Football Fixture Release day Review Part One

“So here we are once again, another June another football fixture release day. The final season before the Winter Break comes in also sees Arsenal entering a new beginning post Arsene Wenger. Tottenham will finally see their new ground whilst Liverpool will look to move forward and head to glory, especially if they add to their current transfer activity. Man Utd will look to close the points gap on Man City and even maybe play some old Man Utd entertaining football.

The newly promoted teams will hope like they did last season, all survive. Wolves, Fulham and Cardiff all return to the Premier League and hope that they are several points away from the bottom.

So how did the fixtures computer treat everyone on this World Cup opening day? Will you be cursing or will you be breathing a sigh of relief. Let’s take a look at what  will unfold.

Arsenal fans, I imagine you might well have been shaking your head and cursing the computer. Their first league game under the stewardship of Unai Emery, open with a home game against reigning champions Manchester City, but it doesn’t get easier either as they travel to Stamford Bridge the following weekend before hosting West Ham at the end of August.

December is far from joyful for the Gunners. They kick off the month with the north London derby at the Emirates on the 1st, and then take a trip to Old Trafford a few days later. A few easier fixtures see visits to Southampton and a visit from Huddersfield, but the year ends with a trip to Anfield. Emery’s men will hope to get a better result than previous.

Should Arsenal be chasing Champions League or even the title, then April and May should give them something to look forward to. April sees visits to Everton, Watford and Leicester City with May seeing a visit from the south coast Brighton and a trip to Burnley, which could be the trickiest game.

Man City defend their crown with the already mentioned Arsenal as well as Huddersfield Town, and newly promoted Wolves. Last season Huddersfield took a point from the Champions as the season wound down and they would hope the same again, but the fixture being early in the season, the current Champions will be looking to maintain a strong defence of the title. The last time these two sides met, was in the 2011/12 season when Man City won both fixtures and of course won the title. Could history repeat once more or will Wolves have something to say.

Christmas for Man City sees a lot of travelling for the City fans. Out of the seven fixtures , four of them see visits to Chelsea, Watford, Leicester and end 2018 with a trip to the coast and Southampton. Games at the Etihad see Bournemouth and then back to back games against Everton and Crystal Palace. Should City still be chasing for back to back titles, then come April, Guardiola’s team can look forward to an easier run. April sees Cardiff, Palace, Burnley and a slightly more trickier visit from Tottenham. Leicester provide Man City’s final home game whilst the season finale involves a visit to Brighton

Man Utd start their challenge for the Premier League title starts quite reasonably  with a home game against Leicester and a trip to Brighton (although hoping to forget last seasons trip south) before their third game hosting title chasing rivals Tottenham. In fact the month of September should give Man Utd a reasonable points return with visits to Watford and a home game against Wolves in amongst the trickier trips to Burnley and West Ham.

The first Manchester derby sees the Reds travel to the Etihad on 10th November. The Old Trafford club has a busy December that includes Arsenal, Fulham and home games to Huddersfield on Boxing Day and Bournemouth in the final game of the season.

Man Utd hope to make more of a challenge for the title this season and in the final run in, if the title is still open, the Reds have what should be a fair run in. April doesn’t appear to be too bad. Trips to Wolves and Everton are mixed with home games against the Hammers and a possible tricky game against Chelsea. Groans of unfair fixtures from Old Trafford will seem more quiet.

Liverpool go into the season with some positivity once more. The Champions League might have been a defeat, but the with all the build up, it would appear that Klopp’s team had identified another player and swiping Fabinho from under the noses of Manchester United and will no doubt add more.

The fixtures machine was relatively good to Liverpool with two out of the three August fixtures at Anfield. With no Champions League qualifiers to play, it’s a longer break between pre season and the Premier League opening fixtures. Making early visits to the north west are West Ham and Brighton. The Reds enjoyed home games against West Ham and Brighton. Liverpool travel to Crystal Palace in the second game of the season. It’s a reverse fixture of the second game from last season.

