Thursday, 15 December 2016

‘Unstoppable’ Man Utd deserved Palace win, insists Mourinho

Jose Mourinho: Thrilled with Man Utd spell at Palace
Jose Mourinho hailed his Manchester United side after they secured a 2-1 Premier League win at Crystal Palace.
United have had a stop-start season as they have failed to convince under former Chelsea boss Mourinho, but he believes he is finally getting his message across after watching his troops enjoy a spell of genuine dominance at Selhurst Park.
“It was very difficult but very deserved,” Mourinho told the BBC after the game.
“In the first half we were in control. In the second half they had a little reaction and got the bonus of the goal and then we went into our best period of the game.
“For 20 minutes we were almost unstoppable. Their goalkeeper made a magnificent save from Rooney’s shot, we had Mata’s goal, a penalty (appeal) and our goal. It was an amazing reaction and I am really pleased for the players.”
Asked about match winner Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho added: “He did a phenomenal performance. After the goal to have the strength and spirit to go in front of the back four and defend.
“It was an amazing performance for a guy who is 35-years-old, scoring goals, being a leader, amazing.”

'Messi? This is the era of Cristiano'

'Messi? This is the era of Cristiano' - Ancelotti predicts how long Ronaldo reign will last
The former Real Madrid manager believes the 31-year-old, whom he won the Champions League with two and a half years ago, still has a lot left in the tank
Former Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti has predicted that Cristiano Ronaldo can keep playing at the top level for at least another three years and thinks the superstar deserves just as much credit as Lionel Messi.
Ronaldo was crowned Ballon d'Or winner for the fourth time on Monday after helping Madrid and Portugal to Champions League and Euro 2016 glory respectively in the last 12 months.
Zlatan no Messi or Ronaldo - Shearer
The 31-year-old scored 51 goals in all competitions for Madrid last season, while he netted three at the European Championship in France, but despite his exploits, there is a belief that Ronaldo's best football could be behind him.
However, Ancelotti - who teamed up with Ronaldo to win the 2014 Champions League with the Spanish capital club - believes the Portugal captain has plenty left in the tank, having seen him score 10 LaLiga goals already this term.
"I don't know when he'll keep going until, but I don't think he's that old," Bayern Munich boss Ancelotti told AS.
"Playing in a more advanced position could have an influence. He's now playing more centrally and with time he'll have to drop deep less often and stay in a more advanced position.
"I think he'll keep up this high level for three or four years."
The ex-Manchester United star is now just one Ballon d'Or short of Messi's all-time record and the Italian thinks he doesn't get enough credit sometimes for his impact on the sport.
"I think it's deserved, because Ronaldo won the Champions League and the European Championships," Ancelotti said. "He's performed better than the rest this year and the award is a logical one.
CARTOON: Messi's getting married!
"For many this is the era of Messi, but it's also the era of Cristiano. The competition between them has improved them. Messi is better because he's had Cristiano, and Cristiano is better because he's had Messi.
"Without doubt he can [add to his collection] over the next two or three years. Like Messi. The rest will still have to wait, although we can help some of them as a team, such as [Robert] Lewandowski for example, if we win lots of trophies."

Man Utd's forgotten man? Mata needs to make the most of Mkhitaryan absence

Man Utd's forgotten man? Mata needs to make the most of Mkhitaryan absence
The Spaniard has been the man to make way for Mkhitaryan but could do with a chance to show he still has plenty to offer

"Rooney, Rashford, Lingard, Ashley Young, Memphis Depay... that’s a position where we have lots of players so that will not be another problem, to chose a player to play."
Ibra relieved to avoid career low
Whether it was a deliberate slip of the tongue or not, Juan Mata's name was not the first to come to Jose Mourinho's mind when he was pressed on potential replacements for Henrikh Mkhitaryan on Monday.

The Armenian wide man has been a revelation over the past couple of weeks but the ankle injury he sustained in the 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday means Mourinho will have to choose between his multitude of options in attacking midfield slots for Wednesday's trip to Crystal Palace.
And only a few weeks on from being stand-in skipper and a near shoo-in for a starting shirt, Mata now finds himself looking to overcome the odds to cement a future for himself at Old Trafford.

It is not the first time this season Mata has been left scrapping for first-team recognition. Back at the beginning of the campaign he managed to forge his way into Mourinho's plans by proving he was made of the right stuff to play a part for United. After the misgivings of many regarding Mata's worth to the Portuguese boss, who had overseen his exit from Chelsea in 2014, the Spaniard was given the benefit of the doubt by his manager thanks to some early-season showings which underlined his ability to play the United way.

Whereas Jesse Lingard offered a pacy alternative as a natural wide player and Wayne Rooney's position as a club icon won him the right to play his way out of the team, Mata's neat, skilful variation found him a niche neither rival was able to offer.
But Mkhitaryan's recent transformation from persona non grata to match-winner extraordinaire has seen Mata play the role of fall guy. Many United fans still count the 28-year-old as one of the first names on their preferred teamsheet, and the thought of him missing more games than he plays will not go down well. Yet it is easy to see how he could be squeezed out of the United picture if he cannot seize every chance he gets over the busy Christmas period.

RUMOURS: Roma to swoop for Depay

Mata does have the bonus of being a flexible attacker who can play on the right or in the middle of the line behind the main striker, but in both spots there is huge competition for places. Marcus Rashford, Lingard, Young and Mkhitaryan can all be counted as adversaries for the right-wing slot, while Rooney and Paul Pogba stake significant claims for the No.10 position.

Mata's days as a certain starter are now long gone, and it seems to be a situation he has managed to come to terms with. His performances this season have certainly displayed the sort of character Mourinho will have been looking for. But the idea that he is now second choice at the very best may take some getting used to, and that is the danger now that Mkhitaryan has hit form and been given his head by the manager.

His decline from two-time club Player of the Year to substitute under Mourinho at Chelsea was dramatic. But having won the heart of the mercurial manager once already this season, he now has arguably an even bigger task on his hands to prove he still has something to offer in a Manchester United shirt.

Can Brian Idowu really solve Nigeria’s defensive problems?

Brian Idowu
The Amkar Perm defender has received rave reviews to date, but can he be a solution for the Super Eagles?

Brian Idowu has been welcoming plaudits aplenty after his superb performances for Amkar Perm  this season, prompting talk of a Nigeria call-up.
But just who is Brian Idowu, and could he be the man to boost the Super Eagles’ backline?
Born in Saint Petersburg to a Nigerian father and a Russian-Nigerian mother, Idowu could be forgiven for having multiple allegiances.
The player has spent the majority of his life in Russia, coming through the youth ranks of Zenit St. Petersburg but ultimately failing to make a first-team appearance for the Blue-White-Sky Blues.

