Football News: Weekend Premier League Preview

 

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Friday 5th May 2017


West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur Premier League 8pm

Masuaku (late fitness test - foot injury)
Sakho (out - back injury)
Carroll (late fitness test - groin strain)
Antonio (out - hamstring injury)
Obiang (out - high ankle sprain)
Ogbonna (doubt - knee surgery)
Tore (out - knee injury)
Henry (out - ACL injury)

Slaven Bilic's Hammers have been edging ever closer to certain safety in the Premier League, though his job seems to be edging the other way each week. Are the constant comments from the owners and vice-chairman helping the team concentrate on the business on the pitch? It certainly feels like their time at Birmingham City. Early on it was fine, because they were not getting the limelight in the same way, controlling a lower league club and having Barry Fry as manager. The spotlight was all on Fry and he was such a big personality they were unable to dominate him and the players were protected. Now they are in the media spotlight, Karren Brady is no longer unknown, but a TV personality, the team is in the glare of the Premier League and their every comment comes to the attention of millions around the world. It was similar at Brum, the way it all descended into complete chaos, as they constantly interfered and believed they knew better than the people they employed. They could be in real trouble next season, if this continues. For now though, they are pretty much safe and can prepare for another Prem season, under whichever manager they decide will do.
Most important player: Andre Ayew. While Andy Carroll has been injured, Ayew has been the main attacking threat and has to carry the attacking threat for the side.

Winks (out - ankle injury)
Rose (doubt - MCL injury)
Lamela (out - hip injury)
Carter-Vickers (out - knee injury)

Spurs are flying right now, nine wins in a row and keeping the pressure on Chelsea at the top. This is their chance to put real pressure on them, with the Blues not playing until Monday, a good win tonight leaves Chelsea players stewing on it for a couple of days. How much longer they can continue to raise themselves, when Chelsea remain so tantalisingly out of reach, is the big question. How much longer can Mauricio Pochettino keep their heads up and the players focus on winning matches, when hope must be draining out of them game by game?
Most important player: Christian Eriksen. The Dane's creation is key to Tottenham's chances at the moment. He is a central figure in almost every attack they mount, as well as being their main set piece taker. Right now he is having the season of his life.

Defining Battle: the wide areas are key to the way Spurs play, while, at West Ham, the wide areas are just the part of the pitch Bilic comes up with ever more creative ways to put out a team without a proper right back. Having given up on makeshift midfielders in the right back slot, Bilic tested out a back three in the last game. With the Spurs attacking play being so fluid and using a lot of width to stretch defences, West Ham could suffer badly on their right flank.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-1
Ed003 - 1-3
Ed004 - 1-2
Ed007 - 0-2
Ed024 - 1-3
Ed025 - 0-2
Ed033 - 0-1


Saturday 6th May 2017


Manchester City v Crystal Palace Premier League 12:30pm

Aguero (slight doubt - groin strain)
Bravo (out - calf strain)
Silva (slight doubt - knee injury)
Stones (slight doubt - muscle injury)
Gundogan (out - ACL injury)

It has all gone pear-shaped for Pep Guardiola since a start which saw him win six in a row. Now it has been three games without a win, just two wins in the last six and they are only just hanging on to a top four place. The huge sums lavished on the squad over recent years has left a mostly ageing group of players, who have struggled badly to adapt and perform under Pep. Now it is just about ensuring that they hold onto a Champions League place, ahead of a summer reboot. Is it just me, however, who feels this is a bit like hiring an artist to produce a painting for you and they give you a completed paint-by-numbers picture? I mean Pep was hired because he is believed to be a wonderful coach, yet he is not coaching, he is buying success. It has a feel of 'I could have done that so what is he being paid big money for?'
Most important player: Gabriel Jesus. So much pressure is being heaped on the youngsters shoulders, who already seems to have supplanted Sergio Aguero as a fan favourite. Can he continue to take it all in his stride?

Sakho (out - knee injury)
Cabaye (doubt - knock)
Tomkins (out - ankle injury)
Dann (out - knee injury)
Wickham (out - ACL injury)
Souare (out - broken leg)

This must be the game Sam Allardyce was least looking forward to this season. While he will love the chance to put one over on a big club, Allardyce loves to prepare his team properly for the opposition. He has always put a great deal of focus on stopping the opponent, analysing their tactics and nullifying them with his own. With Pep constantly changing tactics, formations and players, it is almost impossible to properly prepare for this game. With his team almost certainly safe, Allardyce will be able to take a lot more risks than he has been able to recently. Any points here will be a bonus, but I fully expect him to look to defend deep and hit on the counter as usual. Even though he has the players to get at the Citizens, who are weak defensively and not playing well going forward. After two losses in a row, it is unlikely that Allardyce will want to do anything other than keep a clean sheet.
Most important player: Christian Benteke. The big Belgian has struggled to get into the last couple of games, making little impression as his team lost. Against Citeh his raw power can be a major weapon against a weak defence.

