another under-par performance. 

 Scott McTominay (8.0) –

McTominay seems chuffed in a battle against the energetic Guendouzi. Done well to oust the Frenchman on a few occasions in the early minutes. The Scotsman is working his socks off to win possession, make recoveries and get United forward.

Says “I’ll do it myself” by bolting a thunderous shot into the top bin to finish off an impressive counter-attack just before half-time. Nearly restored his side’s parity in the 69th, but his header just went over. Kept roaring forward and created an esteemed scoring opportunity in the 90th earning a promising free-kick which was saved. 

Andreas Pereira (5.5) –

He’s hard-working as ever but him at looks like a fish out of water on the right-wing. Well, he seems intent on proving me wrong as he channels his inner-Ronaldo to drive forward, do a step-over and force a strong save from Leno in the 28th.  Adrenaline forced a sloppy slide to take out Guendouzi in the 32nd to earn a yellow. 

Terrible slip before half-time almost echoed disaster, but De Gea saves his blushes. Wastes a promising counter-attack in the 56th after being found brilliantly by his keeper. Skies the ball to the top-tier a minute later.  Ran out of energy forcing a substitution. 

Forwards

Marcus Rashford (5.5) –

Surprise inclusion after last weekend’s injury, but Rashford looks packed with pace and intent so far. Yet to fine-tuned finishing, scuffing an unpredictable chance early on from yards out. Booked for an unnecessary slide on Sokratis in the 27th.

Missed a decisive chance after going through in the 42nd, but somewhat redeems himself with assist for McTominay’s goal. Finally got a free-kick right with thunderbolt in stoppage time, but Leno kept it out heroically. Showed more intent as the game progressed, but still lacking clinical touch. 

Daniel James (6.0) – 

James is going to run at Chambers all-day today. Already showcased his flash-like electricity going past him on some occasions. Got the right-back booked cleverly in the 10th and will now torment him even more. Influential in creating goal, with his insane run forward responsible for destabilizing Arsenal’s defence.

Turned Arsenal defenders inside out in second period with confident running. 

Jesse Lingard (4.0)

Only starting because of his good record against Arsenal, Lingard’s already infuriated with a childish error. Worked hard to thunder his way past a few bodies in the 68th to get into the box, but booked immediately afterwards for a lunge. Created nothing. No shots on target. Still goalless in 2019.

Substitutions

Mason Greenwood (N/A) –

Throwing Greenwood in for the final fifteen minutes and expecting an impact is unfair. He made some clever passes and tried some shots, but to no avail.

Fred (N/A)- 

Fred coming on allowed Pogba to go forward, but that didn’t help anyone. Did little himself to force anything.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Scott McTominay was THE driving force for United today. He dribbled with a swagger, played promising forward balls, intercepted possession and made numerous recoveries. Stunning goal to top off a delightful performance. Let down by team-mates today.

5 Times Soccer Stars Embarrassed Themselves With Off-The-Field Antics

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They might be heroes on the pitch, but the majority of soccer stars remain the average joe on the inside, just with plenty of riches to live a lavish life. Beyond scoring or assisting goals and winning matches for their team, the top superstars are just as human as anybody else.

Due to being human on the inside, most are susceptible to making some silly, embarrassing life choices they probably regret later on. In the expense of trying to act tough or show off, some have ended up making poor mistakes in their personal lives.

Be it getting arrested, being caught in a humiliating social media post or worse, some have endured harrowing personal moments in the past. Derby County’s Richard Keough recently injured him for the rest of the season after being involved in a bad accident following drinking too heavily on a team night out. So keeping in line with this development, here we’ll look at 5 more times Soccer Stars Embarrassed Themselves with Off-The-Field Antics

5. Ashley Cole accidentally shoots a student

There’s a reason Ashley Cole’s regarded the most decorated full-back in Premier League history. When you look at his list of accolades-which includes 3 Premier League title, 4 FA Cups along with One UEFA Champions League medal- it’s evident why he’s hailed so much. Cole got in a few scuffles throughout his career, but probably the most embarrassing moment arrived in 2011.

The former England International accidentally shot a 21-year-old sports science student Tom Cowan while attempting to try out a .22 air carbine rifle at Chelsea’s Cobham Training Ground. Apparently he didn’t know it was loaded,  shooting straight at the 21-year-old, who stood only five feet away! As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, he had to apologize to Cowan(who was thankfully fine) later on, while also receiving a real dressing down for his buffoonery. That ought to teach him not to fool around with weapons.

4. Jose Mourinho gets arrested for not vaccinating his pet dog

So many players tend to get arrested for reckless driving or driving in an intoxicated state, but how many managers can boast the same? Of course, being the leader for their side and representation of a “high morale”, managers tend to keep their private lives discreet. Well, not the Special One. Indeed, Jose Mourinho got himself arrested in 2007, when managing Chelsea in his first term. The reason for it will probably be the weirdest you’ve ever heard. The Portuguese was detained for arguing with police after they had arrived at his doorstep to quarantine his dog.

Jose had taken his Yorkshire Terrier aboard in a trip and back into Britain without having it properly vaccinated. Hence, the police, as well as an animal health official, went to quarantine his pet but he started resisting & arguing with the officials. He was timely arrested for going too far, but later released for it all being a big misunderstanding. Nonetheless, that doesn’t take away the everlasting shame for the Portuguese.

Special recognition to Mourinho for falling on the ice while dropping the puck as well, pictured above.

3. Wayne Rooney gets knocked out in punching spar

Wayne Rooney is known for being a hot-head often seen arguing vehemently with officials, but behind that passionate cloak, he’s also a bit of silly slop. A brilliant striker throughout his career, Rooney’s been part of some embarrassing scandals in the past. One which stood out as especially stupid was when he got knocked out in his own home during a boxing spar.

So in a “friendly bout” with former Stoke City man Phil Bardsley, Rooney was caught on tape trying to act tough in a spar before being clocked down with a wicked strike. He fell right down, with his embarrassment becoming a viral sensation overnight. Bardsley later reiterated that he was only play-acting, but we don’t really but that. Oh well, at least he later provided the famous FIFA “boxing” celebration with an inspired goal against Spurs later on.

2. Mario Balotelli sets house on fire after shooting fireworks from bathroom window

So Mario Balotelli is known to be quite the eccentric character. From acting a temperamental character with crazy celebrations in the field, he’s even more insane outside it. Balotelli created a meme-quality celebration in Manchester City’s memorable 6-1 drubbing of Manchester United in 2011, lifting his shirt to show a “Why Always Me?” message underneath. Well, the reason for that is as hilarious as it’s shameful. A few days before the derby, the Italian shooting fireworks from his bathroom window is a very NORMAL THING to do.

Well, it turns out it really wasn’t as one botch led to a huge fire in his house. He managed to escape unscathed, but a scary substantial fire was created. City were left having to explain themselves to Fire officials for why their striker would try such an insane thing. At least he made up by sparking the drubbing of United days later, but this embarrassing act proves the reckless child he is on the inside.

1. Glen Johnson gets busted trying to steal bathroom furnishing

In all the ways soccer stars can get arrested, Glen Johnson’s version of being tapped for trying to steal bathroom seats sits right up there with the weirdest. The former England international played for both Chelsea & Liverpool in the Premier League, boasting a pretty good career overall. However, in 2007, he was arrested for attempting an unthinkable crime for a well-paid soccer star in a departmental store.

