Author Archives: Timothy Masters

Premier League previews, 26-27/10/14

Sunday 25th October
Burnley v Everton, 13:30
Burnley are nineteenth in the table at the time of writing, and that is obviously not where they want to be at this stage, but in Everton they have a visitor possibly even more dissatisfied with their place in the table. Roberto Martinez has improved the style of play and broken the club transfer record since taking over from David Moyes, but at the time of writing the other team from Liverpool are thirteenth in the Premier League table, and desperately need to improve their lot before long.
Burnley will assess midfielder Dean Marney, and have Scott Arfield, Michael Keane and Steven Reid all fit again, but Matt Taylor is out following surgery on his Achilles. Everton midfielder Ross Barkley will be available despite a cut on his head, but Kevin Mirallas and John Stones remain unavailable for Roberto Martinez.

Spurs v Newcastle, 13:30
These are two really big teams in something of a lull at this stage, and even though Spurs are in the top half and a way above Newcastle there is only a four-point gap between them overall. The Magpies are in the bottom three prior to kick-off despite a slight upturn in form of late, which tells you how badly they played at the start of the season and why the manager was under such extreme pressure for his job. The home side will be favourites, of course, but there is enough in black and white to give the visitors hope.
Tottenham’s Nabil Bentaleb and Kyle Naughton face fitness tests prior to kick-off, but Federico Fazio is suspended for the home team. Newcastle will make a late decision on Cheick Tiote, Mike Williamson, Emmanuel Riviere and Sammy Ameobi, and there are also doubts over the fitness of Papiss Cisse, but Ryan Taylor is back in the squad after 26 months out.

Man Utd v Chelsea, 16:00
These games are obviously often high-profile and exciting for the neutral but the two managers involved may well feel very differently about the match and their prospects. Jose Mourinho loves going to the home of other big teams and teaching them a tactical lesson, but for Louis Van Gaal the time has come to cash some of the cheques he wrote with his mouth, and the form of his team is not at the point where you’d think that was likely to happen, especially versus Chelsea.
Manchester United midfielder Angel Di Maria is expected to be fit for this game, which is good news for the Red Devils with Wayne Rooney suspended , and there is more positivity with Michael Carrick ready to play for the first time this season. Diego Costa has ‘a little chance’ of playing according to his manager, but Loic Remy is out and Cesar Azpilicueta suspended after his red card against Crystal Palace.

Monday 26th October
QPR v Aston Villa, 20:00
Being bottom of the Premier League is a tough existence for any club, and when you still bear the mental scars QPR do it is even worse to relive a nightmare still fresh in the memory. Things are not yet as bad as their last, disastrous attempt to live in the Premier League, but the signs are there with the manager falling out with players and some aging signings not earning their wages right now. Into all this comes a dangerous Aston Villa side that has lost four on the spin and could really do with a pick-me-up of their own, which will either make for a frantic affair or something a bit cagier.
Queens Park Rangers could potentially have a fair few of their walking wounded back at match pace today with the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Nedum Onuoha and Rob Green all possibly back, but they’re still missing Nico Kranjcar, Jordan Mutch, Joey Barton and Alejandro Faurlin longer-term. Nathan Baker and Philippe Senderos could return for Villa, but Lucas Kosak and Fabien Delph remain out.

Premier League previews, 25/10/14

West Ham v Man City, 12:45
When Gary ‘bottle-brown’ Lineker sits down this evening with the order for Match of the Day in front of him there is a good case for saying this match should be first in line for the cutting analysis of Alan Shearer and Robbie Savage, given that it is second in the table visiting fourth. Even a home win wouldn’t put the Hammers above their guests in the table, but it would prove Sam Allardyce really does know what he’s doing after his side lost to thee of the bigger sides in United, Spurs and Southampton.
West Ham have midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate and defender James Tomkins available again but the game comes a bit early for Andy Carroll. Frank Lampard misses out for City and Samir Nasri is also unavailable after a groin operation.

Liverpool v Hull, 15:00
Although they are fith in the Premier League table, things have been decidedly negative for Liverpool FC over the last week or so, and a lot of that has been their own doing. With former players publicly turning on the team in exchange for some Murdoch money (looking at you Carra) and the manager seemingly at war with himself and needing to pick a fight the team went into the Real Madrid match with low expectation and still managed to hurt morale, and there is a real risk Hull could take all three points against the struggling home team.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has to make do with Daniel Sturridge, Mamadou Sakho and Jon Flanagan for this game. Hull have been weakened by the absence of Michael Dawson and Nikica Jelavic, and Eldin Jakupovic is set to play in goal with the first two picks injured.

Southampton v Stoke, 15:00
Southampton have won five of their last six games and come into this match on the back of ruining Sunderland last weekend, so Stoke will feel like they’ve got a real task on their hands to get anything out of the match at all. Wins over QPR, Swansea and West Ham have all contributed to the great position Southampton are in, and if they’d managed to beat Spurs and Liverpool too they could easily be in the top two without anyone really batting an eyelid, given how they’ve played. Stoke have won one of their last six and need a win, but getting that today will be no easy task.
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman is likely to pick the same team that thrashed Sunderland, with James Ward-Prowse and striker Jay Rodriguez long-term absentees. Stoke defender Phil Bardsley faces a fitness test, but Glenn Whelan has not yet recovered from a fractured leg.

Sunderland v Arsenal 15:00
How do you recover from losing a game 8-0? That is the question Gus Poyet has been asking himself and his aides all week as he seeks to bounce back from the Southampton match, and with match-day upon us we’ll finally see what his solution is. Arsenal are a tough opponent, but if Sunderland can win or even draw this game it’ll be a fillip for the club and the fans, and proof that Poyet has not yet lost the dressing room despite the team losing the plot on the pitch from time to time.
Anthony Reveillere, who joined Sunderland as a free agent on Thursday, could make his debut which is good news as Sebastian Coates, Billy Jones, Emanuele Giaccherini and Ricky Alvarez remain out through injury. Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere is suspended and Theo Walcott is not expected to return to the squad until next weekend.

West Brom v Crystal Palace, 15:00
Neither of these sides have had the most impressive few matches of late, although both have wins over one of the ‘bigger’ sides in Spurs and Everton respectively and can draw on those for inspiration here today. One point separates the two sides in the table and the winner today could vault into the top half such is the level of competition in the middle third of the league, and Palace showed versus Chelsea that the Baggies will at least have to have big balls to win.
Ben Foster is likely to return to West Brom’s starting line-up but Jonas Olsson is out and Claudio Yacob remains in his native Argentina due to family illness. Neil Warnock will be forced into changes, with Damien Delaney suspended and James McArthur out while Scott Dann won’t be ready.

Swansea v Leicester, 17:30
Although they sit eighth in the Barclays Premier League table Swansea are in something of a funk right not, having not won any of their last five matches. Garry Monk had a minor meltdown last time out, ostensibly at the diving of Victor Moses but in reality more because his side are playing well but losing, and if he sees them lose to Leicester today it might be the first Match of the Day interview to be bleeped in a long time.
Swansea welcome back midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, but Leon Britton, Jordi Amat, Dwight Tiendalli and Ashley Richards are out. Leicester have no new fitness concerns, with long-term absentee Matthew Upson the only senior player currently sidelined.

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.