Chelsea Face Man City Test As Liverpool, Man Utd Bid To Keep Pace

A photo combination of Chelsea and Manchester City players.

 

Chelsea host Premier League champions Manchester City in a stiff test of the leaders’ title credentials on Saturday as Liverpool and Manchester United bid to keep pace with Thomas Tuchel’s side.

The Blues look well-equipped to end the season as English champions for the first time since 2017 after signing Romelu Lukaku to add a cutting edge to their attack.

But Liverpool, the 2020 title winners, and Manchester United are matching them, with all three teams locked on 13 points after five games.

AFP Sport takes a look at some of the talking points ahead of the weekend action.

No Fears for Tuchel’s Blues

 

Chelsea’s German defender Antonio Rudiger (C) celebrates scoring his team’s third goal with Chelsea’s German striker Timo Werner (R) during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on September 19, 2021. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

Even though the season is still young, former England captain turned TV pundit Alan Shearer predicts Chelsea are going to be difficult to stop.

Tuchel’s team beat Manchester City three times last season — including in the Champions League final.

Since then they have signed Lukaku from Inter Milan and have also been miserly at the back — conceding just one goal in the league.

“Lukaku is not the only reason they are so formidable,” Shearer wrote in his BBC Sport column.

“They won the Champions League in May without him. But his arrival means they don’t have a weak link in their team, and they have such strength in depth too.”

READ ALSOMan Utd Crash Out Of League Cup, Spurs, Chelsea And Arsenal Advance

It is too soon to call the match at Stamford Bridge a title decider, but City boss Pep Guardiola will not want to leave London six points behind one of his main rivals.

Norwich’s Unwanted Record

Norwich City's English midfielder Ben Godfrey scores an own goal during the English Premier League football match between Norwich City and Burnley at Carrow Road stadium in Norwich, eastern England on July 18, 2020. (Photo by Julian Finney / POOL / AFP)
File photo: Ex-Norwich City’s English midfielder Ben Godfrey scores an own goal during the English Premier League football match between Norwich City and Burnley at Carrow Road stadium in Norwich, eastern England on July 18, 2020. (Photo by Julian Finney / POOL / AFP)

 

Norwich have lost their past 15 Premier League games under Daniel Farke — the longest losing run by any side in English top-flight history under a single manager.

That horror streak encompasses the end of the 2019/20 season, when the Canaries were relegated to the Championship. They immediately bounced back.

Norwich were given a hideous task on their return to the English top-flight, with their four first matches against Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester and Arsenal before last week’s loss to Watford.

The Canaries are only three points behind 16th-placed Wolves but must turn their form around soon, with Farke saying their leaky defence is the main problem.

“We need to be harder to play against,” he said ahead of this weekend’s trip to Everton.

“We need more steel, and we need to be nastier. We also need a result for the confidence.”

Can Kane Reignite Spurs?

Tottenham Hotspur’s English striker Harry Kane (R) celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the English League Cup third round football match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur at the Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton, central England on September 22, 2021. Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

Harry Kane has endured a slow start to his season for Tottenham after a move to Manchester City failed to materialise and is yet to score in the Premier League.

But Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo believes the England striker is still getting up to speed after Euro 2020.

“He has much more to give and it’s about the game, improving and growing together,” said Nuno as he prepared for Sunday’s north London derby against Arsenal.

“In terms of the squad and preparation we have players who have 65/70 sessions and we have players who have 15 sessions.”

After three games, Tottenham were top of the Premier League and Arsenal rock bottom.

Since then Spurs have suffered consecutive 3-0 defeats against Crystal Palace and Chelsea, while Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal have stopped the rot with 1-0 wins over Norwich and Burnley.

Arteta said confidence levels were rising after his side won their League Cup third round tie against AFC Wimbledon in midweek.

“Now the boys have won three matches in a row so credit for how they have handled that situation and now they are really looking forward to playing on Sunday, which is the biggest day of the season for us so far at home,” he said.

EPL Fixtures This Weekend (all times GMT)

Saturday

Chelsea v Manchester City (1130), Manchester United v Aston Villa (1130), Everton v Norwich, Leeds v West Ham, Leicester v Burnley, Watford v Newcastle, Brentford v Liverpool (1630)

Sunday

Southampton v Wolves (1300), Arsenal v Tottenham (1530)

Monday

Crystal Palace v Brighton (1900)

AFP

Premier League Footballers To Continue Taking The Knee In New Season

File photo: Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah takes the knee during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on October 17, 2020. (Photo by Peter Byrne / POOL / AFP) /

 

Premier League players will continue to take the knee in the 2021/22 season, saying on Tuesday “more than ever, it is important” that they keep highlighting racial injustice.