Johnson, along with fellow player Ben May, were both held for trying to sneak away toilet seats as well as some tap fittings from a store. They tried hiding it inside their garments but were caught & fined over $100 for the attempted theft. For someone earning in thousands, stealing such a meagre requirement is just bizarre. Nonetheless, this embarrassing ordeal left a stain on Johnson’s reputation which won’t fade away anytime soon

Five Teenage Wonderkids to Watch Out for in the UEFA Champions League

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So it’s no real secret that European soccer is getting younger with each passing year. Those stars who once peaked at their mid-20s are now starting to become influential figures before even turning 20. As the competitive level keeps on rising, so does the quality of young soccer stars among the top European sides.

The UEFA Champions League served it perhaps it’s biggest underdog story in ages last season in Ajax’s rise to the semi-finals. Of course, watching a young side humiliate cocky giants Real Madrid & Juventus definitely felt good. This David vs Goliath tale also showed teenage wonder kids these days can easily outperform the “superior” experienced players.

Matthijs De Ligt overwhelmed strikers like a boss, while even Jadon Sancho dazzled in his first Champions League outing with some splendid performances. Teenage wonder kids are growing in confidence after being exposed to the top-level competition thanks to more encouraging sides.

There are certain teenagers packed with unbelievable ability to outwit the best on their day. So here are five teenage wonderkids you should watch out for in the Champions League.

5. Ferran Torres (Valencia)

BARCELONA, SPAIN – SEPTEMBER 14: Ferran Torres of Valencia in action during the Liga match between FC Barcelona and Valencia CF at Camp Nou on September 14, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Valencia pulled off an unprecedented win at Stamford Bridge against all the odds, but they also did so without promising winger Ferran Torres. The 19-year-old’s the golden jewel to have come out from their academy and is an explosive package moving down the sides.

Not only can Torres burst past defenders to send in inviting crosses from out wide, but is skilfull enough to dance his way past defenders into the box. Having played a big part in Spain’s UEFA European U-19 Championship win earlier this year, he’s been fast-tracked into the senior team.

With the ability to trot his way into scoring beautiful strikes, Torres is like a stick of potential dynamite who can explode to burn Los Ches’ European opponents going forward.

4. Reece James (Chelsea)

Chelsea’s English defender Reece James (L) vies with Grimsby Town’s English midfielder Sam Kelly during the English League Cup third round football match between Chelsea and Grimsby Town at Stamford Bridge in south west London, on September 25, 2019. (Photo by OLLY GREENWOOD / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read OLLY GREENWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

So Chelsea are in sixes and sevens when it comes to defending these days. The fact that they’ve already conceded one-third of their complete goals allowed from last season with only six games in shows that with Maurizio Sarri, their defensive organizations also flocked off somewhere.

Their captain Cesar Azpilicueta’s doing them no favours with one mistake after another, allowing Frank Lampard’s side to concede goals like pennies. However, he does have one trump card up his sleeve in young Reece James. The right-back’s pretty stable defensively, but especially dangerous going forward.

The fact that he produced this genius assist in his first start under Lampard proves he’s a special talent. The 19-year-old’s quick going forward, as well as precise with his unique crosses. Even defensively, he can make timely challenges, while also being agile enough to deal with wingers. But, it’s his sizzling ability going forward which makes him a lively threat to watch out for this season.

3. Dominik Szoboszlai (Red Bull Salzburg)

VIENNA, AUSTRIA – SEPTEMBER 25: Dominik Szoboszlai of Salzburg and Maximilian Ullmann of Rapid during the OeFB cup match between SK Rapid Wien and FC Red Bull Salzburg at Allianz Stadion on September 25, 2019 in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by Michael Molzar/SEPA.Media /Getty Images)

Red Bull Salzburg’s start to their Champions League campaign proves that they won’t go down without a fight. They handed Genk a proper thrashing in the first matchday and even though the talk of the town is Erling Braut Haaland (we’ll talk about him later), but another teenage sensation who bloomed over is Dominik Szoboszlai.

The 6’1 teenager is a combative figure packed with many tricks in his arsenal to cause trouble from midfield. He can easily move past midfielders using his dribbling ability, while his physical attributes make him a hard man to bring down. With a pretty creative eye, Szoboszlai loves marching his team forward with exquisite defence-breaking passes.

The 18-year-old also has a knack for attempting blistering long-shots as well as stylish finishes to top off their attacking moves. Expect him to trouble Liverpool & Napoli with his unpredictable style. Also, watch out for his venomous free-kicks to cause havoc in the next few matchdays.

2. Rodrygo (Real Madrid)

MADRID, SPAIN – SEPTEMBER 25: Rodrygo Silva de Goes of Real Madrid celebrates his goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Osasuna at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on September 25, 2019 in Madrid Spain. (Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The latest Brazilian sensation to arrive at Real Madrid, the fact that Los Blancos splurged $50 million for a teenager speaks volumes on Rodrygo’s talent. He introduced himself in style against Osasuna, with his wonderful goal two minutes into his debut exemplifying the impactful, confident teenager he is.

The Brazilian’s bound to get even better. However, his knack of taking on defenders, bombing into the box as well as finishing ability already makes him an uncomfortable force to face. However, knowing their relatively weak group(apart from PSG), the 18-year-old will get chances to shine.

Rodrygo’s electric movement,  tendency to skip past defenders using his trickery is irresistible enough to goad Zinedine Zidane into unleashing him to torment oppositions in the Champions League this season.

1. Erling Braut Haland (Red Bull Salzburg)

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA – SEPTEMBER 17: Erling Haaland of FC Salzburg (L) and Jhon Lucumi of KRC Genk during the champions league group E match between FC Salzburg and KRC Genk at Salzburg Stadion on September 17, 2019 in Salzburg, Austria. (Photo by Andreas Schaad/Bongarts/Getty Images)

What more can be said of Erling Braut Haland? We here at High Press Soccer are huge fans of the young Norwegian striker who’s proving to be the next big thing in European soccer. Haland is lethal and downright brilliant to watch whenever he ventures forward looking for goals like a predator eyeing his prey.

It’s sometimes hard to believe he’s only 19, as the big, strong centre-forward is absolutely ruthless when handed an opportunity in the final third. By becoming only the second teenager to score a hat-trick in his Champions League debut after Wayne Rooney, we can see him becoming as great a striker as the Englishman.

Haland obviously has a move to a big club on the cards, but he’s not done hunting for goals yet. He’s already netted 17 goals in just 10 appearances on all competitions, but he’s not stopping anytime soon. We, however, can’t be any more excited to see how many splendid strikes this beautiful striker has in store.

Manchester United vs Arsenal Matchday 7 Preview

Avatar September 24, 2019

Who: Manchester United vs Arsenal
When: Monday, September 30th @ 03:00pm ET
LineManchester United +125 | Draw +260 | Arsenal +205

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Just when it looked like Manchester United were getting back on track and even had the opportunity to go 3rd in the Premier League table, they crumbled down once again. This has been a recurring nightmare for far too many years now and a crucial clash against Arsenal on Monday night puts pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to prove himself.

In more ways than one, these teams are like two sides of the same coin. United have been strong defensively so far, keeping a few clean-sheets, but underwhelming going forward. On the other hand, Arsenal are scoring goals for fun, but conceding them equally hilariously.

