FIVE games to follow this weekend: The FA Cup, League and Continental honours are all up for grabs

FIVE games to follow this weekend: The FA Cup, League and Continental honours are all up for grabs

In this weekend preview we summarise the best five games to follow on your match feed. And make a couple of suggestions for matches that you may otherwise miss.

By Bill Biss

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Manchester City vs. Manchester United

In the 152 year history of the FA Cup, the world’s oldest national football competition, there has never previously been a Manchester Derby in the Final. But now in this, the 142nd edition, and the 100th Final to be played at Wembley, we’re all set for a clash between the blue and red halves of Manchester on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola’s recently crowned Premier League champions are, of course, hunting down a treble with this match falling one week before their date with Inter in the final of the Champions League. For their part, United are gunning for a domestic cup double after they beat Newcastle to lift the Carabao Cup back in February. Something that, if achieved, must go down as a highly satisfactory return for coach Erik Ten Hag in his first season with the club.

The sides have previously met eight times in the FA Cup, with the head-to-head record reading 5-3 in United’s favour, but probably move relevant to where we are now is a comparison of their 2022/23 Premier League campaign, which you can see here:

🌎 CONCACAF Champions League Final: LAFC vs. Club León (1-2 agg)

In the first of a number of big continental finals tipped in this column, we’re listing Sunday’s second leg between MLS side Los Angeles FC and León, from Liga MX, in the CONCACAF Champions League.

León looked to be in complete control of their own destiny as the two met in Mexico for the first leg on Wednesday night but a late goal from LAFC’s in-form striker Denis Bouanga has changed the complexion of the tie.

Bouanga now has seven goals in seven games during this cup run to go with 10 in 12 back in MLS since the turn of the year. And it’s that kind of form that breeds confidence across a team, especially one that ended 2022 as the MLS Cup holders.

History does favour the side from Mexico but León are not amongst the country’s 13 previous winners of the tournament (those 13 have won 37 titles between them). So could LAFC follow Seattle Sounders’ example from winning last year by turning this game around and becoming the fourth MLS side to lift the trophy?

🌍 CAF Champions League Final: Al Ahly vs. Wydad

Sunday also sees Africa’s biggest club game take place, with the first leg of the CAF Champions League being played in Cairo. And this particular match-up is one with a bit of recent history, with the game between Egyptian giants Al Ahly, and defending champions Wydad Casablanca being a repeat of last year’s final.

In fact, the format of this season’s competition reverted to a two-legged final precisely because of complaints from Al Ahly when that one-off 2022 final was played at the home of Wydad. The stadium had originally been selected as a neutral venue but the authorities refused to change plans despite it being the base of the one of the eventual finalists!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, with the weight of local support behind them, Wydad ran out 2-0 winners in that game and stopped Al Ahly claiming what would have been a hat-trick of titles. The Egyptians are famously Africa’s most decorated club, with 10 wins in this competition, and they’re currently top of the pile back in their domestic league. Wydad, meanwhile, sit second in Morocco with just a few rounds to play.

🏆 UEFA Women’s Champions League Final: Barcelona vs. Wolfsburg

Back in Europe, at PSV Eindhoven’s Philips Stadium to be precise, Saturday gives us the final in the Women’s Champions League.

Barcelona are there again, for the third year running, as they look to become the dominant force across the board in women’s football. They lost just once in Liga F this season, bringing home a fourth straight title with a record of 85 points, 118 goals scored, and just 10 conceded. But in Europe, at least, they don’t have it all their own way – they won the 2021 final against Chelsea but were then beaten by Lyon in 2022.

Wolfsburg have a longer record of dominating the Frauen-Bundesliga, either winning it, or finishing as runners-up in each of the last 12 seasons. Unfortunately for them, this was one of the years in which they missed out – Bayern beat them to the title by just two points. They also have a proud history in the Champions League – winning it in 2013 and 2014 – but then losing out in each of their next three final appearances – 2016, 2018, and 2020. A streak they’ll be looking to break.

🇦🇺 Melbourne City vs. Central Coast Mariners

Down under, the 18th season of the A-League comes to a close with Saturday’s Grand Final. Fittingly, despite the play-off format that brings us to this point, it’s the regular season’s top two finishers who meet in the final: Premier Plate winners Melbourne City and Central Coast Mariners.

The Mariners beat Adelaide United on the last day of the season to take second spot and earn a bye to the semi-finals of the play-offs where they then met, and beat, Adelaide again. Melbourne, on the other hand, reached their third consecutive Grand Final thanks to a convincing 5-1 aggregate win over Sydney FC.