September provides two top six match ups as at the start of September, Liverpool play the first league game against Tottenham at their new ground, whilst finishing September with another London visit in the shape of Chelsea.

December brings a busy month for Liverpool as they play 7 games throughout the month. Anfield sees visits from Everton, Man Utd, Arsenal and Newcastle Utd who reconvene the inbetween Christmas and New Years fixture. Liverpool’s trips away see visits to Burnley and Bournemouth. Last season December brought 15 points out of 21 and 20 goals scored and five goals conceded. Those December games saw Liverpool in a thrilling 3-3 draw at the Emirates and 4-0 at Bournemouth.

Come April Liverpool hope to be higher than fourth and challenging for their nineteenth title, their road to to glory in April sees a somewhat easier run with Chelsea only being the tougher club. May sees a trip to Newcastle Utd and a home game against Wolves. Klopp’s team will certainly avoid a defeat against the Midlands club and will more than likely will avoid season finale loss.

Tottenham bring part one to an end and in turn they bring their Wembley spell to an  end with their first ‘home’ game of the season.  Their game at the new White Hart Lane is against Liverpool which comes after their  trip to Man Utd. They don’t return to White Hart Lane until October when they host Cardiff and Man City. Their other tie is a short trip to the Olympic Stadium

Tottenham go into the final run in with literally home advantage. Four of the six remaining games are at home which should give them a decent hope if they are still within a chance of glory. Brighton, Huddersfield and West Ham visit in April with Everton rounding off the season at the Lane. Spurs do though have a trip to the Etihad in April which could be a possible decider.

Tottenham’s quest for glory will also depend on summer signings, although in the football cliche, tying down their manager and leading striker could be the best two signings. We shall though just have to wait and see.

 

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Real Madrid – The Road to Kiev

Real Madrid  as Champions League winners, had automatically qualified for the group stage of the competition. Their group on paper looked like it could be a battle rather than a stroll as they were joined by Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund and Apoel Nicosia. Whilst the Cypriot side would be the support act, Spurs and Dortmund were expected to make it hard work for the Spanish club. Tottenham took four points from the defending champions including a 3-1 win at Wembley. Dortmund though failed to cause any issues apart from a all but two late attempted comeback in a 3-2 defeat.

Madrid could always count on Ronaldo to bag the goals and he did by chipping in 9 of the teams 17 group stage goals, but the Portuguese star was not finished by all means. In the second round, Madrid were drawn against French side PSG in what looked to be a classic encounter. The first leg in Spain saw Ronaldo hand the hosts a 1-0 lead just before half time and a second to restore the lead late in the second half. The Spanish looked to have secured the tie when Marcelo made it 3-1. A two goal margin in this seasons competition would seem unsafe in many game, but the second leg remained goalless until early second half when Ronaldo opened the scoring. PSG pulled one back, but it was never going to be enough and ten minutes from time Casemiro secured a winner on the night and a 5-2 aggregate win.

The Quarter final draw had paired the Italian giants Juventus against Real and a tie that was going to be full of cards over the two legs. The first leg was in Turin and the Italians were relatively stingy in defence at home. They had conceded only one at home in the group stage and two at home to Spurs in the last 16. That would change as the Italians were on the receiving end of a 3-0 pasting from the Spaniards. It didn’t help that they lost Dybala for the second leg with his two yellow card offences.

The second leg, well that turned into a thrilling affair. Juventus knew they had to go at Madrid to have any chance of saving the tie and that was exactly what happened. Mandzukic struck early as he headed home. Mandzukic  grabbed a second in the 37th minute and the game was well and truly on. Real’s grip on the game was becoming a little loose and then on the hour mark, Navas’ fumbled to allow Matuidi to strike home. The Italian’s had appeared to have pulled it off, the game was heading to extra time but could Real hold on? Could Juve snatch a killer fourth goal? Well in the 90th minute Benatia was judged to have fouled Vazquez, referee Michael Oliver awarded the penalty and chaos erupted, Juve players surrounded the English referee as a very angry Buffon remonstrated and pointed at Oliver enough for the Italian to be shown the red card. A twist in the tale it would seem. Juve took off Higuain and brought on Szczesny. Ronaldo stepped up, could he immerse himself even further in football glory or could the former Arsenal keeper become a hero. It would be the former as the Portuguese star drilled the ball home.