United have statistically been unlucky with 13 expected points, but positive xPTS doesn’t win you matches! With Arsenal’s decisive attacking line looking well-synched, United must dig in deep and most importantly, take their chances to get back to winning ways.

Manchester United Predicted XI

De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young, Matic, McTominay, Pereira, Pogba, James, Martial

Marcus Rashford limped off in the defeat to West Ham, as a groin strain is expected to rule him out for the game. Solskjaer said that he “hopesAnthony Martial & Mason Greenwood should be back for selection, while Paul Pogba is nearing a return from his injury as well. Luke Shaw’s started training, but is yet to be fully fit to compete.

Arsenal Predicted XI

Leno, Chambers, Sokratis, Luiz, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Torreira,  Ceballos, Pepe, Aubameyang

Ainsley Maitland-Niles is set to miss the game after being sent off against Aston Villa, while Hector Bellerin & new-signing Kieran Tierney are yet to be fully fit to start their first Premier League game in such a high level. Alexandre Lacazette is still recovering from his ankle injury, as he’ll return sometime in October.

Manchester United vs Arsenal Match Preview

With only two wins in United’s last 12 Premier League matches, OGS finds himself in hot water with everyone involved at the club. Granted, the injuries haven’t helped, but his decision to sell off Romelu Lukaku or Alexis Sanchez without a replacement is proving costly.

The Red Devils are now desperately lacking a forward, with Rashford’s injury meaning only Martial or Greenwood are the options remaining. Ole hopes his French Duo of Martial & Pogba can tune up the band to get the job done against Arsenal.

They’ve already contributed towards 5 goals out of United’s 8 in the league this season, with Pogba being OGS’ only reliable creative link. United might not be the most relentless attacking side, but will take their chances against a broken Arsenal back-line.

As long as his best attackers are in line for selection, Ole must throttle his side to run at Arsenal with pace and trickery. Pogba will be crucial with his forward through-balls, while the pacy Daniel James must link well with Martial to penetrate through their unstable backline.

So Arsenal might be in trouble defensively, but there’s little doubting their attacking firepower. Unai Emery’s side showed great character to pull off the comeback win against Aston Villa on Sunday, despite being one man down. With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s scored in every single game so far, he’ll look to continue his wondrous form at United’s expense.

Nicolas Pepe also opened his score-sheet, now starting to look the venomous winger they spent a club-record for. Matteo Guendouzi’s amplifying his future captaincy chances, driving the Gunners forward with his impeccable work-rate pressing the oppositions into submission.

However, the Gunners absolutely must solidify their back-line to survive an onslaught at Old Trafford. They’ve earned a bad reputation of being too easily penetrate, having allowed in the most number of shots in the league thanks to David Luiz and co’s foolishness.

Bernd Leno’s heroics in goal has saved Emery’s blushes so far. However, he must reorganize his defence to prevent being carved up easily or risk another embarrassment at Old Trafford, where the Gunners haven’t won a game since 2006!

Prediction

So Arsenal at home in this distressful period probably isn’t something Solskjaer wants. Despite his side’s solid defensive shape, the Gunners attacking fire will take them out of their comfort zone.

As much as this game looks set to be an inevitable draw due to issues from both ends, I’ll go for a United win. Just because Arsenal’s weak defence could potentially award chances to United, which Martial and James won’t miss.

Chelsea Player Ratings vs Liverpool (Matchday 6)

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Chelsea host Liverpool in Premier League matchday 6 as both teams look to rebound from 2019-20 UEFA Champions League opening week losses. The visitors started the game in frantic fashion to immediately put the Blues in pressure. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s immaculate free-kick gave them an early lead in the 14th minute.

Chelsea thought they had equalized when Cesar Azpilicueta crept up into the middle to tuck the ball into goal, but VAR disallowed it as Maso Mount was caught offside. Liverpool soon added insult to injury with Andrew Robertson’s set-piece being headed in by Roberto Firmino to give the visitors a strong lead. 

Chelsea pulled one back in the 71st through N’Golo Kante’s superb solo-effort, setting up a thrilling finish. but Liverpool held firm to grant the Blues their second loss of the Premier League season. 

Chelsea Player Ratings

Manager

Frank Lampard (6.0) –

Lampard took  a huge gamble risking a four-man defensive line against this ruthless Liverpool side and was made to pay with two early goals along with Emerson’s injury. 

His substitutions still remain indecisive, as persisting with the ineffective Mount and not bringing in the potent Christian Pulisic turned a poor move. However, his half-time talk worked a treat as Chelsea came out punching after the break and pushed Liverpool to the limit.

Goalkeeper

Kepa Arrizabalaga (6.0) –

Judged the wrong side for Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick, but it was perhaps too powerful for him to touch on. Makes a terrific diving save from Firmino after the break to keep his side in the game. 

Defenders

Cesar Azpilicueta (5.0) –

The Chelsea captain was called into action in the early minutes, but made a diving clearance to deny Mane a shot at open goal. Shuts down Mane with cracking slider in 12th.

Took full advantage of mess inside Liverpool box to smartly tuck in what looked the equalizer, but VAR rules it out!  Nearly scored an own-goal in the 51st, but an offside call and Kepa’s save prevented an embarrassment. Rewarded a lucky assist for Kante’s wonder strike. Bright going forward, but remains vulnerable defensively. 

Fikayo Tomori (6.0

The teenager was understandably unnerved by the league’s best attacking-trio and was goaded into a silly challenge to earn an early yellow-card in 20th. Recovered pretty well to oust Salah on multiple occasions. Earned a rare roar from Stamford Bridge by sprinting out to deny Salah after the hour mark. Confident outing for the youngster.

Andreas Christensen (5.0)-

Christensen was confident with his early work, making composed challenges, especially a crunching one on Mane in the 9th to clear danger. Lost his concentration to poorly conceding the free-kick which lead to Liverpool’s opener.  Nearly redeemed himself with a stunning defence-splitting pass to put Adrian through, but unlucky to see it saved. 

The youngster wasn’t able to mark Firmino to stop his goal either. Made a vital block off Salah’s goal-bound shot in the 41st, but ended up injuring himself. Subbed for Zouma. 

Emerson (N/A) –

Picked up an early knock dealing with. Liverpool’s high-press style and subbed immediately after opening goal for Alonso.

Midfielders

Jorginho (6.0) –

Maintained his composure despite a frantic start to move balls forward and intercept some clever Liverpool passes. Lost his temper around the half-hour mark in a scuffle with Henderson, but carried on with inviting forward passes.

Jorginho marshaled his side ahead with influential forward long-balls. Bolted a shot over in extra-time, which could’ve earned his side a point. 

Mateo Kovacic (5.0) –

Pressed into oblivion by Liverpool’s sharp midfielders, but showcased class in the 10th buy tip-toeing past few bodies to steer Mount forward. Looked frustrated being forced with the defensive work and venting the frustrations earned him a yellow-card late on

N’Golo Kante (7.5) –

The ever-vigilant Frenchmen automatically gave his side a boost in energy. Doing a fine job covering for his defence and pressing the visitors. Not that impactful going forward, but one occasion of him trying to outjump Van Dijk for a header proves his inspired commitment. Shoots a left-footed drive just wide in the 59th

Kante becomes first non-English scorer for Chelsea by driving into Liverpool’s box and scoring a stunning top-bin strike. The Frenchman proved why he’s Chelsea’s best midfielder by pumping his lungs by driving from his area to Liverpool’s throughout the game. 

