England

Weekend Preview and Predictions

@0riginalfooty takes a look at the fixtures for the 12th weekend of Premier League football. Last weekend we got four out of ten predictions correct and two correct scores. Will we do better this week?

Saturday

Chelsea vs West Brom (15:00)
While the rest of the league has been unpredictable, Chelsea have consistently been the team to perform well week in week out. West Brom were disappointed with their home loss to Newcastle and it’s a stretch of the imagination to see them returning to winning ways here. This should be a comfortable win for Chelsea.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 West Brom

Everton vs West Ham (15:00)
Both sides slipped up to draw against weaker opposition last weekend and Everton, in particular, will be keen to return to winning ways and put a run together to climb up the table. West Ham have made a brilliant start to the season and will be competitive against every team they play against but I fancy Everton to narrowly claim victory.
Prediction: Everton 1-0 West Ham

Leicester vs Sunderland (15:00)
Leicester have had a very poor run of form and find themselves in the relegation zone. Sunderland have recovered from their string of high-profile defensive errors to earn four points in their last two matches. Nevertheless, I expect these teams to be near to the bottom of the table at the end of the season and both sides will be keen to avoid defeat to relegation rivals.
Prediction: Leicester 1-1 Sunderland

Man City vs Swansea (15:00)
City have been very poor this season and look short of confidence but they still have an abundance of quality in their squad and one good result could kick-start their season. Swansea recorded an excellent win over Arsenal last weekend and have been one of the success stories of the season. For Garry Monk’s side to only be three points behind City before this match is testament to their wonderful form this campaign. This should be a good game but City need to win and they should find away past Monk’s team.
Prediction: Man City 2-1 Swansea

Newcastle vs QPR (15:00)
For Alan Pardew’s side to be level on points with Manchester United and one point behind Arsenal after their terrible start to the season is nothing short of incredible and Pardew deserves great credit. QPR are also starting to perform to Premier League level and look far more competitive. QPR’s recent improvement means that this should be a more interesting game but Newcastle are playing well enough to secure another victory.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-1 QPR

Stoke vs Burnley (15:00)
Stoke took advantage of Spurs’ problems last weekend to win and climb into the top half of the table. Burnley also recorded their first win of the season and that will be a huge weight off Sean Dyche’s shoulders. They are working hard for each other and, whilst they may lack the quality to survive, they will make it difficult for other teams to beat them. Stoke, however, are only three points away from the top four and their fans will expect them to climb higher up the table after this one.
Prediction: Stoke 1-0 Burnley

Arsenal vs Man United (17:30)
Arsenal put in another disappointing display last weekend and their fans must be desperately frustrated that their side have not taken advantage of their rivals’ poor starts to the season. Arsenal are one of the most settled sides in the league and after their success last season it was expected that they could kick on but they seem to have gone backwards. United are also not performing to the best of their ability and are crippled by several injuries to their squad. Having said that, they did not add enough bulk to their squad in key areas in the summer and they are suffering because of it. Neither side is defending particularly well but both teams can score and it should be an entertaining, high-scoring draw.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Man United

Sunday

Crystal Palace vs Liverpool (13:30)
Palace have been slowly sliding under Neil Warnock and there are serious concerns over their ability to survive this season. Fortunately for them, Liverpool arrive in terrible form and they are struggling to score goals. Palace put in a resolute display against United last weekend and if they put in a similar performance this weekend then Liverpool won’t have enough firepower to find a win.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-1 Liverpool

Hull City vs Spurs (16:00)
Hull performed very poorly last weekend and they are another side who are struggling to score goals. Spurs are also in very poor form and their only win for a month was against Aston Villa who were down to ten men. Pressure will start to mount on Pochettino if results aren’t turned around soon but they are due a win and being away from home should help them.
Prediction: Hull 1-2 Spurs

Monday

Aston Villa vs Southampton (20:00)
Villa stopped the rot last weekend with a good draw away at in-form West Ham but without Christian Benteke they lack a serious goal threat. Southampton have been the best side in the league, Chelsea aside, and there are not enough superlatives to throw towards Ronald Koeman and his team. Villa need the big Belgian back up front before they can improve their performances and a comfortable win for The Saints is on the cards.
Prediction: Aston Villa 0-2 Southampton

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Top Signing Per Club: M-W

The transfer window has now closed and the Premier League sides will have to make do with what they have until January. Here @0riginalfooty takes a look at the top signing made by each club whose name begins between M and W.

Manchester City
Fernando (FC Porto, undisclosed). Fernando was signed to bolster City’s options in midfield and has slotted seamlessly into the side thus far. He is a strong and powerful midfielder who will do the dirty work in midfield to allow Manuel Pellegrini’s attacking options more freedom so they can maximise the damage they inflict on the opposition.
Other notable signings: Willy Caballero (Malaga, undisclosed), Eliaquim Mangala (FC Porto, £32m), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal, free).