City have been crowned Premiers by virtue of finishing top in the regular season in each of the last three years but they have only won one Grand Final so far – the 2020 edition, also against Sydney.

The two previous meetings between the finalists this season have been close affairs – City beating the Mariners 1-0 in December before they shared a 1-1 draw in April.

Plus two hidden gems from a little deeper in your match feed…

🇧🇪 Genk vs. Royal Antwerp

Sunday is going to be a dramatic day in Belgium where three of the four sides in the Championship play-off group still have a chance of taking the title on the final day of the season!

As mentioned last week – two of those three have been waiting a very long time for this (potentially title winning) day – Antwerp since 1957, Union St. Gilloise since 1935. But it’s the game between Antwerp and the third challengers, Genk, that will have the biggest impact on proceedings.

Genk and Union finished neck-and-neck at the end of the regular season but with all points halved and rounded-up ahead of the play-offs, it meant that Antwerp only needed to make up two points in the last six games. After wins over Union, Genk, and Club Brugge, they looked odds on to romp home but defeat in the return against Brugge and then last week’s draw with Union has left us with this tense three-way battle on the final day.

Should Union beat Brugge in the other game, they will need Antwerp to drop points. At present the two are only split by virtue of Antwerp finishing the regular season on an even number of points, meaning that when their tally was halved, they was no rounding up involved – unlike Union and Genk. But we’ll leave it there before explaining the format causes any more confusion.

🇧🇬 CSKA Sofia vs. CSKA 1948

And finally this week, we’re recommending yet another final day, title-deciding game. This time in Bulgaria.

Imagine this scenario, if you will. CSKA Sofia, who are on the rise again after bankruptcy and controversy, have the chance to end Ludogorets’ 11 year reign as Champions. They lead them by a single point with one game to play. But that game comes against CSKA 1948, a club formed amidst the acrimony and fall-out from the collapse of the original CSKA, and one that still contests the name, albeit legally, can no longer also contest the history and previous titles now owned once more by CSKA Sofia.

And then take in the fact that Ludogorets’ final game comes against Levski Sofia, historically CSKA’s fiercest rivals.

All that should make for a hectic final day, and one where, no doubt, various conspiracies and controversies will take hold.

If you want to follow any of the games mentioned above, click on the relevant link and tap the bell icon to receive all the key match updates.

Or join us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to discuss all the important football going on this weekend!

Cover Image from IMAGO

Posted by Bill Biss
José Mourinho, Roma and the Europa League final

José Mourinho, Roma and the Europa League final

We’re one final down in UEFA’s trio of cup competitions and it did not go well for Serie A representatives AS Roma.

By Matteo Bonetti

Roma’s heartbreaking end

José Mourinho’s European run with Roma ended after more than 147 minutes of gruelling play and a penalty shootout in the final against Sevilla. It was a game that from a Roma point of view was marred by refereeing decisions, but the team was also unfortunate with some of their finishing. For example, there was Andrea Belotti’s volley that was saved by the fingernail of Bono in what was a world class moment for the Moroccan keeper. Centre-back Chris Smalling’s looping header that caught the top of the crossbar was also millimetres away from finding the back of the net. 

Despite Roma’s defensive approach to the game, often sitting back with 11 men behind the ball, they created the chances to trouble Sevilla but ultimately had their weaknesses exposed. Just take a look at the players that the Andalusian side were able to bring on – experienced, talented wingers like Suso and Érik Lamela, who both completely changed the course of the game when they replaced the quiet pairing of Óliver Torres and Bryan Gil. Mourinho’s only real attacking change was putting in a shockingly out of form Andrea Belotti, who has appeared in 30 Serie A games this season without scoring a single goal. 

Aside from the squandered chances, Roma didn’t get any help from the officials either. Mourinho approached the referees post match to tell them he thought their performance was a disgrace. There were a few episodes in particular that turned the tide of the game in Sevilla’s favour. The most glaring was Youssef En-Nesyri’s apparent handball that wasn’t given. The ball made contact with the Moroccan’s arm that was slightly outstretched from his body. I’ve seen penalties given in nearly identical situations, so Roma have a reason to feel frustrated about that potentially game changing decision. Even more ominously, it seems like Mourinho isn’t committing long term to the club. The Portuguese manager has complained about lack of depth in the past, as the injuries Roma have accrued throughout the season have exposed a rather thin squad who have had to rely on some of the inexperienced youngsters to fill the holes in the lineup. 