Forwards

Willian (5.5) –

Willian’s persistent movement  nearly paid off in the 27th when he played in a clever pass which caught Liverpool’s defnce in sixes and sevens, but his assist for Azpilicueta’s strike was ruled out. Carved out some neat through-balls and whipped crosses, but unable to see it put into effect. 

Tammy Abraham (5.5) –

The man in-form looked unnerved by Liverpool’s world-class defenders, holding up possession and sprinkling passes to his forward pretty well early on. Abraham received a golden opportunity to score in the 24th when played through on goal, but couldn’t blast it past Adrian. Outjumped Matip to head one over before the break. Tried his best, but just couldn’t oust the gigantic Liverpool centre-backs. 

Mason Mount (5.0)

Despite being injured in mid-week, he looks at 100% physically. Marched forward early on before tucking in inviting ball wasted by those in the centre. The England International’s set-piece delivery was top quality, unnerving Liverpool’s defence on quite a few occasions.

Had the perfect equalizing opportunity in the dying minutes, but scuffed his left-footed attempt over. Kept quiet otherwise. 

Substitutions

Marcos Alonso (4.5) –

The Spaniard’s defensive frailties crept up again when a much shorter Firmino outjumped him to score the second. Alonso’s being caught off-guard repeatedly, with Salah and Alexander-Arnold both skipping past him to cause trouble. 

Swung in some menacing crosses in the second half, but a late yellow-card summed up another poor defensive performance.

Kurt Zouma (6.0) –

Came on unprepared before half-time but made a swift interception before the whistle. Did particularly well to deny Salah a goal in the 69th with a well-timed clearance. 

Michy Batshuayi (N/A) –

Had a golden opportunity to equalize in the 88th, but his header went barely wide.

MAN OF THE MATCH

N’Golo Kante ran himself to the ground and with that spectacular strike proved himself to be one of a kind. The best midfielder in the whole game and Chelsea’s MVP today.

Manchester United Player Ratings vs West Ham (Premier League Matchday 6)

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Manchester United travel to West Ham today for a critical Premier League match. Man U are short-handed, but a win vaults them back to third in the table.The game started in rather cagey fashion, with both  lacking that explosiveness to penetrate each other’s defence.

United had some half goal-scoring before the hour-mark, with Marcus Rashford scuffing a crucial opportunity. West Ham tugged their defence and finally found the lead through Andriy Yarmolenko’s wonderful finish a minute before the half-time break.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side tried their best to plough through in the second period and went close through Juan Mata and Harry Maguire, but Aaron Cresswell’s stunning free-kick dealt the death blow. Now United are lying in 8th with the potential to go down below. Here’s the player ratings for the game. 

Manchester United Player Ratings

Manager

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (4.5) –

Solskjaer’s paying the price for relying on decaying old-timers like Mata and Young to win this tricky fixture and selling Lukaku and Sanchez without necessary replacements. He’s not doing this crumbling side any good by sighting a disjointed look in his face.

Unfortunate to be lacking options in key positions, but he still can’t implement that killer instinct to win such games. Substitutions made zero impact again. Two wins in last eleven games means questions justificably risen on his ability.

Goalkeeper

David de Gea (6.0) –

DDG makes an easy save off Yarmolenko in the 19th. Solid grab in the 36th to keep Noble’s volley out. Pulls off another brilliant save with his legs to keep his side in the game. Could do nothing for the second goal. Unfortunate to be on the losing side. 

Defenders

Aaron Wan-Bissaka (6.0) –

The youngster still lacks the decision-making in the final third. Makes a classic “spidertackle” to stop Cresswell in the 16th. Makes a virtually goal-saving challenge to stop a counter-attack in the 34th. AWB retained his compelling defensive contribution, but his poor delivery in the attack is becoming a thorn in his game. 

Harry Maguire (6.0) –

Maguire tried being too clever while playing out from back and conceded a poor corner. Grew comfortable with game and emphatic shove to Haller at the half-hour mark helped assert dominance. Could’ve done better to block Yarmelenko’s shot leading to the opener. 

Almost earned his side the equalizer in the 68th but his shot forced a strong save off Fabianski. Not at usual dominant self, but not poor either. 

Victor Lindelof (6.5)-

The Iceman looks confident early on with clearances after signing new contract this week. He’s made some important clearances to avert early disaster. Lindelof barely put a foot wrong and keep Haller quiet alongside Maguire, but unlucky to be on the losing side. 

Ashley Young (4.5) –

Young looks shaky as ever and hasn’t been helped with his clueless crosses or long-balls forward. Made some impressive last-ditch challenges to parry trouble, but fell asleep to allow Yarmolenko to squeeze past him to score.

Clowned himself with a horrid botched clearance to nearly cost United a goal after the hour mark. Ended up getting booked late on for a clumsy challenge on Noble which led to the second goal, summing up his torrid evening. 

Midfielders

Nemanja Matic(6.5) –

Starts the game shakily by being cheaply dispossessed to allow a West Ham counter-attack. H makes up for the error with few decent interceptions and forward passes. The Serb’s ambitious long-shot was collected comfortably by Fabianski in the 15th.

Matic’s grown into the game impressively, making strong recoveries and looking confident in possession. Covered for his backline pretty well but substituted for a more-attack minded Fred. 

Scott McTominay (5.5) –

Last week’s man-of-the-match looks packed with energy to sniff out trouble. Clubbed into the box and had one shot on target in the 57th. Tried his best, but unable to make a difference.

Andreas Pereira (6.0) –

Pereira looks sharp with his movement through the right side. Earns Ogbonna a yellow-card by drawing out a foul after winning possession deep in his box. The Brazilian’s trying his best to thread through a sweet defence-breaking pass to Rashford, but only frustrating with sloppiness. 

Did well to thread in an inviting cross for Mata to scuff in the 48th. Little impact afterwards. 

Forwards

Marcus Rashford (5.5) –

Rashford cleared out a dangerous set-piece with a strong header. He can head the ball?! Steered ahead at West Ham’s goal in the 20th, but poor decision-making allowed Rice to rob him off the ball.  Looks to have finally lightened up with sparky movement early in 2nd half. 

Perhaps overworked himself into stretching a hamstring and being taken off. A sad end to a disappointing night.

Daniel James (5.5) – 

Bit quiet so far returning from a small niggle last week. Plays in a sublime through-ball to get Rashford through on goal in the 20th.  Showcasing his blistering acceleration early in the second period. However, he’s lacking that cutting edge in front of goal.

James had the chance to pull one back with a stunning swift-break in the 87th, but poor finishing off his weaker foot deserted him. All running and no scoring made for a dull performance. 

Juan Mata (4.5)

El Mago’s missing his magic after attempting two threaded passes to James, both which were intercepted easily. Much better with splitting through-pass in the 17th. Too slow to break through West Ham’s backline. 

Booked for an unnecessary challenge on Rice and follows that by horribly missing a sitter from yards out. An appalling showing which proves he’s way past his best. 

Substitutions

Jesse Lingard (4.5) –

Lingard looks to end his woeful run of not having scored a goal in 2019, but looks the same frustrating self after coming on. Gave a decent through-ball to James in the 78th, but his weak rebound attempt was saved easily. 