The English Football League, which controls the three divisions below the Premier League, had earlier announced its ongoing support for the gesture and the Premier League subsequently said players and match officials would wear ‘No Room For Racism’ badges on their shirts.

A statement issued on behalf of Premier League players said: “We feel now, more than ever, it is important for us to continue to take the knee as a symbol of our unity against all forms of racism.

“We remain resolutely committed to our singular objective of eradicating racial prejudice wherever it exists, to bring about a global society of inclusion, respect and equal opportunities for all.”

Players have taken the knee at top-flight matches in England since football resumed last June amid the coronavirus pandemic.

READ ALSO: Absent Kane Set For Spurs Return Amid Man City Transfer Talk – Reports

The England men’s national team were booed by some of their own supporters while taking the  knee in pre-Euro 2020 friendlies, but continued to do so throughout their run to a Wembley final where they lost to Italy in a penalty shoot-out.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “The Premier League, our clubs, players and match officials have a long-standing commitment to tackle racism and all forms of discrimination.

“Following our club captains’ meeting, that collective commitment was reaffirmed and the Premier League will continue to support the players’ strong voice on this important issue.

“Racism in any form is unacceptable and No Room For Racism makes our zero-tolerance stance clear.

“The Premier League will continue to work with our clubs, players and football partners to bring about tangible change to remove inequality from our game.”

The new Premier League season starts on August 13, with the opening round of EFL fixtures this weekend.

AFP

 

 

Who Will Challenge For Man City’s Premier League Crown Next Season?

Manchester City’s Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho lifts the Premier League trophy during the award ceremony after the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Everton at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 23, 2021.
Dave Thompson / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester City cruised to their third Premier League title in four seasons, but Pep Guardiola’s side are likely to face a tough defence of the crown next season.

Liverpool and Manchester United look capable of pushing the champions, while Chelsea should be in the mix after Thomas Tuchel’s impressive impact on the Champions League finalists.

AFP Sport looks at how the four leading title contenders will shape up:

Manchester CityAfter the midway point of the season, City were virtually untouchable as they surged clear with a record 21-game winning streak in all competitions by an English top-flight side.

Manchester City’s Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho lifts the Premier League trophy during the award ceremony after the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Everton at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 23, 2021. PETER POWELL / POOL / AFP

 

Revitalised by the addition of Portugese international centre-back Ruben Dias and the emergence of England playmaker Phil Foden, City silenced the critics who questioned Pep Guardiola after the Spaniard suffered the worst start to a season in his managerial career.

READ ALSO: Suarez Scores As Atletico Madrid Win La Liga

Regaining the title from Liverpool, while also winning the League Cup and reaching their first Champions League final, suggests City are in position for a period of sustained dominance.

They have few weaknesses but the close-season departure of Sergio Aguero, the club’s record goalscorer, leaves a void that needs filling.

Manchester City’s Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho (C) lifts the Premier League trophy during the award ceremony after the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Everton at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 23, 2021.
PETER POWELL / POOL / AFP

 

England striker Harry Kane could be top of Guardiola’s shopping list after confirming he wants to leave Tottenham, but his mooted £150 million ($213 million) price tag may convince him to look at the younger and cheaper Borussia Dortmund goal machine Erling Haaland.

Manchester UnitedUnited manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer survived some rocky spells to establish his side as genuine title contenders heading into next season.

Solskjaer led United to a second place finish — 12 points behind City — and the Norwegian has a chance to win the first trophy of his reign in the Europa League final against Villarreal on Wednesday.

Portugal star Bruno Fernandes has been the catalyst, providing on-field inspiration and dressing room leadership in equal measure, a stark contrast to the gifted but temperamental Paul Pogba.

Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood were potent in patches and keeping Edinson Cavani was a wise move, but Kane has also been linked with a move to Old Trafford with Solskjaer needing a world-class striker in his prime to really worry City.

 

Manchester City’s Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho lifts the Premier League trophy during the award ceremony after the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Everton at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 23, 2021.
Dave Thompson / POOL / AFP

 

Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish are also reportedly targets to add extra creativity and goals from the wide areas.

But bigger questions remain in defence with Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof not always convincing at centre-back, while Dean Henderson and David De Gea battle to be number one goalkeeper.

LiverpoolHamstrung by a seemingly endless injury list that deprived them of key leaders Virgil van Dijk and Jordan Henderson for most of the season, Liverpool finished outside the top two for the first time in three years.