Manchester United
Angel di Maria (Real Madrid, £59.7m). Louis van Gaal has smashed the British transfer record by acquiring the services of Argentine winger di Maria. Di Maria was influential in Real Madrid’s Champions League victory last season and was a key member of the Argentina side that reached the World Cup final. United have signed a world class player and one that has the ability to turn their fortunes around.
Other notable signings: Daley Blind (Ajax, £14m), Radamel Falcao (AS Monaco, loan), Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao, £29m), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon, £16m), Luke Shaw (Southampton, £27m).

Newcastle United
Jack Colback (Sunderland, free). Sunderland fans were furious that Jack Colback was allowed to move to their bitter rivals for no fee. Sunderland’s loss is Newcastle’s gain and Colback should play a big role at the heart of their midfield. He was recently called up to the England squad and, although he had to leave the squad with an injury, has a bright future in front of him.
Other notable signings: Remy Cabella (Montpellier, undisclosed), Karl Darlow (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), Facundo Ferreyra (Shakhtar Donetsk, loan), Daryl Janmaat (Feyenoord, undisclosed), Siem de Jong (Ajax, undisclosed), Jamaal Lascelles (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), Ayoze Perez (Tenerife, undisclosed), Emmanuel Riviere (AS Monaco, undisclosed).

QPR
Steven Caulker (Cardiff, £8m). QPR manager Harry Redknapp has been keen to add solidity to his back line this summer and highly rated English centre-back Steven Caulker fits the bill perfectly. QPR kept their first clean sheet of the season in their last match against Sunderland and there were encouraging signs that the Caulker-Ferdinand partnership is ready to blossom.
Other notable signings: Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United, free), Leroy Fer (Norwich City, £8m), Mauricio Isla (Juventus, loan), Alex McCarthy (Reading, undisclosed), Jordan Mutch (Cardiff City, £6m), Jack Robinson (Liverpool, undisclosed).

Southampton
Fraser Forster (Celtic, £10m). A lot of the focus of Southampton’s summer spending has been on replacing the key players who left for pastures new. There are question marks over how successful their recruitment drive has been, however, one position they have certainly strengthened is in goal. Forster is a top young goalkeeper who has the potential to challenge Joe Hart for the England goalkeeping jersey and represents a major coup for The Saints.
Other notable signings: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid, loan) Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea, loan), Florin Gardos (FC Steaua Bucharest, £6m), Shane Long (Hull City, £12m), Sadio Mane (Red Bull Salzburg, £10m), Graziano Pelle (Feyenoord, undisclosed), Dusan Tadic (FC Twente, £10.9m).

Stoke City
Victor Moses (Chelsea, loan). Mark Hughes has largely spent the summer bolstering his attacking options and Victor Moses represents a good piece of business for The Potters. After an uninspiring loan move at Liverpool, he will be keen to get back on track with Stoke and rediscover the form that made him heralded as a highly rated prospect.
Other notable signings: Oussama Assaidi (Liverpool, loan), Phil Bardsley (Sunderland, free), Bojan (Barcelona, £3m), Mame Biram Diouf (Hannover 96, free), Steve Sidwell (Fulham, free).

Sunderland
Jack Rodwell (Manchester City, free). Rodwell’s career may have stalled at Manchester City but The Black Cats have pulled off a major coup in landing him. He is a tall combative midfielder but has rediscovered the attacking side to his game that was evident in his goal against Manchester United. Sunderland fans can expect Rodwell to really kick on and become a key player for them.
Other notable signings: Patrick van Aanholt (Chelsea, undisclosed), Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan, loan), Will Buckley (Brighton and Hove Albion, £2.5m), Sebastian Coates (Liverpool, loan), Jordi Gomez (Wigan Athletic, free), Billy Jones (West Bromwich Albion, free), Costel Pantilimon (Manchester City, free), Santiago Vergini (Estudiantes, loan).

Swansea
Gylfi Sigurdsson (Spurs, undisclosed). Sigurdsson has been one of the stars of the Premier League season so far and has played a large part in guiding Swansea towards the top of the table. Swansea fans will expect more of the same from a man who looks to be enjoying his football again after an indifferent spell at Spurs.
Other notable signings: Tom Carroll (Spurs, loan), Marvin Emnes (Middlesbrough, undisclosed), Lukasz Fabianski, Federico Fernandez (Napoli, undisclosed), Bafetimbi Gomis (Lyon, free), Raheem Hanley (Blackburn Rovers, undisclosed), Stephen Kingsley (Falkirk, undisclosed), Jefferson Montero (Morelia, undisclosed).

Tottenham Hotspur
Eric Dier (Sporting Lisbon, £4m). Spurs haven’t splashed too much cash this window as Mauricio Pochettino has been briefed to bring the best out of the players already at the club. However, the signing of Eric Dier looks to be an excellent piece of business. Not only is he solid at the back, he is also a threat going forward and already has two league goals this season. He is still a young prospect and will be a major asset to Spurs in the future.
Other notable signings: Ben Davies (Swansea, £10m), Federico Fazio (Sevilla, undisclosed), Benjamin Stambouli (Montpellier, £4.7m), Michel Vorm (Swansea, £5m), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC, undisclosed).

