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Posts Tagged ‘English Premier League’

A bit of a hullabaloo has broken out at Chelsea over a potential move by Diego Costa to China. According to reports circulating in the media (see e.g. here), the Chelsea striker has been offered some £30 million a year (about 34 million euros) to go and play for Tianjin Quanjian (no, I’ve never heard of them either). Already, the highest paid footballer in the World, Carlos Tevez, is playing in China. Clearly, China want to attract some of the World’s best football talent by paying them huge sums of money.

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Rumours are circulating that Diego Costa has been offered £30 million a year to move to play in China, leading to his falling out with Chelsea coach Antonio Conte.

Despite whatever problems are going on between Costa and Conti (it sounds like a double-act), Chelsea are still continuing to play sublimely under Conti. They beat Leicester City, the defending champions, 3-0 on Saturday, and are now sitting 7 points clear at the top of the Premier League. Manchester City continue their bad run of form; on Sunday they fell apart and were thrashed 4-0 by Everton. Liverpool and Manchester United both did Chelsea a favour by battling to a 1-1 draw. So, one has to ask, do Chelsea even need Costa to stay? If Conti feels not, he’ll be on his way to China sooner rather than later. 

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Chelsea consolidated their position at the top of the Premier League by beating Manchester City 3-1 at the Etihad. If ever evidence were needed that Chelsea are on a run of excellent form then this was it. Antonio Conti’s men have now won 8 games in a row, and moved past their other rivals to top the table a couple of weeks ago. They sit 4 points ahead of Man City, with Arsenal in second place 3 points behind, and Liverpool sitting in third on the same number of points as Man City. 

I didn’t see this game as I’m currently traveling in New Zealand, but to have two players sent off in injury time at the end of the match shows what a bitterly fought contest this was. 


It was Manchester City who started the season best, leaving all the other teams trailing in their wake. Chelsea, on the other hand, had an average start to the season. But, as we approach halfway in the season, they have hit a purple patch and currently look very hard to beat. 

There is still a long way to go, but it looks like Chelsea are playing with the kind of form which saw them win the title the season before last. So much has changed at Stamford Bridge since then, with the sacking of José Mourinho, that the 2014/15 season seems much longer ago!

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The rumours seem to have been true. José Mourinho is going to be at Old Trafford next year. Or, at least, that is what the BBC is saying. But both Manchester United and José Mourinho are, so far, refusing to confirm what now seems inevitable.

 

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José Mourinho looks set to replace Louis Van Gaal at Manchester United, although no official announcement has yet been made.

 

As a number of people have been saying with tongue in cheek, what could possibly go wrong?! We shall see, but having the special one back in the English Premier League certainly adds to the entertainment value; his press conferences are usually great listening. His success will be determined by whether he can return Man U to their former glory, particularly in the Premier League and the Champions League.

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Tomorrow (Sunday 15 May) sees the final day of the English Premier League. Unlike every other weekend, when matches are spread out over Saturday, Sunday and Monday, on the final weekend all matches kick off on the Sunday at 3pm.

Leicester City have already won the Premiership title, which is a refreshing change and a remarkable achievement. Last season, Leicester were struggling to avoid relegation, and only a few years ago, in the 2008-09 season, they were in the third tier division (confusingly known as League One). From 2009 to 2014 they were in the second tier (the Championship), gaining promotion to the Premier League at the end of the 2013-14 season. Since the inception of the Premier League in the 1992-93 season, Leicester are only the second team outside of the ‘big four’ (Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal) to win the Premiership title; the other time was Blackburn Rovers in 1993-94.

Some of you may know that the team I support is Chelsea, who as defending title holders have had a terrible season. They look set to finish 9th, although if they lose and Stoke win they could finish 10th. Even if Swansea City win and Chelsea lose, Chelsea’s goal difference is so much better than Swansea’s (16 better) that it is nigh on impossible for Swansea to finish above them.

Fittingly, Leicester City play their final game of the season at Chelsea, last year’s champions. Another twist to this story is that Leicester’s popular manager, Claudio Ranieri, was Chelsea’s manager from the 2000-01 season until the end of the 2003-04 season, when he was replaced by José Mourinho. I expect both the team and Ranieri will receive a good reception at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho, of course, started this season as the Chelsea manager on his second spell at the club, but after a string of disastrous results he left in December 2015, and Chelsea have been managed since by interim manager Guus Hiddink.

But, probably the  most intriguing story of this weekend will be whether it is Manchester City or Manchester United who finish in 4th place and get the last Champions League spot. Manchester City play away at Swansea, and Manchester United have a home game against Bournemouth. Man U not only need to win their match, but they need Man City to lose to Swansea in order to finish 4th. If Man City draw and Man U win, both teams will finish on 66 points, but Man City have a much better goal difference. On paper, Man U should beat Bournemouth. Although Swansea are down in 11th place, they have won their last two games, so will be no push over for Man City. It is conceivable that Man U will get the dream results that they crave. 

 

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Leicester City were crowned as champions a few weeks ago, and last year’s champions Chelsea cannot finish higher than 9th, and could finish as low as 10th. The big fight tomorrow is which team in Manchester will get the coveted 4th place spot.

