EPL, Week 33 Game of The Week

9 Apr

We are back for the Manchester Derby!!

 

Manchester United vs Manchester City

Manchester United vs Manchester City

Sunday, April 12th, 10am CST, Old Trafford

Why this Game is Intriguing: Present form. While Manchester United has seemingly gone through hell in the last 12 months with David Moyes’ blunder last season and an initially struggling Louis van Gaal this season, it seems as if the Red Devils are finally hitting their stride. Manchester United, 3rd in the table, leads City by just 1 point heading into the final Manchester Derby of the season. Manchester City has been struggling as of late, losing to Crystal Palace, FC Barcelona in the Champions league, Burnley, and Liverpool. Manchester United, who early on in the season had plenty of hiccups, including a disastrous loss to Leicester City who find themselves at the bottom of the table, are now playing like one of England’s best clubs. Manchester United has won 5 of it’s last 6 matches, including a precious road win over rivals Liverpool.

Other Reasons to Watch: Could we be witnessing another changing of the guard in Manchester? Louis van Gaal and his squad, particularly the partnership of Daley Blind, Ander Herrera, and Fellaini in the midfield, are playing lights out. They appear to have a swagger about them that Manchester City guys like Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, and particularly Yaya Toure have lost in the last several games, and for much of this season. City manager Manuel Pellegrini’s seat has never been hotter at the Etihad, and you can bet that a blowout loss to their rivals at Old Trafford would absolutely seal his fate.Van Gaal on the other hand, with a victory here, would take a large step towards securing Manchester United’s return to the Champions League, which means United will have the cash and the legitimacy to build on what is already a strong team in this summer’s transfer market.

Soccahaus Prediction: Manchester United 2, Manchester City 0

 

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La Liga, Week 12 Game of the Week

17 Nov

Recap: Valencia vs Athletic Bilbao ended in a 0-0 draw. Athletic Bilbao is, for now at least, comfortably out of the relegation zone, while Valencia is in 3rd place, just 3 points behind league leaders Real Madrid.

This Week:

FC Barcelona vs Sevilla FC

FC Barcelona vs Sevilla FC

Saturday, November 22nd, 1pm (CST) Camp Nou

Why This Game is Intriguing: Sevilla is just 2 points behind 2nd place FC Barcelona, and will be looking to jump them in the standings with a win over the Catalans at the Nou Camp. Sevilla has 7 wins, 2 draws, and 2 losses thus far in the La Liga campaign, and is led by Colombian striker Carlos Bacca (who had a goal against the United States in a friendly last week in London). Bacca is a terror in front of goal, and an extremely talented forward capable of scoring from anywhere. Sevilla also has a nice infusion of youth from Barcelona loanees Denis Suarez and Gerard Deulefeu. Sevilla is a club capable and talented enough to push for a top 4 finish and Champions League bid, so it is worth keeping an eye on them as the season progresses.

Other Reason to Watch This Game: The Catalans, despite an easy win over Ajax a couple of weeks ago in the Champions League, appear to be struggling. They are just 1-2 in their last 3 La Liga games, including an ugly 2-1 over Almeria, and losses to Real Madrid and Celta Vigo- the latter at the Nou Camp. While it is understandable that it will take time for the likes of Neymar, Messi, and Luis Suarez to all get on the same page- frankly, no amount of practices can simulate and garner chemistry like minutes on the pitch in a competitive, meaningful game- this team can’t seem to get their defense straightened out. There are real issues at the back with Pique not playing well, with Bartra’s inconsistency, and with Mathieu’s injury woes- the centerback position is a revolving door for the Catalans, and that is their biggest achilles heel.

Soccahaus Prediction: Barcelona 2, Sevilla 1

English Premier League, Week 11 Game of the Week

17 Nov

Recap from 2 weeks ago: Although not the most dominating of efforts, Chelsea handled Liverpool at Anfield thanks to goal by Gary Cahill and Diego Costa. Chelsea remains in first place, 4 points clear of the surprising Southampton Saints.