West Bromwich Albion
Joleon Lescott (Manchester City, free). It’s been a summer of change for West Brom. The Baggies have brought in more new faces than any other side in the Premier League as they hope to draw a line under last season. Their most impressive signing is that of Joleon Lescott. Lescott has vast amounts of Premier League experience as well as playing international football and in the Champions League. Once fully fit, he will be a vital part of West Brom’s plans to stay in the division.
Other notable signings: Chris Baird (Burnley, free), Sebastian Blanco (Metalist Kharkiv, undisclosed), Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo, undisclosed), Cristian Gamboa (Rosenborg, undisclosed), Craig Gardner (Sunderland, free), Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kiev, £10m), Sebastien Pocognoli (Hannover 96, undisclosed), Georgios Samaras (Celtic, free), Andre Wisdom (Liverpool, loan)

West Ham United
Alex Song (Barcelona, loan). Sam Allardyce has been told he must bring style rather than just substance to Upton Park and he has brought in some exciting attacking prospects to do just that. However, The Hammers’ most high profile signing is Alex Song who has joined on loan from Catalan giants Barcelona. The former Arsenal man is a quality defensive midfielder who has an excellent range of passing and will drastically improve the quality of the London club’s midfield.
Other notable signings: Aaron Cresswell (Ipswich Town, undisclosed), Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal, loan), Cheikhou Kouyate (Anderlecht, undisclosed), Diego Poyet (Charlton Athletic, free), Diafra Sakho (Metz, undisclosed), Enner Valencia (Pachuca, £12m), Mauro Zarate (Velez Sarsfield, undisclosed).

Premier League Preview: Manchester City

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 Manchester City.

City enjoyed a successful first season under new boss Manuel Pellegrini and won both the Premier League title and the League Cup. Pellegrini had the strongest squad at his disposal so victory in the league was no real surprise, despite Liverpool pushing them close. The bigger challenge will be retaining the title with Chelsea, city rivals Manchester United and Arsenal all strengthening well.

The Manager
Manuel Pellegrini spent most of his early managerial career working in South America where he won plenty of silverware. He moved to Europe to manage Spanish sides Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga and although he was deemed to be a success he had yet to win a trophy in Europe. There were fears that he would struggle to bring titles required to keep city’s mega-rich owners happy. However, winning two trophies in his first season quickly set those fears aside. Not only did he bring home silverware but he brought together a squad largely divided under former manager Roberto Mancini and developed a far more attractive style of play than his predecessor.

Pellegrini guided City to Premier League glory in his first season as boss

Pellegrini guided City to Premier League glory in his first season as boss

Biggest Signing
City have been fairly quiet in the transfer window thus far, possibly due to their massive financial fair play fine from UEFA, and have signed 3 players to date. Bacary Sagna has joined on a free transfer from Arsenal and will offer competition to Pablo Zabaleta. Goalkeeper Willy Caballero has also been drafted in from Malaga in a deal believed to be worth around £4 million and he will offer fierce competition to Joe Hart having been Pellegrini’s number 1 in his time at Malaga. City’s biggest signing, however, has been completing the transfer of Fernando from Porto. Fernando is a powerful and hardworking defensive midfielder who will add extra bite to the city midfield. Pellegrini may opt to field both Fernando and Fernandinho along with Yaya Toure in the midfield to allow the Ivorian more freedom to get forward.

The much coveted Fernando is a good buy for Pellegrini

The much coveted Fernando is a good buy for Pellegrini

Who is tipped to join them?
Eliaquim Mangala is widely expected to complete a move to Manchester in the coming days for a fee believed to be around £32 million. Ross Barkley is also believed to be on their radar, should Yaya Toure decide to move elsewhere. Finally Paul Pogba has been tipped to be on the move this summer and City are one of the few clubs who could afford him. Pogba used to play for bitter rivals Manchester United so that would be a devastating blow for United fans if it were to come to fruition.

United fans would not be impressed if their rivals City were able to sign Pogba from Juventus

United fans would not be impressed if their rivals City were able to sign Pogba from Juventus

Who should they sign?
Pellegrini has a very strong squad available to him and does not really require too many reinforcements. He has correctly identified centre-back as his weakest position, Vincent Kompany aside, but the signing of Mangala will significantly strengthen them in that regard. Once Mangala arrives, City seem to have strong options and back up in every position and we shouldn’t expect too many more faces through the door.

Mangala is expected to partner Kompany at the heart of City's defence next season

Mangala is expected to partner Kompany at the heart of City’s defence next season

Key Player
Yaya Toure. On his day, Toure is unstoppable. His ability to make powerful, marauding runs across the whole length of the pitch is second to none. He scored 20 league goals last season and, with Fernando added to the midfield to allow him more freedom, it would be no surprise to see him match that feat again this campaign.

Yaya Toure is one of the best players in the Premier League

Yaya Toure is one of the best players in the Premier League

Prediction
Manchester City have one of the strongest squads in the league and they will be expecting to challenge on four fronts this season. They will be in the title race right till the end but I think they will fall just short of Mourinho’s Chelsea this season. Expect City to finish 2nd.

Premier League Preview: Hull City

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 Hull.