Fred (5.0) – 

Despite creating one decent chance with a sparkling through-ball to James, Fred looked too unsettled in the middle. Timely error’s didn’t help either.

Angel Gomes (N/A) –

The youngster came on with the game already lost, but showed signs of excitement with some impressive forward passes.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Honestly, after such a horrible showing, nobody in United deserves it and Yarmolenko is the deserving MOTM. Lindelof stood out for OGS’ side though.

West Ham United vs Manchester United Matchday 6 Preview

Avatar September 18, 2019

Who: West Ham vs Manchester United
When: Sunday, September 22nd @ 09:00 am ET
LineWest Ham +235 | Draw +265 | Manchester United +110

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Normal service resumed at Manchester United after ousting Leicester City, but the Premier League grind continues. As Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side aims to pick up back-to-back wins for the first time this season, the intimidating West Ham United lie in their path.

The London Stadium won’t be at all sympathetic to their struggles, with Manuel Pellegrini’s side desperate to get back to winning ways themselves. While United did look a much stronger unit keeping a clean-sheet against Leicester, the Hammers attack is a different beast altogether. Indeed, the colossal Sebastien Haller has taken the league by storm with three goals already, and with his creative midfielders help, could be a massive thorn in United’s quest to successive victories.

West Ham United Predicted Starting XI

Fabianski, Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Rice, Noble, Lanzini, Anderson, Yarmolenko, Haller

West Ham have no injuries, but will miss left-back Arthur Masuaku after he was sent-off in the game against Aston Villa. Aaron Cresswell should replace him, as Pellegrini will opt an attacking lineup to take the fight to United.

Manchester United Predicted Starting XI

De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young, McTominay, Matic, Pogba, James, Rashford, Martial

Thankfully for Manchester United, their injury crisis is closing to an end. OGS confirmed last week that Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial should return against West Ham, but Shaw is still recovering from his knock. Daniel James picked up a knock against Leicester, but should recover by Sunday.

West Ham United vs Manchester United Match Preview

Manchester United need consistency to maintain a top-four spot over rivals Arsenal & Chelsea. They’re flying high on confidence, but could come crashing down against an unpredictable side like West Ham.

Pogba and Martial’s impending returns, for me, is crucial towards a positive result, with the French duo being quintessential towards amplifying their attacking vigour. After failing to impress going forward against Leicester, OGS is quite desperate to get his side playing the fiery, attractive style which brought him popularity.

The last time they defeated West Ham at the London Stadium was in 2017. After the humiliating 3-1 romping suffered last season, United are out for blood. They’ll look to destabilize West Ham’s topsy-turvy defence with their sleek link-up play, while the Rashford-Martial-James electric combination, I think, must click to get something done.

The Hammers also possess some ruthless attacking players, but United look a side reformed defensively. Considering that David De Gea matched his clean-sheet record from last season in only five games this season, Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s solid work is already being exemplified.

West Ham, meanwhile, have been big overachievers picking up 8 points despite only having expected points of 5.63. Sebastien Haller is bound to be United’s biggest threat, as the record signing from Eintracht Frankfurt’s blended in with ease.

The Frenchman’s like a cunning fox with his smart movement, while his hold-up play and physical attributes can even trouble the slab head Maguire. Moreover, the dribbling ability of Felipe Anderson mixed with the majestic playmaker Manuel Lanzini as well as the opportunistic Andriy Yarmolenko will pose big questions of United’s backline.

With sturdy England international Declan Rice protecting their backline led by summer United target Issa Diop, breaking the Hammers won’t be an easy task. United must run their socks off, take their chances and outwit the Hammers to come out on top.

Prediction

West Ham away is no joke. United’s solidity could be questioned throughout with West Ham’s persistent attacks. But I think the Red Devils will weather the storm pick up a hard-fought 2-1 win.

Chelsea Player Ratings vs Valencia – Champions League Group Play

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Chelsea hosted Valencia in their Champions League kick-off game at Stamford Bridge. Despite starting the game on the front-foot, Frank Lampard’s side suffered an early setback after Mason Mount had to be substituted after suffering a nasty knock. 

The Blues huffed and puffed, but Valencia took advantage of their sloppiness by taking a surprising lead in the 74th minute through Rodrigo Moreno’s clever finish. They were handed a lifeline with an 87th-minute penalty, which Ross Barkley put over the bar to end the frustrating day in disappointing fashion.

Here are the Player Ratings for the game. 

Chelsea Player Ratings

Manager

Frank Lampard (5.5) –

Lampard was smart to go with the 3-5-2 formation which worked a treat at Wolves, but failed to tweak his tactics according to the game. His substitutions were questionable, especially not bringing in the creative Christian Pulisic and opting for a half-fit Pedro. A learning curve for the young manager who isn’t going to have it any easy in the Champions League.

Goalkeeper

Kepa Arrizabalaga (5.5) –

The Spaniard leapt into action in the 20th when Gaya came out of nowhere with a brisk header. Didn’t have to make many saves, but couldn’t put out the one he needed, allowing Rodrigo’s strike through his hands.  Yet to get a clean-sheet this season. 

Defenders

Cesar Azpilicueta (6.0) –

Linked well with Willian in the 5th before creating a promising opportunity for Abraham. Azpi’s still not convincing defensively with most attacks coming through his side. But his attacking spirit wouldn’t be undermined. Struck the side-netting after a penetrative run in the 68th

Kurt Zouma (6.0) –

Zouma experienced a brain-fade allowing Gaya a free header from yards out, but luckily saw it collected.The Frenchman’s distribution was pretty on-spot, but he was ousted on one-on-one battles on numerous occasions. Substituted in an attacking change. 

Andreas Christensen (6.0)-

Christensen showed impressive quick-thinking to make up for Tomori’s positional mistake early on to stop a Valencia swift-break. However, he’s struggled to read Valencia’s quick link-up in the final third. Almost had the chance to avenge Chelsea’s day, but unluckily saw his last-minute header go just wide. 

Fikayo Tomori (6.5) –

The youngster seemed to be nervy early into his UCL debut for Chelsea. He’s being outpaced on multiple occasions, but did particularly well to recover and stop Gameiro from scoring in the 28th.  Almost recreated his Wolves assist with a surging run in the 36th, but his makeshift shot/cross wasn’t on target. 

Tomori was confident with his approach, making timely challenges and strong tackles to assert his presence. He effectively earned Chelsea the penalty when his thumping header hit Daniel Wass’ hand, but was unlucky to see it wasted.

Marcos Alonso (6.5) –

Alonso again shows the inner striker in him with a strong header from the corner saved early on. He’s overlapped throughout with great intent, but unable to pick out that killer pass from his side. Almost found the breakthrough with a swirling low free-kick to test Cilessen in the 62nd Headed over from a corner seconds later. 

Alonso’s curling free-kick in the dying minutes almost went in before Cilessen parried it over to frustrate him more.

Midfielders

Jorginho (6.5) –

Jorginho’s doing things he’s expected to do. Chopping at Valencia’s attackers’ heels when they attack and flinging in stylish long-balls forward. Controlling the tempo like a master. While his distribution, movement was all on spot, his defensive work still remains shady. Didn’t track Rodrigo for his goal, allowing him a free strike. 

