Daniel Sturridge

Weekend Preview and Predictions

@0riginalfooty takes a look at the weekend’s fixtures for the 23rd round of Premier League football. Last time out we got six out of ten predictions right and one correct score. Will we do better this week?

Saturday

Hull vs Newcastle (12:45)
Hull were appalling in their last league match where they were thumped by West Ham and their poor form this season continued. Newcastle, meanwhile, have announced that John Carver will stay on until the end of the season – despite not displaying great form under him. Neither side is in great form so a draw looks the most likely result.
Prediction: Hull 1-1 Newcastle

Crystal Palace vs Everton (15:00)
Palace’s magical revival under Alan Pardew continued with an excellent FA Cup victory over Southampton. Everton have really struggled to find their feet so far this campaign but look more solidified at the back than earlier in the season and could return to Merseyside with a point.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-1 Everton

Liverpool vs West Ham (15:00)
The big headline ahead of this fixture is that Daniel Sturridge is due to return in some capacity. His teammates have started to pick up their form in recent weeks but The Hammers will not be easy opponents to beat. Sam Allardyce has turned his side into a well-oiled machine that plays attractive football and will provide a stern test. The Reds should scrape a win, though.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 West Ham

Man United vs Leicester (15:00)
If the reverse fixture of this match is anything to go by then this should be an exciting contest. Leicester stunned Louis van Gaal’s men to win 5-3 at the King Power Stadium. United have struggled to put teams to the sword recently while Leicester have improved but The Red Devils should come out on top.
Prediction: Man United 2-0 Leicester

Stoke vs QPR (15:00)
The Potters marched on in the FA Cup by beating Rochdale and sit in the top half of the Premier League. QPR may be in the relegation zone but they are only one point away from safety. They are still yet to pick up a point on the road this season and it seems unlikely they’ll get one here.
Prediction: Stoke 2-0 QPR

Sunderland vs Burnley (15:00)
Gus Poyet has been criticized recently for Sunderland’s style of play and their lack of goals but he will be hoping that the acquisition of Jermain Defoe can help to change that. Burnley have battled for every point this season and there is every chance that they will fight for another one here.
Prediction: Sunderland 1-1 Burnley

West Brom vs Spurs (15:00)
Tony Pulis appears to have instilled belief back into this West Brom team and they won’t fear anyone. Spurs booked a trip to Wembley to face Chelsea in the League Cup final but their midweek match may have taken it out of them. The Baggies could well earn another vital point towards safety.
Prediction: West Brom 1-1 Spurs

Chelsea vs Man City (17:30)
This is the big match of the weekend and one that City will be desperate not to lose. City have slipped to five points behind the leaders in recent weeks and won’t fancy chasing an eight-point deficit. Jose Mourinho’s side are without Diego Costa through suspension and are likely to be without Cesc Fabregas too. City may just feel they have the edge to win but Mourinho knows how to set his sides up against the top teams and they should get a point.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-2 Man City

Sunday

Arsenal vs Aston Villa (13:30)
Arsenal are in excellent form at the moment and are only one point shy of fourth spot. Villa have made some astute signings this window and Carles Gil looks as if he could be the creative spark that they may need. Having said that, they are playing The Gunners at the wrong time and there will only be one result in this one.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-0 Aston Villa

Southampton vs Swansea (16:00)
The Saints crashed out of the FA Cup to Crystal Palace, which now has added a little bit of pressure on them to finish in the top four. I said a few weeks ago that Swansea looked slightly fatigued and the sale of Wilfried Bony leaves them looking less effective in attack. Southampton should come out on top.
Prediction: Southampton 2-0 Swansea

Premier League Preview: Liverpool

There are only 4 weeks to wait ‘til the start of the Premier League. Over the next few weeks @0riginalfooty will preview the new season, take a look at each team and offer our predictions as to where each side will finish. Here we take a look at Liverpool.

Liverpool were within touching distance of the title last season but fell just short. Since then, star man Luis Suarez has jetted off to Barcelona for a fee of £75 million and there will now be question marks around Liverpool’s title chances without their main attacking influence. There will be a greater concern as to whether they can even remain in the top 4 this season with Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City all strengthening and Liverpool having to play more fixtures due to their involvement in the Champions League. The battle for the top four has never been more intriguing and Liverpool will be at the heart of it.

The Manager
Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers has really made a name for himself in English football. He earned promotion with Swansea to the Premier League and wowed people with their possession based and stylish attacking football as he kept them in the league. After such success with Swansea he was handed the task to turn Liverpool back in to title contenders after years in the wilderness and came desperately close to achieving his brief last season.

