Author Archives: Timothy Masters

Europa League previews, 23/10/14

Lille v Everton, 17:00

It might not be Bayern Munich and Roma, but the group Everton were handed for their Europa League starter this season was still pretty tough with Lille and VFL Wolfsburg in the mix, along with Krasnodar, but to this point the Toffees have made it look no harder than winning at Old Trafford. Lille were an amazing team a few years back, but since then they’ve been somewhat stripped of their best assets and as a result Everton will hope if not expect to extend their points tally out to seven with a win, and leave themselves almost certain to make the next stage.

Everton do have some players still out of action, most notably John Stones and Kevin Miralles, who are not close to fitness yet as well as Arouna Kone, who has no return date set from his current knee injury. Marvin Martin and Ryan Mendes are both out for the French side, which is good news for Everton with the former a key part of the Lille attack.

Spurs v Asteras Tripolis, 20:05

Tripoli is a famous and storied name, but not when it comes to professional football sadly for the people of Arcadia, Greece, and tonight the side from the Superleague come to White Hart Lane as underdogs, although maybe not correctly. At the time of writing Asteras lead Europa League Group C, two points ahead of Besiktas and Spurs themselves, and the Greeks will feel confident in their hopes of getting at least a draw after a good win over Partizan Belgrade in their last Europa League game.

Spurs are mainly fine in fitness terms with just a pair of crippled Kyles to worry about, with Walker and Naughton not close to fitness and Eric Dier flourishing at right-back in their absence. Nabil Bentaleb is also out, but there are more options in the centre of the park for Mauricio Pochettino to choose between.

Champions League previews, 22/10/14

Anderlecht v Arsenal, 19:45

Anderlecht are a team with a grand history and tradition at this level, but recent years have turned the Belgian league into a finishing school for the stars of the top European leagues and Arsenal arrive today with the expectation of winning this game and advancing a touch closer to qualification for the knockout stages. After getting turned over by Borussia Dortmund there is some pressure on the Gunners to perform here though, and if Anderlecht play their best and keep up the tempo there is a chance we could see a shock, and a win for the home team that few expect.

Arsenal have an extensive injury list as usual, with big names like Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil and Laurent Koscielny joining the likes of Theo Walcott, Mathieu Debuchy, Yaya Sanogo and Nacho Monreal, but it seems as though Mikel Arteta might make the squad at least.

Liverpool v Real Madrid, 19:45

Before the season started there was a lot of talk about Liverpool being ‘back where they belonged’ and playing at the top of the European game again, but tonight may well be a lesson in being careful what you wish for. The knife in the back is probably a bit too fresh for Luis Suarez and Barcelona to come to Anfield and not cause a ruckus, but without that venom there is every chance this game could be more of a spirit-breaker for the home team if they can’t produce their best stuff, although Real are missing a couple of good attackers. To be honest though, with the way Liverpool have been playing in mind that won’t make too much difference, as Ronaldo has more goals than the entire LFC squad to this point in the season

The defensive woes for Brendan Rodgers won’t be helped by the injuries to Mama Sakho and Jon Flanagan, who join Daniel Sturridge on the treatment table. Real face the prospect of missing both Gareth Bale and Raphael Varane while Fabio Coentrao, Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos and Jese Rodriguez are definitely out.

Champions League previews, 21/10/14

CSKA Moscow v Man City, 17:00

The wonder of time zones means Chelsea will kick off almost three hours after the reigning English champions this evening meaning you at home get to enjoy back-to-back games in the Champions League, which is nice. How entertaining this match turns out to be is another matter, as playing in Russia presents multiple challenges, but the manager prepared for this game by leaving out a couple of key men on the weekend, and we can only hope the headlines are focussed on the result at the end rather than further racial abuse by a Russian football crowd. Too often recent games in this region have been marred by ugly chanting from the home support and CSKA are far from exempt in that area, having already been accused of racially abusing Yaya Toure last year.

Frank Lampard is likely to miss this game, with Yaya Toure his replacement after the Ivorian started on the bench on the weekend, replacing Lampard when the veteran was injured in the victory over Spurs.