Mateo Kovacic (6.5) –

Kovacic lightened up by stealing the ball in the 14th to run through on Valencia’s backline, but couldn’t do anything beyond that. He’s been Chelsea’s driving force and found an exquisite long-ball to Willian inside the box, only to see it skied over. Unfortunately responsible for conceding the free-kick resulting in the goal. 

Mason Mount(6.0) –

Accurate with his early drilled-in corners. Clattered by a horrible early challenge from Coquelin twisting his ankle. Tried his best to continue despite the clear pain, but had to be substituted in the 15th.  

Forwards

Willian (6.5) –

The Brazilian attempted a clever free-kick in the 11th but saw it collected easily. Took a more menacing attempt at goal in the 35th which went just wide. Willian cleverly tip-toed into goal in the 41st, but did Kovacic’s pass injustice by blazing his shot over. Somewhat made up with a thunderous shot forcing a strong save seconds before the half-time whi5.0stle. 

He’s running at defenders with intent, but unable to create anything particularly threatening. Poor set-pieces didn’t help either. 

Tammy Abraham (6.0) –

Making his UCL debut, Tammy already looks like he’s played loads before. Dangerous with his sparky movement and nearly scored in the 5th. Tapped an instinctive header in the 27th which went just wide. 

The youngster was brimming with energy to close down Valencia’s defenders, but lacked that lethal bite to finish off chances.

Substitutions

Pedro (5.0) –

Coming off an injury himself, he assumed the subbed Mount’s position. Whipped in an inviting cross for Abraham before the half-hour mark. Couldn’t make a similar impact like the youngster. Pedro failed to create chances and struck a shot from a promising area horribly wide. 

Olivier Giroud (6.0) –

The discreet hero responsible for their Champions League qualification came on late on, but almost made instant impact when his powerful shot went straight to Cilessen.

Ross Barkley (5.0) –

Barkley almost got Chelsea the equalizer after dancing past a few players before taking a shot which went wide. He took charge with the penalty, but horribly scuffed it over to sum up the disappointing evening. 

MAN OF THE MATCH

Fikayo Tomori was mighty impressive for his UCL debut and despite a shaky start, he regained his resolve to dominate his side. He even won his side a penalty, as his industrious performances makes him deserving of being called Chelsea’s best on the day.  

Manchester United vs FC Astana UEFA Europa League Match Preview

Avatar September 16, 2019

Who: Manchester United vs FC Astana
When: Thursday, September 19th @ 03:00 pm ET
LineManchester United -530 | Draw +530 | San Jose+1500

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Manchester United look to get back towards firing on all cylinders at FC Astana’s expense in their UEFA Europa League kick-off on Thursday. Of course, the narrow win over Leicester City helps them breathe a sigh of relief, but the gruelling test means changes are inevitable.

Indeed, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has indicated that he’ll rotate the side to play those not appearing regularly throughout the Europa League group stages. I think we can expect their bright young talent to take the centre-stage against the unpredictable Astana well capable of producing a shocker.

Manchester United Predicted Starting XI

Romero, Young, Tuanzebe, Jones, Rojo, Fred, Pereira, Chong, Mata, James, Greenwood.

United have caught the injury bug early onto the season, with Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Diogo Dalot all missing the weekend game. They won’t make the game on Thursday, while neither will Luke Shaw, who’s still recovering from his own injury sustained last month.

FC Astana Predicted Starting XI

Eric, Rukavina, Postnikov, Simunovic, Shomko, Mayewski, Logvinenko, Tomasav, Sigurjonsson, Rotariu, Murtazayev.

Astana, meanwhile, have a clean bill of health even whilst toughing it out in the Kazakhstan Premier League more than halfway through their own season.

Manchester United vs FC Astana Match Preview

After a rather dreamy season in the Champions League, Manchester United find themselves back into the Europa League pit. Of course, they don’t relish playing in Thursday nights especially when more important weekend Premier League fixtures lie await.

OGS will, however, use this to give the youngsters their opportunities to impress fans. Tahith Chong added a fiery spark of energy in his cameo against Leicester, which deserves him a start against Astana. With his dribbling technique and ability to thread in creative passes, I think he’ll treat us to something delightful.

Moreover, Mason Greenwood’s been begging to be given bigger opportunities with his outstanding work in youth level as well. When you look at how he bagged 26 goals in the youth scene last season from just 30 appearances, it’s understandable why he’s being lauded as the second coming of Robin van Persie.

The 17-year-old will have the perfect chance to showcase his deadly goal-scoring traits against Astana, with his brisk movement and impressive link-up play deemed to get Old Trafford on its feet. The electric Angel Gomes could also get an outing after not appearing since his pre-season heroics against Tottenham Hotspur.

Moreover, the dependable Axel Tuanzebe warrants a start, while Daniel James can also make his European debut. Regardless, it’ll be a pretty young team due to the injuries. Considering the Leicester match was a drab, I think we can expect United to go all guns blazing with fiery, quick-paced attacks to dazzle the fans.

However, Astana are no shy minnows themselves. They’ve scored the third-most goals in the Kazakhstan Premier League this season, only conceding the second-least number as well. A compact side hard to break down as well as terrifying on swift-breaks, they’ll be a thorn for United’s youngsters.

With spirited, physical attackers like Roman Murtazayev, Marin Tomasov, Dorin Rotariu, the Kazakhstan side’s well-planned attacks as well as threatening aerial ability makes them a thorn to defend against. OGS might be forced to play a “second-string” side, but best be careful set his side up properly or risk an early humiliation.

Prediction

It won’t be the easiest and Astana can make life difficult with their rigid shape, but I think United should pick up a hard-fought 2-0 win to start their Europa League campaign.

Chelsea UEFA Champions League Group H Preview: Know Your Opponents

Avatar September 15, 2019

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The Champions League nights are finally back at Stamford Bridge! Following a fairly topsy-turvy season, a departing Eden Hazard left Chelsea a parting gift in the form of the UEFA Europa League last season. Despite all their troubles, at least the Blues are now in Europe’s pinnacle again.

Frank Lampard didn’t have the prettiest start to his Chelsea career, but the Wolves romp gives his young side renowned confidence. Now he has the chance to wipe the slate clean by proving his ability in Europe. Chelsea have been placed in a challenging group against giant-killers Ajax & Valencia, as well as French underdogs Lille.

All their opponents are more than capable of ousting them, as Lampard’s side must work very hard to guarantee qualification into the knockout stages. Let’s look closely at their opponents.

Ajax 2019-20 UEFA Champions League preview

Last Season: Semi-finals in Champions League
Stadium: Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam
Nickname: De Godenzonen(Sons Of The Gods)
Manager: Erik ten Hag
Key Additions: Quincy Promes, Edson Alvarez, Razvan Marin
Best Player: Hakim Ziyech
Odds to Win Group: +350

AFC Ajax are probably the favourites to win the group. After last season’s heroics, Chelsea must tread carefully against them. We here at High Press Soccer are big on Ajax’s approach! After watching their majestic, positive style, who wouldn’t?

They twatted around European giants Real Madrid as well as Juventus last season, before falling in the semi-finals. Erik ten Hag’s men not only won the games, but did so in style with their crisp, beautiful passing style creating glorious chances all through. I can imagine they’ll retain their giant-slaying nature this season, winning over more fans.

