Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Man City now have a big problem holding leads

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Highlights from the Premier League clash between Manchester City and Crystal Palace

Manchester City’s mantra in the modern era has been that they fight to the end. Their two most famous title wins featured spectacular late comebacks at the Etihad Stadium on the final day. This campaign is in danger of being remember for the opposite.

Crystal Palace became the fourth team this Premier League season to conjure a late equaliser against Pep Guardiola’s side. Even the three Premier League games that City have lost this season, they were drawing after an hour. It has become an alarming habit.

This was perhaps the most unlikely of them all. The previous draws had come against Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham but this was an out-of-form Palace. Struggling with injuries of their own, it was difficult to believe they could come from two down.

Crystal Palace players celebrate after coming from behind to draw 2-2 at the Etihad Stadium

It was a little too easy for Jeffrey Schlupp to find space in the left channel to set up the first of the two goals. The second was a penalty but came because Palace were able to gain some possession in City’s defensive third at a time they might have expected to see it out.

Is the problem physical? A consequence of injuries to the squad, fatigue catching up with them, perhaps. Is it mental? Some will point to the possibility of complacency after the treble success. Could it be tactical? A failure to control the counter-attacks as before.

The upshot is that the air of invincibility is not what it was. City are fourth in the table and the three teams above them finish Saturday with a game in hand and are all in better form. The Club World Cup needs to be more than a distraction. It must serve as a reset.
Adam Bate

‘Land of the Giants’ Everton would be challenging for Europe

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of the Premier League clash between Burnley and Everton.

It is 21 years since Everton won four Premier League games in a row without conceding. That run during the autumn and winter of 2002 propelled David Moyes’ People’s Club to a seventh-placed finish.

Were it not for the 10-point deduction for breaching profitability and sustainability rules (PSR), Everton would now be level on points with Brighton in eighth. They are playing like a top-half side, and the off-field setback only continues to galvanise the players on it.

For Sean Dyche, on his return to a club where he enjoyed so much relative success, this was just business as usual. He strode onto the pitch at the final whistle and applauded those who now laud his ability to get the most out of a depleted squad.

Here, despite missing three first-choice defenders, there was evidence of the team spirit and togetherness he is fostering in his first full season.

Everton are scoring at a rate of one every 11 corners

Within the space of a month, he has wiped out the debt imposed on them by the commission that looked into the Premier League charges.

Everton’s latest away win was fittingly assisted by former Burnley players with Dwight McNeil, James Tarkowski and the excellent Michael Keane all involved. Jamie Redknapp said it was ‘land of the giants’ for Everton given their height superiority.

Burnley remain marooned towards the bottom of the Premier League table. Everton approach the festive season in good heart and are undoubtedly heading in an upward direction.
Ben Grounds

Could scrappy Blades win prove to be a catalyst for Poch’s Blues?

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Highlights from Chelsea’s win against Sheffield United in the Premier League

It was not pretty at times, but Chelsea eventually got the job done against a spirited Sheffield United side at Stamford Bridge to record a much-needed win and the perfect way to head into Tuesday’s hugely important Carabao Cup quarter-final home tie with Newcastle United.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side have struggled all season to break down teams intent to play with a low block and on the counter-attack and it was no different in the first half against the Blades on Saturday.

In fact, the hosts went in at half-time having failed to manage a first-half shot inside the box in a home game for the first time since 2010, when records began, while registering an XG of just 0.16.

Chelsea’s Nicolas Jackson celebrates with team-mate Conor Gallagher after scoring

However, a slight teak to the positions of Raheem Sterling and Cole Palmer, who was switched to a No 10 role in the second half, proved beneficial for the Blues, who scored twice in the opening 16 minutes to break the visitors’ stiff resistance.

That means Chelsea are now unbeaten in their last four matches in all competitions in west London – while it is also just one defeat in seven in total stretching back to September – as Pochettino tries to make the Bridge a fortress.

But that impressive home form will be tested in midweek when Newcastle visit the capital – live on Sky Sports – with a place in the League Cup semi-finals up for grab and the possibility of the first domestic trophy of the season going Chelsea’s way.
Richard Morgan

Spurs win but discipline an added problem to overcome

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Highlights from Nottingham Forest’s match against Tottenham in the Premier League

Positivity is the theme at Tottenham and, when he spoke to Sky, Dejan Kulusevski was keen to underline the development he and his team-mates will get from playing with 10 men for the final 25 minutes at Nottingham Forest. But Yves Bissouma’s straight red card was another example of a rashness which has repeatedly occurred from Spurs players this season.

This was the fourth time one of their players has been sent off and they will now be without Bissouma until well into the New Year, with his three-game ban taking him up to the Africa Cup of Nations. They’ll feel his absence. Spurs will be missing Destiny Udogie when they host Everton next weekend, too, after he picked up a fifth yellow of the season.

It adds to the disruption Ange Postecoglou is having to deal with, given the injuries to the likes of key men Micky van de Ven, Rodrigo Bentancur and James Maddison.

Dejan Kulusevski had a hand in both goals as Tottenham won 2-0 at the City Ground

Worse, Bissouma and Udogie have already served suspensions this season. Bissouma picked up a second yellow at Luton for diving just before half-time, while Udogie was given his marching orders along with Cristian Romero in the defeat to Chelsea – a game in which Tottenham were plainly impacted by ill discipline. Tottenham took just one point from the three games without Romero which followed.

Postecoglou pointed out it is a fine line between commitment and overstepping the park but this recurring issue for Spurs needs to be addressed or they’re going to continue to add problems to the pile they already have to deal with.
Peter Smith

Howe helpless in injury crisis

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Highlights from the Premier League clash between Newcastle and Fulham

Raul Jimenez helped injury-hit Newcastle to move up to sixth with his reckless red card, but Eddie Howe won’t be able to sustain a push for the top four with this threadbare squad.

“I don’t know what to say about it,” he said after seeing Fabian Schar and Joelinton become the latest players to be sidelined with first-half injuries.

Lewis Miley celebrates after scoring the opening goal

There are 11 Newcastle players unavailable due to fitness issues plus the suspended Sandro Tonali. They will head to Chelsea on Tuesday in the Carabao Cup running on fumes ahead of a busy Christmas period.

The unfortunate situation has allowed 17-year-old Lewis Miley to flourish and Sven Botman did return for the first time in three months when he made a late cameo against Fulham.

But Howe needs support in the January transfer window to flesh out his squad which is capable of finishing in the Champions League places should most of it be available.
David Richardson

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