The Semi finals brought up German champions Bayern Munich as the opponents for Real. The Germans were always going to be a difficult opponent at home and when they took the lead, we thought the Spaniards may have met their match. Unfortunately the Germans couldn’t take their chances managing five shots on target out of seventeen. It would prove costly as Marcelo netted an away goal just before half time. Ronaldo had also had a goal disallowed for handball. A mistake from Rafinha lead to a break away goal. Having four key players going into the game, losing Robben after 8 minutes and Boateng in the 34th, things couldn’t get any worse for the Germans.

The Germans knew what they had to do and Kimmich struck first blood after 2 minutes, the lead though lasted until the 11th minute when Benzema headed home. It was all even on the night but advantage Madrid 3-2 on aggregate. On any other day and with those missing players available, Real Madrid may well have been fighting for their Champions League survival. Luck was favouring the hosts as a goalkeeping blunder by Sven Ulreich gave the hosts the advantage once more. It was 2-1 Madrid and 4-2 on aggregate. As the game moved on Munich searched for a leveller and they got one through James Rodriguez. One of Madrid’s on loan players levelled on the night. Whoever got the next goal would no doubt secure the tie. Madrid scoring would increase the gap, probably too far, whilst a single goal from the visitors would level the tie on aggregate and send Bayern through on away goals.  The game though finished level and 4-3 on aggregate. Real were heading to another final and yet another defence of their title.

 

FA Premier League Predictions – Week 34

First of all, let me apologise for the incomplete post for week 33 Premier League predictions. I had written a complete list of predictions with some other paragraphs, I did, honest I swear on my pet fishes life. It turns out that competing on the BBC prediction game enabled me to see how well I did or didn’t do. It turned out that I predicted 1 exact score and 3 correct results. Liverpool’s 3-0 win at Anfield gave the sole correct result, whilst Palace, Burnley and a comeback from Chelsea gave me the correct results.

4This week is another short one as it’s rescheduled games due to Cup clashes. It appears to be a busy week for Premier League fixtures on the south coast as Brighton host Tottenham, whilst Man Utd travel to Bournemouth. Southampton though travel to Leicester whilst the other fixture sees Europa League chasing Burnley take on fellow Europa League bound Chelsea.

I would say it should be a formality in the score predictions this week, but given the last weekend that saw United beaten at home to their what now seems bogey club West Brom, who knows what will happen. Man Utd face Spurs in the Cup this weekend, so will be interesting to see how Spurs fair with their line up. Chelsea will hope to avoid a repeat of the poor start from Saturday with their trip to Burnley. Should it happen again, I very much doubt Burnley will let the game slip away. They may of course find it much harder especially without Alonso who could receive a ban. Leicester host  Southampton with the visitors needing a win and the hosts doing their utmost to try and get some European football for next season.

  1.                          Brighton    2-2   Tottenham.       Spurs held ahead of Cup tie
  2.                Bournemouth    1-1   Man Utd.            Man Utd without a win
  3.                           Burnley.    1-2.  Chelsea.            Chelsea secure vital win
  4.                    Leicester City. 2-0.   Southampton  Saints heading down

 

It will be interesting to see how things pan out over the next few days.

FA Premier League Predictions – Week 32

Welcome back Premier League, how we missed you what with VAR and all that. It’s back to normal this Easter Weekend as the Premier League moves closer to the finishing line and City adding another league title to the trophy as everyone else scraps for Champions League football or Premier League survival.

So as you will remember the weekend before the International break saw a 4 game Premier League week and what a weekend it was. I nailed 1 correct score and 2 correct results. The game that let me down was Huddersfield against Crystal Palace. I had expected the home side to win but the Eagles decided to spoil the 100% wins.

