Monday, June 14, 2021

Guardiola vs Wenger and the Merseyside Derby take center stage in England this weekend.


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Arsenal’s French manager Arsene Wenger / AFP PHOTO / Ian KINGTON /

The latest installment of the Merseyside derby, the longest top flight derby in English football takes place this match-week, on Monday to be precise, and this one promises to be full of action. The Merseyside derby is a match between Everton and Liverpool, the major clubs from Liverpool, in the metropolitan county of Merseyside in England. This fixture is always very intense and has produced the most red cards than any other game in the Premiership, so it’s amazing that it used to be referred to as ‘the friendly derby’ because in recent times there has been nothing friendly about it. The fixture has also been referred to as “the most ill-disciplined and explosive fixture in the Premier League.”

On Monday night, when Liverpool make the two minute journey from Anfield to Goodison Park, they will be doing so with the intention of taking all three points at stake in the encounter. However, Everton might have other ideas as they would love to follow up their gutsy win over Arsenal with another morale boosting win over their arch-rivals. The toffees were on a run of five games without a win until that win over Arsenal in midweek and the timing of that victory couldn’t have come at a better time. This will be Ronald Koeman’s first taste of the spectacle that is the Merseyside derby and the Dutchman would love to get a victory on his debut just the way his German counterpart, Jurgen Klopp did on his own debut. In fact, the German had a fantastic Merseyside derby debut as his Liverpool team hammered Everton 4-nil to give him a winning feeling. That was the last meeting between the sides and Klopp can claim to have a hundred percent winning record in the derby.

A win on Monday night for Everton will be significant for different reasons, not only will it be Koeman’s first win in the derby, it will also be Everton’s first win over Liverpool in the league since a 2-nil win in October 2010 and it would put them in a position to keep competing for a European place in the league. With Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge still on the sidelines, Jurgen Klopp will be sweating on the fitness on Divock Origi, who left Liverpool’s match against Middlesbrough in midweek with an injury, although the German has allayed fears over the seriousness of the injury. The striker has scored five goals in his last five games and the Reds will definitely need him fit for this important fixture. For Everton, Romelu Lukaku has been the main goal getter for them and they will be hoping that the ‘good’ Lukaku turns up on match day. Both teams cannot afford to lose this fixture, so we will be expecting a very intense encounter.

Pep Guardiola was able to get a first home win in two months when his Manchester City side beat Watford 2-nil in midweek and would want to build on that win with another victory tomorrow when they host Arsenal. The Catalan had suffered consecutive losses before the win over Watford and questions were already being asked about his adaptability to English football or if he had been found out. He had stubbornly refused to change his tactics and football philosophy, but seemed to have shifted a bit against Watford as he ditched his three man defence for four at the back and he was rewarded with a clean sheet, which had been hard to come by for his team in recent matches. With goals from Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandr Kolarov in recent games, Guardiola would be glad to see goals coming in from other departments of his team as his attack hasn’t really been on song since the suspension of Sergio Aguero.

Arsene Wenger was left fuming after his side’s loss to Everton in midweek, the Frenchman beleived his team had been denied a clear penalty in the dying embers of that game and it made the defeat very hard to take for him. That defeat snapped Arsenal’s fourteen game unbeaten run and they would want to get back to that winning feeling against Manchester City tomorrow. This Arsenal side has shown real stamina and hunger to get results from games, especially from the kind of games they would have given up on easily in the past. It took heroic and desperate defending from Everton to stop the gunners from snatching a point very late in the game like they did against Manchester united earlier in the season. This fixture should be an exhibition of attacking football laced with some intricate passing and fight for possession, if you’re a defensive purist and looking for a game of dogged defensive display, you would well be advised to watch a different game.

Crystal Palace will be the latest team to try and stop Chelsea’s winning run when they host the blues in today’s early game. The Eagles will draw some belief that they might be able to achieve this feat from the fact that Chelsea have won their last two games by just one goal, which might mean that very resolute defending might stop Chelsea from scoring today. They lost to Manchester United in midweek no thanks to a late Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal and a loss of concentration like that again from the defence will surely be punished by a very unforgiving Chelsea team. The blues were able to make it ten wins from ten when they beat Sunderland in midweek. A Cesc Fabregas goal and a stupendous save from Thibaut Courtois in the last minute ensured that they were able continue their impressive run of victories in the league. They will need another masterful all-round display if they are to make it eleven wins on the bounce.

Jose Mourinho must be a somewhat relieved man these days as his team has recently been able to see off games they have bossed unlike previously when they just couldn’t get a win despite dominating games. Of the six draws Manchester United have gotten this season, they were totally dominant in five and deserved to win those games with the exception being the stalemate against Liverpool where they seemed to have set up not to get defeated. They travel to the Hawthorns to face West Brom in today’s final fixture with the aim of getting their third consecutive win in the league, something they have not been able to achieve since August, when they won their first three league matches of the season. The truth is that with proper finishing, they might have been on a seven game winning streak and the headlines surrounding them would have been totally different.

West Brom are a team brimming with confidence right now and playing some of the best football the club has seen since Tony Pulis took over and the results are there to back it up. They have gotten four wins from their last six games, suffering just one loss a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea and currently sit in seventh place on the log. Manchester united will have their work cut out for them if they hope to leave the Hawthorns with all three points today. They would be wary of Chris Brunt and his delicious left leg which produced very accurate crosses for Salomon Rondon to gobble up on the way to a three goal performance in midweek. Brunt assisted two of the goals and that combination will be there to punish the United defence if they exhibit any sign of weakness in dealing with them effectively. Paul Pogba has quietly begun to exert his influence and dominance in the United team with his recent performances and the red devils will need him to be on point against the baggies. Another player the baggies should be very wary of too will be Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has scored five league goals in his last six games and would want to add to that tally today.

Today’s 4pm fixtures will feature four matches, Leicester City will hope to get it’s first away win of the season when they visit the Britania to face a Stoke side unbeaten in three games, while Middles brough and Swansea will face off with a victory on the mind of both teams after they suffered defeats in midweek and bottom placed team, Sunderland, currently on a two-game losing streak will host Watford. Odion Ighalo got back into the Watford’s starting lineup in midweek and we will hope his return will be made permanent, while his compatriot, Isaac Success saw action for thirty minutes and should start getting more playing time after coming back from injury.

West Ham will host a Hull side on a five match winless streak and the Hammers would love to increase the heartache of the Tigers by handing them another loss. There will be two other matches tomorrow aside the Man City-Arsenal clash. Tottenham host Burnley and Spurs will be seeking to follow up their midweek victory over Hull with another win here against a team on a downward spiral with four losses from their last five games, while Bournemouth, fresh off a win over the Champions, will host a very unpredictable Southampton side.

The matches that were played during the midweek weren’t too favourable for the Nigerians in the league as the ones that tasted action for their teams were all on the losing side, except for Victor Moses, while Mikel Obi and Kelechi heanacho, whose teams won, didn’t taste any bit of action. We hope there will be better fortunes for the Nigerians this weekend.

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