Barclays Premier League Review
February 9th Fixtures: Part One
By Marc Gingell
Fulham (19) v Manchester United (5) – Craven Cottage Kick-off 12:30.
In their last home game, Fulham dramatically stormed back from 2-0 down against Brighton to win 4-2. Prior to that Spurs might have considered themselves lucky to snatch three Craven Cottage points with a 90+ 3rd minute rare headed goal from Harry Winks.
Fulham’s home form is good and they’re 14th in the home form league table with four wins and three draws. Serbian forward, 24 year old Aleksandar Mitrovic has ten Premier League goals and is joint 7th in the league’s list of top scorers. He’s also not afraid to try his luck and his 88 shots put him in number one position in that particular table. Mo Salah has 80 and Sergio Agüero 78.
Fulham Injury / Fitness Update
Marcus Bettinelli: Knee. Unknown return date.
Alfie Mawson: Knee. Unknown return date.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah: On loan from Manchester United and can’t play against his parent club.
Håvard Nordtveit: Lack of match fitness. 50% chance of playing.
Lazar Markovic: Lack of match fitness. 50% chance of playing.
Two months ago Jose Mourinho earned a stay of execution as his Manchester United team breezed past Fulham 4-1 at Old Trafford. He lost his next Barclays Premier League fixture, 3-1 away to Liverpool, and United pulled the plug on the ‘Special One.’ Paul Pogba sat on the bench for both those games.
Eight league games on from that and 22 points out of a possible 24 are in the bag. United are in 5th place just two points off a Champions League place. This weekend’s fixtures should end with United in 4th place. Ole Gunnar Solskjær would have been pleased with last week’s hard-fought win at Leicester with Marcus Rashford scoring the only goal of the game in the 9th minute. That’s six in eight for Rashford who’s enjoying the freedom of a more central role.
Pogba, with the exception of the game against Spurs when Scott McTominay replaced him in the 90 + 2nd minute, has been off the bench for every second of those eight games. His through pass put Rashford in the clear to score against Leicester and he has six goals during this period. With five other assists.
Whilst Pogba and Rashford are flying Sánchez seems well off the pace and has only managed 116 minutes of game time under Solskjær although he does have a couple of assists. If United, are to seriously challenge Spurs for 3rd place, an inform Sánchez could be an integral part of making that happen.
After this game, United face three big tests. There’re away to PSG in the Champions League, away to Chelsea in the FA Cup, and home to Liverpool in the Premier League.
Manchester Injury / Fitness Update
Marco Rojo: Knock. Unknown return
Away from home United have kept clean sheets in three out of four league games under Solskjær and only conceded one goal. A penalty in the 38th minute against Cardiff scored by Victor Camarasa. To maintain that record United will have to keep a special eye of Mitrovic.
Fulham 0 Manchester United 2
Crystal Palace (14) v West Ham United (12) – Selhurst Park Kick-off 15:00.
On paper Crystal Palace seem to have a lot of firepower. Wilfried Zaha, Jordon Ayew, Christian Benteke, Connor Wickham, and Michy Batshuayi. But for one reason or another none of them firing. Zaha has four goals this season and went 16 games without finding the net before scoring against Southampton recently. Ayew has one. Benteke and Wickham, both returning from long injuries have yet to score.
Can Batshuayi do the business in the Premier League? Chelsea, so desperately in need of goals recently until hitting Huddersfield for five, obviously didn’t think so and Valencia cut short his season-long loan in January this year. He made 15 Valencia appearances and scored one goal against Celta de Vigo. This made him the first player in the 21st century to score in the top leagues of France, Germany, England, and Spain.
Twenty-five year old Batshuayi, 12 goals in 20 appearances for Belgium, might be the kind of player that needs a bit of love and he’s endeared himself to the Palace fans already. Against Fulham, he came on in the 82nd minute and five minutes later he’d set up a goal for Jeffery Schlupp.
Meanwhile, Benteke is proven in the Premier League. He scored 42 for Aston Villa and helped Sam Allardyce with his ‘Saving Crystal Palace from Relegation Bonus’ in 2017 with seven goals after Big Sam’s arrival. He missed 17 games with a knee injury and made his first full start since September 1st last weekend against Fulham. In the 36th minute of that game, he crashed a stunning overhead kick against the bar. An inch lower and that would have been the perfect confidence booster for Benteke who hasn’t scored an open play Premier League goal since January 30th, 2018.
Crystal Palace Injury / Fitness Update
Pape Souaré: Shoulder. Out until March.
Cheikhou Kouyaté: Ankle. Unknown return.
West Ham United
West Ham have three players who could be challenging for the Premiership new arrivals team of the season. Issa Diop, Felip Anderson, and Declan Rice.
The Toulouse born 22 year old French defender signed from Toulouse for a reported fee of £22M. At 1.94m (6ft 4in) he’s a huge unit at the back for West Ham and making a real impact. Manchester United have shown interest along with Barcelona.
Twenty-five year old midfielder from Santa Maria in Brazil. Anderson signed for a reported fee of £36M from Lazio and has 8 goals and 4 assists to date. He’s a dribbling king and topped the Serie A completed dribble charts in 2016/17 with 117.
Rice is regarded as a defender but he’s playing a midfield holding role. He’s started the last 21 Premier League games and looks like he will be a West Ham fixture for years. They just need to fend off the big boys who could be circling with their cheque books open. At just 20 he showed his composure on the ball with a fine finish in the Hammers 1-0 win against Arsenal. To date that’s his only Premier League goal.
West Ham Injury / Fitness Update
Fabián Balbuena: Knee. Expected back 22nd February
Winston Reid: Knee: Unknown return date.
Andriy Yarmolenko: Achilles. Unknown return date.
Jack Wilshere: Ankle: Unknown return date.
Samir Nasri: Calf: Expected back 22nd February.
Carlos Sánchez: Knee. Unknown return date.
Manuel Lanzini: Lack of fitness. Expected back 22nd February.
If Benteke scores Palace could take this game comfortably but he’s up against Diop who might just have enough in his locker to keep him quiet. With Anderson West Ham have a game changer and potential match-winner.
Crystal Palace 0 West Ham United 1
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