Should Man U fail to finish in 4th I anticipate that their manager, Louis van Gaal, will be sacked. They are in the final of the FA Cup, but this competition has become so much less valued in the last decade or so that I don’t think winning it will save his job. If, on the other hand, Man U do get 4th place then I think van Gaal will hang on to his job, even though he is quite unpopular with the fans. Since Mourinho was sacked from Chelsea in December there have been persistent rumours that he would be replacing van Gaal at Old Trafford. We shall have to wait and see.

Whether it is Man U or Man City who fail to qualify for the Champions League, it will be deemed a disaster for the club that misses out. Man U have the most prolific record of any English team over the last few decades, and Man City have won the Premier League title twice in the last few seasons, and this year got as far as the semi finals of the Champions League. The rivalry between the two Manchester clubs has been intense over the last few seasons, but this weekend one side of the city is going to be very disappointed and the other side will be relieved, if not elated. 

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It was a good weekend for Welsh sport. In Wales’ penultimate Rugby World Cup warm-up  match, we beat the reigning 6 Nations champions in Dublin, no easy feat. I did not see the match, but from all accounts the 16-10 score line was flattering to Ireland, with most rugby writers in the newspapers I read saying that Wales were much the better team. It seems that Wales were particularly dominant in the breakdown. 

How useful these warm-up matches are for determining true form going into a World Cup is debatable. I’m sure they are very useful to the coaching team to test various combinations and tweak things at the set pieces, but personally I don’t think that they give much of an indicator of form. No coaching team is going to reveal any attacking tricks they may have up their sleeves, so I wouldn’t pay much attention to Wales’ lack of attacking potency. 

  
Wales are, of course, drawn in the “group of death” with England and Australia. England have looked fairly indifferent in their two warm-up matches against France, but next Saturday they host Ireland at Twickenham. I will be hoping for an Ireland victory; if Ireland were to win that match I think England’s confidence going into the World Cup would take a massive blow, which can only help Wales. We will play Italy in Cardiff on the same day, the last time we played them in March we thrashed them so how useful a game this will be seems debatable to me. 

Yesterday Wales’ only team in the English Premier League – Swansea – got a wonderful win at home against Manchester United. It puts Swansea into 4th place in the table, although of course one cannot read too much into the standings after just four games. My team Chelsea, however, are wallowing in 13th place after a home defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday. With two losses, a win and a draw from their first four games, it is the worst start to a season that Chelsea have had in many years. Manchester City, on the other hand, have four wins from four and look very impressive. 

 

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Defending champions Chelsea continude their poor start to the season by going down 3-0 to a rampant Manchester City yesterday (Sunday the 16th).  Afterwards Jose Mourinho described it as a ‘fake result’. I have no idea what that means, except that he felt that Chelsea were the better team in the second half and so, somehow, the two late goals scored by City didn’t count. What a load of rubbish. Chelsea were thoroughly outplayed by a more hungry City, and were far from being the better team in either half.

Chelsea’s poor start must be quite a worry to Mourinho. They lost the FA Charity Shield match against Arsenal, they had a draw at home against Swansea (as a Welshman, the only time I have divided loyalties is when Chelsea are playing a team from Wales); and then a thorough beating yesterday at The Etihad. Mourinho claims, rather bizarrely, that he has deliberately held off on the pre-season preparation for his team, so that they start the season fresh. Again, what a load of rubbish.

The fact that he replaced club captain John Terry (of whom I am no fan, the man was (is?) an abusive racist) at half time  to me suggests not all is well at Stamford Bridge. In addition, there has been a very public spat over one of the team doctors being from coming onto the pitch in the match against Swansea; Mourinho is usually very good at controlling such stories from leaking out to the wider world.

Of course it is still very early days, with only two matches into a 38 match season it is far too early to rule Chelsea out of defending their title. But, whereas Man City have come out and started with two 3-0 wins, Chelsea look to be lacking cohesion or hunger. Now it is up to Mourinho to show why many consider him to be the best manager in football, and get Chelsea’s season kick-started.

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Later today Chelsea will take on Manchester City in what will be, so far, the biggest match of the season. Currently Chelsea are 5 points clear of Man City, who are their closest rivals at the top of the English Premiership. If Chelsea can win at home today they will go 8 points clear, but if they lose the lead will be cut to only 2 points.

Chelsea go into the game after a shock defeat last weekend in the FA Cup at home to lowly Bradford City, a game they lost 4-2 making it their heaviest defeat at home under Jose Mourinho. A fortnight ago they thrashed Swansea City 5-0 away, and they have also had two mid-week games against Liverpool in the semifinals of the League Cup, drawing the away leg 1-1 and winning the home leg 1-0.

Manchester City go into the game playing their first match since their shock FA Cup defeat last weekend to Middlesborough 2-0 and their home defeat to Arsenal 2-0 the weekend before. So, on paper, Chelsea should be the more confident side with a better recent record. But, today’s game will probably mostly be about who can handle the pressure the better – with such importance riding on the game. In this respect I expect Chelsea to come out on top, as Mourinho is the master tactician and sides he coaches usually can handle the big occasions masterfully. But, we will know later today – kick off is at 17:30 GMT.



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