This Week: 

Arsenal FC vs Manchester United

Arsenal FC vs Manchester United

Saturday, November 22nd, 11:30am (CST) Emirates Stadium

Why This Game is Intriguing: Teams 6 (Arsenal) and 7 (Man United) in the Premier League face off in North London. Just a point apart, this is a crucial game as we head into the middle of November. The Gunners are coming off an ugly loss to Swansea City, a game which they controlled for about the first 60 or so minutes, before things got wildly out of hand. Man United won their last game at home against Crystal Palace thanks to a 67′ goal by Juan Mata. While not as significant of a rivalry as say the Manchester Derby, the North London Derby, or Liverpool vs Manchester United, this game, because of the history of the two clubs, has meaning beyond just two good teams playing.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: What does the future hold for both Arsenal and Manchester United, and where they end up finishing could all come back to this game. Both clubs are struggling mightily stringing together wins in a row, and both are dealing with bad injuries. The laundry list of injuries for Manchester United undoubtedly is hurting their chances: Falcao, van Persie, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, Ander Herrera- each have missed or are slated to miss several games. For Arsenal: Olivier Giroud, Debuchy, Arteta, Ozil, Koscielny. Both of these clubs have Champions League aspirations, but have a ways to go. Even the Europa League, particularly for Manchester United, would be a positive step in the right direction for the club- however, as it stands and the way these clubs have looked, missing out on the top 6 entirely is a possibility that both would like to avoid.

Soccahaus Prediction: 1-1

La Liga, Week 11 Game of the Week

3 Nov

Recap: In what was the most shocking upset of the La Liga season thus far, Celta Vigo defeated FC Barcelona at Nou Camp to give the Catalan Giants their 2nd loss in their last 2 La Liga games. Joaquin Larrivey scored the game’s only goal in the ’55, handing Barca their first loss at home in almost a year.

This Week:

Valencia CF vs Athletic Bilbao

Valencia CF vs Athletic Bilbao

Sunday, November 9th, 12pm CST Mestalla

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because Valencia is in 2nd place in La Liga, leading Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, and are just 1 point behind league leaders Real Madrid. Valencia is 7-2-1, and winners of 3 of their last 4, including a huge 3-1 over Atletico Madrid at the Mestalla. The Mestalla has been good to its club; Valencia have an unblemished 5-0 perfect record thus far at home, and the ground is causing all kinds of problems for visiting teams. Valencia is led by Spanish forward Paco Alcacer who already has 4 goals and 4 assists. The 21 year old is a jack of all trades type of player, and has already featured for Vicente del Bosque’s Spanish side in friendlies and Euro 2016 qualifiers. Expect the youngster to continue improving his game as he grows with the Valencian and Spanish sides over the next couple of years.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Athletic Bilbao are on the rise after winning their last 2 games, including a major win over Sevilla to vault themselves out of the relegation zone. Athletic, currently in 11th place, are struggling with the rigors of a La Liga and Champions League schedule. Athletic is currently in last place in their Champions League group and have yet to win a game; They have 0 wins, 1 draw (against Shaktahr Donetsk), and 2 losses, including a loss to BATE Borisov. Bilbao is led by striker Aritz Aduriz who has 4 goals to his name, and Ibai Gomez with 2 assists. Athletic Bilbao is one of 3 La Liga clubs (the others being Real Madrid and FC Barcelona) to have never been relegated from top flight Spanish soccer. Bilbao must continue to win games, and play with more consistency, if they want to continue that streak.

 

Soccahaus Prediction: Valencia 1, Bilbao 1

English Premier League, Week 10 Game of the Week

3 Nov

Recap: The Manchester Derby was not nearly as high scoring as I had predicted, rendering just 1 goal from Kun Aguero in the 2nd half. United were forced to play a man down for the entire 2nd half after Chris Smalling earned 2 yellow cards for overaggressive challenges. United played extremely well given the circumstances, but it was not enough to overcome their hated rivals.

This Week: 

Liverpool FC vs Chelsea FC

Liverpool FC vs Chelsea FC

Saturday, November 8th, 6:45pm CST Anfield

Why This Game is Intriguing: Chelsea is flying high and leading the league as they continue to win under skipper Jose Mourinho. Despite their undefeated record, Chelsea’s last 3 matches have not come easy: A close 2-1 win over QPR at home, a draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United, and a 2-1 victory at Selhurst Park against London rivals Crystal Palace. Combine that with their Champions League campaign- the Blues must continue to withstand injuries and a loaded schedule in order to win the Premier League. They have the talent, depth, and motivation to achieve these goals (because they went trophyless last season)- so it will be interesting to see how they hold up come spring time.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Liverpool Football Club is struggling mightily, and their last 7 games have produced just 2 wins, including an ugly, thrilling win over QPR. Last week produced a heartbreaking loss at Newcastle United, where a defensive blip by Alberto Moreno in the box led to the only goal of the game for the Magpies. Italian striker Mario Balotelli has received a lot of criticism for Liverpool’s rough start- and even though he hasn’t performed well, the defense and weak midfield isn’t up to par. Missing Daniel Sturridge definitely hurts, and losing striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona, the Premier Leagues best player last season, clearly has a negative impact on the club as well. All that said, Anfield is a home ground that often inspires Liverp’ool to achieve the unexpected. A victory here, or a well fought draw is not out of the question given the fact that Liverpool are at home.