On the face of things, referring purely to the Premier League table from last year, Hull had a pretty bad season, finishing in 16th place and a mere 4 points above the relegation zone. However, in reality, Hull had a very successful season. They reached the final of the FA Cup, which affected their league form towards the back end of the season, and for the majority of the campaign they looked a solid Premier League side.

The Manager
Steve Bruce has been the manager of Hull City for two years now, getting Hull promoted to the Premier League in his first season in charge through automatic promotion and keeping them afloat in his second. He’s a well-respected and liked manager throughout the game with previous spells at Wigan Athletic and Birmingham City.

Steve Bruce has enjoyed 2 very good seasons in Hull

Steve Bruce has enjoyed 2 very good seasons in Hull

Biggest Signing
Hull City’s chairman, Assem Allam, seems to have confidence in Steve Bruce as shown by his willingness to pay good money for proven Premier League players such as Tom Huddlestone, Shane Long and Nikica Jelavić. Despite signing Tom Ince on a free this summer I would argue that the purchase of Robert Snodgrass will be their best signing as he has performed well in the Premier League previously with Norwich City whereas Ince hardly impressed in his spell with Palace. Hull have also secured the services of Jake Livermore on a permanent basis, who was an important part of their midfield last season, and that is a good piece of business from the club.

Robert Snodgrass is a proven Premier League performer

Robert Snodgrass is a proven Premier League performer

Who is tipped to join them?
Michael Dawson has been linked and Bruce declared his admiration for the player but also admitted it may be hard to persuade Tottenham to sell at the price they are offering due to the number of years left on Dawson’s contract. Steve Bruce is also hopeful of making Harry Maguire from Sheffield United his fourth signing of the summer with a fee close to being agreed with United.

Harry Maguire is reported to be en route to the KC Stadium

Harry Maguire is reported to be en route to the KC Stadium

Who should they sign?
Hull have a strong squad and Steve Bruce is right in declaring that it’s the best squad the club has ever had in it’s history. One area they could perhaps strengthen is the centre-back area, which they are looking to do because of a lack of partners for Curtis Davies. Dawson would be an excellent acquisition in that respect and Bruce seems to be on the right track with his recruitment drive.

Michael Dawson would be a terrific capture for Hull

Michael Dawson would be a terrific capture for Hull

Key Player
Voted player of the season last year Curtis Davies will once again be Hull’s key player for the coming season. It’s always important to build from the defence when forming a good, solid team and Davies provides just that for Hull. Hull will need big performances from Davies once again in order to build on last season’s success.

Davies is crucial to Hull's Premier League aspirations

Davies is crucial to Hull’s Premier League aspirations

Prediction
I think that Hull will go from strength to strength this coming season with the Long/Jelavić partnership having had a whole pre-season to develop and Huddlestone/Livermore providing a good platform in the centre of midfield. I expect them to finish in the top half of the table, which would represent an excellent campaign. Expect Hull to finish 10th.

Premier League Preview: Everton

There are only four 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 Everton.

Last season was certainly one to remember for the Toffees. They were under new management after the long and relatively successful (even without silverware) David Moyes era. They broke club record after club record including their highest points total in the premier league and most wins in a season.

The Manager
Roberto Martinez had an excellent debut season in charge of the Toffees and has again shown himself as a perpetual over achiever. His track record is admirable, having pulled Swansea from League One to 8th in the Championship and keeping Wigan in the Premier League for 3 of his 4 seasons. Despite succumbing to relegation in his final season with the Latics, Martinez masterminded a miraculous FA cup victory, overcoming Man City in the final.

Going to Everton, however, was always going to be a big step up for Martinez, taking over from David Moyes who had undoubtedly done a fantastic job in his 11-year tenure. This did not seem to faze the Spaniard, as he successfully implemented his possession-based footballing philosophy into the Everton squad and played exciting, attacking football throughout last season.

Roberto Martinez has really enhanced his reputation as a manager over the past few seasons

Roberto Martinez has really enhanced his reputation as a manager over the past few seasons

Biggest Signing
Whether they retain the services of Lukaku or not, I firmly believe that snapping up Gareth Barry on a free transfer will still be their most important signing. The former England international proved he’s still got it after a frustrating spell at Man City, striking up a fantastic midfield partnership with James McCarthy who had an equally impressive season. Furthermore, retaining the services of full-backs Seamus Colman and Leighton Baines, which looks increasingly likely, is an impressive statement about their intentions next season and is as good as any signings they are likely to make.

Gareth Barry has made his move to Everton permanent

Gareth Barry has made his move to Everton permanent

Who is tipped to join them?
With Lukaku being central to Everton’s fortunes last season, Roberto Martinez will no doubt be doing everything in his power to bring the strong Belgium striker back to Goodison Park. He’ll probably be quietly pleased that Lukaku didn’t have the great World Cup campaign that many were expecting, as there may not be quite as much interest in his services from the top European clubs. That said, there will still be plenty of teams desperate for a player of his quality should Jose Mourinho decide that he is not needed at Stamford Bridge. Martinez has also admitted that he is keen to bring Lacina Traore of Monaco back for a second loan spell despite an injury limiting him to just 63 minutes of football for the Toffees in the second half of last season.