The main issue has to do with the striker situation. Roma’s two main attackers, Tammy Abraham and Andrea Belotti, have combined for 13 goals in 98 matches in all competitions this season. Normally a decent striker has a return of a goal every other game, not every other nine. You could make the argument that Mourinho’s defensive setup isn’t ideal for any striker to get loads of chances, but a closer look at the FotMob stats puts more of the blame on the players themselves. Both Tammy and Belotti have a much higher expected goals rate in Serie A than what they’ve actually scored. This suggests a wastefulness and lack of clinical ability when they are put in a position to trouble the goalkeeper. 

Roma’s defence is also inconsistent. While Chris Smalling was arguably the player of the match for Roma, winning countless headers against the dangerous aerial threat Youssef En-Nesyri, his partners at the back weren’t as assured. Gianluca Mancini might’ve provided the assist for Dybala’s goal and showed plenty of grit, but he also scored an own goal and then missed a penalty in the shootout. The third centre-back is possibly the most worrying. Roger Ibañez is too error prone to be trusted in big matches at this point. The man behind them, Rui Patrício, has also been at the very bottom of every advanced goalkeeping statistic in Serie A this season.

So how do we sum up Roma’s season? For me, bringing in José Mourinho and giving him signings like Paulo Dybala means that a top four finish and Champions League football are the fair expectations. Winning the first ever Conference League was a good start to the Mourinho era, but the second season needed to be followed up with a stronger domestic showing. Without any silverware or Champions League football next season, this second campaign will ultimately be summed up as a disappointment. Roma would be in seventh place currently had it not been for Juventus most recent points deduction.

A word on Sevilla…

Sevilla’s World Cup winner Gonzalo Montiel knows a thing or two about scoring important penalties – after all, it was his penalty that won Argentina the World Cup last year. He also got the chance to win Sevilla’s seventh Europa League.

His first try was saved by Rui Patrício, but VAR spotted encroachment by the Roma keeper and this time Montiel made no mistake. Sevilla’s story is nothing short of incredible. When journeyman manager José Luis Mendilibar took over the club this year they were just two points away from relegation. He was their third manager of the season and came with little fanfare.

The 62-year-old Mendilibar is someone who was used to saving teams from relegation, not fighting for trophies or European competitions. It’s what makes this story so surreal – the club’s fortunes turned around instantly as the new manager brought them a sense of calm and optimism behind the scenes. Sevilla’s impressive run in the Europa League saw them knock out both Manchester United and Juventus on their way to facing Roma in the final. 

(images from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the 2022/23 Serie A season live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
Bundesliga Review: All the final day drama

Bundesliga Review: All the final day drama

After 34 Matchdays Germany’s Bundesliga went to the wire, a championship-winning goal in the 89th minute from Jamal Musiala saw Bayern pip Dortmund to hold aloft the Meisterschale.

By Chris Williams, our Bundesliga expert

Stage fright

The scene was set in Dortmund; fans queued outside the Westfalenstadion five hours before kick-off to drink and party, their first title in 11 years had never felt so close. Yet the day was about to turn from momentous to nightmarish on a scale not seen for two decades.

All the Schwarzgelben had to do was beat Mainz, a team that had lost four straight matches whilst conceding 13 goals. Dortmund had won the last three, dispatching Wolfsburg, Gladbach and Augsburg with absolute ease the final day fixture played into their hands, surely they had to…

Before the half-hour mark passed the title favourites were two down, and Sébastien Haller had fluffed his lines from the penalty spot, the greatest of days was now a horror show and Dortmund looked out of ideas, frozen in time.

“After conceding goals, you noticed how heavy the ball and your legs are,”  Edin Terzić remarked after the full-time whistle, and it could be seen by all just how heavy expectation weighed on his side as desperation crept in.

Raphaël Guerreiro and Niklas Süle brought the score back to 2-2 but it wasn’t enough, tears had replaced pre-match parties; coach, players and fans all sobbed in unison. 

The unthinkable had happened; from a position of strength Dortmund lost the title to Bayern on goal difference, all they had to do was win yet the dream slipped away in the most cruel fashion. 

What may be more worrying for the Signal Iduna Park club is that this gut-wrenching title loss on the last day could take a long time to recover from. Those players staying at the club might need more than an eight week break to shake off the bitter disappointment.

Getting so close but ending with nothing will take mental resilience of epic proportions to forget so soon and then be ready to do it all again.   

Jude Bellingham was named Bundesliga player of the season after the last-day drama settled, but now the 19-year-old will move on, to Real Madrid if the rumours are correct. 

There was a Bellingham-shaped hole in Dortmund’s matchday eleven against Mainz and they couldn’t get over the line, now they must do it for the next 34 matches, and beyond.

It’s what Champions do…

It has become inevitable, Bayern München will win the league, even in their worst season of recent times and one full of off-the-pitch drama, after 34 matches the Bavarians did just enough to ensure the Meisterschale only left their possession for 90 minutes. 