Jurgen Klopp’s often tetchy demeanour reflected the stress of an arduous campaign as Liverpool failed to build on last season’s first English title in 30 years.

But a strong run of eight wins in their last 10 league games earned a third-place finish, providing optimism for next term.

Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold must improve on patchy individual campaigns, with Mohamed Salah’s future also up for debate after his flirtation with Real Madrid.

 

Manchester City’s Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho lifts the Premier League trophy during the award ceremony after the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Everton at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 23, 2021.
Dave Thompson / POOL / AFP

 

While Liverpool have work to do if they are to regain their position as the Premier League’s preeminent force, the return of Van Dijk, Henderson and Joe Gomez next season will be a significant boost to their title hopes.

ChelseaWhen Frank Lampard was sacked in January, Chelsea were languishing in ninth place as a troubled season threatened to spiral out of control.

However, the decision to hire Thomas Tuchel as Lampard’s replacement proved inspired and the German has fourth-placed Chelsea nicely positioned to push on next season.

Aided by Mason Mount’s superb form, Tuchel has taken Chelsea to the Champions League final for the first time since 2012, with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid unable to solve the tactical tweaks that made the Blues solid in defence and deadly on the counter-attack.

Having healed the fractures in a squad divided by Lampard’s methods, Tuchel has already masterminded two victories over City and one against Liverpool.

To truly turn Chelsea into a force, the former Paris Saint Germain boss must solve the problems posed by the erratic form of expensive signings Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech.

AFP

Chelsea Make Champions League Despite Loss To Aston Villa 

Chelsea are also in the running for the Champions League. Photo: Twitter @Chelsea FC

 

Chelsea have qualified for the Champions League despite losing 2-1 to Aston Villa on the final day of the Premier League season which also saw Leicester City beaten by Tottenham Hotspur in the race for European places. 

Bertrand Traore and Anwar El Ghazi put Villa two goals ahead in the first and second half respectively to condemn the Blues to defeat in the last game of the domestic league season.

Thomas Tuchel’s men, however, got a consolation goal in the 70th minute of the encounter, thanks to a Ben Chilwell effort.

Despite the loss, the 2012 Champions League winners, made it to the top four in England and qualified for next season’s campaign in Europe’s elite competition.

This was only possible after Leicester City blew up the chance of qualifying for the competition following a 4-2 loss to London side, Tottenham.

An own goal from Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel was followed by two late Gareth Bale strikes, condemning the Foxes to a 4-2 loss as Chelsea received an unexpected favour from bitter London rivals Tottenham.

READ ALSO: Suarez Scores As Atletico Madrid Win La Liga

That Harry Kane, linked with a close-season move to Chelsea after declaring his desire to quit Tottenham, was also on the scoresheet at the King Power Stadium was an added layer of irony.

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta was sent off in the final minute after clashing with Jack Grealish.

Aston Villa’s Dutch striker Anwar El Ghazi (R) celebrates scoring his team’s second goal from the penalty spot during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on May 23, 2021. Richard Heathcote / POOL / AFP

 

But the Blues finished one point above fifth-placed Leicester, illustrating the slender margins at play in a pulsating conclusion to the top four race.

It was a huge escape for Chelsea as they enjoyed a significant measure of revenge for their FA Cup final defeat against the Foxes last weekend.

They can now concentrate on Saturday’s Champions League final against Manchester City without the extra pressure of knowing they have to win in Porto to qualify for next season’s tournament.

But Tuchel has plenty of work to do to get Chelsea in shape for their first Champions League showpiece since 2012 after they were beaten for the third time in their last four games in all competitions.

Adding to Tuchel’s problems, Edouard Mendy may be a doubt for the final after Chelsea’s keeper was unable to play the second half, having collided with the woodwork in a failed attempt to keep out Traore’s goal.

Tuchel relief 
Once again, Timo Werner was unable to provide a spark up front and the Chelsea striker should have done better than head across goal from Azpilicueta’s cut-back in the early stages.

Mason Mount deservedly won Chelsea’s player of the year award after a superb season.

But the England midfielder wasted a golden opportunity to open the scoring when he blazed over from Azpilicueta’s cross.

Chelsea were made to pay for their profligacy when Villa took the lead with a clever corner routine in the 43rd minute.


Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel gestures from the sidelines during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on May 23, 2021. Richard Heathcote / POOL / AFP

 

Traore made a perfectly-timed run to meet Matt Targett’s low delivery and, with Chelsea’s defenders looking elsewhere, the unmarked winger hit a scuffed shot that looped into the top corner via the crossbar.

Tuchel had said he would not check to see how Liverpool and Leicester were faring until half-time.