Finally, Everton remain hot favourites to sign Jack Rodwell, who will provide competition in midfield and be a future replacement for Barry who, at 33, may only have a few seasons left in the top flight. Martinez will be hoping that he can get the England international on a loan deal with a view to buy, as if not, he could prove to be an expensive signing, given the inflated price-tags attached to English talent.

Will Rodwell return to Everton?

Will Rodwell return to Everton?

Who should they sign?
Last season, the Toffees relied heavily on three of their loan signings. Of the two mentioned previously, Barry has been signed and Lukaku will either return on loan or they must sign a similarly quick and powerful striker with an eye for goal. The third loanee was Gerard Deulofeu. New Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has deemed him good enough to join up with their first team and Everton should now seek a replacement. They do have options on the wing with Mirallas, Pienaar and McGeady – all more than capable players – but it does look like they could do with one more flair player who can really get at opposition full-backs.

A loan move for Joel Campbell of Arsenal could be an ideal option. He proved himself both last season on loan at Olympiakos and during the World Cup with Costa Rica. Should he not be deemed ready to compete in Arsenal’s highly populated midfield ranks, he would fit perfectly into Martinez’s pacey attacking system. However, it remains to be seen if Arsene Wenger would allow such a player to go to a team who pushed them hard for their Champion’s League spot at the end of last season.

Would Wenger allow Campbell to move to one of his top-4 rivals?

Would Wenger allow Campbell to move to one of his top-4 rivals?

Key Player
Ross Barkley will surely have a big impact on Everton’s fortunes in this coming season. Having gone from one for the future to a key member of the Toffee’s first team in a very short space of time, this is no doubt going to a big season for the young England international.

Ross Barkley could be crucial to Everton's Champion's League hopes

Ross Barkley could be crucial to Everton’s Champions League hopes

Prediction
I expect Everton to have a similar season in terms of causing the big teams problems, and will find themselves buzzing around the Champion’s League places once again. However, I believe that the four teams who finished above them last season still have more about them than Martinez’s side, and with Man United seemingly strengthening more than the Toffees, I expect to see Everton slip down one position. Expect Everton to finish 6th.

Premier League Preview: Crystal Palace

There is only a month 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 Crystal Palace.

Palace were promoted to the Premier League at the beginning of last season and most people thought they were doomed before they’d even kicked a ball. Ian Holloway, the man who won them promotion, left the club in October having decided he wasn’t up to the task of keeping them afloat. The Eagles took their time over naming his successor and at the end of November decided that Tony Pulis was the man to tackle the improbable task of survival. Pulis had never been relegated in his managerial and wasn’t about to start now as he guided Crystal Palace to an 11th place finish. Many called this a minor miracle and some even went as far as to claim that they should rename the club “Crystal Pulis”. Pulis will be keen to preserve his immaculate CV and establish Palace as a Premier League club.

The Manager
As mentioned above, many at Selhurst Park see Tony Pulis as a miracle worker. In fact, he is just a very experienced and tactically orientated manager who makes sure his sides are extremely well drilled. He turned Stoke into a mid-table Premier League club and his brief will undoubtedly be to do the same at Palace. He worked wonders last season but has he now got a plan to keep Palace at this level for the foreseeable future?

Tony Pulis has never been relegated as a manager

Tony Pulis has never been relegated as a manager

Biggest Signing
Crystal Palace’s only signing of the summer thus far is young goalkeeper Chris Kettings. With Julian Speroni and Wayne Hennessey both ahead of him in the pecking order, it’s unlikely he will make much of a splash this season. Bigger news for Palace was tying Marouane Chamakh down on a new two-year deal.

Marouane Chamakh has signed a new two-year deal

Marouane Chamakh has signed a new two-year deal

Who is tipped to join them?
The media haven’t really caused much of a frenzy concerning Crystal Palace’s transfer activity but if reports are to be believed they are in the market for a new striker. Cedric Bakambu had been linked and they have reportedly agreed a deal to sign Cardiff striker Fraizer Campbell. Palace are also believed to have agreed a deal for Tottenham’s Gylfi Sigurdsson, who is out of favour at White Hart Lane, and they are keen to add Jack Cork to their midfield as well.

Gylfi Sigurdsson would be an excellent signing for Crystal Palace

Gylfi Sigurdsson would be an excellent signing for Crystal Palace

Who should they sign?
Pulis seems to be predominantly focusing on adding a new striker to his ranks but I think he will also chase at least one more defender to add some quality to his backline. Steven Caulker would be a good option for Pulis to explore as Cardiff have just been relegated so he should be available at a cut-price fee. They face stiff competition from QPR to land him. If that fails then Brede Hangeland would be another option available on the cheap due to Fulham’s relegation.

Steven Caulker could be on Tony Pulis' radar

Steven Caulker could be on Tony Pulis’ radar

Key Player
Mile Jedinak. The Australian epitomises the work ethic that Pulis desires of his players and is a strong character in the middle of the park. Jedinak won player of the year for Palace the season before last and their captain is an extremely important figure in the side.