Chelsea v Maribor, 19:45

There is a trope about there being no easy games in the Champions League, but this match with Maribor will be the closest thing Chelsea have to a guaranteed three points until their next match against Arsenal. The Slovenian side simply cannot compete with the vast resources Chelsea throw at the playing and coaching staff, and travelling to London the mindset will be to try and put up the barricades and potentially frustrate a Chelsea side well-used to parking their own, much more expensive bus. Whether the Blues require quite as much testicular fortitude as they did against Palace is another matter of course, and we might see some squad rotation as Mourinho seeks to keep his men fresh.

There is an outside chance that Andre Schurrle and Ramires might be fit for this game, but with doubts over the pair as well as Mikel, Diego Costa and Kurt Zouma ruled out there could be a couple of tired men out in blue shirts tonight.

Premier League preview, 20/10/14

West Brom v Man Utd, 20:00

The weekend was an eventful one full of cards, goals and other silly stuff that have left a door into the top four open for United, and today also represents three months since Louis Van Gaal was installed as Manchester United manager, which is the desired length of time he wished to be given before judgement was passed on his reign. Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal are three of their next four opponents in the league, and as a result this game away at West Brom is more important than if there were more simple points-paying games on the horizon, so you can expect to see the visitors give it their all in an effort to take maximum spoils here this evening.

West Brom skipper Chris Brunt could be but Victor Anichebe is a doubt with a hernia problem. United captain Wayne Rooney is suspended, but Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young, Phil Jones and Michael Carrick are training again and could feature depending on overall fitness.

Premier League previews, 19/10/14

QPR v Liverpool, 13:30
Although they’re having a disappointing season so far the size of the task Liverpool have ahead of them to maintain what they achieved last year has been somewhat overstated and a win today would take them back into the top four. For Rangers a victory wouldn’t even get them out of relegation range, but it would be a massive boost in terms of both their morale and their prospects of survival, although the latter also probably depends on the manager being brave enough to drop a few of his mates who’re currently holding the first team back (cough cough Rio cough).
QPR remain without Joey Barton and Jordon Mutch, but Niko Kranjcar could be involved, with the player reportedly prepared to have a pain-killing injection after breaking his toe. Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge faces a further month out but Joe Allen, Emre Can and Dejan Lovren are all fit again.

Stoke v Swansea, 16:00
Games between teams starting with S have been entertaining this weekend so far, and Swansea will certainly plan on being less terrible and pathetic than Sunderland were on Saturday when they visit Stoke this afternoon in an attempt to get three more points under their belt and keep pace with the big boys. The Welsh team are a point ahead of Liverpool while being level with Arsenal and having a game in hand over the Gunners, all of which will make the fans very happy, and if they do beat their guests a spot in the Champions League places should be theirs for a few days at least.
Stoke boss Mark Hughes expects to have Mame Biram Diouf and Victor Moses available following injuries, but is less optimistic about Glenn Whelan, Marko Arnautovic and Robert. Swansea midfielder Jonjo Shelvey is suspended by Angel Rangel returns from his ban, and Jordi Amat is doubtful while Leon Britton is still out.

Premier League previews, 18/10/14

Man City v Spurs, 12:45
Tottenham have seen much change over the last couple of years whilst not really making a massive amount of progress overall, and in some respects the White Hart Lane club have gone backwards. Results against the teams they aspire to rival and one day overtake have been shoddy at best and downright embarrassing in the worst instances, making this game with City a big one with their morale and momentum in mind. Spurs have only won one of their last five matches, so the reverse also applies, that a win would give them a giant boost.
Manchester City could rest Yaya Toure, with Frank Lampard his likely replacement in midfield. Tottenham have doubts over Hugo Lloris and Nacer Chadli, Kyle Naughton is out and Emmanuel Adebayor and Nabil Bentaleb need to be assessed.

Arsenal v Hull, 15:00
At this point Arsenal’s record reads played seven, won two, drawn four and lost one, and that isn’t what they’d have wanted or expected from their first few matches of a Premier League season that many thought could be a good one for the Gunners. Hull at home is a match they’ll want and expect to take three points from even with a couple of key men missing, and with the Tigers having just one win from their last six games that is more than possible too.
Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta has overcome a calf problem but Calum Chambers is suspended and Laurent Koscielny is out, while Mesut Ozil faces two months on the sidelines and Theo Walcott isn’t quite ready to return. Hull’s Ahmed Elmohamady has recovered from a back spasm but Mohamed Diame will be assessed prior to the game.