By the time Tuchel returned to the dressing room at the break, Liverpool were winning 1-0, while Leicester were level at 1-1, keeping Chelsea in the top four at that point.

But news quickly filtered through that Jamie Vardy had put Leicester ahead early in the second half, leaving Chelsea in peril.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Jorginho conceded a 52nd minute penalty when he caught Traore on the foot.

VAR reviewed the incident but there was no reprieve for shell-shocked Chelsea as El Ghazi stroked home the spot-kick.

Chilwell gave Chelsea a glimmer of hope when the left-back met Christian Pulisic’s cross with a close-range finish in the 70th minute.

That set the stage for a remarkable finale as the focus turned to the King Power, where Tottenham’s late goal spree sparked jubilant cheers from the Chelsea bench and a relieved smile from Tuchel.

 

 

Top Four Rivals Set For Dramatic Finish To Premier League Season

Chelsea's German head coach Thomas Tuchel (L) applauds the fans following during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in London on May 18, 2021. Chelsea won the match 2-1. PETER CZIBORRA / POOL / AFP
File photo: Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel (L) applauds the fans following during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in London on May 18, 2021. Chelsea won the match 2-1.
PETER CZIBORRA / POOL / AFP

 

Liverpool, Chelsea and Leicester will stage a thrilling battle to finish in the Premier League’s top four as the English top-flight season comes to a dramatic conclusion on Sunday.

Heading into the final round of fixtures, just one point separates third placed Chelsea, fourth placed Liverpool and Leicester in fifth.

With the top four guaranteed a lucrative berth in next season’s Champions League, the stakes could not be any higher.

Champions Manchester City and second-placed Manchester United are already certain to finish in the top four, leaving two places on offer.

READ ALSO: Suarez Scores As Atletico Madrid Win La Liga

Chelsea, one point above Liverpool and Leicester, will clinch third place if they win at Aston Villa.

Deposed champions Liverpool can salvage a difficult, injury-plagued season by nailing down fourth place when they host Crystal Palace.

To do that, Jurgen Klopp’s team, ahead of Leicester on goal difference, must match the FA Cup winners’ result against Tottenham at the King Power Stadium.

Liverpool have a goal difference of +24 and Leicester are on +20, meaning a Reds victory against Palace should be enough barring a remarkable goal spree from Brendan Rodgers’ team.

Having won seven of their last nine games, Liverpool are expected to finish the job and Klopp insists the pressure of the tense finale won’t be a problem.

“I can’t remember a season when it didn’t go to the wire because it was pretty much a final or we had to fight to the last match day for qualification for the Champions League,” Klopp said.

“Even at Dortmund it was like this, at Mainz it was to stay in the league or when we got promoted.

“I am really used to stress until the last match day.”

 

File photo: Leicester City’s Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho (2nd L) is congratulated by Leicester City’s English striker Jamie Vardy after scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Crystal Palace at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on April 26, 2021. ANDREW BOYERS / POOL / AFP

 

Around 10,000 Liverpool fans will be inside Anfield after a season played almost entirely behind closed doors because of the coronavirus.

‘Fear and danger’ 

Those supporters have missed a rollercoaster campaign that saw Liverpool fall eight points adrift of fourth place in mid-March before a run of 23 points from the past 27 hauled them back into contention.

“What did we do? We found stability, created confidence again or got it back, scored goals in the right moments and conceded less, that helped as well,” Klopp said.

Chelsea seized control of their top four destiny with a crucial 2-1 win against Leicester on Tuesday.

Thomas Tuchel’s team could also qualify for the Champions League if they beat Manchester City in the final of this season’s tournament on May 29.

Tuchel, who has revived Chelsea since replacing the sacked Frank Lampard in January, has no fear of the inevitable criticism if the Blues fall out of the top four.

“Honestly, it was the maximum target to reach the top four this season,” Tuchel said.

“But I know what you’re speaking of, and I will not hide. You don’t have to be a genius, I know what can happen if we lose.

“Of course you can lose any match in football but listen, there’s a big difference between fear and danger.”

Leicester potentially face heartbreak for a second successive season after missing out last year due to a final-day defeat by Manchester United.

Although they won the FA Cup for the first time with their final triumph against Chelsea on May 15, Leicester’s defeat at Stamford Bridge three days later may prove decisive.

Knowing they might need to win by a big margin against Tottenham, Rodgers said: “We’ll talk about the different situations that may arise in the game.

“The key is to win the game, and get three points. There are very few games where you are going to get five or six goals in the Premier League, so win the game.”