In 2010, he eventually departed the club on a free transfer and under a cloud of controversy, claiming his path to the first team was blocked due to the colour of his skin.
Although he left the domestic giants acrimoniously, he still dreams of a return to his boyhood club before he eventually hangs up his boots.
He subsequently joined Amkar in 2010 after his release from Zenit, but his career stagnated for a few years—with spells with Amkar II and loan spell with Dynamo St. Petersburg—before the resurgence in the Russian Premier League last year.
His rise to prominence has sparked rumours of an imminent call-up for Idowu to the Super Eagles, and that possibility has been mooted by Goal’s Lolade Adewuyi , among others.

There are several reasons why the 24-year-old stands out against some of the other promising defenders under consideration by Gernot Rohr.
For starters, his ability to play in multiple positions has proved to be a major asset.
Primarily a left-back, he’s equally adept at filling in on the right, in the centre and at the base of the midfield.
In his 16 appearances so far this season, he’s featured nine times on the left, three times at right-back, twice in defensive midfield and a sole appearance was made in the centre of the defence—it’s testament to his versatility, and makes him a potentially valuable asset for Rohr.

With tactics and systems dominating the modern game, being able to turn out in a variety of positions offers more flexibility—a manager’s dream—and Idowu certainly fits the bill of Mr. Versatile.
He’s an individual with high energy levels, and has received praise for maintaining those levels of natural fitness.
He possesses high levels of endurance which allow him to cover a lot of ground over the course of a game, and his work rate and stamina levels are building blocks for his indefatigable performances that endear him to fans.
He also offers consistency, and isn’t one to be criticized for lacking commitment.

The player also has strong interception and tackling ability, and is described as measured in his tackling where he avoids diving into tackles, as previously noted by Goal .
Idowu’s professionalism has also received much acclaim, and his drive and determination can never be questioned. He possesses the right attitude and is rarely in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, with the unfortunate circumstances of his exit from Zenit the one exception.
The aforementioned strengths may paint a picture of the archetypal defender who could rival the best of the lot, but it should be noted that there are glaring weaknesses in the defender’s game as well.
He has an unfortunate knack for being sloppy in his defensive duties and disrupting the defensive organisation of his side. This isn’t helped by frequent lapses in concentration, which allow opposing players to roam free on his watch. He also needs work on his aerial game, where he can be beaten by bigger and stronger forwards.

Idowu may possess high endurance levels and an exceptional work rate, but he isn’t the quickest of full-backs and that undermines a supposed strength. His inability to be quick off the mark and over a distance occasionally sees him struggle in defensive situations with flying wingers leaving him in their wake time and again.
Idowu isn’t also the most comfortable on the ball and this weakness only reduces his team options in possession, as he sometimes resorts to ‘hoofing the ball’ without considering the time and space he has to make effective passes to a better positioned teammate.
Going forward, the quality of his deliveries leaves much to be desired and he hardly ever finds his man with his crosses, which only frustrates his teammates. While Idowu can do a job at full-back, he’s unlikely to be the next in line of the long, fine traditional of excellent Nigerian defensive widemen.
With the defensive anomalies plaguing the Super Eagles defence in recent displays against Zambia and Algeria, rumours have been doing the rounds that Rohr has earmarked the Russian-born defender as a potential solution to the current defensive malaise.
While there tends to be the bandwagon effect of wanting new faces in the national side, things need to be put in perspective.
It should be noted that the aforementioned weaknesses of the player aren’t too dissimilar from the issues with the current defenders in the side, and while some may argue that Idowu might not be an upgrade on current options, he’s unlikely to be found wanting.
Poor concentration across the backline and an inability of the full-backs to keep pace with fleet-footed wingers has threatened to undermine Nigeria’s World Cup qualifying campaign, and those weaknesses are part and parcel of Idowu’s game as well.
Will he really be a significant upgrade on the current players in the backline—and most especially at left back?
Surely, he has to improve on his weaknesses and polish his overall game if he's to have a realistic chance of displacing the current options in the side.
The current problems in defence will worry Rohr, which may cause a few sleepless nights, but if he’s hoping for a one-size-fits-all solution, Idowu may not>

Oscar confirms China move is ’90 per cent complete’

Oscar: Set to leave Stamford Bridge
Chelsea midfielder Oscar has all but confirmed his £60million move to China, insisting his move is ’90 percent complete’.
Former Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas is currently in charge at Shanghai SiPG, and has given the go-ahead for the big-money move.
The 25-year-old has fallen out of favour under new boss Antonio Conte, and confirmed his impending departure when asked.
“It’s 90 per cent certain,” he told SporTV . “It just depends on a few bureaucratic details.”
Oscar has not started for Chelsea since the middle of September, but the fee is still understood to be in the region of £52million.
He would become the second Blues player in the last 12 months to make the switch to China after Ramires joined Jiangsu Suning last January.
This comes after Antonio Conte denied that Oscar or Cesc Fabregas would leave the club in January.
“It’s gossip, I’m not going to send them away,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport.”They’re important players for Chelsea.”

Marieke Vervoort: Paralympian who has signed euthanasia papers
Doors open for you in Diest when you're with Marieke Vervoort.
Go to a restaurant in this pretty Belgian town, and all the diners know her. They come over to congratulate her on winning two medals at the 2016 Rio Paralympics; she raises a glass to a family celebrating a birthday.
For a few hours, she's the life and soul of the party.
But, at 37, the Belgian wheelchair racer suffers such pain she wakes her neighbours by screaming in the night. As she watches her precious, fiercely defended independence dwindling, she has planned her own death.
Euthanasia is legal in Belgium, and eight years ago Vervoort signed the papers which will, eventually, allow a doctor to end her life. It's not that she wants to die. She wants to live. But she wants to live on her terms.