Burnley v West Ham, 15:00
These two share colours and an occasional nickname, but for a long time West Ham have occupied the space Burnley are aiming for as a bottom-of-the-middle team in the Premier League and it’s rare for them to meet in the top division. The Hammers are sitting seventh in the league table at present with a chance to go into the top four if results go their way today, while Burnley are yet to win a game and must be worrying their fans with a record of four draws and three losses.
Burnley manager Sean Dyche expects to have Danny Ings, Kieran Trippier, David Jones, Nathaniel Chalobah and Michael Keane back and fit following injuries, but Dean Marney and Steven Reid are unlikely to feature, with Matt Taylor ruled out. West Ham midfielder Mark Noble is expected to play and Enner Valencia should also be involved despite his long international trip.

Crystal Palace v Chelsea, 15:00
Going away to Palace is not easy, and even with the dam-busting style of Tony Pulis no longer in fashion Chelsea know they’re in for a battle today, but one well worth trying to win. Palace have won two of their last three including a victory over Everton, but Chelsea are as yet undefeated in the league and lead the way with a five point advantage after seven games, meaning they are heavy favourites and Palace may well set up not to lose first and foremost.
Crystal Palace defender Scott Dann is ruled out with Adrian Mariappa expected to deputise. Chelsea are monitoring the fitness of Andre Schurrle, but Didier Drogba and Ramires are not available.

Everton v Aston Villa, 15:00
Everton had a good end to last year and a few of their fans were very optimistic coming into this season, not least because the club had broken its transfer record to bring in Romelu Lukaku. Since the first match that confidence has been somewhat eroded it is fair to say, by poor results and injuries to key players, and today Everton come into this game with Villa sitting seventeenth in the Premier League table with just six points from seven games.
Everton midfielder Ross Barkley could be involved against Aston Villa, and there is more good news as Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy and Steven Pienaar are expected to be fit. Villa captain Ron Vlaar returns after a four-match absence and Christian Benteke could make his first start since March, but Fabian Delph has a suspected dislocated shoulder and Philippe Senderos is a doubt.

Newcastle v Leicester, 15:00
Although Newcastle have only lost three games this season there is still pressure on their manager, mainly due to the lack of wins counterbalancing the negative results so far and the fact that has left them in the bottom three and looking enviously at Leicester’s record. The Foxes have already beaten Man Utd and sit twelfth in the table at the time of writing so you can expect the away side to have the self-belief and attitude of a side with much better prospects and resources.
Newcastle are pleased that Tim Krul, Daryl Janmaat, Paul Dummett, Cheick Tiote and Papiss Cisse should all be fit to play despite various degrees of travel and rehabilitation from injuries. Leicester have no fresh injury worries, with Riyad Mahrez and Jeffrey Schlupp due to be assessed on Friday.

Southampton v Sunderland, 15:00
Southampton have won four of their last five games and sit third in the table before this match, so the losses they suffered over the summer may have to be put into the category of ‘happy accident’ after all, and the wailing withdrawn. A home match against a Sunderland side that hasn’t lost in five games doesn’t seem like a nailed-on three points, but when you consider the Black Cats are struggling to score and have won once all year it may be that this game will depend on how the home side attack.
Southampton have reported no fresh injury concerns, but will assess Sadio Mane following his return from international duty. Sunderland full-back Billy Jones is ruled out, joining Sebastian Coates, Emanuele Giaccherini and Ricky Alvarez on the sidelines.

Euro 2016 qualifier preview

Estonia v England, 17:00

While Estonia are definitely a step up from San Marino in terms of quality this is a pair of matches England were expected to win comfortably and if they come home from this game with anything less than three points the win in their first game will be no consolation. England enjoyed seeing a few of the fringe players get on the score sheet against the San Marino semi-pros last time out, but they may need a tiny bit more to break down an Estonia team in front of their own fans if we’re honest, which might see a couple of changes.

