Wednesday 11 April 2018

Crystal Palace v Brighton - 14th April

For this oddest of derbies, we reckon we’ll see some pretty impressive football break out. Crystal Palace are in desperate need of a result, and what better time to start than here at home against Brighton and Hove Albion?

Home News

Palace come into this one with a big injury list. Joel Ward, Christian Benteke and Jeffrey Schlupp will likely all miss out. so, too, will Alexander Sorloth, Jason Puncheon and Bakary Sako. Scott Dann, too, will be out.
This leaves Roy Hodgson with some rather challenging decisions to make. The loss of so many players and their propensity to concede late, vital goals will leave him worried. With such little depth left due to injury, can they get a positive result here at home to their major rivals in Brighton?

Away News

The away side’ only real concern is the loss of Davy Pröpper, after his red card last weekend. Other than that, they are more or less full-strength. Steve Sidwell is also out, but has not taken part in the season so far. However, they do Anthony Knockaert back after a challenging period of time out the side following a straight red against Everton.

In the middle of the pitch, we’ll likely see Pascal Groß come into the side in the middle alongside Beram Kayal. Up front, they’ll be reliant on the goals of ex-Eagle Glenn Murray to get the job done. Meanwhile the form of the likes of José Izquierdo in 2018 has been a mild disappointment, Brighton are in a good place, especially at the back. 

We reckon this will be a win for the away side. This is a big derby, but that weird propensity to concede key late goals won’t go away for the Eagles. As such, the Seagulls should get out of here with something.

Friday 6 April 2018

Arsenal vs Southampton

After a fantastic 4-1 win at home to CSKA Moscow in the Europa League, Arsenal are finally looking alive again. Two wins in a row makes up for a three match losing streak, and hosting a Saints side bereft of confidence cold help further extend that. 
Home News
For the Gunners, the potential injury to the in-form Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a big concern. Despite finding some form of recovery in the last few games, confidence is fragile at Arsenal and even something as simple as an injury could derail them for the season.
However, for now, they’ll be OK. They’ve got enough positive performers including the rapidly in-form Aubameyang, to feel comfortable of getting out of this one with three points. However, Alexandre Lacazette might feel disappointed to likely be benched following a brace in Europe. For Arsenal though, this game offers yet another chance to just to add another small dollop of self-belief back into their game. 
Away News
The away side are in real disarray, meanwhile. Back-to-back losses and draws means the club is in a real mire, with relegation almost looking guaranteed on recent performances. However, the sheer lack of quality in the side is another major issue.
Too many key players have left, and despite having no injuries of note the squad feels brutally lacking in depth. The likes of Mario Lemina and Oriol Romeu tend to play games almost alone, and a trip to the Emirates will offer little respite. 
We just cannot see anything for Southampton in this game. Mark Hughes has a real struggle on his hands to keep them up. The lack of form of previous key performers such as Charlie Austin, Steven Davis, Nathan Redmond, Cedric Soares and Ryan Bertrand is simply too much of a drop-off for them to be able to handle. A likely Arsenal victory awaits.

Sunday 1 April 2018

England's World Cup Prospects

As the Russia 2018 World Cup approaches, Gareth Southgate's England are in decent form and look ready for the challenge ahead. Do we allow ourselves to enter 'dare to dream' territory, with ideas that 'this is the one' and that we can sail through each round if only we show determination and have the right approach to play, rightly lifting the World Cup at the end of it? Or perhaps do we instead think that our time in the tournament will be 'same old, same old' as we struggle to beat bog standard competition and limp out of the competition in typically unimpressive fashion? I'd say that this time the jury is out, but expectations aren't exactly sky high.

We have disappointed on one occasion too many really and so if we make it through the group stage we enter firm 'anything is a bonus' territory. At time of writing we're level pegging with impressive Belgium to win the group, at 6/5. Those odds are probably about right, most of them are presented on some online betting sites for the 2018 World Cup. Where are do appear to be something is a dead cert is in our chances of emerging from the group (top two). As suspect as England can be when the going gets tough, it's hard to see how Tunisia and Panama can provide meaningful competition for us. Therefore the 1/7 to qualify likely isn't a particularly bad bet all things considered, even at those odds. We have some top class players and youth throughout the team, so they'll likely still have some spark even though the World Cup is awkwardly placed at the end of a tough Premier League season. Jack Wilshere is injury free, Marcus Rashford has bundles of talent. Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy. This is a team with big names and big talent to match.

Elsewhere in the competition, unsurprisingly both Germany and Brazil are odds-on to win their groups. They're both in top form and at number one and two in the world FIFA football ranking respectively (compared to England's lowly position 16), it's hard to argue that they'll have any trouble going far in the 2018 Russia World Cup. In a future update I'll be sure to comment on the quarter finals and beyond. For now, let's just hope that England make it to that point in the first place! If the team and fans dare to go to Russia of course!