'My mind says yes, but my body cries'

It is three months since she won silver and bronze at her second Paralympics and Vervoort is still the toast of Diest, where a large billboard bearing an image of her face declares the town is "so proud" of her.
We're greeted at the door of her specially adapted flat by Zenn, Vervoort's assistance labrador. Nurses come in four times a day to tend to Vervoort's medical needs, but Zenn gives her mistress an extra degree of independence, fetching items and helping her dress. She is, most of all, a mood-enhancer.
"When I'm happy, she's happy," says Vervoort. "When I'm mad, she's scared, and she goes to sit in another part of the house so she's not bothering me. When I'm crying, she'll come to lie down with me, lick my face, hug me.
"When I'm going to have an epileptic attack, she pushes her head between my knees. She is saying to me, 'Marieke, you have to lay down. Go to a safe spot because something is going to happen to you.'"
The walls of her flat are crammed with framed photos and paintings of her winning moments, while medals, trophies, and bottles of champagne jostle for space on cupboards and counter tops.
Her achievements have been hard won. A progressive, incurable spinal condition, diagnosed when she was 21, ravages her body and no two days are the same.
"I know how I feel now, but I don't know how I'll feel after half an hour," she says. "It can be that I feel very, very bad, I get an epileptic attack, I cry, I scream because of pain. I need a lot of painkillers, valium, morphine.
"A lot of people ask me how is it possible that you can have such good results and still be smiling with all the pain and medication that eats your muscles. For me, sports, and racing with a wheelchair - it's a kind of medication."
Just getting to the start line in Rio was an achievement. In 2013, a racing accident left her shoulder so badly damaged a doctor told her she would never reach the top again. To that, as to so many setbacks in life, her response was a defiant hand gesture.
"I turned my bed into a gym - physio, elastic belts," she says.
"I was doing my own physio, my own exercises. After the rehabilitation, I broke three world records."
She went back to her doctor and thanked her for telling her she would not reach the top again.
"You gave me the power to fight back like an animal," she told her doctor. "You make my mind only stronger."
The silver medal in the T52 400m in Rio came after 30 hours of violent sickness and a day on a rehydrating drip in the Paralympic village. The bronze in the 100m came after a bladder infection sent her temperature soaring.
She said they were medals with two sides - happy and sad.
"I can't imagine a better way to end your career, but also there's a side of sadness, to say goodbye to the sports that I love," she explains.
"Other people stop with their sports because they say they don't want to do it any more. I have to stop because my mind says yes, go further, you still can do it. But my body cries, says help, stop training, you break me."
Marieke's major medals
2012 Paralympics: Gold (T52 100m) and silver (T52 200m)
2015 World Championships: Gold (T52 100m, 200m and 400m)
2016 Paralympics: Silver (T51/52 400m) and bronze (T51/52 100m)

'A living hell is not the life that she wants'

To get a fuller picture of the athlete known as 'The Beast from Diest', we travel to see her close friend Lieve Bullens, the woman Vervoort calls her 'Godmother'.
Ask Vervoort's friends and family to describe her and they will use a variety of adjectives. Determined, independent, joyful, stubborn. I would add funny, thoughtful and a terrible back-seat driver.
The constant threat of an epileptic episode and her deteriorating sight mean she is no longer allowed to drive her car, emblazoned with her picture, fist punching the air after another race win. I take the wheel. It's clear my caution is damaging her image as Belgium's fastest woman on three wheels.
"You are driving like an old woman! Ha ha ha!"
Bullens welcomes us into a house which is part home, part Buddhist retreat. Large windows overlook the winter garden, drums and dreamcatchers are suspended from the ceiling. The open cooking range has been converted into a candle-laden altar. It's the perfect place to recuperate from the stress of the car journey.
Vervoort met Bullens, a mental coach and therapist, when competing at the 2007 Hawaii Ironman triathlon for para-athletes.
Triathlon had become her passion when the onset of her disease made her reliant on a wheelchair. She was para-triathlon world champion twice, but in 2008 her condition deteriorated to such an extent she had to give up the sport.
It was the lowest point in her life. The pain was agonising, the loss of independence insupportable. She told her friend she wanted to kill herself.
"She said 'there's no point in living, no point in going on because it's too hard, it's too bad'," Bullens says.
But Vervoort's psychologist recommended she speak to Dr Wim Distelmans, a leading palliative care expert. He suggested an alternative option: euthanasia.
Euthanasia - in which a doctor intervenes to end a life - has been legal in Belgium since 2002. It is available only if a patient has an incurable condition, is in unbearable pain, and is able to make a rational decision to request it, and even then two doctors have to agree it is the correct course of action.
In 2015, MPs in the UK rejected the Assisted Dying Bill, which would have allowed some terminally ill adults to end their lives with medical supervision.
Bullens was the first person Vervoort told about her decision. She is also the person she wants with her when she dies.
"I immediately supported her," Bullens says. "She is stubborn. She knows what she wants. But she also knows what she doesn't want. A living hell is not the life that she wants.
"I immediately had the feeling it was something that she could control, and if she had control of her life, she would live longer. The pain is always there. She doesn't have to wait for the pain to have an end for her life. She says to the pain - I decide when to go. Not you."
In the hall of Bullens' house is a wall upon which friends and guests have written inspirational messages. But, until now, not Vervoort. She puts that right. It's a painful process, as her hands are beginning to fail her. Bullens knows it's a precious moment.
"The woman who's writing it is forever in my heart," she says. "She's not forever physically. It's a peaceful thought that she will go in a beautiful way, and not a hard way. In a strong way."
What is the law in Belgium?
Belgium, like the Netherlands and Luxembourg, permits euthanasia
A patient's suffering must be constant, unbearable and the illness must be serious and incurable
Since 2014, a terminally ill child in Belgium may also request euthanasia with parental consent but extra assessment is required
An adult does not have to be terminally ill but must be mentally competent
A child seeking euthanasia must be terminally ill and mentally competent

'I'm a real rich girl, even with this miserable, ugly disease'

Jos and Odette Vervoort are no different to many proud sporting parents, travelling extensively to support their daughter. They get out a photo album of memorable moments on Copacabana Beach, Sugarloaf Mountain, and - the highlight - Vervoort being presented with her silver medal and getting a hug from Princess Astrid of Belgium.
They've watched their sporty child grow into a world-beating adult. Like all parents, they know they need to let their child go. But for them, letting go means having to support her decision to end her life with euthanasia.
"She's always been independent," Jos says. "When she came in a wheelchair, she was frightened she would live all her life as a disabled person with mum and dad under the same roof.
"You can see her situation, you are realistic, and you say yes, if she feels better with [the decision to choose euthanasia], I can live with it.
"In the beginning we knew it was a decision for the future. Now we know the future is coming near.
"It may be a question of months, a question of years. But we see as she becomes more dependent, it becomes more difficult."
Her parents don't know, and she doesn't know, when the moment will come. What is clear is she is not ready for it yet.
She has given up wheelchair racing and taken up indoor sky diving - the vertical wind tunnel allows her battered body a sense of precious freedom - with the aim of doing an unassisted dive from a plane.
She wants to fly in a stunt plane, and bungee jump from a bridge. She loathes not being able to drive her car, but her friends, family and Zenn give her much to live for.
"I'm the richest girl in the world," she says.
"I'm a real rich girl, a really lucky person, even with this miserable, ugly disease which I hate."
Is she afraid of dying?
"No, if you asked me 10 years ago, do you want to do a bungee jump - are you crazy? I'm not afraid any more. I risk everything, and I love it, to do all these things, because I'm not afraid to die any more," she says.
"To me, death is peaceful, something that gives me a good feeling."