Defining Battle: the centre is the key to everything City do. They use the width to create space in the middle. With the front three of Palace given a lot of freedom and not always asked to drop back in and help out, can Palace keep numbers in the middle or will their players get dragged out to help out?

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 3-0
Ed003 - 4-1
Ed004 - 2-1
Ed007 - 3-1
Ed024 - 3-0
Ed025 - 2-1
Ed033 - 1-1


Bournemouth v Stoke City Premier League 3pm

Afobe (doubt - hamstring injury)
Gosling (doubt - calf injury)
Wilshere (out - broken leg)
Surman (out - knee injury)
Wilson (out - ACL injury)
Federici (out - knee injury)

The Cherries ensured another season in the Premier League after two wins over the bottom two teams in the league. Those six points have meant they can just relax and enjoy their last three matches. They can play with freedom, with little to play for, other than to try and ensure they are not the players Eddie Howe replaces in the summer. Survival is an achievement, but there is an opportunity here to do more by finishing in the top half, which would be a major achievement for Bournemouth.
Most important player: Joshua King. The Norwegian striker is by far and away the club's top scorer this season and they are heavily reliant on his goals.

Walters (slight doubt - knee injury)
Afellay (out - knee injury)
Ireland (out - broken leg)

Three games left and nothing really to play for, the Potters are sat in an unimpressive midtable spot with little in the way of signs of progress under Mark Hughes. This is now his fourth season since taking over from Tony Pulis and he has been unable to fully convert the style of play over to a more watchable game and maintain the consistency of results. Hughes really needs a set of good wins from these final few matches, if he is to make a case for allowing him to continue to spend money in the summer. Right now, you could easily look at his work and question whether it is Pulis or Hughes that can take the credit for the results. It has been four seasons and yet the team is very much built on the bedrock of the Pulis team. This is going to be a very important summer for Stoke.
Most important player: Ryan Shawcross. The club captain is a very limited defender, but Hughes has yet to find a way to phase him out due to his importance as captain.

Defining Battle: the Bournemouth left/Stoke right is likely to be the key battle in this match. With Charlie Daniels loving to charge forward at every opportunity, there will be space in behind for Stoke to exploit. Can Xherdan Shaqiri show why Bayern Munich wanted him.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-0
Ed003 - 1-1
Ed004 - 2-1
Ed007 - 1-1
Ed024 - 1-1
Ed025 - 2-2
Ed033 - 2-1


Burnley v West Bromwich Albion Premier League 3pm

Ward (slight doubt - knee injury)
Keane (late fitness test - knock)
Boyd (slight doubt - knock)
Mee (late fitness test - shin injury)
Marney (out - ACL injury)
Barton (out - suspended)

One of the many teams with nothing really left to play for until the end of the season, having already ensured, almost certainly, Premier League survival with a win last time out against Palace. However, with Sean Dyche in charge you can be sure the players will not be in holiday mode and will be scrapping for the win. With a top half finish within reach, and the extra prize money it would bring in to spend, Dyche will have his players fired up, as every penny makes a big difference to the Clarets. It was only a few years ago that Dyche was having to sell players to keep the wolf from the door, now he has a chance to actually get significant funds to spend on transfers, having put the previous prize money to use investing in the club's infrastructure.
Most important player: Andre Gray. The forward provides a real surge of power and pace up front for Burnley. Without him on the pitch, there is a real lack of pace to hold the opposition defence back and create space for the midfield to operate in.

Phillips (doubt - hamstring injury)
Robson-Kanu (doubt - hamstring injury)

Having lost four in a row, the Baggies are in serious danger of slipping down the league, as the midtable pack are closing them down. Since hitting the safety margin of 40 points, West Brom have gone from chasing down Everton for seventh, to looking over their shoulder and worrying about maintaining their place in the top half. In the eight games since 40 points were reached, Tony Pulis has seen his side pick up just four points, as his players lost six of those eight matches. More worrying still, just three goals have been scored by his charges, all of them in the one win, over Arsenal. Not one player at the club has managed to reach double figures for goals and the confidence in front of goal seems to have drained out of the entire squad. With the owners looking to do more than tread water in midtable, could this run have put Pulis's job under threat?
Most important player: Jonny Evans. As they are not putting the ball in the back of the opponent's net, they really need the centre back to ensure they keep them out of their own.