Jedinak will be of great importance at the heart of the Palace midfield

Jedinak will be of great importance at the heart of the Palace midfield

Prediction
Pulis has once again demonstrated his ability to keep a side in the league and I can see no reason why he can’t do it again with Palace. He will have had a full preseason with them so they will be better prepared and he should add some recruits to put his own stamp on the team. Palace fans will be optimistic for the upcoming season and we think they will match their achievements last season. Expect Palace to finish 11th.

Which team should you support now?

With England failing to progress to the knockout stages of the World Cup having crashed out at the earliest stage in their history since 1954, most Englishmen despair and are at odds with what to do with themselves for the remainder of the competition. Yet reach for those tissues, dry your eyes, as now is a moment of opportunity. No longer are you tied to this infuriating underachieving team of premier league starlets, now you can reinvent yourself and pick a new nation to tie your allegiances to. Wind back the clock 6 years and England failed to reach the finals of Euro 2008. The finals stages were not the time to lament over the failings of the wally with a brolly and instead I chose to support the Netherlands, that eccentric team clad all in orange. For once got to enjoy my team playing attractive football at the finals of a major tournament, and the pain in my stomach that comes from supporting England was vanquished. Now we must all decide which nation we are going to switch our allegiances to, whether you’re half-German, a sixteenth-Brazilian or once spent a month backpacking around Chile, it doesn’t matter. Choose your new nation and support them with the maddening furore that comes from enjoying the game, but not truly caring about the final result. To help you with this decision Original Footy  has provided a list of our top teams to support. So now is a time to celebrate and for optimism, you never know your adopted nation might just go all the way…

BRAZIL

Obviously lots of people will immediately be switching their allegiances to the home nation and there would be small wonder why. Whilst England is the birthplace of football, over the centuries our claims to being father of the game are growing increasingly laughable considering our inability to play it. Stepping into fill this void is Brazil which many people claim to be the ‘spiritual home of football’. It is easy to get caught up in the electric hype and fervour being generated in Brazil which is easily translated through the television, despite Adrian Chiles’ best efforts at destroying any feel-good factor. After an underwhelming start to the competition Brazil turned up the heat in their final group game, and will have to raise their levels again to beat an energetic Chilean side in the second round.

NETHERLANDS

For many fanatic English football fans it will be difficult to switch their allegiance to Oranje purely due to the man in charge. Louis Van Gaal is officially to take over as manager of the stumbling Manchester United, therefore many fans out there would prefer him to join after an ill-fortuned World Cup trip, rather than a glorious conquest. But this is the World Cup and surely all club allegiances should be set to the side, and cheering on RVP and his Dutch companions would make for a thrilling experience. The clinical attacking prowess displayed against Spain, coupled with the defensive frailties against Australia mean that any Dutch game is bound to be entertaining. With this combination of factors anything is possible in Netherlands knockout games, and this feeling of uncertainty will fill the void that is usually occupied by anxiety during England games.

CHILE

Many people were aware of the quality of this Chilean side coming into the World Cup but few could have predicted what would have happened at the Maracana, as the Chileans signalled the end of the Spanish era of dominance in triumphant style dismantling the holders 2-0. What would perhaps sway the neutral more to the Chilean cause was the manner in which they ripped the holders to shreds, and the passion displayed by their supporters. It was impossible not to admire Chile even before kick off as the Chilean crowd proudly roared their national anthem even after the instrumental backing finished (with the help of a few extra supporters who charged into the ground). If this level of intensity is matched for the remainder of their campaign, it is easy to imagine that many around the world will cheer fanatically for La Roja (The Red One).

FRANCE

It is always entertaining following France, as you are never quite sure which French team will turn up. On their day they are one of the best teams in world football however one need look no further back than to the last tournament, when France pressed self-destruct and crashed out of the group stages, to see how mercurial the French can be. On evidence though this French team is raring to go, and the combination of their attacking flair and unpredictable nature makes the French a fascinating team to follow.

ARGENTINA

Having luckily picked Argentina in the sweepstake they already have my undying support, yet there are other reasons to support La Albiceleste (The White and Sky Blue) The main reason though would have to be Lionel Messi, without question one of the star performers of the tournament thus far. Messi has been playing on another level, scoring in every game so far, dragging Argentina to the top of their group and through to the knockout phases. The rivalry between Argentina and Brazil is intense, and although it is a long way off, it is a possibility that these two great footballing nations could meet in the final, a prospect which any football fan would love to see.

GERMANY

Germany dismantled Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal side in their opening game 4-0, and many predicted they could win all their group games in this fashion, however the following 2 matches proved tougher tests with the German’s drawing one and narrowly winning the second 1-0. A favourable draw against Algeria means that Germany will be heavy favourites to make it through to the quarter finals, and then potentially further. Germany have an incredibly strong squad, spearheaded in attack by the current golden boot holder Thomas Muller. Muller has 4 goals in 3 games so far in the tournament and it is easy to imagine that he will find the net in more games to propel Germany deep into the tournament.

