Monday, 6 August 2018

12th august - Arsenal vs Manchester City


As far as opening fixtures can go for a title defence, a trip to Arsenal is about as harsh as it can get. However, with the reigning champions in good form in the pre-season and Arsenal still trying to find their form and shape, can Pep Guardiola get the Unai Emery era off to a similar start to the Wenger era?

Arsenal News

While some of their new signings like Lucas Torreira might not come in for this one, this is a new look Arsenal side. Some new signings but a crucially different style of play is immediately apparent, and it shines through in just about every area of the Gunners side.

We can expect them to line up with something approaching a similar line-up, as Emery gets his new signings in the door. An interesting switch, though, is that of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to a more wide position; he’s playing off the left mostly, which should add a bit of a change to the Arsenal attacking dynamic – and crucially free of Alexandre Lacazette.

City News

Nothing really to say on the City line-up; like many of the top sides, they will be limited in numbers for the early weeks. With young Brazilian Douglas Luiz set to get a work permit, he could come in to this game without much issue: he already looks like a prime Pep player.

New signing Riyad Mahrez might play, too, and will provide City with further depth in the attacking areas across the season.

Verdict

An away win feels likely – Emery has done a good so far at Arsenal, but the shift needed to overcome their present limitations won’t come overnight. Unless City start like so many champions defending their crown, we cannot see Arsenal being able to stop a hugely determined City side on the opening day.


Saturday, 14 July 2018

World Cup Final: France vs Croatia

As a showpiece FIFA World Cup Final awaits us, 1998 winners France will take on first-time finalists Croatia. For just 4m people to reach the tournament final is incredible: can they go all the way and defeat a France side who feel like the best team here in the tournament?


France News
There’s not much in the way of injury worries: Blaise Matuidi and Djibril Sidibe are both doubts but should make it. This will be interesting, though, as Matuidi has been essential to their growth and development as a side as the tournament has progressed. With Croatia so strong out wide, losing his prowess would be a major blow.

Expect Ngolo Kante to be key to victory here, if France are to do it. We think that France will be looking to really push forward their momentum, trying to pin back Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric.


Croatia News

The worrying news that Ivvan Strinic, Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Perisic might all be a risk for the Final is a major worry for the Croatians. They will be tired after three consecutive runs of extra time becoming the only side in history to reach the final by doing so and will be looking to try and patch up their team in time for kick-off.



Injuries to key players for Croatia is much worse than it is for France, purely for depth reasons. If Perisic was to miss out, then Sime Vrsaljko’ fitness would become even more important.


Verdict


Too close to call, too hard to say: we can see a France win, though. They aren’t very good to watch outside of the Argentina game, but should have the talent to make it count in a one-off game like this Croatia, though, can feel proud of a run that will live long in the memory.

Friday, 13 July 2018

World Cup Third Place Match: Belgium vs England

After a fantastic run to the Semi-Finals, the dream is over for both England and for Belgium. It’s a major blow to come so close yet be so far, but the Third Place Play-Off tie should really help to settle the podium finish for both sides here in Russia.


Belgium News
Expect the Belgians to rest a few of their players. Romelu Lukaku knows he needs a hat-trick to get the Golden Boot, which would be highly unlikely at this point. Eden Hazard also knows that another good performance would put him alongside Kylian Mbappe and Luka Modric for the Golden Ball.

With a long season to come, though, don’t expect many of the major starters to play here. we expect people like Axel Witsel and Vincent Kompany to play, but key player like Thibaut Courtois, Kevin de Bruyne and Toby Alderweireld will likely sit this one out.


England News
For the Three Lions, the chance exists to give a few of the other players a chance. Expect to see Danny Rose and Trent Alexander-Arnold come in on the flanks, with the back three maintaining a semblance of consistency.

Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane will likely play up-top, too, with Eric Dier replacing Jordan Henderson in the midfield. Jesse Lingard will get the chance to finish off a strong campaign, while Fabian Delph will get to sign off on what has been a very good year for him personally with another game here.


Verdict
While it does not really matter, we expect an English win. Belgium came to the tournament wanting to win it, and will feel gutted by their loss. England just wanted to have a good time, and can go home knowing they managed to achieve that and then some: they will be far more likely to be up for it here.

Gareth Southgate



A picture of England manager Gareth Southgate hugging his wife after England's 2-1 loss to Croatia. For their faults England gave us a good - and unexpected - run in the 2018 Russia World Cup. It's a youthful team and what a journey they've been on. A missed opportunity, yes, but we certainly now have a good foundation on which to build. Let's stay positive!