This week sees West Ham and Southampton battle it out in a relegation fight.  West Ham are two points above Southampton who are third from bottom. A Hammers win would make their stay in the Premier League a little more secure although that is not the only concern they have had having seen the fan trouble. A win for the Saints though could seem them move out of the bottom three depending on other results. Stoke City will go to the Emirates hoping they can grab a win and help strengthen the Wenger Out cause. Newcastle Utd take on Huddersfield. A win for the Toon should secure their Premier League status and put more pressure on Huddersfield. West Brom are virtually down barring any great escape miracle.

Crystal Palace host Liverpool in a game that has a bearing both at the bottom and top. A win for the Eagles will edge them closer to safety although given Liverpool’s recent goal spree, it doesn’t bode well for the Palace defence especially with Mo Salah able turn nothing into something. Second place Man Utd host Swansea City. Not so long ago you would have expected the Manchester side to pummel the Swans, but the manager change with Carlos Carvalhal, the Welsh club have only lost three in seventeen so the outcome could go either way especially with the way United seem to play every so often. it wouldnt be the first time that the Swans won at Old Trafford in recent times. Leaders Man City look certain to inch their way closer to glory with maximum points ahead of their Champions League visit to Anfield on Wednesday night.

Anyway time to lay down the predictions

  1.                                                       Arsenal 2-0  Stoke City        City’s woes continue
  2.                                                     Brighton 1-2  Leicester City  Important win for Foxes
  3.                                                      Chelsea  1-1 Tottenham        Honours even at the Bridge
  4.                                           Crystal Palace  1-3  Liverpool         Reds go for glory
  5.                                                      Everton  0-2  Man City           Visitors head towards title
  6.                                                     Man Utd  1-1  Swansea City  United held by Swansea
  7.                                          Newcastle Utd  2-0  Huddersfield   Toon head closer to safety
  8.                                                     Watford  2-1  Bournemouth  Hornets steal win
  9.                                                West Brom  0-2  Burnley             Clarets moving up
  10.                                               West Ham   1-1 Southampton   Draw cranks up pressure

 

Some big results this weekend for teams chasing European places and relegation survival as the games whittle down. Whilst the Premier League title might be done and dusted. It’s all very much to play for as we chomp on our Easter eggs.

 

Half a scarf, fully a fan – Dan Raywood guest blog

This week in Spurs – we lost our main goalscorer to a major ankle injury, got knocked out of the Champions League and season ticket prices came out. For some clubs that may seem a lot, but with Spurs now very much in the news headlines these days it is not unusual to see the club mentioned a lot.

Another story, which relates to that Juventus game at Wembley last week, caught my eye though. Issued via the Supporters Trust, it said that some Juventus fans had got tickets in designated home supporter sections.

I can guess that among those of you reading this who regularly go to games, you’ve sat among fans who are not supporting the same team as you. Doesn’t have to mean you are supporting one of the teams playing, you’re just backing one of the sides. I’ve had my experiences – one was sitting with a Leicester City fan with free tickets to an away game at Barnsley, sitting among the home fans (we made it a policy to punch each other when Leicester scored, which happened twice…thanks Wikipedia.)

However the release from THST states that “such supporters will only be asked to leave the venue if it is felt they are antagonising home fans”, in other words come along and enjoy the game – but don’t act like an idiot. Surely that has to be a good thing? Many is the time I watch football coverage, live or highlights, and I see empty seats. Any one has to watch West Brom at the moment to see the swathes of empty seats at the Hawthorns. Should neutral fans be encouraged to come along?

The other claim by the report is that it is hard to spot fans when they wear similar colours and half and half scarves. So is the answer to ban half and half scarves? Unlikely. But I bet at the weekend some football tourists would have bought a Man Utd v Liverpool half and half scarf, it’s an occasion to be at after all. Would you go to Barcelona v Real Madrid and not spend a handful of euros on a half and half scarf?

The answer is for better stewarding and for them to watch the crowd and be better at crowd management. Those who witnessed the invasions at West Ham United at the weekend will attest to that.