'I was thinking about how I was going to kill myself'

Vervoort's fridge is well stocked. Not with food on the day we're there, but with sparkling wine. She opens a bottle before dinner. It's part of her pain relief.
We go to eat with her at a restaurant in Diest, where she is the guest of honour. She recommends the sizzling beef and the shrimp tagliatelle, both delicious. It's a great night.
The next day we arrive to do one last interview but find Vervoort curled up on the couch, exhausted and barely conscious after a pain-racked night.
She called the nurses in the early hours to administer morphine. Zenn keeps close to her mistress' side.
It's hard to believe this is the irrepressible woman we spent the previous day with, and a stark reminder of how unpredictable her illness is.
But 40 minutes later, she wants to talk again. We talk about the reason she chose euthanasia over suicide.
"If I didn't have those papers, I wouldn't have been able to go into the Paralympics. I was a very depressed person - I was thinking about how I was going to kill myself," she explains.
"In England, I hope, and every country, they will look at euthanasia in another way - it's not murder. I'm the best example. It's thanks to those papers that I'm still living.
"All those people who get those papers here in Belgium - they have a good feeling. They don't have to die in pain. They can choose a moment, and be with the people they want to be with. With euthanasia you're sure that you will have a soft, beautiful death."
The conversation finishes in gales of laughter when Zenn, sensing the mood, decides to lighten it by passing wind.
Seconds later, Vervoort's eyes roll backwards. She's having an epileptic fit. We hit the red button and medical staff are there within a minute. It's become part of her life.
A couple of hours later she is in Brussels, giving a motivational speech and saying yes to selfies and autographs for anyone who wants them.
She is determined not to waste a second of the life she has remaining. She has planned her funeral, and it involves a lot of sparkling wine. She also knows what she wants her eulogy to say.
"I prepared everything. I wrote to every person who's in my heart. I wrote to every person a letter when I could still do it with my hands," she says.
"I wrote texts that they have to read. I want that everybody takes a glass of Cava, [and toasts me] because she had a really good life. She had a really bad disease, but thanks to that disease, she was able to do things that people can only dream about, because I was mentally so strong.
"I want people to remember that Marieke was somebody living day by day and enjoying every little moment."

Sunderland 0-1 Chelsea: Cesc fires Conte's table-toppers to another win

Sunderland 0-1 Chelsea: Cesc fires Conte's table-toppers to another win
The Spain international hit before half time to break the Black Cats' resolve, as Antonio Conte's men kept a firm hold on the Premier League summit
Cesc Fabregas scored the only goal as Chelsea won at Sunderland to secure a 10th successive top-flight victory and a six-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
Antonio Conte's side took full advantage of Arsenal's 2-1 loss at Everton on Tuesday to secure a firm grip on pole position, Fabregas netting the decisive goal after 40 minutes against a largely toothless Sunderland, although Thibaut Courtois was called upon to make a stunning injury-time save from Patrick van Aanholt to preserve the visitors' advantage.
Chelsea's position contrasts starkly to that which they held exactly one year ago, when a 2-1 defeat away at Leicester City left them one point clear of the relegation zone after 16 matches and proved to be the final game in Jose Mourinho's second stint in charge.
Sunderland were guilty of sitting deep and letting the Blues dictate terms, Fabregas finally making the breakthrough in a tepid first half when he steered a pass from Willian – making his first Premier League start since October 1 with Eden Hazard absent through injury – past Jordan Pickford.
David Moyes' team lacked coherency in attack and, after Adnan Januzaj was denied by Courtois, only the crossbar stopped them slipping further behind to Willian's deflected shot in the 51st minute.
Pickford kept the in-form Diego Costa at bay but Chelsea had done enough to continue their exemplary run of form, while Sunderland remain rooted to the bottom.
Chelsea dominated possession in the first half but struggled to break down a well-organised Sunderland defence, though the hosts were unable to keep hold of the ball when they won it back.

A rare foray forward from Moyes' team ended with Januzaj failing to get enough bend on an 18-yard effort to pick out the top-left corner after 25 minutes.
Chelsea responded with a swift break down the left that saw Marcos Alonso's drilled delivery find Costa, who was unable to cope with the pace on the ball and skewed a volley wide.
Conte's team continued to control proceedings and finally broke through five minutes before half-time when Billy Jones' stray header on the halfway line was pounced upon by N'Golo Kante, enabling Chelsea to surge forward with Willian teeing up Fabregas to guide home from the edge of the box.
Willian was unable to get enough dip on a free-kick from just outside the area in order to test Pickford in first-half stoppage time.
Januzaj was denied by an excellent near-post save from Courtois within two minutes of the restart, but it proved to be a flash in the pan for Sunderland.
Willian's attempt from the right-hand side of the box deflected off ex-Chelsea defender Papy Djilobodji and hit the bar on its way behind, while Pickford got a strong pair of hands down to his left to keep out Costa in the 53rd minute.
Jones was replaced by Donald Love after sustaining an injury in the 59th minute but Sunderland were unable to stem the flow with efforts from Victor Moses and Willian flying wide of the target.
Having spent most of the evening on the back foot, Sunderland almost conjured up an equaliser in the 93rd minute, Courtois springing to his right to palm a swerving effort from former Chelsea man Van Aanholt around the post.

Touch of class from Cesc and Willian sees Chelsea past Sunderland

Touch of class from Cesc and Willian sees Chelsea past Sunderland
The duo had not started together in the league since defeat to Arsenal nearly three months ago but proved they were up to running the show in the absence of Eden Hazard
With no European commitments this is proving to be a season with as few rotations as possible for Antonio Conte and Chelsea but every now and again even he has to make exceptions.
Oscar failed to become a Chelsea superstar
Eden Hazard was not fit enough to play against Sunderland due to a slight knee injury while Nemanja Matic was rotated out of the team with one eye on a busy festive period ahead.
It meant that for the first time since the 3-0 drubbing at Arsenal – the inadvertent catalyst behind Chelsea’s Premier League resurgence – Cesc Fabregas and Willian were in the same Premier League starting line-up. Each was outstanding in the absences of the preferred men for their positions.
Cesc and Willian combined for Chelsea’s first-half opener in great style – bringing a degree of subtlety to a hard-running side that sometimes lacks for genuine playmakers in the starting XI - Hazard aside.
Willian took a pass from Cesc at the edge of the area and aimed a soft one back to his midfield colleague who passed the ball into the corner of Jordan Pickford’s net. There will be as few surprises as possible in Conte’s line-ups for the rest of the campaign ahead but he will have been given plenty of food for thought by two men long kicking their heels on the sidelines.
The autumn international break and saddening personal circumstances meant that Willian was unlucky to lose his place in the Chelsea line-up initially but – equally- was helpless to win it back as the team embarked on a sensational winning run.
Who will be Messi’s best man?
He’s picked his moments to impress though – in the away win at Manchester City in particular – and here at the Stadium of Light in place of Hazard.

