Dimitar Berbatov previews the weekend’s Premier League action.
It’s been another hugely unpredictable week in the Premier League and there will undoubtedly be a few more surprise results over the course of the coming days. Liverpool need to bounce back from another shock home defeat against Brighton if they are to prevent Manchester City opening up a potentially unassailable lead at the top, while Tottenham are under pressure following another loss, this time at Chelsea. As ever Betfair Ambassador Dimitar Berbatov previews the action for Game Week 23.
Aston Villa vs Arsenal
Arsenal’s impressive run came to a halt at Wolves in midweek and Mikel Arteta will want them to put that behind them here. But Villa have been one of the best team’s this season and Villa Park is a difficult place for any opponent. Prediction: 1-1 Betfair Exchange Odds: Aston Villa – 8/5,, Arsenal -15/8, Draw – 14/5
Burnley vs Brighton
Brighton have tightened up at the back recently and they will not make things easy for Burnley. But I always find it difficult to oppose the Clarets at home to the teams around them. Prediction: 2-1 Betfair Exchange Odds: Burnley – 12/5, Brighton – 7/4, Draw – 9/4
Newcastle vs Southampton
I felt for Saints in their 9-0 defeat to Manchester United but Ralph Hassenhutl won’t let them dwell on it and they can bounce back against a patchy Newcastle team. Prediction:1-0 Betfair Exchange Odds: Newcastle – 2/1, Southampton – 13/8, Draw – 9/4
Fulham vs West Ham
The Hammers have been brilliant this season, and are playing great football, but my old team are battling to stay in the Premier League and I’m backing them to win this London derby. Prediction: 2-1 Betfair Exchange Odds: Fulham – 12/5,, West Ham – 6/5, Draw – 11/4
Man Utd vs Everton
United are chasing City at the top of the table and need to make this their second win in a row. Everton are unpredictable and I see United taking all three points.Prediction: 3-1 Betfair Exchange Odds: United – 8/15, Everton – 6/1, Draw – 7/2
Tottenham vs West Brom
Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho is under mounting pressure. If Spurs can’t beat West Brom then they are in real trouble. I think my old club will find a way past Sam Allardyce’s men and win comfortably. Prediction: 3-0 Betfair Exchange Odds: Tottenham – 2/5, West Brom – 8/1, Draw – 4/1
Wolves vs Leicester
Wolves put an end to a poor run by beating Arsenal in midweek and beating Leicester would show that they’re well and truly back. But I think Leicester will out-fox Wolves. Prediction: 2-1 Betfair Exchange Odds: Wolves – 12/5, Leicester – 11/8, Draw – 12/5
Sheff Utd vs Chelsea
Thomas Tuchel has made an impressive start to his Chelsea tenure. It may be too late for the Blades to pull off the great escape but at least they’re fighting now. I think they can cause Chelsea problems here and take something from the match. Prediction: 1-1 Betfair Exchange Odds: Sheffield Utd – 6/1, Chelsea – 4/7, Draw – 100/30
Leeds vs Crystal Palace
I love the way Marcelo Bielsa has got his Leeds team playing and, while it doesn’t always get results, I think they’ll have too much threat for an inconsistent Palace defence. Prediction: 3-1 Betfair Exchange Odds: Leeds – 5/6, Crystal Palace – 7/2, Draw – 3/1
Liverpool vs Man City
A massive game between two teams that are starting to hit top form. I have a feeling City could edge it but, more than anything, I want to see a top of the table clash where both teams go for it and goals are scored at both ends. Prediction: 2-2 Betfair Exchange Odds: Liverpool – 11/5, Man City – 11/2, Draw – 13/5
Liverpool 0 vs 1 Chelsea: Here Are Three Things Discovered Over Chelsea Victory At Anfield
Chelsea took on a struggling Liverpool side on Thursday night at Anfield knowing full well that a win here would see them back into the top four, a mere four points off second placed Manchester United and only three behind third placed Leicester City. What followed was Chelsea’s most complete performance under Thomas Tuchel thus far as the Blues dominated the first half and ground out the second to secure a first league win at Anfield since 2014. With excellent performances all over the pitch and interesting narratives to breakdown, here are the lessons learnt from Liverpool 0, Chelsea 1.