Defining Battle: two similar styles will clash at Turf Moor, which means it could be a complete snoozefest, as they cancel each other out, or an end to end cracker. Being as how it is Pulis and Dyche in charge, I would not hold out much hope of a cracker! This game is likely to become bogged down in a midfield slugfest, but the key will be how well the normally solid Baggies defence can cope with Gray. Lately they have looked sluggish and out of sorts, unable to handle players running in behind them. They will need to pick up their game to avoid yet another defeat in the run in.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-1
Ed003 - 2-1
Ed004 - 0-2
Ed007 - 1-2
Ed024 - 1-1
Ed025 - 2-0
Ed033 - 1-2


Hull City v Sunderland Premier League 3pm

Meyler (out - MCL injury)
Elabdellaoui (slight doubt - back injury)
Mason (out - fractured skull)
Keane (out - ACL injury)
Odubajo (out - patella fracture)

The Tigers now have genuine belief in their chances of survival after three wins and a draw in their last six games. With just two points separating them from the drop, it is too early for them to relax, so they will be happy to get back to their own stadium, where they have a good record under Marco Silva. Even happier to be facing the worst team in the Premier League, with nothing to play for. However, they will be under a lot of pressure, with a difficult relegation battle against Palace to come next weekend and a final weekend game that could be a title decider as well, as Spurs visit, they need to ensure they get the win. While it is not quite do or die just yet, a win would not guarantee safety and a defeat would not relegate them, it is getting that way, as the Swans are keeping pace with them.
Most important player: Evandro. The Brazilian has struggled so far, since joining in January. They really need him to provide some flair and creativity in his floating midfield role.

Cattermole (slight doubt - achilles injury)
Gibson (slight doubt - groin injury)
Denayer (slight doubt - dead leg)
Rodwell (slight doubt - groin injury)
Jones (slight doubt - muscular injury)
Oviedo (out - hamstring injury)
Kirchhoff (out - ACL injury)
Watmore (out - ACL injury)
McNair (out - ACL injury)

With relegation now certain, following last weekend's defeat, the Mackems now could possibly play with the freedom of a team with nothing left to lose. However, David Moyes has shown little sign throughout his managerial career of knowing how to put a team out to play with freedom. It was difficult to see how his career could possibly have got any lower after the disasters at Man Utd and Real Sociedad, but Moyes has proven the doubters wrong and shown that it can get a lot worse! His tenure at the Black Cats has been cataclysmically bad, as he managed to destroy the foundations built by previous manager Sam Allardyce. While Moyes can point to his late appointment as a mitigating factor, it was clear he was completely out of his depth from the moment he took on the role. He must rue the day he left Everton.
Most important player: Lamine Kone. The Ivorian was desperate to move away to join Everton last summer, after a dreadful season for the centre back, he now needs to play well to get himself a move this summer.

Defining Battle: the width of Hull will severely test Sunderland's fullbacks, who have struggled all season. With pace and skill, but a lack of genuine quality delivery, Hull's wingers are a test for most full back pairings, let alone one as weak as Sunderland's.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-1
Ed003 - 2-0
Ed004 - 3-0
Ed007 - 3-1
Ed024 - 2-1
Ed025 - 2-1
Ed033 - 2-1


Leicester City v Watford Premier League 3pm

Morgan (doubt - hamstring injury)
Mendy (out - ankle injury)
Wague (out - dislocated shoulder)
Huth (slight doubt - ankle injury)

Last season's champions have resumed their climb back up the table, after the blip at the hands of Everton. A good run of results in their last four fixtures will see them finish the season in the top half, a long way from the threat of relegation they were facing up to in February. It is all a long way from the heights of last season, when the eyes of the world were on the Foxes as they worked their way to an improbable title. Is the summer going to see them being stripped of their best assets? Or has this season destroyed their reputation and made them almost untouchable to anyone else?
Most important player: Riyad Mahrez. Will the real Riyad Mahrez please stand up! Is he the tricky winger that lit up the Premier League last season or is he the sulky wastrel skulking out on the right barely breaking sweat and unable to beat a man if he had his legs shackled together?