Rodgers is a young manager with an excellent reputation

Rodgers is a young manager with an excellent reputation

Biggest Signing
Liverpool have already been busy in spending the £75 million they received for Luis Suarez and have made some big signings. They brought in both Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana from Premier League rivals Southampton for £4 million and £25 million respectively. German Under-21 midfielder Emre Can moved from Bayer Leverkusen in a £10 million deal. However, the most exciting signing for Liverpool fans will be that of Lazar Markovic, the former Benfica wide man, who they have spent £20 million on.

Markovic is an extremely talented young prospect

Markovic is an extremely talented young prospect

Who is tipped to join them?
Rodgers may have already spent big but with Suarez’s huge move bringing in lots of money, he still has plenty to play with. They have agreed an £8.5 million deal to sign Loic Remy from Queens Park Rangers and that transfer is expected to take place sooner rather than later. Dejan Lovren is another major summer transfer target for Liverpool but Southampton are demanding a large fee for a move to take place. Finally, Divock Origi, who impressed for Belgium in the World Cup, is likely to complete a move to Anfield in the near future.

Loic Remy is set to join from QPR

Loic Remy is set to join from QPR

Who should they sign?
Liverpool, for all their attacking prowess, were defensively weak last season and Rodgers will be keen to sure that up. Dejan Lovren would be a good signing to strengthen their central defence but they could also do with a left-back as Aly Cissokho’s loan spell has finished. Ben Davies from Swansea is an option.

Dejan Lovren could prove an expensive signging

Dejan Lovren could prove an expensive signging

Key Player
Daniel Sturridge. After Suarez’s departure, the weight of expectation to provide the goals for Liverpool will be England’s main front man Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge has an eye for goal, a fierce left foot strike and makes intelligent runs that are a nightmare for defenders to keep track of.

Sturridge will be expected to bang in the goals to ease the pain of Suarez's departure

Sturridge will be expected to bang in the goals to ease the pain of Suarez’s departure

Prediction
The loss of Suarez is a big blow to Liverpool and it’s difficult to tell how they will cope with it. Some players are irreplaceable and Suarez definitely fits in to that category. The problem for Liverpool is that whilst they have been significantly weakened with the loss of their star striker, other teams around them have really strengthened. Furthermore, they will be playing significantly more fixtures this season due to their Champions League involvement, which will put more strain on their squad. Liverpool will be in and around the Champions League places but I see them falling just short. Expect Liverpool to finish 5th.

England vs Uruguay: The Post Mortem

This is one of the toughest posts I’ve had to sit and write. Having been filled with genuine optimism after the hearty performance and narrow defeat against Italy, England came into a game against an aging Uruguay side who had just been comfortably beaten by a Costa Rica side who many considered prior to the World Cup to be the weakest team in the group. Fast-forward to the end of the match and all that is left is the despair of a nation and genuine devastation at the thought of what might have been as England are on the brink of being knocked out of the World Cup. In this post, I will assess some of the things that worked against England that were unavoidable. Finally, I will defend Roy Hodgson’s position as manager and argue that he should at least be allowed to continue until Euro 2016.

The points I will highlight are factors that were wholly out of England’s control and that are testament to the cruel nature of luck within football. England were dealt three major blows either before or during this match that, in my opinion, really shaped the outcome. Please note I am not arguing that these are the only reasons that England are in grave danger of being knocked out of the competition, rather, that there were factors beyond our control.

The first, and most obvious, was the untimely return of Luis Suarez. Just a month after surgery on his knee, one of the World’s best players returned to score two goals of genuine quality as well as almost scoring directly from two corners. A player of his class is hard to come by and, ultimately, he was the difference on the night.

The return of Suarez was a huge boost for the Uruguayans

The return of Suarez was a huge boost for the Uruguayans

Furthermore, an arguably more important factor was the removal of Diego Lugano. Lugano, who is Uruguay’s captain, picked up an injury prior to the match and was not fit enough to play. This was severely to England’s detriment. The 38 year old is probably the slowest player at the World Cup and there is no doubt that the likes of Sturridge, Sterling and Rooney could have exploited the space in behind him and caused countless headaches for their backline. Instead, 19-year-old Jose Maria Giminez came in, who is infinitely faster than Lugano, and the space was gone.

Uraguay's loss of Diego Lugano may also have been to their advantage

Uraguay’s loss of Diego Lugano may also have been to their advantage

Finally, Diego Godin should have been sent off after 30 minutes. He received his first booking for deliberately handling the ball on the edge of the penalty area. Minutes later, he chopped at Daniel Sturridge’s throat after Sturridge had knocked it past him to move into a dangerous position on the right side of Uruguay’s penalty area and inexplicably the referee failed to book him again and brandish a red card. Had Uruguay been down to ten men there could have been a wholly different outcome to the match.