A First Time Footballer

As I have alluded to in a previous post, it is often much easier for a First Time Footballer to pay more attention to the actions and reactions of the players during the matches, rather than the actual game itself. As Suarez’s recent incident proves, even football connoisseurs can become distracted from the game sometimes. After Chiellini rammed his shoulder into Suarez’s teeth (really…?) there was a flurry of outraged tweets from the general public and well-regarded footballers alike. My Facebook newsfeed was shortly overflowing with jokes and images about the Uruguayan and it was, honestly, quite amusing. Aside from all the hilarity, there is, of course, a more serious side to the story and I was pleased to see today that FIFA decided to ban Suarez for four months – ruling him out of the remaining World Cup matches as well as the start of the Premier League. It’s good to see that the footballing world aren’t letting even the most talented of players get away with ludicrous occurrences like this…it’s just a shame he couldn’t have done it before the England game!

Rather than ramble on about ‘the bite’ (the Internet is flooded with opinions, photos and gags already), I want to talk about my experiences of the World Cup in Spain over the past few days. I arrived in Madrid, where I had been living for the past 8 months, on Monday night. Having watched the Champions League final between Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid in the centre of the city a month or so ago, it’s safe to say that Spaniards are football crazy. I headed straight out to a tapas bar for some food with a friend, hoping to catch a bit of the World Cup action. No games were being shown at the first place we went to, so after our first round of tapas, I suggested that we head to another location and try and catch some football. My friend recommended a place that he had been to a few days before, where they show the matches on a big screen in the terrace – perfect! Lo and behold Café Continental was not showing football on their screens, but instead what looked like a black and white movie! Then, today, I met with my landlord and we started chatting about the World Cup. He seemed totally unenthused and said that he hadn’t really been following it since Spain had crashed out…

While your country is still in the running, you care about every game that they play and root for them until the bitter end. You follow carefully the progress of the other groups to see who your team could be up against if they are lucky enough to get through the first stages. You head out to pubs and bars with all your friends for some drinks and food whilst enjoying the spectacle.

When your country is knocked out of the competition, the buzz totally disappears. What a shame.

I’m certain that a similar extinguishing of excitement is happening around the world as, one by one, nations drop out of the race. Although die-hard football fans will still be tuning in, I think it’s probably fair to say that, as a general rule, if your country isn’t playing, you don’t really care.

Despite all this, and despite England no longer being in with a chance, this First Time Footballer will continue to tune in. With the help of @0riginalfooty and their team of enthusiastic and knowledgeable writers, I feel all clued up and eager to see what thrills The World Cup can provide in the coming weeks.

Curtain Closes Early for Suarez Football’s Pantomime Villain.

The World Cup is the most watched sporting event in the global sporting calendar; therefore it is the greatest stage for footballers to achieve immortality as either heroes or villains. As we are nearing the conclusion of the group stages it is becoming apparent which players are making themselves noticed as they seek glory both personally and for their countries. The pressure has long been on Neymar’s slight frame to lead his Brazilian team to glory, and the Barcelona forward is doing everything in his power to emulate Brazilian heroes of the past in the quest for a sixth title for Brazil. Meanwhile Messi has long been a hero in Catalonia, yet has failed to make enough of an impact for his home country when the World Cup has arrived, but with 4 goals in 3 matches he is proving that he could make the difference just as Maradona did in the 1986 finals.

Yet it is not enough for a stage to be full solely of heroic admirable characters. There needs to be at least one villain to unite the audience in disgust. Step in Luis Suarez, the consistently brilliant and controversial player from Uruguay. Much like the rest of the Uruguayan’s career, his World Cup began with drama as he started the tournament from the touchline with questions being asked whether he would be fit enough to compete at all. Suarez missed Uruguay’s opening defeat to Costa Rica yet made a triumphant return as he took the tournament by storm and broke English hearts as he scored both goals leading his country to a 2-1 win. The way in which Suarez dispatched both chances was brilliant and clinical, yet his celebrations at the full time whistle were excessive and riled an English crowd which had only recently accepted him. Suarez celebrated full time to such an extent that before the adverts started rolling on ITV he had already been restored to his previous status as public enemy number one in England. Whilst England fumed the rest of the world looked on in admiration at a player who inspired so much from his teammates, yet all this admiration turned to disgust as he once again gave into his cannibalistic impulses and bit an opponent as Uruguay knocked Italy out of the World Cup in their final group game.

Suarez attempts to emulate this Bond villain with his playing style

Suarez attempts to emulate this Bond villain with his playing style

What is perhaps most laughable about this latest act of cannibalism is the nonsensical manner in which it was committed. Uruguay were a man up and controlling the game, and the fierce chomp which Suarez gave his favourite Italian dish Chiellini seemed entirely unprovoked. Whilst pundits around the world have been condemning Suarez for his latest mid-game snack the Uruguayan squad and management have added further pantomime-esque farce to the proceedings with shouts led by captain Diego Lugano of “Oh no he didn’t!” as they attempt to defend their temperamental talisman. Unfortunately for Lugano and his team, FIFA have responded with a resounding ‘Oh yes he did!’ and have hit Suarez with a 4 month ban, meaning that unfortunately this great villain’s World Cup is over before it had really got going.

Original Football would like to take this moment to say goodbye to Suarez. Love him or hate him (and most people hate him) he is one of the great entertainers in World football and the World Cup will be a quieter, albeit safer, tournament without him.