Fabregas was a different story. When Pep Guardiola dropped Sergio Aguero from the City team it was to jolt the Argentine into altering his style of football – leading the defensive effort from the front and chasing a bit harder. It worked.
Conte – meanwhile – did not appear to want Fabregas back in the team once he cast him out. There was even talk of a January move to Serie A or the Turkish Super Lig. Nonetheless the World Cup winner has found his way back into the team and if not a guaranteed starter – yet – then he is again proving himself as a capable deputy. And now with Oscar departing for Chinese riches, he stands only to benefit from that too.
He ran the show at City, gave the assist for Diego Costa against WBA and scored here with a confidence-boosting finish at the right time.
"Cesc is a good player for us," said Conte. "In the midfield I have four midfielders and it is important for me to evaluate the form of the players; some games you need players who are more physical and some games more technical. It is important that Cesc had a good game."
It’s not enough to say that Chelsea’s methods have been worked out but it’s true that Tottenham Hotspur, City and West Brom have given Conte and his team more to think about in the Premier League in recent weeks.
Teams are identifying vulnerabilities in the Chelsea ranks – from dragging their centre backs out of position to closing down Matic early – and Sunderland had their own way of coping too. David Moyes opted to match up Chelsea’s 3-4-3 system man for man with John O’Shea, ex-Blue Papy Djilobodji and Lamine Kone taking it in turns to come out and mark Chelsea’s front three.
It meant that Marcos Alonso was getting plenty of the ball on the left - with only Adnan Januzaj for competition - but he couldn’t locate anyone in a blue shirt for a cross. Instead it was a bit of magic which unlocked the door. Chelsea were on the back foot for the closing stages, relying on a magical Thibaut Courtois save to maintain the clean sheet, in what could have turned into a very tricky night indeed.
"I prefer my players not to look at the table and to focus on the next game in three days," said Conte. "We must prepare very well to have a good Christmas."
Chelsea – top of the league and six points clear – will reflect on a stunning 10-match winning run. There is still momentum and determination in their play and – when needed – a touch of class.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

See the reaction of Pogba facing brother in Europa League

How Pogba reacted to facing brother in Europa League
The world's most expensive player will face brother Florentin after Manchester United are drawn against Saint-Etienne
Jose Mourinho has revealed Paul Pogba LAUGHED when he found out who Manchester United would face in the Europa League.
What Ibrahimovic said to Pogba before THAT free kick
The world's most expensive player will face brother Florentin, a defender and Guinea international, over two legs as United look to better Ligue 1 outfit Saint-Etienne in the last-32 round of the competition.
United finished second in Group A, behind Fenerbahce, after beating Zorya Luhansk of Ukraine and Mourinho is pleased at the shorter travelling time
"That's a nice thing," he told reporters. "Paul was already laughing about it and for sure his brother is also laughing.
"It has happened a few times in the history of football and it's a nice thing."
Mourinho added: "The good thing is the travel distance," he said. "We were very unlucky in the group phase, we had to go very far, it was very difficult to go to Turkey, Ukraine.
"Now we go to France because the flight is easy and it’s not an easy period, there are lots of games, so that is good.
"Then Saint-Etienne is a historic old club with lots of tradition. People of my generation will never forget that Michel Platini team and it will be difficult because every team now is a good team in the competition.
Ibrahimovic: Why the Premier League is different
"For sure, Manchester United is one of the big names in the competition, but we have two months without the Europa League, two months to forget it, then we will see."
United and Saint-Etienne meet on February 16, with the return leg a week later.

Ibrahimovic's INCREDIBLE goal record against Saint-Etienne

Ibrahimovic's INCREDIBLE goal record against Saint-Etienne
The veteran Swedish striker has scored an unbelievable 14 goals against the Ligue 1 club, his best record against a single opponent in his entire club career
Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic will surely be delighted to have learned who the club will face in the Europa League last 32.
The Sweden international, who signed for United on a free transfer in the summer, has an unbelievable goal record against Saint-Etienne having scored against them 14 times.
Pogba vs Pogba is dream draw for Man Utd
And that has been achieved in just 13 matches against the Ligue 1 club, with Ibrahimovic having netted three in his last two against Christophe Galtier's side.
Indeed, Ibrahimovic's outstanding record against Saint-Etienne is his best against any opponent he's faced before, with the 35-year-old having scored 12 against Palermo and 11 against Nice and Marseille respectively.
In terms of matches won, the former PSG forward has beaten Saint-Etienne on nine occasions, while he has drawn three and lost one.
He was also been handed a red card against United's Europa League opponents, with the Swede being given his marching orders for a high boot into the chest of goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier back in 2012.

'Tottenham was our wet dream' - Gent director's outrageous claim after Europa League draw

'Tottenham was our wet dream' - Gent director's outrageous claim after Europa League draw
Michel Louwagie expressed his delight at facing Spurs in the knockout stage, revealing a little more than expected following the last 32 draw
Gent managing director Michel Louwagie had a bizarre reaction to being drawn against Tottenham in the Europa League Round of 32, claiming it was the club's 'wet dream'.
After finishing second in Group H ahead of Portuguese side Braga, Louwagie was anxious ahead of the draw for the knockout stage. The Gent director hoped his side would get a glamorous tie, and was not disappointed when they were drawn against the Premeir League club.
'Ronaldo and Messi are monsters!'
However, his reaction to drawing Spurs left little to the imagination!
"We feared we would draw a Turkish opponent," Louwagie told Sporza. "It was the wet dream of mine and the president to get either Roma or Tottenham.
"This is like a Champions League game. We will play at Wembley, which is fantastic. Every game in that stadium is an epic. Now we can play there, and that is something you want to experience once in your career."
Having only won the Belgian league title once, Louwagie knows that Gent are not at the same level as Tottenham or many of Europe's other big clubs. Despite that, he is looking forward to the challenge of Gent proving themselves against Mauricio Pochettino's side.
"We have not been one of the top clubs for long, so this is all relatively new for us. We are extra excited," the 60-year-old admitted.
"The coach always wants a challenge. Last year he was disappointed we did not get an English club. Tottenham are obviously stronger [than Gent], but Gent has also put in performances in Europe that nobody expected.
"Who knows, maybe they will underestimate us? Tottenham is a big name, and we will go there with a lot of respect."