West Ham need a point at home to Southampton on Sunday to secure sixth place and a Europa League spot.

Tottenham can still pip them on goal difference should they beat Leicester and the Hammers lose.

Fixtures (all 1500GMT)

Arsenal v Brighton, Aston Villa v Chelsea, Fulham v Newcastle, Leeds v West Brom, Leicester v Tottenham, Liverpool v Crystal Palace, Man City v Everton, Sheffield United v Burnley, West Ham v Southampton, Wolves v Man Utd.

AFP

‘I’m Very Happy Here’: Leicester Coach Rodgers Rules Out Spurs Move

File photo: Leicester City’s Northern Irish manager Brendan Rodgers reacts following the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Leicester City at Selhurst Park in south London on November 3, 2019. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said he has no interest in leaving the Premier League club for the vacant job at Tottenham.

The former Liverpool and Celtic manager, 48, had been touted as a leading candidate to join Spurs after they sacked Jose Mourinho last week.

Leicester are third in the Premier League — on track to qualify for next season’s Champions League — while Spurs are five points off the top four after a disappointing season.

“Tottenham is a great club, one of the biggest clubs in Britain, but for me I’m just in a really, really happy place in my life,” Rodgers said, according to media reports.

“I have a huge respect here for the players, the board and I really feel that I want to continue my work here.

“I’m very, very happy here and I’m happy because I’ve got a set of players that give me their heart and soul every single day and also I can see a future here in terms of the development of the squad.”

The Northern Irishman, who joined Leicester in 2019, said he had a strong relationship with the board at the King Power Stadium.

leicester-city
File photo:  Leicester City’s Northern Irish manager Brendan Rodgers (R) congratulates Leicester City’s English striker Jamie Vardy (C) at the end of the game during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Sheffield United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on July 16, 2020. Michael Regan / POOL / AFP

 

“I think over the last couple of years what we’ve been able to do is build an infrastructure around behaviour and creating a mindset in order to win,” he said.

“That’s not easy and it’s taken us a couple of years but you see now the mentality around developing that will and desire to win.

“And now for the next period of years let’s see if we can roll that out now that we’ve created that mentality.”

READ ALSO: Iheanacho Beats Harry Kane, Others To EPL Player Of The Month Award

German champions Bayern Munich announced this week RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann, who had also been linked with the Tottenham job, would be joining them from next season.

AFP

Man Utd Held By Leeds As Burnley Pull Clear Of Danger


Players mingle on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Leeds United and Manchester United at Elland Road in Leeds, northern England on April 25, 2021. Jon Super / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester United drew 0-0 with Leeds on Sunday to stay on track for a second-place finish in the Premier League after Burnley took a giant step towards survival.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men beat their bitter rivals 6-2 at Old Trafford in December but both sides looked short of energy and imagination in a lacklustre encounter at Elland Road.

The result takes United to 67 points after 33 games, 10 points behind champions-elect Manchester City but eight points clear of third-placed Leicester.

Solskjaer rested Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani with one eye on Thursday’s Europa League semi-final first leg against Roma and they lacked fluidity, especially in the first half.

The visitors had an early chance when Marcus Rashford raced onto a long ball but he could only hit a weak shot that dribbled wide.


Players mingle on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Leeds United and Manchester United at Elland Road in Leeds, northern England on April 25, 2021. Jon Super / POOL / AFP

 

Stuart Dallas fired straight at Dean Henderson in the Manchester United goal as the home side grew into the game but Leeds were living dangerously, conceding fouls in dangerous positions around the penalty box.

READ ALSO: Liverpool Blow Place In The Top Four To Round Off Rollercoaster Week

Rashford almost made them pay in the dying moments of the first half, thundering a free-kick towards goal that was brilliantly saved by Illan Meslier.

The visitors found more of a rhythm as the second half wore on and the game opened up in the spring sunshine.

Bruno Fernandes fired wide after a cross from Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Mason Greenwood’s left-footed shot was comfortably saved by Meslier.

Daniel James had a golden chance to open the scoring but failed to connect properly with a cross from Rashford.

Moments later Helder Coster’s shot was deflected onto the roof of the net at the other end after a long diagonal pass, while Mateusz Klich shot straight at Henderson when in a good position.

Solskjaer threw on Pogba and Cavani but United could not find the breakthrough.

Manchester City, Manchester United, Leicester and Chelsea currently occupy the top-four spots in the Premier League but just seven points separate Leicester from eighth-placed Everton.

Most of the teams have just five games to play.

Wood hat-trick
Earlier, Chris Wood scored a first-half hat-trick as Burnley pummelled Wolves 4-0 to lift themselves nine points clear of the Premier League relegation zone.