Britos (doubt - calf injury)
Holebas (late fitness test - foot injury)
Cathcart (doubt - knee injury)
Kaboul (out - hamstring injury)
Zarate (out - ACL injury)
Watson (doubt - groin strain)
Pereyra (out - knee injury)
Gomes (doubt - ?)
Doucoure (slight doubt - overload)
Cleverley (slight doubt - overload)

The Hornets are frustratingly inconsistent, terrible one week, decent the following week (I have yet to see them be anything more than decent), but lacking in any real drive. They look like a team that has been shackled by Walter Mazzarri's methods and tactics, rather than one that is working with him. The first thing that always comes to mind when watching them is 'how on earth are they in the top 10?' Now they have slipped out of the top ten, following a second defeat in a row, as their last six games have seen three wins and three defeats, they seem in a much more realistic position. One thing that would worry me, if I was a Watford fan, is the mess the Pozzos left behind at Granada, that Tony Adams is currently working to sort out. Players not under the ownership of the club, image rights owned by the Pozzos and many other dubious dealings have left Granada in turmoil. What is hidden behind the scenes at Watford that could come to light in the future?
Most important player: Sebastian Prodl. The big Austrian centre back is in need of a good game, as he will be right up against it with Leicester's front players offering workrate and movement.

Defining Battle: the key to this game is how well Watford cope with the workrate of whichever forward Craig Shakespeare partners with Jamie Vardy. The centre backs have to be careful to avoid being dragged out of place and leaving a gap for Vardy to run into with his pace. If the midfield drop deep to cover, then it allows Leicester to get up the pitch easily.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-0
Ed003 - 0-0
Ed004 - 3-1
Ed007 - 2-1
Ed024 - 1-0
Ed025 - 2-0
Ed033 - 0-1


Swansea City v Everton Premier League 5:30pm

Montero (out - hamstring injury)
Routledge (doubt - hernia)
Rangel (doubt - metatarsal fracture)
Dyer (out - achilles tendon injury)

With their Premier League future on the line, I am sure the Swans would have liked an easier opponent to face than the Toffees. They will take heart from the fact that Everton are nothing like as strong on the road as they are at home. They broke a run of six games without a win a couple of weeks ago, but now they are in a position where a point could be useless to them. Will the issues surrounding Paul Clement's reign at Derby County, and his use of a certain agency, be a distraction as he tries to prepare his team for a vital game that they desperately need to win? It has to be the last thing he needed to come to light right now!
Most important player: Tom Carroll. His star has waned a little following his excellent start to life in south Wales. He needs to find some form and put in some more of those excellent left foot crosses he is capable of.

Schneiderlin (slight doubt - thigh strain)
Lennon (out - medical condition)
Besic (doubt - fitness)
Mori (out - meniscus injury)
Coleman (out - broken leg)
McCarthy (out - hamstring injury)
Bolasie (out - ACL injury)

Ronald Koeman's men enter this game on the back of a crushing defeat to Chelsea, with a poor away record and comments from Koeman about how he dreams of managing Barcelona in all the papers. It is hardly the best preparation for a match with a team desperately fighting for their life. With no chance of being overtaken by anyone below, there is little real motivation for the Everton players, unless they are looking to impress Koeman enough for him to take them with him to Barca if he gets his dream job. It was just another in a string of ill-timed and disrespectful comments that have come from Koeman this season, in particular. A man constantly publicly talking about his interest in signing particular players, but the first to moan at any suggestion of interest in any players he is managing. Well, except for Romelu Lukaku, who he very publicly said was too good to stay at the Toffees! At least the Dutchman has managed to avoid a Twitter argument with the Republic of Ireland manager pairing in recent weeks.
Most important player: Ashley Williams. On his return to Swansea, will he be the solid, dependable captain that had led Swansea for years, or will he be the struggling, slow, clumsy centre back that has sometimes shown up in an Everton shirt? At times he has shown why the Toffees were so willing to pay a big fee for him, even if only as a stop gap. Other times he has looked over the hill, past it and like a player lost away from the familiar confines of Swansea. One thing is certain, he can be sure of a good reception from Swansea fans appreciative of his good service over the years.

