sexta-feira, 21 de outubro de 2016

Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend (one)

Resultado de imagem para flag england

Agüero to show Guardiola his worth, Hazard to hurt Mourinho again, West Brom out to bully Karius, and will Koeman get a reaction from Barkley and Mirallas?

1) Agüero has a point to prove for stuttering City

It is just under a month since Manchester City last won a game of football – and although that statistic is a little misleading given we have had an international break, it still stretches to four games. That was a hard scenario to imagine when Pep Guardiola’s remodelled side burst out of the blocks with 10 wins on the spin. Two draws and two defeats later, City face Claude Puel’s Southampton, who have the league’s third-best defence. They will probably have the weekend’s heaviest legs too, given their energy-sapping trip to Italy to face Internazionale, who narrowly beat them on Thursday. With City having scored just once in their past three matches and Guardiola opting to play Sergio Agüero for only 10 minutes of the manager’s unhappy return to Barcelona, surely the temptation to tease a reaction out of him with a start at the Etihad Stadium is too great to resist. For once it feels like the recently hamstrung Argentinian has been handled with a little too much care, and he will be highly motivated to show Guardiola that he needn’t have been so cautious with him at the Camp Nou. Virgil van Dijk and José Fonte beware. GB

2) Hazard to hurt Mourinho … again?

When José Mourinho spoke of certain Chelsea players betraying him shortly before his sacking last year, it was hard to believe that there was a player above Eden Hazard in that category in Mourinho’s mind. He was a shadow of the man he was in 2014-15. Despite an up-and-down start this season, since Antonio Conte has revamped Chelsea by playing a 3-4-3 formation, Hazard has excelled, proving an elusive and dangerous figure, often filling in as a false nine in a fluid, shape-shifting system. Manchester United’s defence will prove a sterner test of Chelsea’s new-look attack at Old Trafford than either Hull or Leicester’s did; the way theystopped Liverpool playing is testament to this. But on his day, there are few smarter players in the Premier League than Hazard – and it could be that his ability to influence the game on Sunday by ghosting in and out of attacking positionsleaves Mourinho cursing him again. GB

3) Boro should target Arsenal scalp as a free hit

After Middlesbrough’s first win of the season – a 2-1 victory over Sunderland in August – Aitor Karanka said his overriding emotion was relief at getting over that hurdle so soon. Boro have not enjoyed that feeling in seven turgid league and Cup performances since, scoring only five goals in a run of two draws and five defeats. There is clearly no shortage of application in their defensive work – Middlesbrough have made significantly more tackles (194) than any other side this season – but the boos that greeted last Sunday’s drab 1-0 loss against Watford,while primarily directed at the referee, reveal some frustration that their well-drilled style which produced a string of narrow wins in last year’s Championship is producing narrow defeats in the top flight. With a tricky run ahead including Manchester City and Chelsea, Saturday’s trip to an Arsenal side revelling in an impressive seven-game winning spell is unwelcome, but perhaps offers something of a free hit. A home run would release an awful lot of pressure at the Riverside. LO

4) Karius faces another test of mettle against West Brom

Liverpool’s goalless draw with Manchester United on Monday left the hosts feeling frustrated, yet amid the tedium came a positive – a first Premier League clean sheet of the season. That was no great surprise, given United had just one shot on target and displayed a lack of intent and ambition, but it was nevertheless noteworthy from a Liverpool point of view. It may well have been whatgoalkeeper Loris Karius focused on afterwards – better that than what was another jittery display from the 23-year-old. Crosses were once again flapped at and on 49 minutes came a pass straight to Paul Pogba that was quickly moved on to an unmarked Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Fortunately for Karius, the Swede was ruled offside. None of this was expected when the German was signed from Mainz with a reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in the Bundesliga.
Karius’ early displays have led to questions among Liverpool supporters over Jürgen Klopp’s decision to put him into the side straight after recovering from a broken hand, particularly as Simon Mignolet, for so long a liability for the Merseysiders, had begun the season in encouraging form. Now comes another test for Karius – a visit from West Brom, whose manager, Tony Pulis, will no doubt tell his players to target the home team’s shaky stopper by launching as many crosses as possible into the area. Anfield will hold its collective breath when the first delivery comes Karius’s way, and for a man not short of confidence this would be the ideal time to calm nerves and curb the criticism. Karius, who again received the backing of his manager before Saturday’s game, needs to decide whether he is coming for crosses or not – he arrived in England with a reputation for staying on his line, which is fine as long as that’s what he does, and he relays that message to the defenders in front of him. What he cannot do is come and miss the ball. Again. SN

5) Sunderland can put heat on West Ham with much-needed win

Sunderland remain the only team without a Premier League win this season and as they sit in last place, the mind wanders back to David Moyes’s comments after the 2-1 defeat to Middlesbrough on 21 August. Asked if Sunderland were destined for a relegation scrap after what was just their second match of the season, the Scot replied: “That’s what they’ve had for the last four years, so why should it change?” Even by Moyes’s standards this was an incredibly negative thing to say, and you have to wonder if a subsequent sense of doom has spread through his squad. In fairness to Moyes, and as he intimated after the Middlesbrough game, this is a group of players who have been performing badly for some time, but it cannot do their confidence much good to know their manager has little confidence in them. The situation is a dire one, and Moyes may not be given time to turn things around if Sunderland do not pick up that first victory soon, despite the assurances of the chief executive, Martin Bain, on Thursday that Moyes’ job is safe. The next opportunity comes against West Ham at the London Stadium and while Slaven Bilic’s men go into the match buoyed by victory at Crystal Palace they remain an inconsistent, shaky outfit at their new home. Start well and Sunderland could – could – enjoy their most fruitful afternoon of the campaign.SN

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