Group Stage Review: Part 1

It’s been a fabulous World Cup thus far; full of excitement, drama and some wonderful performances. In this article @0riginalfooty looks back at groups A-D and picks out the highlights of the group.

Group A

Brazil              7pts
Mexico            7pts
Croatia            3pts
Cameroon       0pts

Star Man: Neymar – There could only be one winner in this group. Neymar has carried the weight of expectation placed upon his young shoulders without batting an eyelid and has scored 4 goals in 3 matches.

Best Match: Brazil 3-1 Croatia – It was the opening match of the tournament and what a match it was. Both sides played their part in an open and attacking match with plenty of free-flowing football played by both sides, but it was Scolari’s men who came out on top.

Biggest disappointment: Croatia – The Croatians were tipped to join Brazil in the last 16 but, ultimately, came up short. Their most disappointing moment came in a final match defeat to rivals Mexico where a victory would have sealed qualification.

Side that will go furthest: Brazil – Mexico have an extremely tough draw against the Netherlands who have suddenly become one of the favourites in the tournament. Brazil also have a tough match against Chile but will still be confident of reaching the quarter-finals.

Neymar has been one of the stand out players at the tournament so far.

Neymar has been one of the stand out players at the tournament so far.

Group B

Netherlands    9pts
Chile               6pts
Spain              3pts
Australia         0pts

Star Man: Arjen Robben – Arguably the player of the tournament so far, Robben has been in scintillating form and was a constant thorn in the side of any defence he has played against so far. He has scored 3 goals and provided 1 assist at this stage of the World Cup.

Best Match: Australia 2-3 Netherlands – One of the best matches of the tournament so far. Australia may have finished bottom of the group with 0 points but they pushed the Netherlands all the way in this one. Tim Cahill’s goal is also the best goal of the tournament so far.

Biggest disappointment: Spain – Spain endured a miserable World Cup campaign and have quickly made the transition from World Cup heroes to World Cup zeros. They were landed with a tough group but will be extremely disheartened with a series of poor performances that cost them their place in the last 16.

Side that will go furthest: Netherlands – The Netherlands have a relatively easy passage to the semi-finals of the World Cup, although the Mexicans will be no pushovers. Chile, conversely, face the hosts Brazil in the next round who will be very difficult to overcome.

It was an extremely disappointing campaign for the Spanish

It was an extremely disappointing campaign for the Spanish

Group C

Colombia       9pts
Greece           4pts
Ivory Coast    3pts
Japan              1pt

Star Man: Juan Cuadrado – The Colombian winger who plays for Fiorentina has been brilliant for the Colombians so far and epitomises their pacey and committed attacking style.

Best Match: Greece 2-1 Ivory Coast – This group was not blessed with many classic encounters, however, this was an enthralling contest that ended up deciding the fate of both sides. The Ivory Coast needed just a draw to qualify alongside the Colombians against a Greek side that had not scored in the competition prior to facing them. The Ivory Coast were level until giving away a penalty in injury time that Georgios Samaras calmly slotted away, securing the Greek’s progress to the next round in the process.

Biggest disappointment: Ivory Coast – Qualification was in their own hands against the worst side in the group and they bottled it. This was a 3rd successive group stage exit at the World Cup for the Elephants but this was by far the most disappointing. They really should have reached the last 16.

Side that will go furthest: Colombia – On paper, Colombia’s draw looks tougher than Greece’s but the Costa Ricans have shown they are no pushovers at this competition and will fancy their chances against the Greeks. Uruguay on the other hand look average without the banned Luis Suarez, therefore Colombians will be favourites for this clash and should reach the quarter-finals.

Juan Cuadrado scores vs Japan

Juan Cuadrado already has 1 goal and 3 assists to his name in Brazil

Group D

Costa Rica       7pts
Uruguay          6pts
Italy                3pts
England           1pt

Star Man: Luis Suarez – There weren’t too many contenders for star man in this group as the best side in the group, Costa Rica, worked best as a collective rather than any one individual. Uruguay, on the other hand, were heavily reliant on Luis Suarez and he single-handedly fired them to victory over England. It’s just such a shame that such a talented player will be remembered for his non-footballing actions as opposed to his genuinely terrifying talent.

Best Match: Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica – When Uruguay scored in the 24th minute through an Edison Cavani penalty, few would have predicted an emphatic Costa Rican victory. However, the Costa Ricans announced themselves on the World Cup stage in style and thoroughly deserved their win.

Biggest disappointment: England – Having offered a promising performance against Italy and, having seen Uruguay fall short against Costa Rica, English hopes were high. However, individual errors at the back proved costly and with probably the worst chance conversion rate in the World Cup England crashed out of the World Cup with a measly 1 point.

Side that will go furthest: Costa Rica – Having come through what on paper looked like such a challenging group, it would be very disappointing for them to fall to a relatively average Greek side. Uruguay showed against Costa Rica that they struggle without Suarez and following his hefty ban, Colombia should prove too much for them.

Luis Suarez' 2nd vs England

Suarez shows his class to knock England out, but later lets himself and his team mates down against Italy