Robbie Savage said on Football Focus that he fully approves of the tactical approach taken by Roy Hodgson which almost certainly means there is room for improvement, and it’ll be interesting to see if they go for the diamond in midfield or revert to a wider approach designed to create space in the box. Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling were both withdrawn at half-time in the game at Wembley leading to concerns that they may be injured, but the boss should have all his options available and win see his side take three points and another step toward Euro 2016.

England v San Marino preview, 9/10/14

England v San Marino, 19:45

Complacency is not something Roy Hodgson’s England side has been accused of that often, making it a rare negative trait in that respect but tonight is a chance for change there as San Marino rock up to Wembley with what should be absolutely no chance of winning this game. As badly as England have played over recent months there is no reason to think they’ll lose to a team of part-time players from a nation with a population of just over 31,000 people, and anything other than a win should really result in a review of the circumstances and probably a new manager.

Now, at this point a 1-0 or 2-0 might seem to be enough, but England are not guaranteed to make it through as group winners and in that situation it’s fair to say goal difference might become a factor, so it would make sense to play for style as well as just securing the points. New faces in the squad include Nathaniel Clyne and Jonjo Shelvey, the latter having flourished since he left Liverpool for Swansea and the excellent tutelage of Garry Monk and both deserve a chance in a game that won’t overwhelm them in the slightest.

The main aim other than a win will be for the squad to come through unscathed after the recent row over Daniel Sturridge and his treatment, and with the Liverpool forward not in the squad the owness is on Danny Welbeck to continue his club form alongside former colleague Wayne Rooney provided he can gel with the attacking midfielders selected. The form of Adam Lallana is picking up, but relying on him and Raheem Sterling will become problematic down the line, so England must make hay while the sun shines.

Premier League previews, 5/10/14

Man Utd v Everton, 12:00
A shared recent love might unite these teams, but that would require there to be some love left for David Moyes at Old Trafford after his single season in charge of the former champions, and it doesn’t seem like that is the case. Who is to blame for the problems the Red Devils are facing this season is a question a lot of fans enjoy discussing, but a good home win over a talented Everton team would go a long way to assuaging the doubts of the wailing masses.
Manchester United have Wayne Rooney suspended for this one, and Ander Herrera is out alongside Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling. Everton forward Kevin Mirallas will be unavailable for at least four weeks, Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy are doubts and Ross Barkley is still out.

Chelsea v Arsenal, 14:05
The match of the weekend has popularised one fact among the fans, that Arsene Wenger has never beaten Jose Mourinho in his managerial career, and for that to change today we’ll need a phenomenal turnaround from their recent, one-sided meetings. Chelsea have built a good lead at the top of the table already and know their theoretical rivals all have problems to solve so they must be confident things are set for a good year, providing Diego Costa stays fit.
Chelsea’s Diego Costa is set to start with Loic Remy the club’s only other fit striker and midfielder Ramires is out with a groin strain. Arsenal are missing Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey, Abou Diaby will not be risked and Mathieu Debuchy and Olivier Giroud are long-term absentees.

Spurs v Southampton, 14:05
A win in this game has the potential to put Southampton second in the table, and that alone will probably dull the edge of any hurt fans are feeling after their former darling left for White Hart Lane. The fact Spurs aren’t currently in the top four won’t worry them too much, but no wins in their last four in the league will and this is a tricky game against an efficient, intelligent side that has a lot of pride to play for, as well as a nice berth in the table.
Tottenham pair Mousa Dembele and Danny Rose will have late fitness tests but Spurs did rotate in midweek. Southampton boss Ronald Koeman may name an unchanged side from last week, when QPR were their victims.

West Ham v QPR, 16:15
QPR have won one game this season, but aside from that their form has been low-level and their position in the table is a reflection of that fact as they sit bottom going into this match with West Ham. Sam Allardyce’s side have played well be he is still lamenting the number of points they’ve failed to pick up to this point, and he’ll want to give the fans a chance to have a small laugh at the expense of former boss Harry Redknapp.
West Ham defender Guy Demel is a doubt but Matt Jarvis is hoping to feature for the first time this season. QPR midfielder Sandro has been cleared to play but Joey Barton and Jordon Mutch face fitness tests.