1. Keep calm and Andreas Christensen on
At 24 and having last had a decent run of games when Antonio Conte was in his second season with the club, it has been a long time since Andreas Christensen was viewed as the John Terry successor at the heart of Chelsea’s defense. Poor displays, sometimes attributed to the lack of a proper physique and at times simply due to a lack of confidence, have littered the young Dane’s career since and performances this season during Lampard’s tenure have not been up to scratch either. The reverse fixture against Liverpool which saw the Dane get himself sent off just before half time is a case in point and with his contract running out in 2022, rumors have already begun to surface regarding a potential departure from Chelsea.
On and along comes Thomas Tuchel in place of Frank Lampard and it may have taken four years but Christensen may have finally found another manager willing to put his complete faith in the 24-year-old’s abilities as a centerback. Operating in the center of a back three, Christensen’s introduction into the team at half time in place of the injured Thiago Silva has now seen just one goal conceded in over 550 minutes of football across all competitions. Against Liverpool, Christensen was once again immaculate at the heart of Chelsea’s backline. Confident in his passing as he is when it comes to his reading of the game, the 24-year-old completed 91.5% of all his attempted passes whilst making a game high nine clearances. While it is true that his passes may not be the most penetrative, Christensen’s composure, especially in the second half of the game in face of relentless Liverpool pressure was crucial in allowing Chelsea to see out the match completely unscathed.
It was a performance that Thiago Silva would have been proud of and with the Brazilian on a cusp of a first team return, perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid to Christensen’s recent displays would be the fact that Chelsea’s best center half is no longer a nailed on starter in the middle of Tuchel’s back three. A truly impressive few weeks it has been for Andreas Christensen.
2. Thomas Tuchel’s perfect start to life at Chelsea Football Club
The past few weeks must have been a strange one for Thomas Tuchel. Rarely, if ever, has a manager posted a record that looks something like this: Played 10, won seven, drawn three, lost zero and had his successes attributed to every other factor in the world apart from the good work that has clearly been done on and off the training pitches since his appointment on the 26th of January. In this respect, Thursday night’s comprehensive victory over Liverpool could finally be the result that sees Tuchel get the respect he deserves for the job he has done thus far.
While there is certainly a case to be made as to whether Chelsea’s results are merely part of a morale boost that often accompanies a new managerial appointment or simply down to the quality of opposition faced, what is undeniable is Chelsea’s improvements in defense since the appointment of Tuchel. In his 10 games in charge thus far, Takashi Minamino of Southampton remains the only opposition player to have found a way past Chelsea’s new look backline, with the Blues keeping eight clean sheets in the process.
Under Tuchel, Chelsea’s defense has not just gotten better. It is unquestionably, from a statistical point of view at least, the best defense in the Premier League by quite the distance. This is despite the team having suffered the loss of Thiago Silva early on in this run of games following an injury sustained against Tottenham in the earlier part of February. This is not something that happens because of a “new managerial bounce”. This is something that happens because of the tactical work done behind the scenes and it is about time that fans and pundits alike begin respecting the work that has to be done to come away with victories away to Spurs, Atletico Madrid and now Liverpool.
It is still early days, however, and in the words of Thomas Tuchel himself, it is important not to get carried away with the results thus far. However, 10 games into his tenure as Chelsea boss and Tuchel is showing all the signs of the potential that can be harvested from this team with him at the helm. It remains to be seen if he is indeed given the time and resources needed to fulfil his promises made to the Chelsea board.
3. Mason Mount, the creative, goal scoring workhorse
Much has already been said when it comes to breaking down Mason Mount’s performances this season but Tuesday’s performance from the Englishman seems to be the game that finally has the football community around the world sit up and take notice. Incredibly hard working and extremely talented when on the ball, Mount’s goal against Liverpool along with his performance on the day was quite simply outstanding. The ability to recognize the space available on the right side of Liverpool’s defense was followed by the technical ability to bring the ball under control without breaking pace which was in turn followed by the quick turn of pace near the edge of the box to create the half space required to get his shot away and past the despairing dive of Alisson Becker.
This was a moment of world class brilliance from a player just 22 years of age and in a game where the likes of Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane are expected to be the ones providing these moments of magic, it was Mount who would take the center stage in Chelsea’s biggest game of the season thus far. Moreover, whereas the likes of Salah and Mane could be said to be heavily reliant on direct offensive output to have any tangible impact on games, Mount’s work rate off the ball would mean that he always has something to offer the team, especially in a game where Chelsea found themselves increasingly pinned back as the game progressed.