Burnley were sharper and more committed but mid-table Wolves contributed to their downfall with some sloppy defensive work at an empty Molineux.

Wood, who is now Burnley’s outright top scorer in the Premier League, is the first player from New Zealand to score a Premier League hat-trick.


Leeds United’s Argentinian head coach Marcelo Bielsa gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Leeds United and Manchester United at Elland Road in Leeds, northern England on April 25, 2021.  Jon Super / POOL / AFP

 

The win lifts Sean Dyche’s men to 14th in the table, nine points clear of 18th-placed Fulham with just five games remaining, meaning they are almost certain to secure a sixth successive season of top-flight football.

“Obviously we were playing a top side in Manchester United last week and they just punished us at critical times,” Wood told the BBC. “We played well last week and we knew we had to come and play well again and the result would follow.

“We knew our position was in our hands and that was the main thing. We wanted to keep it that way and this has made it a little bit easier now but there are still five tough games to go and we will see where we lie.”

AFP

Greenwood Bags Brace As Man Utd Sink Burnley, Fulham Frustrated By Arsenal


Manchester United’s English striker Mason Greenwood (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Burnley at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on April 18, 2021. GARETH COPLEY / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester United moved within eight points of Premier League leaders Manchester City as Mason Greenwood’s double inspired a 3-1 win over Burnley, while Eddie Nketiah’s last-gasp goal gave Arsenal a 1-1 draw against struggling Fulham on Sunday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are unlikely to catch City, but Greenwood’s late winner puts a little pressure on their bitter rivals with six games left.

Greenwood had opened the scoring early in the second half at Old Trafford before James Tarkowski equalised moments later.

Greenwood’s second made him the joint-top scoring teenager in Premier League history for United, level with Wayne Rooney on 15 goals.

Edinson Cavani grabbed the third goal in stoppage-time as second placed United won six consecutive Premier League games for the first time since January 2019.


Manchester United’s Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring their third goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Burnley at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on April 18, 2021. GARETH COPLEY / POOL / AFP

 

Although they have probably left it too late to overhaul City, United are on course for a second place finish and could still win the first silverware of Solskjaer’s reign.

They face Roma in the Europa League semi-finals after easing past Granada in the quarter-final second leg on Thursday.

United were beaten in three of their opening six league matches this season but have lost only one of their subsequent 26.

Amid talk of United being one of six Premier League teams who have agreed to join a proposed European Super League that would replace the Premier League, Solskjaer’s team looked far from elite in a scrappy first half.

They were fortunate not to fall behind in the opening minute when Chris Wood’s header was disallowed for offside after keeper Dean Henderson failed to reach Matt Lowton’s cross.

Greenwood opened the scoring in the 48th minute with a clinical close-range finish after Bruno Fernandes cleverly dummied Marcus Rashford’s pass.

The England forward’s fourth goal in his last six appearances was cancelled out 114 seconds later.

READ ALSO: Chelsea End Man City’s Quadruple Quest To Reach FA Cup Final

Burnley defender James Tarkowski out-muscled Harry Maguire as he climbed high to head Ashley Westwood’s corner past Henderson from six yards.

Greenwood restored United’s lead in the 84th minute when his shot deflected in off Jack Cork before Cavani slotted home from Donny van de Beek’s pass in the final moments.

Arsenal Snatch Draw

Arsenal were seconds away from a first ever home defeat against Fulham as they laboured to find a response to Josh Maja’s second half penalty.

But Nketiah’s leveller pushed Fulham closer to relegation deep into stoppage-time.

It was a major setback for third bottom Fulham, who are six points from safety and have just five games left to beat the drop.

Fifth bottom Brighton travel to Chelsea on Tuesday and, like fourth bottom Burnley, will still have a game in hand on Fulham after that match.

“I’m disappointed and gutted,” Fulham boss Scott Parker said. “I’ve just seen their goal back. Rob Holding looks offside to me.

“That’s what’s disappointing. We were so close so it’s painful.”

 

Arsenal’s English striker Eddie Nketiah (R) shoots to score their late equalizer during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Fulham at the Emirates Stadium in London on April 18, 2021. The game finished 1-1. Ian Walton / POOL / AFP

 

Ninth placed Arsenal are nine points adrift of the top four and their best hope of reaching next season’s Champions League is winning the Europa League.

Mikel Arteta’s men face Villarreal in the semi-finals after cruising to a 4-0 victory at Slavia Prague in the quarter-final second leg on Thursday.