Enjoy the game, and behave yourselves. The person behind, next to and in front of you has paid a lot of money for that ticket.

 

FA Premier League – Week 23 Predictions

The Premier League returns after its break from the FA Cup third round and a few key fixtures this week including the big game at Anfield between Liverpool and Man City. I think it’s safe to say that there wont be a repeat of the 5-0 result and it is even possible that Man City could draw or possibly lose, especially after Bristol City narrowily losing at the very end.

Some key ties taking place including Watford hosting Southampton, where both teams are struggling form wise. The same with West Brom who host Brighton. The Baggies currently sit in the bottom three level on points with bottom side Swansea and four behind Stoke City. Newcastle Utd host Swansea in another big game for both sides. Five points separate 18th place Stoke and 10th place Watford and no one will want to be dropping points.

  1.                         Bournemouth   0-2   Arsenal                Gunners continue unbeaten
  2.                                    Chelsea    2-1   Leicester City     Chelsea maintain top 3
  3.                         Crystal Palace   1-2    Burnley               Claret joy in London
  4.                          Huddersfield    0-2    West Ham          Safety closer for Hammers
  5.                                 Liverpool   3-2    Man City             Reds defeat City in thriller
  6.                                   Man Utd   4-0    Stoke City           Stoke misery continues
  7.                        Newcastle Utd    3-1   Swansea City      Magpies down Swans
  8.                                   Watford    2-0   Southampton     Watford earn vital win
  9.                              West Brom    1-1   Brighton              Point each, Baggies need more
  10.                              Tottenham    2-2   Everton                Tottenham held

 

Some interesting predictions for this week, one which could backfire spectacularly, but given Liverpool’s home form, defeat not likely to be on the cards. In fact a high scoring game with the reds being narrowily victors. In the chase for top four spots, its business as usual with Chelsea and Man Utd adding another win to their column.

The battle of catch up expect Spurs to drop points at home to Everton, who themselves continue to slowly move up the table. This is good news for Arsenal who should beat Bournemouth on the south coast. The weekend doesnt really bode well for most of the bottom few clubs. Swansea City look certain to beat Swansea, West Brom to draw at home to Brighton. The up and down Watford look certain to beat the struggling Southampton and keep it tight at the foot. Palace look certain to be heading for defeat against resilient Burnley. On the otherhand its good for West Ham who look certain to move up with a win against Huddersfield.

Come Monday evening at full time we will find out who will be where at the bottom of the table.

 

 

They All Count

After a fantastic performance against Real Madrid in mid week, the next game was always going to be a challenge to meet the same excitement.
As it turned out, the early Sunday kick off against Crystal Palace was my first Spurs game of the season and one that found me initially surprised to find that it was an early kick off, but ultimately delighted that I got my afternoon back.

At the time of writing, I’m heading back home from the game and it’s about an hour and 10 minutes since full time. That’s why I don’t go to many games in truth; it’s great that Spurs stayed in London but the journey home is a chore.

As for the game, well Spurs made several changes from the team that conquered the European Champions and saw a debut for goalkeeper Paolo Gazzaniga as well as continued presence of Aurier, Winks, Son and Rose – who you may seem to be from the second string of the first team squad.

All in all, the game was relatively uninspiring and not full of incident. Palace have had their challenges on and off the pitch so far this season, and with a vocal traveling support and the strength of Zaha, Cabaye and ex Spur Andros Townsend, they have the potential to succeed and stay up this season.

For Spurs, it was a laboured performance that didn’t see Harry Kane at his best, saw Son miss an absolute sitter and generally saw good performances from Sissokho and Vertonghen. Man of the match for me was the impressive Davison Sanchez, but that is an example of how well distributed the ball was and how cool he was under pressure.

This won’t be my last visit to Wembley, but I’ll be delighted when the team return to Tottenham as while Wembley does suffice, every fan knows that this is a temporary situation and while Spurs can produce some classy performances, there are games they will have to scrap for and as the headline says, sometimes you have to do that as all of the points count.