AC Milan will challenge for the Serie A title - Spalletti

AC Milan will challenge for the Serie A title - Spalletti
Radja Nainggolan's stunning second-half strike saw Roma past Vincenzo Montella's side, but the coach was full of praise for the visitors
Roma claimed an important three points on Monday but head coach Luciano Spalletti was complimentary of the losers, insisting AC Milan will be among the Serie A challengers at the end of the season.
Cristiano Ronaldo wins 2016 Ballon d’Or
Radja Nainggolan's stunning second-half strike saw Roma past Milan 1-0 in a clash pitting second against third in the Italian capital.
After M'Baye Niang missed a penalty, Nainggolan produced a moment of brilliance with just over an hour played as Roma move three points clear in second, with Milan just a point above the chasing pack in third.
While Roma emerged triumphant, Spalletti focused on Vincenzo Montella's men afterwards.
"It was a muscular and consistent second half," Spalletti told Mediaset Premium.
"Last season we did win a few games too, but tonight was really difficult and Milan were impressive.
"What people say of Milan and their coach is true – they are at the main table and we have to expect them there to the end.
"It's true they started out under the radar and without the most prestigious names, but their approach of football playing from the back and then flying into spaces, which is what happened on the penalty, then we did really well to bring home a win."
Nainggolan, meanwhile, lauded the character of his team-mates against Milan.
Is Ronaldo now the best European player ever?
"We fashioned a few chances but the main thing is we won," the Belgium midfielder said. "We showed great character.
"Milan were set up really well but apart from the penalty we defended well. We can be happy today. We weren't winning games like this last year.
"There were times when we played nice football but wouldn't win the match. Wins like today's – when you get there by playing with resolve – are good too. There's only target in our minds and we're on the right path. We just need to keep believing and keep going as we are."

Liverpool’s trouble on Teesside, Tuesday’s great for Gunners

Liverpool are looking for their first win in eight at Middlesbrough, while Arsenal seem to enjoy playing Premier League matches on Tuesday nights…

Bournemouth v Leicester City

Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City - Premier League
Tuesday 13 December 2016 (19:45)
Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Bournemouth haven’t won any of their last six games in league competition against the Foxes (D2 L4), last beating them in March 1989.
  • Both games between these sides ended in draws last season, with Jamie Vardy equalising in the 86th minute from the penalty spot in this exact fixture in August 2015.
  • Simon Francis was sent off for Bournemouth in their goalless draw with Leicester in January.
  • The Foxes have won just one point from seven Premier League away matches this season (W0 D1 L7) and only Burnley have picked up as few points in the competition on the road.
  • If Leicester lose this game, it would set a new record for the lowest points total by a defending top-flight champion in their first eight away games of a season (1).
  • Leicester City will be looking to win back-to-back Premier League matches for the first time since April.
  • The Foxes have won just one of their last 10 Premier League games on a Tuesday, 2-0 against Liverpool in February (D4 L5).
  • There have been 16 goals scored in Bournemouth’s last three Premier League matches (5.3 per game) – with the Cherries conceding exactly three goals in each of these matches.
  • After scoring with just two of his 17 shots in the Premier League before last weekend, Jamie Vardy scored a hat-trick with all three of his shots against Manchester City.
  • Benik Afobe will be looking to score in consecutive Premier League appearances for the first time since February, following his goal last weekend against Burnley.
  • Claudio Ranieri will take charge of his 200th Premier League match as a manager in this game (146 for Chelsea, 53 for Leicester City). 

Everton v Arsenal

Tuesday 13 December 2016 (19:45)
Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Everton’s only win in their last 18 league games against Arsenal was their 3-0 victory in April 2014 (D6 L11).
  • Arsenal have won more Premier League games against Everton (29) than they have against any other side.
  • In fact, Everton have lost 93 times to Arsenal in the league, the most defeats by one club to another in English league history.
  • A win for the Gunners at Goodison Park would make it their 12th in the Premier League there – only at Villa Park (12) have they obtained as many away wins at a single ground.
  • Everton have conceded exactly two goals in each of their last four league games against Arsenal.
  • Olivier Giroud has scored five goals in his last six games against Everton in all competitions.
  • The Gunners haven’t lost on a Tuesday in the Premier League since February 2006 v Liverpool (W10 D7).
  • Romelu Lukaku has scored (9) or assisted (3) 12 of Everton’s last 15 Premier League goals.
  • Since the start of 2013-14, Lukaku has scored 52 of Everton’s 187 Premier League goals (28%) and no
    other player has more than 20 goals for the club in this period.
  • Alexis Sanchez has had a hand in 26 goals in his last 26 Premier League appearances for Arsenal (18 goals, 8 assists).

Middlesbrough v Liverpool

Adam Lallana
Wednesday 14 December 2016 (19:45)
Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough
  • Middlesbrough’s last Premier League encounter with Liverpool ended in victory, winning 2-0 at the Riverside. Xabi Alonso scored an own goal with Tuncay Sanli scoring the other goal.
  • In the last meeting in all competitions between Middlesbrough and Liverpool, the Merseyside outfit progressed from a League Cup tie 14-13 on penalties, after a 2-2 draw at Anfield.
  • Liverpool haven’t won a Premier League game in Middlesbrough since March 2002, drawing four and losing three contests there since.
  • In fact, Middlesbrough have conceded just once in their last seven home games against the Reds (Fernando Torres in January 2008).
  • Middlesbrough have attempted only 38 shots on target in the Premier League this season; a league-low.
  • In fact, Boro haven’t attempted more than four shots on target in any of their 15 Premier League games so far in 2016-17.
  • Liverpool have scored the most goals (37), has the most shots in total (280) and attempted the most shots on target (101) in the Premier League so far this season.
  • Adam Lallana has had a hand in nine Premier League goals this season in 13 appearances (four goals, five assists). Last season, he had a hand in 10 goals in 30 league apps (four goals, six assists).
  • Divock Origi is the first Liverpool player to score in four successive games in all competitions for Liverpool since Daniel Sturridge in February 2014 (eight in a row).
  • Liverpool lost their last Premier League away game (3-4 at Bournemouth) – they haven’t lost successive away games in the competition since December 2015.