“We have to just focus on the boys playing away in Europe and arriving here with the desire to go all the way to the end,” Arteta said.

Fulham midfielder Mario Lemina burst into the penalty area in the 59th minute before making a theatrical tumble after Gabriel stood on his foot.

After a lengthy VAR review, Maja took the penalty, lifting it high into the net for his first goal in nine games and only his third since arriving on loan from Bordeaux in February.

But Fulham’s nerve cracked with seconds left in seven minutes of stoppage-time.

Bobby Decordova-Reid needlessly conceded a corner and from the set-piece, Arsenal keeper Mat Ryan came up and remarkably rose highest for a header that reached Granit Xhaka.

Fulham’s English defender Tosin Adarabioyo (2L) and team-mates including Fulham’s English midfielder Harrison Reed (2R) react after Arsenal score a late equalising goal for 1-1 during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Fulham at the Emirates Stadium in London on April 18, 2021. FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA / POOL / AFP

 

When Xhaka’s low drive was pushed out by Alphonse Areola, Nketiah was on hand to break Fulham’s hearts as he tapped in from close-range.

AFP

Premier League, Other Sports Events Moved Due To Prince Philip’s Funeral

In this file photo taken on July 22, 2020 Britain’s Prince Philip (C), Duke of Edinburgh takes part in the transfer of the Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles at Windsor castle in Windsor on July 22, 2020. Photo by Adrian DENNIS / POOL / AFP)

 

Racing’s Scottish Grand National as well as football and rugby fixtures in the United Kingdom are to be moved “as a mark of respect” to avoid a clash with the funeral of Prince Philip on Saturday.

Scotland’s premier jumps race will be run on Sunday while 32 English Football League games will be moved from their 1400GMT kick-off slot.

Prince Philip’s funeral is due to begin at 1400GMT, and a national minute’s silence will be held at the same time.

“As a mark of respect for the funeral ceremony of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, it has been agreed that no racing will take place in Great Britain between 2:45pm and 4:15pm on Saturday 17 April,” said the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) in a statement.

“As a result, the Scottish Grand National fixture at Ayr and the Spring Trials fixture at Newbury will now be moved from Saturday 17 to the afternoon of Sunday 18 April.”

READ ALSO: Spurs’ 6-1 Win At Man Utd Was Freak Result, Says Mourinho

The English Football League said it “will now work with its clubs to determine at what time the matches will be played”.

In the Premier League, there are talks about moving Wolverhampton Wanderers’ home game against Sheffield United which is due to get underway at 1400GMT.

In cricket, the nine County Championship matches scheduled on Saturday will be paused between 1350 and 1510GMT.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has also asked all recreational cricket clubs to do the same.

In Scotland, there are six Scottish Cup fourth-round matches scheduled around the time of the funeral, including the high-octane clash between Rangers and holders Celtic at 1500GMT.

The Scottish Football Association says it is has “entered dialogue with the relevant stakeholders” regarding those fixtures.

The FA Cup semi-final between Chelsea and Manchester City at Wembley is at 1630GMT.

Premiership Rugby has changed the kick-off times of all four of its matches on Saturday so they do not clash with the funeral.

AFP

Newcastle Boost Survival Bid As Man Utd Eye Spurs Revenge

Newcastle United’s French midfielder Allan Saint-Maximin (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring his team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Newcastle United at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on April 11, 2021. PETER POWELL / POOL / AFP

 

Newcastle took a big step towards securing their Premier League survival with a vital 2-1 win at Burnley, while Manchester United prepared for a revenge mission against Tottenham on Sunday.

Steve Bruce’s side came from behind at Turf Moor to end their seven-game winless run.

Matej Vydra put Burnley ahead in the first half, but Jacob Murphy equalised and Allan Saint-Maximin grabbed the priceless winner.

Fourth bottom Newcastle are now six points clear of the relegation zone and hold a game in hand on third bottom Fulham.

Burnley are seven points above the bottom three, but aren’t certain of survival after just one win from their last eight matches.

The hosts took the lead with 18 minutes gone as Ashley Westwood pounced on a poor header from Newcastle defender Ciaran Clark.

Westwood played in Chris Wood and he pulled the ball back from the touchline for Vydra to net from close-range.

READ ALSO: Bush, Blair, Other World Leaders Pay Tribute To Late Prince Philip

But French winger Saint-Maximin turned the game after coming on as a 57th minute substitute.

Saint-Maximin surged down the right flank and drew three defenders towards him before pulling the ball back for Murphy to equalise in the 59th minute.