A Bit of Ajax history

  • They’ve won the Eredivisie 34 times!
  • They have also won the KNVB(Dutch) Cup on 19 occasions.
  • Ajax has won the Champions League(formerly European Cup) 4 times, including thrice in a row from 1970-73.
  • They were voted 5th in FIFA’s Club of the Century for the 20th

AFC Ajax overlook:

After penning an unbelievable underdog story last season, Ajax aim to prove themselves no one-season wonders.

Of course, they have lost two young jewels in Matthijs De Ligt & Frenkie De Jong, both sold for huge fees to Juventus and Barcelona respectively. However, that hasn’t deterred Die Godzonen’s never-say-die attitude nor master tactician Erik ten Hag’s spirit.

Ajax still possesses a fiery attacking line involving the silky Hakim Ziyech, pacy David Neres, dynamic Dusan Tadic along with the unpredictable Donny van de Beek. Despite selling two top stars, they’ve retained their attacking rhythm. With Chelsea’s wobbly defence, Lampard must use his unique tactics, while hoping his own youngsters come up big to win Group H at Ajax’s expense.

Valencia 2019-20 UEFA Champions League preview

Last Season: Semi-finals in Europa League
Stadium: Mestalla Stadium, Valencia
Nickname: Los Ches (The Mates)
Manager: Albert Celades
Key Additions: Maxi Gomez, Jasper Cilessen, Thiery Correia
Best Player: Rodrigo
Odds to Win Group: +300

So Valencia have had a pretty crazy start to their campaign. They’ve sacked Marcelino three games into the season, mostly because he didn’t see eye to eye with owner Peter Lim.

Sacking the manager who won them the Copa Del Rey and a 4th place La Liga finish is suicide right? Well if their weekend romping to Barcelona suggest anything, it probably is. Nonetheless, they have enough attacking quality to cause real problems to Chelsea on both games.

A Bit of Valencia history

  • They’ve won the La Liga on 6 occasions
  • Valencia has also won the Copa Del Rey 8 times, including last season at Barcelona’s expense
  • They’ve never won the Champions League, but come up as runners-up on two different editions
  • Los Ches’ won the UEFA Cup, however, in 2004!

Valencia CF overview

Valencia almost went the whole way in the UEFA Europa League last season, but a last-minute qualification for the Champions League allows them to step into the big leagues.

Of course, the pressure is on Alberto Celades to replicate his predecessor’s work, which isn’t easy. Los Ches were an unpredictable unit under Marcelino, as I don’t think they’ll change their routine much under new manager.

With opportunistic attackers like Rodrigo Moreno, Goncalo Guedes as well as Maxi Gomez, they have a front-line to torment defenders. Their fast-paced, intricate passing style is hard to decipher, as Lampard must put his brains to work in order to stop their rhythm. Despite a wobbly defence- which will be Tammy Abraham and co’s point to press on- Valencia boasts an experienced outfit ready to take the fight to their superior opponents.

Lille 2019-20 UEFA Champions League preview

Last Season: 2nd in Ligue 1
Stadium: Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille
Nickname: Les Dogues(The Great Danes)
Manager: Christopher Galtier
Key Additions: Renato Sanches, Yusuf Yazici, Timothy Weah
Best Player: Jonathan Ikone
Odds to Win Group: +900

Lille took Ligue 1 by storm last season, aided by the brilliance of Nicolas Pepe(now at Arsenal) to give tough competition to cash-rich Paris Saint-Germain.

Having retained a strong outfit with prolific signings, they’re more than ready to hold their own in Europe. An exciting attacking side with some unique players, Chelsea could find themselves in deep trouble if they look to treat the French side as Group H’s “whipping boys”.

A Bit of Lille history

  • Lille have won the Ligue 1 title three times, most recently in 2011.
  • They’ve also won the Coupe De France on 6 occasions.
  • They were a founding member for the French first division(Ligue 1), even winning the inaugural edition in 1933.
  • Lille’s only European title has come in the UEFA Intertoto Cup-the third UEFA Competition- back in 2004.

Lille OSC outlook

Lille are perhaps the perennial overachievers in this group, but were anything but lucky to guarantee a Champions League place this season.

Of course, fate hasn’t been the kindest pitting them alongside three top sides all realistically better than them in every compartment. However, that doesn’t mean that Christopher Galtier’s side will back out without causing problems.

Inspired by the Champions League surprises from last season, they’ll aim to produce their own fairytale. With exquisite French talent like the sizzling Jonathan Ikone, former Chelsea man Loic Remy, American wonderkid Timothy Weah as well as former Bayern Munich star Renato Sanches, they opt an unpredictable, swift link-up attacking style. Inexperienced will be their biggest bane, but Lille won’t go down in the dying light before stinging Chelsea, Ajax and co.

Where to Bet Champions League in the US

In the US, you can legally bet the Champions League online in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

For New Jersey, we recommend DraftKings Sportsbook NJ or FanDuel Sportsbook

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Manchester United Player Ratings vs Leicester City (Matchday 5)

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Manchester United (-125) hosts Leicester City (+350) in a crucial Premier League fixture at Old Trafford. The Red Devils started the game brightly and after an early scare, took the lead through Marcus Rashford’s penalty in the 8th minute. It was a very tight first-half, with Leicester also having some promising shots on goal. 

The Foxes dominated the second-half looking for the equalizer, but United defended well as a unit to see through an important win to start off September on a high. Here are the Player Ratings for the day.

Manchester United Player Ratings

Manager

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (6.5) –

Despite having very little options with all the injuries, Ole did well to shape his side to survive the onslaught throughout the game. Seems to have his back-line well set-up and must be boosted by De Gea’s heroics.

However, needs improvement in attacking transitions as well as integrating some of his own striker’s instincts into Rashford. Good substitutions to kill the game as well.

Goalkeeper

David de Gea (7.0) –

DDG pulls off a fantastic save off his leg Maddison early on to bail out his defenders. Pulls off another stunner to tip off Chilwell’s powerhouse before the half-hour mark. A vintage performance from United’s number 1, who seems here to stay after allegedly signing a new contract recently. 

Defenders

Aaron Wan-Bissaka (6.5) –

Despite being presumably not 100%, but AWB still maintains the defensive vigour. Made one crucial clearance early on. Had Old Trafford purring by not stopping Chilwell in his tracks after the hour mark.

AWB got his defensive moves tuned late on, making numberous interceptions and challenges to keep his side safe. Sill needs to get final delivery right going forward. 

Harry Maguire (7.0) –  

Perhaps the nerves are getting early to the former Leicester man, as he uncharestically botches a clear headed clearance to compromise De Gea. However, grew a thick skin after that. Making thumping clearances, forward passes while also keeping Vardy quiet so far.  Outpaced by him in the 49th, but lucky to see it resulting in nothing. 

Showcases mad composure to stop a dangerous counter-attack afterwards. Almost scores a dream goal in the 56th, but sees his header saved. Pulls off another crucial interception in the 63rd.  A commanding performance to prove why United were so desperate for him. 

Victor Lindelof (7.0)-

Looks shaky early on, letting Maddison beat him to an early shot on goal. Did improve his concentration going forward, mirroring Maguire to keep Vardy at bay. 

The Iceman showed nerves of steel as the going got harder, making last-ditch tackles as well as clearances to keep his side’s clean-sheet in tact. Developing a solid partnership with Maguire as well.

Ashley Young (6.5) –  

Young’s been pretty good with some passes forward from the back. Grown to be frustrated with some looped balls forward, but doing decent defensive work to make up. Experienced showcase to get the job done. 