Defining Battle: the central midfield will be key. An on song Everton has so much energy in the middle with their mixture of players that all seem to fit together. Swans style requires a lot of possession, which is difficult when facing a team with the energy of Idrissa Gueye and Tom Davies putting you under pressure. Everton could well force Swansea into giving away possession cheaply in the midfield. That would be the last thing Swansea need and why Leon Britton has returned to the team lately, to provide that control and calmness in the centre they had missed.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-2
Ed003 - 1-1
Ed004 - 2-2
Ed007 - 1-2
Ed024 - 1-2
Ed025 - 1-1
Ed033 - 1-1


Sunday 7th May 2017


Liverpool v Southampton Premier League 1:30pm

Coutinho (slight doubt - dead leg)
Mane (out - cartilage knee injury)
Henderson (out - foot injury)
Ejaria (doubt - ankle injury)
Ings (out - ACL injury)

The Reds have put themselves in pole position to take a top four spot as they head into the final three matches. With a strong home record and a top four place to play for, they will hope that extra motivation will help against a midtable Saints side that has little left to play for. At least this weekend the Liverpool scouts will not have to travel far to watch their favourite team ahead of the transfer window opening. Has Ian Ayre taken his Soton loyalty card with him, that will be important this summer, as it has a lot of unspent points on it!
Most important player: Dejan Lovren. The big centre back has shown a worrying lack of consistency since joining Liverpool from Saints. Some games he looks outstanding and dominates the opposition striker/s. The following week he looks like a man who has woken up with short term memory loss and is trying to perform a task he knows he should be able to do but is really struggling to remember how to do it. LFC need the visit of his former team to inspire him to be the former.

van Dijk (out - foot injury)
Austin (doubt - dislocated shoulder)
McCarthy (out - hamstring injury)
Targett (doubt - hamstring injury)
McQueen (doubt - groin injury)
Pied (doubt - groin injury)

The Saints have gone three games without a win, which has added to the fears of the fans, as the papers are full of their usual summer transfer rumours of Soton selling off everyone. It has not been easy for Claude Puel to this season, with Southampton losing their club captain, first to his dummy spitting after being denied a summer move, then a January transfer to West Ham. Puel now has five games left to build a platform for the summer, unfortunately those five games include this game against Liverpool and a couple of difficult home games against Arsenal and Man Utd. With little to motivate the players, as the most they can do is move up one place before the season finishes, Puel's job is not getting any easier as the season comes to a close. Now he will just be busy hoping that his summer will not be one of losing his key pieces.
Most important player: Steven Davis. The Northern Irish midfielder has grown as a player in recent years, but the captain's armband seems to have lifted him a whole new level. This has been the best I have ever seen him play over the course of this season. It is vital he carries on as he has been doing, to provide the experience and leadership the youngsters around him need.

Defining Battle: Southampton are having to make do with the third and fourth choice centre halves after the sale of Jose Fonte and an injury to Virgil van Dijk. How well can they cope with the movement and pace of the Liverpool forwards? Will Puel have them sit deep and look to his Liverpool on the counter to ensure there is no space for Liverpool to get behind or will he look to take the Reds on head on?

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-1
Ed003 - 3-1
Ed004 - 3-1
Ed007 - 1-1
Ed024 - 3-2
Ed025 - 1-1
Ed033 - 1-0


Arsenal v Manchester United Premier League 4pm

Perez (doubt - muscle injury)
Xhaka (doubt - calf injury)
Mustafi (slight doubt - thigh injury)
Cazorla (out - plantaris injury)
Reine-Adelaide (out - ankle injury)

Just when it seemed the season was finally beginning to get better, with three wins on the bounce, Arsene Wenger's Arsenal fold in the North London derby. Outplayed, outfought and outthought, the Gunners sit outside the top four and look odds on to fail to qualify for the Champions League. Wenger has to get his team performing before the season finishes before the fans protests become a revolt. Wenger has earnt the right to choose his time to walk away from the Gooners, but you just have to hope he does so before his legend becomes tarnished.
Most important player: Petr Cech. With such an uncertain defence in front of him, Cech's skills as a stopper are likely to be well used this Sunday. At times Cech has not looked the dominant keeper he had often been for Chelsea. Arsene Wenger really needs the old Cech, the one who was one of the best keepers in Europe for a number of years.

Young (doubt - hamstring injury)
Shaw (out - foot injury)
Fosu-Mensah (doubt - dislocated shoulder)
Ibrahimovic (out - ACL injury)
Rojo (out - ACL injury)
Wilson (out - ACL injury)
Williams (doubt - knee injury)
Fellaini (out - suspended)

It is hard to understand how a team, which has gone 24 games in a row without losing, is not winning the league. In part it shows just how well Chelsea and Spurs have played this season, but it also shows how badly the Red Devils have struggled to turn draws into wins, particularly at home, where they have more draws than wins and losses put together. Away from home it is a different matter, they pick up the wins on the road, despite conceding more goals in less matches. How much has their Europa League exertions taken out of them? Yes, it was against a struggling midtable La Liga side in Celta de Vigo, but the players have been told so often that it is hard to play Thursday-Sunday that it clearly affects them mentally. With a top four place still not in their hands, they really cannot afford yet another draw, they cannot afford to be moaning about being tired. They need to take a lift from the win in midweek and use it to roll them onto a victory over a struggling Arsenal side.
Most important player: Paul Pogba. The young French midfielder has been out injured for a while, so he should be fresh and full of desire to get back into his rhythm. If there is one player capable of pulling something from nothing, it is Pogba.