With Dortmund starting the day top, the Bundesliga trophy was positioned by the DFL at the Westfalenstadion, and a replica was sent to Köln in case Bayern had the final laugh.

That they did, but it didn’t come easy. Dejan Ljubicic’s penalty on 81 minutes looked to have dethroned the mighty Bavarians, they had to win to stand any hope of keeping their title crown.

Four minutes later Thomas Tuchel rolled the dice, sending on Jamal Musiala and four minutes after that the 20-year-old struck from outside the box to send the fans amassed in the away block wild. 

The situation was the same for both clubs, win to win a title, Bayern showed what champions must do and Dortmund couldn’t.

Presented with the replica after their victory, the real Meisterschale was boxed up and sent an hour down the road. Reunited with the club where it has resided now for 11 years. 

While the players celebrated the club immediately announced the news that both CEO Oliver Kahn and sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić had been sacked. Off-the-pitch issues almost cost Bayern the title and they moved swiftly to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

Relegation (and promotion) drama

Schalke’s 4-2 loss to RB Leipzig meant they follow Hertha Berlin into 2.Bundesliga, and with VfB Stuttgart drawing at Hoffenheim it is the Swabians who now have the prospect of 180 minutes of hell. The Relegation Playoff awaits against Hamburg, who had their own day of pain on Sunday.

Hamburger SV, HSV or, as they are more commonly known – Hamburg, had an afternoon that could only be topped by Dortmund for speechlessness.

Sitting in the second automatic promotion slot in 2.Bundesliga it looked like the one-time European Cup winners would be back in the top flight after a five-year absence. Prior to their relegation in 2018 they had played 54 years in Germany’s top division but try as they might they couldn’t get back in.

That looked to be sealed with a 1-0 win at Sandhausen, at full time their fans invaded the Sandhausen pitch, congratulated by the PA system on their return to the Bundesliga.

However; Heidenheim who sat third were still playing, and had 11 minutes of added time. Unbelievably they struck twice, 90+3 and 90+9 saw them overturn a 2-1 scoreline and leapfrog both Hamburg and Darmstadt to be crowned champions.

The HSV fans on the pitch in Sandhausen who were celebrating were left dumbstruck, they had finished third, and with it a playoff against Stuttgart awaits.

European fever

Union Berlin, who were at one point being quietly talked about as possible champions, secured Champions League football with victory against Weder Bremen.

Robin Knoche and Sheraldo Becker were two of Union’s standout players across the season. Knoche notched up a number of tremendous performances; the centre-back turned supplier in May ensuring both ends of the pitch has his mark.

While Becker ended the season with 11 goals and seven assists, and will relish the challenge that awaits next season at Europe’s top table. 

The capital club’s win meant that Freiburg had to settle for fifth place and a slot in the Europa League, Bayer Leverkusen ended up sixth and the Europa League semi-finalists will play at least Europa Conference football next season.   

Eintracht Frankfurt miss out on Europe via the traditional table but are guaranteed a place next season by virtue of the DFB Pokal Final. 

Should Leipzig beat them in Berlin then The Eagles will play in the Europa Conference qualifiers, as the Red Bull outfit finished third they will automatically enter the Champions League, this will shunt Freiburg and Leverkusen into the Europa League.

Frankfurt will obviously aim for victory and the traditional route of directly into the Europa League group stage as Pokal winners – complex or what! 

And that is it, the 60th season of the Bundesliga ends with a familiar champion but in the most dramatic of styles. Have Bayern learnt their boardroom lessons and opted for change at the best time? Will Dortmund recover from absolute heartache and can Union Berlin shock Europe’s elite?

We’ll see in 12 weeks…

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the 2022/23 Bundesliga season live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
LaLiga Review: Barcelona bid farewell to Camp Nou, Madrid beat Sevilla, and Espanyol are relegated

LaLiga Review: Barcelona bid farewell to Camp Nou, Madrid beat Sevilla, and Espanyol are relegated

The penultimate round of the season in LaLiga saw the top three in fine form, some other outstanding matters wrapped up, and set us up for what’s going to be a dramatic final day at the bottom of the table.

By Ben Hayward, LaLiga expert

Barça sign off with a win at Camp Nou

Barcelona bade farewell to the old Camp Nou on Sunday night and also to two of their most emblematic players from recent times as Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba said goodbye to the fans in the club’s final home game of the season.

And amid a special atmosphere at the famous stadium, Barça got off to the perfect start as Robert Lewandowski flicked the ball through to Gavi and he squared for Ansu Fati to open the scoring inside a minute against Mallorca.