Midfielders

Nemanja Matic(5.5) –

In his first start this season, Matic is almost like an invisible passenger so far. Barely making tackles nor showing any urgency. He’s too slow to work in OGS’ side. Rightfully substituted in the 68th after a poor showing. 

Scott McTominay (7.0) –

Looks more authoritative with his approach. McTominay’s made some clever penetrative passes and regained possession multiple times to frustrate Leicester. Confident with clearing set-pieces as well. Got Maddison booked int he 72th with a clever touch.  A strong, matured performance from the youngster to prove why he’s here to stay in the starting XI. 

Andreas Pereira (6.5) –

The Brazilian proves his set-piece prowess with a thunderous early free-kick rocking Schmeichel. Much smarter with his movement and link-up play today. Seems to be enjoying a feisty battle with Chilwell. Had the perfect chance to round up a curler in the 72nd but his poor touch cost him. Did have a shot on target later on, but was too weak to beat Schmeichel. A definite improvement after being invisible at Southampton. 

Forwards

Marcus Rashford (7.0) –

Rashford puts his penalty nightmare to bed. Phew! Composed penalty which he won cleverly with a nice dash fooling Soyuncu. Looks to be enjoying himself, darting past defenders and rattling Soyuncu.  Kept quiet after that but woke up in the 83rd when his pitch-perfect free-kick unluckily struck the post.

Still must improve his aerial ability as well as getting in promising areas inside the box.

Daniel James (6.0) – 

James continues his bright spark, winning an early free-kick with an electric cut-in. His burst of acceleration is thrilling, but no final product so far.  Lit up in the 50th, swooping past his man and taking a shot which thundered just over. Got booked late on for a clumsy challenge. Subbed after running his socks off. 

Juan Mata (5.5)

Mata just doesn’t seem to have his link-up style on today. Not connecting as well with Rashford nor James as he normally does. Made a clever run inside the box in the 51st, before forcing a strong save off Schmeichel.  However, he was outmuscled and outwitted apart from that, forcing OGS to sub him off. 

Substitutions

Fred (6.5)- 

The Brazilian made his first appearance of the season and seemed energized by winning the ball off Pereira before creating a decent chance which was skied in the 72nd. 

Tahith Chong(6.5)- 

The youngster was sharp with his movement, buzzing past Pereira on multiple occasions. Must start in the mid-week Europa League match.

Axel Tuanzebe(N/A) –

Did well to help keep the clean-sheet and get the win.

MAN OF THE MATCH

So I’m a bit tied up with this one as McTominay, Maguire and Lindelof were all solid, but I’ll give it to the Maguire for keeping his former side quiet in such a big, personal game for him.

Taking a Look at 2019-20 UEFA Europa League Contenders

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While the UEFA Europa League doesn’t boast the glamour of the superior Champions League, it still possesses enough leverage to swoon participating teams attention. Of course, many “elite” European sides forced to participate thanks to poor league outings scoff at its low value.

However, everyone in the tournament discreetly wants to end up going all the way to win it thanks to the rewards it brings. Firstly, a guaranteed spot in the Champions League is at stake. It doesn’t matter if the winner finishes 10th in their domestic league: win the Europa and you’re in the UCL next campaign.

Moreover, it’s at least more prestigious than some (if not all) of the watered-down domestic cups in Europe. So, I think, we have some exciting prospects in hand for the Europa League starting next week. Led by Premier League powerhouses Arsenal and Manchester United, the competition should get stiffer as the months move on.  There are some European debutantes (including Wolves) this time, but certain Spanish, as well as Italians giants, are bound to go all guns blazing to win the whole thing.

Here are who I see as the main contenders for the Europa League crown.

Also read: 2019-20 Europa League Title Odds

Manchester United (+400)

After failing to make the Champions League-cut, Manchester United must take the Europa League seriously this season. Considering that they won the tournament the last time they played in it (in 2017), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side should be seen as a favorite.

Now in the group stages, where they’ve been pit alongside relatively easy opponents, I expect OGS to play youngsters or those who don’t get enough game-time in the Premier League. Going against these grueling European sides will provide a great experience for Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes etc, also allowing Juan Mata, Axel Tuanzebe, Diogo Dalot to contribute more.

Once the real deal begins in the final eight, I think United will start playing their best hands. They should at least get to the semi-finals unless a freak hiccup or Solskjaer takes it lightly. Beyond that, if OGS can replicate his majestic tactics which resulted in THAT night in Paris, I think United could go all the way into winning it again.

Arsenal (+400)

Arsenal came up agonizingly close at winning their first-ever Europa League under Unai Emery, but with an empowered unit this time around, they’ll go harder for the title. Thanks to how competitive the Premier League top-four race is and their wobbly defending often dropping points, Emery might be compelled to turn up the heat for a sterner European charge.

With last season’s winner David Luiz now there with the winners-mentality, Arsenal should diminish the last-minute nerves this time. With a fiery trio of Aubameyang-Lacazette-Pepe, they have enough firepower in their arsenal (mind the pun) to destroy low-time opponents defences.

The always tinkering Emery has probably learned a lesson or two from the crushing loss to Chelsea in May as well. He’ll set up his team to be more clinical going forward but also to protect themselves against prime threats. The Gunners should dominate their way into the semi-finals at least for me. If they can vanquish their choking tendencies, I think a European trophy could finally arrive at the Emirates.

Best Of The Rest

The third Premier League side are Wolverhampton Wanderers (+2000) whom after getting promoted from the Championship, finished seventh last season to get their berth. However, if their early-season problems which have produced no wins in the first four games indicate anything, it’ll be difficult for them to survive in Europe. They’ve been pit in a tough group and although they just might scrape into the knockout stages, I don’t see them going beyond the round of 16.

Sevilla (+1400) are one to keep an eye out for, as they’ve won this competition five times in the past (including thrice in a row with Emery). With quality individuals like Jesus Navas, Chicharito, Nolito, Ever Banega, they have enough potential to come out firing in the Europa League. They’ve started the La Liga season unbeaten with two wins in three. For me, they could make the semi-finals and beyond knowing how well they fare as a strong unit.

Lazio (+2000) are another top side capable of dominating sides in Europa, as their attacking options are enough o cause unrest among weaker sides. Be it the Italian hitman Ciro Immobile, last season’s Serie A midfielder of the season Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, the creative Luis Alberto or former Liverpool man Lucas Leiva, they’re a well-layered unit capable of big surprises. Expect them to be running to go into the final eight.

Eintracht Frankfurt (+3000) remains the Bundesliga’s biggest hopes into the tournament, as I don’t think Borussia Monchengladbach (+2200) has enough staying power. Frankfurt have a pretty well-versed unit, but I don’t think they’ll be able to replicate last season’s heroics this time around.

However, AS Roma (+1700) are the dark horses for me. They’ve experienced a bittersweet start under experienced European campaigner Paulo Fonseca, but are packed with emphatic players. Youngsters Nicolo Zaniolo, Cengiz Under, Lorenzo Pellegrini bring that fiery attacking punch, while former Manchester City man Edin Dzeko’s still drilling in goals. Of course, New-signings Chris Smalling nor Henrikh Mkhitaryan are “world-class,” but their Europa winning experiences with Man United will, I think, help the Romans power through to potentially the very end.

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