Sunderland v Chelsea

Diego Costa: Celebrates his goal
Wednesday 14 December 2016 (19:45)
Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Sunderland beat Chelsea 3-2 in May, this after winning just once against the Blues in their previous 10 Premier League games (D1 L8).
  • Chelsea haven’t lost successive Premier League games against Sunderland since March 2001.
  • Jermain Defoe has scored against Chelsea with four different Premier League clubs, the only player to have done this (West Ham, Tottenham, Portsmouth and Sunderland).
  • Defoe has either scored (8) or assisted (2) 10 of Sunderland’s 14 Premier League goals so far in 2016-17 (71%).
  • This fixture has seen 111 goals scored in 30 Premier League games, averaging at 3.7 goals per game.
  • The Black Cats have kept just one clean sheet in their last 16 Premier League games.
  • Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 15 Premier League games played on a Wednesday, last losing to QPR in January 2013 (W8 D7).
  • Sunderland have won their last two Premier League home games – they haven’t won three in a row at the Stadium of Light since February 2012.
  • Chelsea are on a run of four successive Premier League away victories and will be looking to win five in a row on the road for the first time since April 2015.
  • Only two teams have stopped Diego Costa either scoring or assisting in the Premier League this season (in 15 games) – Manchester United at Stamford Bridge and Arsenal at the Emirates.

West Ham United v Burnley

Dimitri Payet: Clause in his deal

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Wednesday 14 December 2016 (19:45)
London Stadium, London
  • West Ham have won three of their four previous Premier League contests against Burnley (L1), including both games in the 2014/15 season.
  • The Clarets scored three times in their first Premier League game versus West Ham (losing 3-5) but have found the net just three times in their last three against the Hammers.
  • West Ham’s only defeat to Burnley in their last 11 home games in all competitions against them came in December 2011, losing 2-1 in the Championship. Sam Vokes scored the winner that day.
  • Burnley have never won a Premier League match in London (W0 D2 L10), scoring just six goals overall in these matches.
  • Just one of Burnley’s 17 Premier League points this season has been won away from home (6% of their total points).
  • Burnley’s only win in a midweek (Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday) Premier League fixture was in their first midweek match in the division, beating Manchester United 1-0 in August 2009 (D4 L4 since).
  • Burnley have scored just one goal in their six Premier League away games this season – only Derby County (2007-08 – 0 goals) had scored fewer in their first six away games in a PL season.
  • Since the start of last season, West Ham have won just two of their seven Premier League games against newly-promoted teams (W2 D3 L2).
  • Dimitri Payet has scored six direct free-kicks for West Ham in all competitions since the start of last season. The only Premier League player to match this is Chelsea’s Willian (also six).
  • Burnley have allowed their opponents a league-high 95 shots on target this season in the Premier League.

Crystal Palace v Manchester United

Wilfried Zaha: Will stay at Selhurst Park
Wednesday 14 December 2016 (20:00)
Selhurst Park, London
  • Crystal Palace were winless in their three games against Manchester United last season, drawing at Selhurst Park but losing away at Old Trafford and at Wembley in the FA Cup final after extra-time.
  • Manchester United have played Crystal Palace 14 times in the Premier League and have never lost (W11 D3). The only side they have played more without tasting defeat is Charlton (16, W14 D2).
  • Crystal Palace have lost 11 times to Manchester United in the Premier League, more than any other side they’ve faced.
  • Manchester United’s only defeat in their last 21 games against Crystal Palace in all competitions came in the League Cup quarter-final in 2011/12 (W16 D4).
  • The Eagles have failed to score in 11 of their 14 Premier League games against Manchester United. Jason Puncheon is the only current Palace player to score for the club against the Red Devils.
  • Christian Benteke has scored five goals in his last five Premier League appearances for Crystal Palace.
  • Benteke has also scored in four successive Premier League appearances in the month of December (five goals in total).
  • Since the start of 2015-16, Manchester United haven’t won any of their six Premier League away games in London (W0 D2 L4), including a current run of three successive defeats.
  • Former Manchester United winger Wilfried Zaha has had a hand in seven goals in his last seven Premier League appearances (two goals, five assists).
  • Wayne Rooney has now scored 248 goals for Manchester United in all competitions – just one behind Bobby Charlton’s all-time record of 249 goals
  • Rooney has netted 179 league goals for Manchester United – only Jack Rowley (182) and Bobby Charlton (199) have more for the club.

Manchester City v Watford

Pep Guardiola: Struggling for consistency
Wednesday 14 December 2016 (20:00)
Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Manchester City are unbeaten in four previous Premier League games against Watford, winning both fixtures against them last season (W2 D2 L0).
  • The Hornets didn’t manage a single shot on target in their Premier League meeting with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium last season.
  • All seven of the previous goals scored in this fixture in the Premier League have arrived after half-time.
  • Watford’s last league win over Manchester City came in a second tier clash in March 1989 (D2 L4 since). o Watford have never won a Premier League match on a Wednesday (W0 D2 L7).
  • Pep Guardiola has seen his side concede three or more goals in consecutive league games for the very first time as a manager.
  • Guardiola has only lost three successive league games as a manager once before – this was in May 2015 as Bayern Munich boss (vs Bayer 04 Leverkusen, FC Augsburg and Sport-Club Freiburg).
  • Manchester City have won just three of their seven Premier League home games this season (W3 D3 L1) – they have won double this number away from home (6).
  • Watford have conceded nine goals and allowed their opponents 20 shots on target in their last two Premier League away matches.
  • Over half (12) of the last 22 goals that Watford have conceded in the Premier League have come following an opposition cross.

Stoke City v Southampton

Fraser Forster: Impressive for the Saints this season
Wednesday 14 December 2016 (20:00)
bet365 Stadium, Stoke
  • Stoke City have won just one of their previous four home Premier League games against Southampton (D2 L1), with both teams scoring in each match.
  • Southampton have scored in each of their last 13 league visits to Stoke, last failing to score there in a league game in August 1977.
  • This will be Mark Hughes’ 400th Premier League game as a manager and will be the sixth manager to reach this landmark in the competition.
  • Mark Hughes has overseen Premier League victories against 70 different managers overall and this is his first ever meeting in the competition with Aitor Karanka.
  • Stoke have won three of their last four Premier League home games (W3 D0 L1); the same number of victories as they had managed in their previous 12 games at the Bet365 Stadium.
  • The Potters have only failed to find the net in one of their last 11 Premier League matches.
  • Southampton have only allowed their opponents 37 shots on target in the Premier League this season;
    less than any other side.
  • Saints have won only one of their last seven Premier League away games (W1 D2 L4), including two defeats in a row at Hull and Crystal Palace most recently.
  • Of goalkeepers to have played 50+ Premier League games, Fraser Forster has the joint-second best goals conceded per game average (0.84 per game). Jens Lehmann is level with the Englishman, while only Petr Cech (0.75 per game) has a better ratio.
  • Forster has kept a clean sheet in 40% of his Premier League appearances (25 in 63). Overall Recent Form