Five minutes later, Saint-Maximin produced a brilliant individual effort as he ran at the Burnley defence before driving his low shot past Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

Newcastle United’s French midfielder Allan Saint-Maximin (3L) celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Newcastle United at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on April 11, 2021. Jon Super / POOL / AFP

 

Later, Manchester United will try to make amends for their embarrassing 6-1 home defeat against Tottenham in October.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was believed to be fighting to save his job after that dismal result, while Tottenham looked to be emerging as potential title challengers.

But United have gradually turned their season around and arrive in north London in second place.

In stark contrast, Tottenham have endured a troubled campaign, slumping down to seventh place and crashing out of the Europa League.

Tottenham haven’t completed a league double over United since the 1989-90 season.

West Ham can bolster their unexpected bid to qualify for next season’s Champions League if they beat third placed Leicester in Sunday’s second match.

David Moyes’ side are two points behind fourth placed Chelsea, but a victory would take them above both the Blues and fifth placed Liverpool.

The sixth placed Hammers haven’t finished in the top four since 1985-86 when they came third.

Arsenal travel to bottom of the table Sheffield United in Sunday’s last match.

AFP

EPL Players To Observe One Minute’s Silence To Honour Prince Philip

prince-philip
Prince Philip was 99 years old. Photo: [email protected] League

 

Premier League players are to wear black armbands and observe one minute’s silence before kick-off at all league games this weekend in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip who died on Friday. 

“As a mark of respect, players will wear black armbands and there will be a minute’s silence before kick-off at all Premier League matches played tonight and across the weekend,” the Premier League said in a statement shared on its social media platforms.

While expressing sadness over the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, the EPL condoled with The Queen and The Royal Family over the development.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with Her Majesty The Queen, The Royal Family and all those around the world mourning the loss of His Royal Highness,” it added.

Royal Family Mourns

Prince Philip was the longest-serving royal consort in British history after getting married to Princess Elizabeth in 1947, five years before she became Queen.

The Palace announced the death of the late monarch via its official Twitter handle on Friday afternoon.

READ ALSO: Bush, Blair, Other World Leaders Pay Tribute To Late Prince Philip

“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” it said in a statement.

“His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.

“The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.”

Fears over the health of the Duke of Edinburgh, as he was formally known, had been heightened after he recently spent a month in hospital for treatment.

He left the hospital on March 16 following what was described as a successful procedure for a pre-existing condition and treatment for an unspecified infection.

He was first admitted on February 16 on the advice of his doctor after he complained of feeling unwell.

Philip had returned to Windsor Castle, west of London, where he had been isolating with the queen — Britain’s longest-serving monarch — since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year.

Many Were Quick To Write Iheanacho Off – Ndidi

Iheanacho netted five times in three EPL games. Photo: AFP

 

Leicester City midfielder, Wilfred Ndidi has hailed his compatriot, Kelechi Iheanacho’s resurgence, but said the former Manchester City man was unfairly criticised after previously finding himself on the fringes for the Foxes. 

The former U-17 World Cup winner was snubbed by Nigerian coach, Gernot Rohr for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) where the Super Eagles won bronze.

A recent turn of fortune has, however, seen the 24-year-old winning the Premier League Player of the Month award for March 2021. He scored seven goals in four matches for Brendan Rogers’ side during that period but Ndidi says he is not surprised by Iheanacho’s current exploits.

“I am very happy for him because he’s doing wonderfully well now and everyone can see,” the former Genk man told BBC Sport Africa. “It’s just sad that when he needed encouragement in the past few years many were quick to write him off, but thankfully some of these people have now turned around to praise him. That’s life.”

Following his revival at the King Power Stadium which included a brace to send Manchester United out of the FA Cup, Iheanacho was handed a starting role for Nigeria’s 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers against the Benin Republic and Lesotho.

READ ALSO: Iheanacho Beats Harry Kane, Others To EPL Player Of The Month Award

“I know and hope that he will continue to deliver for us,” Ndidi added. “I never doubted him and I know he will bring more goals and performance that will continue to elevate him.”

Iheanacho’s spectacular form saw him signing a new contract with Leicester that will keep him at the Premier League club until 2024.

Lesotho’s captain (2nd L) Lerotholi Nkau vies fro the ball with Nigerian attacker Kelechi Iheanacho (2nd R) during the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying match between Nigeria and Lesotho at Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos on March 30, 2021. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

 

Since joining the East Midlands side from Manchester City in 2017, the Nigerian striker has played 118 matches with 32 goals and 17 assists to his name.

He made his international debut for the Super Eagles against Swaziland in November 2015 and has scored nine times in 30 matches for the three-time African champions.