With six goals and five assists to his name already, Mount is just two goals short of equaling his offensive output last campaign with a third of the season still yet to be played and while he may or may not ultimately surpass said offensive contributions, what is clear is that the 22-year-old has most certainly grown past the claims of simply being “Lampard’s son” or “Southgate’s pet student”. This is an incredible player with immense potential to match and most importantly of all, he is Chelsea through and through.
EPL Manager of the Month nominees for February revealed, Tuchel Inclusive
The shortlist for February’s manager of the month shortlist has been revealed, with Thomas Tuchel up for the monthly award after his fast start to life at Chelsea.
Tuchel’s side beat Liverpool at Anfield on Thursday night, and that was just one of many highlights since the German succeeded Frank Lampard in January. He is yet to taste defeat as Chelsea manager, and a successful February saw the Blues claw themselves back into top four contention.
Tuchel is joined on the list, naturally, by Pep Guardiola, whose Man City team have pulled away from the chasing pack with clinical precision. In February alone they claimed Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal and West Ham among their victims, and now sit 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League.
Voting closes at 6pm on Monday 8th March.
— Barclays Football (@BarclaysFooty) March 5, 2021
The title race may be a foregone conclusion but Guardiola has some stiff competition for the manager of the month award. In addition to Tuchel, Fulham’s Scott Parker and Wolves’ Nuno Espirito Santo are also in the running.
Parker has made Fulham a difficult side to beat and while it once looked as if they were destined for relegation, they have given themselves a fighting chance. February was a mixed bag for the Cottagers, but they lost just once and claimed key victories over Everton and Sheffield United that moved them to within three points of safety.
Wolves, meanwhile, have been steadily climbing the table after a dire festive period, and while their FA Cup exit to Southampton was disappointing, they didn’t have much else to complain about in February.
4️⃣ #PL bosses
— Premier League (@premierleague) March 5, 2021
Nuno’s side got the better of Arsenal, Leeds and the Saints in the Premier League, and haven’t written themselves out of the European picture just yet.
Ex – Arsenal Scout, Steve Morrow explains how Arsenal Miss out in signing Chelsea Star Christian Pulisic and Dortmund Duo
England internationals Bellingham and Sancho are thriving at Dortmund
Arsenal’s former head of youth recruitment Steve Morrow has revealed that the Gunners narrowly missed out on snapping up Jadon Sancho, Jude Bellingham and Christian Pulisic before they ended up at Borussia Dortmund.
Sancho, 20, spent the majority of his youth career at Watford’s academy before moving on to Manchester City in 2015 and then Dortmund two years later.
While in Germany, the winger has turned into one of Europe’s top prospects and recently became the first and youngest English player to reach 50 Bundesliga assists in less than 100 games.
And Morrow, who spent near to a decade in his youth recruitment role at Arsenal before leaving in 2019, revealed that the north London club almost signed Sancho on two occasions.
‘Every top club will say there were near misses,’ Morrow told Goal. ‘Jadon Sancho was certainly one of those. We missed out on him once when he moved from Watford and went up to Manchester City, and then again when he reached that age at City when young players have a choice to make.
‘Jadon felt that his future was away from Manchester and we were very, very close to signing him, but the family felt at the time that the best opportunity for him was at Dortmund and off he went.’
Arsenal were also close to bringing in Sancho’s Dortmund team-mate Bellingham back in 2019 from Birmingham City, according to Morrow.
The Gunners ultimately missed out and last summer, the 17-year-old midfielder opted to join the Bundesliga club.
‘Jude Bellingham was another one that was very similar to that,’ Morrow added.
‘When he came to the end of his contract at Birmingham and was debating whether to stay there and sign a scholarship or move somewhere else, we were very close to that one as well. ‘But sometimes it just doesn’t happen and you have to accept it.’
Morrow also claimed that USA international and Chelsea winger Pulisic had a trial at Arsenal as a teenager but was deemed not to be up to the physical level of others in the academy at the time.
Pulisic made the switch from America to Germany in 2015 before moving onto Chelsea in 2018 for a fee of £58million.
‘Through our connections in the States, Christian was one that I actually had over at London Colney as a 14-year-old,’ Morrow added.
‘He came in and did quite well, but he was small and underdeveloped physically when he came to us.
‘I did see his potential but he was certainly behind physically in terms of the same age group with our boys. ‘I wanted to bring him back again, but it just didn’t work out and he went to Germany unfortunately.’
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