Tottenham Hotspur v Hull City

Harry Kane: Celebrates with fellow goalscorer Heung-min Son
Wednesday 14 December 2016 (20:00)
White Hart Lane, London
  • Spurs are unbeaten in their last seven Premier League games against Hull, winning five of those matches (D2).
  • Hull haven’t beaten Tottenham Hotspur since their first Premier League game against them (1-0 in October 2008) and have never scored more than once in their eight Premier League games vs Spurs.
  • Hull City are on a run of five successive defeats away from home in the Premier League and they haven’t scored in the last three of these.
  • The last time that the Tigers lost six in a row on the road in the competition was in April 2010.
  • Robert Snodgrass has had a hand in seven Premier League goals this season (five goals, two assists) – no other Hull City player has been involved in more than two.
  • Hull City have failed to score in 11 of their last 16 Premier League games away in London.
  • Harry Kane has scored five goals in his last three Premier League appearances at White Hart Lane.
  • In fact, Kane is already on his longest scoring streak in the competition at White Hart Lane (three games in a row).
  • Spurs have won 12 successive Premier League meetings with newly-promoted sides at White Hart Lane. The last time that they lost against a promoted team at home in the competition was a 1-2 defeat to Norwich in April 2012.
  • Hull’s Michael Dawson made 236 Premier League appearances for Tottenham between April 2005 and May 2014. Only seven players have made more for the club in the Premier League.

West Bromwich Albion v Swansea City

Nacer Chadli
Wednesday 14 December 2016 (20:00)
The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • West Brom have lost six of their previous 10 Premier League games against Swansea City (W3 D1).
  • The Swans have only failed to score once in their 10 previous Premier League clashes with the Baggies (February 2015).
  • Nacer Chadli has scored in two of his last three league games against Swansea.
  • WBA will be looking to win three successive Premier League home matches for the first time since March 2015.
  • The Baggies have scored just 73 goals in 71 Premier League matches under Tony Pulis (1.03 per game).
  • Swansea City have won just one point in their last six Premier League away matches (W0 D1 L5).
  • In four Premier League away games under Bob Bradley, the Swansea have conceded 12 goals.
  • West Bromwich Albion have named the same starting XI in five successive matches in the Premier League – their longest ever run.
  • Gylfi Sigurdsson has been directly involved in eight goals in his last eight Premier League appearances for Swansea City (four goals, four assists).
  • The Icelandic midfielder has now had a hand in 47% of Swansea’s Premier League goals in 2016 (14 goals and seven assists – 21/45).

Are Chelsea stars too easily forgiven for last season’s shambles?

Plenty of Liverpool fans share Jamie Carragher’s concerns, while one reader asks if Chelsea’s slackers from last season have been forgiven too easily…
Anything to get off your chest? Have Your Say

Karius concern for Koppites

I don’t want to sound too hasty, but there are a few concerns I shared with Carra’s thoughts after the game.
As others have pointed out, he is 24, hardly very young for a keeper compared to De Gea & Courtois when they came on the scene at earlier ages and already looked better. His appointment seems very similar to that of Bravo at City – better on the deck and with distribution, but still notable flaws.
I do wonder if Klopp just reacted to the traits of Mignolet that didn’t suit him (Klopp’s) game and so at almost any cost, like Guardiola, made the change as opposed to examining his all round game.
Now look, he may improve, but were similar things not said about Mignolet? I suppose in fairness to Klopp he wouldn’t have expected to have started the season as well as we have, hence felt he had time to play the longer game when bringing players in. But even so, Karius strikes me as more of a reactive signing, but we’ll see…

If Karius had been playing solidly for the past few months and then he let in that free-kick from Payet, then yes we can say its one of those things that happen.
But the fact is Karius has been woeful since replacing Mignolet. Hes looked nervous all season. He’s been so lucky that his mistakes haven’t been punished until now.

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Loris Karius: Battling with Simon Mignolet for a start
Based on form, Migs shouldn’t have been dropped and now we have a problem and Karius is having a crisis of confidence.
There’s not a lot that Klopp gets wrong but he has to be questioned here.

Mamadou Sakho: Hasn't played for Liverpool since April

Sakho solution

If we are going to persist with Karius, at least recall Sakho who will provide him with some protection in the back four and take the media attention off the keeper. Talk it through, Jurgen.

Pep Guardiola: Impressed by Patrick Roberts display

The problem with Pep

I have just listened to Pep’s post match press conference. What concerns me as a fan is, I understand what he wants to do and what he expects players to do but he does not say that the opposing teams are not going to let him do that with his current strategy and player selection.
With that in mind I feel he should understand the EPL better. If he did not make such big changes all at once, surely, a rock solid defence is the basis of a winning team not a fluid style we are adopting which clearly is not working with the players we have for whatever reason.
One thing we are missing is GRIT and a defensive organiser, without Kompany, we just do not have a player on our books.
Leicester also prooved that with aged defenders they can shut out our stars, ours could not do the same. As I see it, we have a major problem until January, then maybe it still will not be resolved but clearly, it is not working now and its no good saying “we have to work harder” that only applies if you understand what you are doing and clearly.
At the back, there is no communication or cover whatsoever, it is therefore less about systems but players haveing the sense to cover each other correctly. We are not the only team with a weak defence but the problem is, like so many other fans, I have a fear everytime a team attacks us they will score. I would prefer clean sheets please, it also puts less pressure on our attackers who now getting use to the fact of going behind in the game. Pep has to change also if he is to succeed in the EPL, this league is not a two team race and every team can turn in a performance as we have witnessed.
Brian blue

John Stones: Left exposed time and again
John Stones is out of his depth, not Pep. We have had some questionable money spent on players in recent years but my god that purchase makes the £89million we paid for Pogba look a snip!

Jose Mourinho: Happy with United style

Players hiding behind managers

There’s obviously no doubt that players perform better under good managers and also when happier in themselves and when they feel wanted and loved. But last season many of the Chelsea players were being paid the same money but not delivering. (Just using Chelsea as an example here what with the stark differences between last season and this one, it could apply to all clubs).
Now OK, the mood may not have been great in the camp in Mourinho’s last days, but is it fair that this lack of performance and arguably professionalism of these players is so quickly forgotten about? At the time you’ll hear the pundits say “these players need to look at themselves in the mirror”, but the manager always carries the can and all will be forgiven and forgotten as regards the players.
Do we too readily accept this? Do the players too readily rely on motivation from the manager rather than themselves?