Soccahaus Prediction: Chelsea 2, Liverpool 1

English Premier League, Week 9 Game of the Week

27 Oct

Recap: Manchester United, in dramatic fashion at the Theater of Dreams, drew league leaders Chelsea thanks to a goal by Robin van Persie in the waning seconds of extra time. While Chelsea was clearly the favorite, and looked like the better team for much of the game- it is moments like the one RVP had that make playing at Old Trafford one of the more unique experiences in all of world soccer.

This Week:

Manchester City vs Manchester United

Manchester City vs Manchester United

Sunday, November 2nd, 7:30am (CST) Etihad Stadium

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because of the results for each of these teams last week, and the emotional aftermath of those results and how they effect the mindset of the players heading into this match. As mentioned in the recap, Manchester United is coming off of an elating draw vs Chelsea; while some could argue that Manchester United is better than that, to celebrate a tie at home, irregardless of the opponent- considering how the last 2 seasons have gone for the Red Devil’s, this was arguably the most impressive, positive game they’ve played in a season and a half. Manchester City lost at West Ham United 1-2, despite outshooting and outpossessing the Hammers. West Ham, currently in 4th place, is a very good English club and should push for a Europa league spot- but no doubt this was a let down for the Citizens.

Other Reasons to Watch this Game: Manchester City has dominated this rivalry as of late- winning the 5 of the last 6, and both league matches last season by a combined score of 7-1. The last match these 2 played at Old Trafford resulted in a 3-0 win for the Citizens, and you can bet the Red Devils still have a bitter taste in their mouths from such an embarrassing result. Compared to last season, Manchester United seems much improved- with the additions of Angel di Maria, Marcos Rojo, Ander Herrera, and Daley Blind. Sergio Aguero has 9 goals in 8 games, while United’s top goal scorer is RVP with just 3 so far. Expect City to reassert itself and prove once again, despite the recent shortcomings against CSKA Moscow and West Ham, that the club is capable of being the best in England.

Soccahaus Prediction: Manchester City 4, Manchester United 2

La Liga, Week 10 Game of the Week

27 Oct

Recap: Real Madrid beat their El Clasico rivals 3-1 at the Bernabeu, thanks to goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe, and Karim Benzema. Barcelona scored first, in the ‘4, when Neymar sidestepped on the edge of the box, beating Ramos and Pepe for the goal. Cristiano Ronaldo now has 16 goals in 9 games.

This Week: 

FC Barcelona vs Celta Vigo

FC Barcelona vs Celta Vigo

Saturday, November 1st, 2pm CST, Camp Nou

Why This Game is Intriguing: Despite the crushing loss at the Bernabeu, FC Barcelona still leads La Liga, and will look to bounce back against a very solid Celta Vigo team. Barcelona has some glaring holes in the defense: Gerard Pique has struggled mightily, particularly in the past couple of years, Jeremy Mathieu is good, but needs to play in his natural position at centerback, and Dani Alves, while still effective, has clearly lost a step. Everyone knows the strengths of this team in attack with Neymar, Messi, Iniesta, Rakitic, and now Luis Suarez- but the defense is a glaring weakness that was exposed not only against Real Madrid, but also so far in the Champions League against PSG, Ajax, and APOEL.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Like Barcelona, 6th place Celta Vigo only has 1 loss. With 4 wins and 4 draws (including a draw at the Vicente Calderon against Atletico Madrid) the Galician Club has had a great start to the season, and shouldn’t be taken lightly by the Catalan Giants. Luis Enrique knows this club well- before he was hired by Barcelona, he managed Celta last season to a 9th place finish in La Liga. Celta is led by Argentine center forward Joaquin Larrivey and Spanish midfielder Nolito, who combined have scored 11 goals. These 2 are talented and patient moving forward, and will look to dissect this shaky Barca defense. Nolito also has 4 assists to his name, and Danish midfielder Michael Krohn-Dehli is an experienced, solid player as well.

Soccahaus Prediction: Barcelona 3, Celta Vigo 1