Defining Battle: usually a game like this is won or lost in the centre of midfield, but Jose Mourinho is happy to allow his team to be dominated and pick off stronger opponents on the break. Whether or not Arsenal can still be considered a stronger opponent or not is probably in doubt! The key to winning this match is how well the Arsenal backline cope with the fast break, as United use the transition extremely well, though finishing has let them down a lot over the course of a season.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-2
Ed003 - 3-1
Ed004 - 2-1
Ed007 - 1-2
Ed024 - 6-2
Ed025 - 2-0
Ed033 - 1-1


Monday 8th May 2017


Chelsea v Middlesbrough Premier League 8pm

Luiz (slight doubt - groin injury)
Courtois (slight doubt - ankle injury)

After a couple of blips, it all seems to be back on track for Antonio Conte's Chelsea, as they strolled past Southampton and Everton in their last two league games. Now they just have four, on paper at least, easier games to get through and they will be crowned champions. However we all know nothing is certain in this game, and a four point lead can easily become just one with a slip up here, then the pressure is really on. Conte knows that better than most, he will not be allowing his players to let up, quite the opposite, he will be driving them on to clinch the title as early as possible. With just four games left, each win Chelsea get is like a hammer blow to the Spurs' hopes, especially knowing that Chelsea still have two more home matches in their final three games and an excellent home record. It is beginning to feel like the Blues can just cruise down the final stretch to take the title.
Most important player: Eden Hazard. The Belgian has shown flashes of once more becoming the unplayable forward he was the last time Chelsea won the title. As the season has gone on, his form has returned, at a vital time for the Pensioners. Now they need him to continue to perform, with Diego Costa still out of sorts, as he is the team's main goal threat right now.

Ayala (doubt - ankle injury)
Leadbitter (doubt - hamstring injury)
Valdes (doubt - rib injury)

It is very possible Boro go into this game knowing they are definitely down and having nothing left to play for. With their recent record it will make little difference, as they have not performed like a team that is fighting for its life. Just one win in eighteeen games has seen them slump down the table to sit just above the only team they beat in that run of results, local rivals Sunderland. It is only the utter ineptitude of the Mackems that keeps Boro from propping up the table themselves and their troubles, like Sunderland, are all of their own making. It was a case of too little, too late by the time Aitor Karanka received his marching orders, as his tactics had given his replacement, Steve Agnew, far too much to do to rescue things. Though you have to wonder why Agnew did not just go for it from the moment he stepped into the role, rather than just try and tweak the failing formation and tactics of his predecessor. At least they would have gone down in a blaze of glory, rather than slinking out with their tails between their legs.
Most important player: Alvaro Negredo. The Spanish striker is the only real consistent goal threat Boro have in their squad. The squad as a whole lacks the goals they need to have genuine hope of a win, so the Boro hopes will be firmly pinned on Negredo.

Defining Battle: the central midfield is key, Boro have a bunch of battlers in there with very little creative ability, but they will put a lot of pressure on the Chelsea midfield, who will need to move the ball quickly to avoid that press. The pressure will all be on Chelsea, so Boro have got hope of pressuring them into mistakes.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 5-2
Ed003 - 6-0
Ed004 - 3-0
Ed007 - 3-1
Ed024 - 3-0
Ed025 - 4-0
Ed033 - 1-0

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Discuss rumours and transfers on our Manchester City rumours web page

 

Discuss rumours and transfers on our Liverpool rumours web page

 

Discuss rumours and transfers on our Everton rumours web page

 

Discuss rumours and transfers on our Chelsea rumours web page

 

Discuss rumours and transfers on our Barcelona rumours web page

 

Discuss rumours and transfers on our Real Sociedad rumours web page

 

Discuss rumours and transfers on our Granada rumours web page

 

Discuss rumours and transfers on our Bayern Munich rumours web page

 

Discuss rumours and transfers on our Youth Football web page

 

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