Premier League previews, 4/10/14

Hull v Crystal Palace, 15:00
Hull City just can’t seem to escape this debate about their name, however they try, and the owner is doing his best to convince the fans to let him rename the club they call their own by fair means of foul, first by selling them on the benefits and then latterly by threatening to sell outright, to any interested party. Against that backdrop of idiocy Crystal Palace are set to visit Hull this afternoon and the two-point advantage they have over their hosts already equates to a seven-place gap in the table, which could widen with an away win.
Hull’s first-choice goalkeeper Allan McGregor will not face Crystal Palace but Hatem Ben Arfa and Gaston Ramirez may be given their first starts. Crystal Palace have Marouane Chamakh pushing for a start and Stuart O’Keefe back after an ankle injury.

Leicester v Burnley, 15:00
Twelfth in the table host the bottom club here, and although there is a significant gap on paper between Leicester and Burnley the reality is that this should be a pretty tight game between two of the promoted sides over the summer. Burnley are 0-3-3 at the time of writing and could do with a first maximum, and having some familiarity with most of the Leicester squad will only add to their confidence that today is the best chance yet to get off the mark properly.
Leicester pair Ritchie De Laet and Esteban Cambiasso are fit and Nigel Pearson has reported that he has no new injury concerns. Burnley could be stretched in midfield without Nathaniel Chalobah and Matthew Taylor and David Jones and Dean Marney major doubts, while up front Danny Ings and Sam Vokes remain sidelined.

Liverpool v West Brom, 15:00
A club in crisis is how some are choosing to describe Liverpool post-Luis Suarez, and if you watched any of the games since Daniel Sturridge picked up his injury you’ll know that isn’t a million miles wide of the mark. Brendan Rodgers is never one to sit back quietly and true to form he’s been vocal in the press this week about where the team needs to improve, as has the captain, although the irony in the latter doing so is great when you consider he hasn’t contributed much this season save a goal against Everton that a better keeper would have saved.
Liverpool are still unsure over the fitness of Daniel Sturridge, but Joe Allen, Emre Can, Jon Flanagan, Glen Johnson and Mamadou Sakho all remain out for the Reds. Cristian Gamboa will start and Silvestre Varela is definitely ruled out this weekend but defender Chris Baird is fit for the Baggies.

Sunderland v Stoke, 15:00
Five draws out of six games mean Sunderland are currently not in the bottom three, but the gap between where they are and that fateful drop zone is as small as it can be right now and a home loss to Stoke would be disappointing for a number of reasons as a result. Wins over Newcastle and Man City were great results for the Potters but it is not realistic to expect those game to keep ending in victory, and there is a need for Mark Hughes to see his side perform better against the teams likely to be near them at the end of the season.
Sunderland’s Wes Brown is fit again but Sebastian Coates is absent and Emanuele Giaccherini is a doubt. Stoke forward Mame Biram Diouf won’t feature, with Marko Arnautovic set to replace him, while Geoff Cameron is fit after five weeks out.

Swansea v Newcastle, 15:00
After a cracking start to the season it’s fair to say Swansea have dropped off the pace a touch since their game against Chelsea, and a home match with Newcastle might be just the ticket for a team looking to improve their form a bit. Alan Pardew is fighting for his right to manage the Magpies if you believe what he says to the press, but however you spin it Newcastle are in the bottom three at the moment and it would not be unusual for a club to sack their manager under such circumstances.
Swansea have Angel Rangel suspended and Dwight Tiendalli out with a groin injury so Jazz Richards could make his first league start for over 4 3 years and Wilfried Bony is set to return up. Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has no new injury problems.

Aston Villa v Man City, 17:30
This is a big day for these two clubs, and while Villa have a fair amount at stake with the potential return of their crown jewel Manchester City are in need of points too, sitting five points behind Chelsea and having won one of their last four matches. Admittedly two of those can be considered decent draws vs Arsenal and Chelsea, but City have a league title to defend and they need to play with the style and power we’ve come to expect if this year is to be another good one.
Christian Benteke returns to the Aston Villa, good news after Libor Kozak had another operation on his broken leg, but Ron Vlaar is still sidelined. Manchester City remain without Fernando and Samir Nasri, but Joe Hart could play after starting the Roma game.