Diego Godin was very lucky to escape a red card

Diego Godin was very lucky to escape a red card

This may read rather bitter and sound as though I’m just making excuses but I’m keen to stress that these were not the only reasons England are (most probably) knocked out of the World Cup. However, I am merely highlighting the fine margins in football and demonstrating how cruel it can often be. England were the victim of misfortune on this occasion. Had Suarez needed but one more day to recover he would not have inflicted such damage upon our goal, had Lugano been fit we may have had more clear-cut opportunities and had the referee, frankly, done his job then would have been playing against 10 men for the majority of the match and surely at least managed a draw.

As I alluded to earlier, these are not the only reasons England lost the match. If truth be told, whilst England did not deserve to lose the match, we would be hard pushed to find an unbiased fan who could say that England truly deserved to win the match comfortably. They didn’t play badly but were sloppy at times in possession, defensively naïve and lacking the cutting edge required to really make the difference at international level. Conversely, Uruguay had all the cutting edge a side could desire in the form of Luis Suarez. Having said that, I feel it is very difficult to lay blame at the manager’s door. This was not a World Cup campaign like in 2010 where we underperformed against really poor sides before being humbled by a side simply far superior to ourselves. Instead, it was a campaign where England have given a good account of themselves against two relatively strong and experienced sides and fallen just short of what is required.

There are few that would argue that Roy Hodgson has done a bad job, despite not winning a game at the finals. I think his selections have generally been positive and England have gone out to try and win games rather than just hope for a draw. It may not have paid off on this occasion but the attitude was right and I think Hodgson has merited another chance to take England to a big tournament at the Euro’s in 2016. In the mean time, dust off your replica Italy shirts and prepare to support the Azzurri for back-to-back wins to give England a chance to secure the unlikeliest of comebacks and keep the World Cup dream alive!

Do you agree that Hodgson should stay on as England manager? Tweet @0riginalfooty and have your say.

England vs Uruguay: the key battles

Tonight is the night where England’s destiny will be sealed. Fans will be on the edges of their seats as they take on a hurting Uruguayan side that will be desperate to bounce back. Both sides will be desperate for a win but who will come out on top? Here we take a look at the key battles that will take place on the field tonight and suggest where the game will be won or lost.

Gary Cahill vs Luis Suarez

Suarez’s return will be a huge boost for the Uruguayans. Against Costa Rica they looked extremely one dimensional and lacking any spark and creativity that, in my opinion, Edison Cavani rarely fails to provide. Suarez, in comparison, has it all. He will pester defenders all night long and cause England endless headaches. On his day he is absolutely unstoppable and even when he isn’t on top form, you can guarantee that the defenders will have had a tough evening. Cahill is quickly becoming England’s most important defensive player having had a fine season with Chelsea but he will need to be at the top of his game tonight to keep Suarez at bay and to organize an unconvincing English back line.

Raheem Sterling vs Egidio Arevalo

Sterling and Rooney will most likely have fluid roles behind Sturridge and Sterling will most likely be marshaled by Egidio Arevalo. Arevalo is a ferocious, hard working and experienced centre-midfielder with wild-dog-like tenacity and will be snapping at Sterling’s heels all night long. Sterling can, however, take real heart from his performance against Italy and believe that he can mix it with the best on the international stage. If he performs as we know he can, he will give Arevalo a really hard nights work.

Daniel Sturridge vs Jose Maria Giminez

This is where England will feel the match can be won. Diego Godin is a quality centre back but is not the quickest defender. At Atletico Madrid he plays alongside the pacey Miranda who can easily cover Godin’s lack of pace. However, there is no Miranda for Argentina. Godin normally plays alongside the snail-paced Uruguayan captain Diego Lugano who endured a torrid season for West Bromwich Albion. However, Lugano has been ruled out with injury so in comes 19 year old centre back Giminez. Giminez is an inexperienced centre back but will offer more pace than Lugano so that could work in Uruguay’s favour If Sturridge can play on the shoulder of Godin and the likes of Rooney and Sterling can provide the quality of pace required to thread it through the defence then England will get plenty of joy as the night goes on and Sturridge will find himself on the score-sheet again.

 

Overall, England should go in to this game believing that they can and, in my opinion, should win against a fairly average and aging Uruguayan side. If our attackers play to the best of their abilities, they will break down their defense and I will be stunned if England does not manage to score at least one goal. However, the three lions must cut all the supply to Suarez to get success and when he does get the ball he must be stopped as soon as possible, by a foul if necessary. Suarez’s inclusion does make this a much tougher match but there is no reason that England can’t get the all important victory tonight and begin their push for qualification to the last 16.