The visitors then had Amath Ndiaye sent off after 14 minutes for a dangerous challenge on Alejandro Balde, who went off injured, and Ansu made it 2-0 to the champions midway through the half when he slid a low finish under Dominik Greif after Lewandowski had flicked the ball through to him at the back post from a Frenkie de Jong pass.

Barça were dominant and twice hit the bar in the second half before Gavi hit a fierce drive into the corner with 20 minutes left to round off a big win for the Blaugrana.

Alba then went off in tears with 10 minutes left and Busquets followed a few minutes later. Both players received standing ovations from the Camp Nou faithful as they left the pitch and the pair were presented with special plaques by president Joan Laporta after the match. They were then thrown into the air by their team-mates.

“The hardest thing is to choose the moment to say goodbye,” Xavi said. “They have been intelligent. We are losing the best pivot and the best left-back in Barça’s history. They are an example to the new generations.”

Xavi confirmed that neither Busquets nor Alba will play for Barça in their final LaLiga game away to Celta Vigo next weekend, but one man who will definitely feature at Balaídos is goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen.

On Sunday, the German kept his 26th clean sheet in LaLiga this season to equal the record set by Deportivo La Coruña’s Francisco Liaño in 1993-94. One more will see Ter Stegen break the record outright and he said: “I’m very happy with the 26 clean sheets. Now I want to break the record.”

Barça will now move to the Olympic Stadium at Montjuic until 2025 as works start this summer to modernise Camp Nou and Xavi said: “It’s bittersweet because everything will be new and we won’t be back in through the ramp or the players’ tunnel, but the stadium will be better and now we have to adapt to Montjuic.”

Rodrygo at the double as Real Madrid stay second

There was no Karim Benzema or Vinícius Júnior for Real Madrid as both forwards missed the trip to Sevilla on Saturday with minor injuries, but Rodrygo stepped up with both goals to give Los Blancos a 2-1 win at the Sánchez Pizjuán.

Rafa Mir fired Sevilla into the lead inside three minutes after pouncing on a rebound in the Madrid area, but Rodrygo equalised with a fine free-kick just short of the half-hour mark, although the Brazilian was aided as the poor placement of the defensive wall allowed a big gap for him to find the corner with goalkeeper Bono wrongfooted.

Rodrygo later scored the winner after 69 minutes when he ran onto a long pass from Toni Kroos, turned Gonzalo Montiel inside out and beat Bono with a cool finish. The Brazilian attacker, on a hat-trick, was annoyed at being substituted with 81 minutes played. He now has 19 goals in 2022-23, which is 10 more than his previous best in a season for Real.

“He wanted to stay on the pitch to try to score a hat-trick,” coach Carlo Ancelotti said afterwards. “I told him we have different objectives: ‘you want to score and I don’t want to concede.’”

With little to play for other than second spot in LaLiga, Ancelotti also admitted it had been difficult to get his players fired up. “It’s hard to find the motivation for these matches,” the Italian said. “But this week, something has happened. The atmosphere has changed and that’s a good sign.”

Madrid are a point ahead of city rivals Atlético with one round remaining, but both teams have already qualified for next season’s Supercopa.

Atleti beat Real Sociedad as Basques seal Champions League place

Atlético Madrid are still in with a chance of finishing second in LaLiga after a 2-1 win at home to Real Sociedad on Sunday, but it was a happy evening for the Basques too as they sealed a place in next season’s Champions League.

Antoine Griezmann cut inside and hit a sweet strike into the corner to give Atlético the lead late in the first half and Nahuel Molina looked to have wrapped up a comfortable win for the Rojiblancos as he made it 2-0 after 73 minutes, but Alexander Sørloth pulled one back close to the end and Real Sociedad pushed for a leveller in the final stages.

It didn’t come but it didn’t matter as Villarreal’s loss against Rayo Vallecano meant the Basques had finished fourth, which sees the San Sebastián club return to the Champions League for the first time since 2013.

“What these players are achieving has an incalculable value,” Real Sociedad coach Imanol Alguacil said. “It’s absolutely crazy and we have to enjoy it.”

Atlético, meanwhile, are guaranteed to finish in the top three but could pip Real Madrid to second if they win at Villarreal next weekend and Los Blancos fail to beat Athletic Club at the Santiago Bernabéu.

That hardly seemed possible after a disappointing first half of the season saw the Rojiblancos outside the top four. “I’m very happy and we hope to finish the season in the best way,” coach Diego Simeone said.

Espanyol relegated as six-way struggle to beat drop goes to final day

Espanyol looked to have given themselves a chance of beating the drop as they led 2-1 in added time away to Valencia, but Samuel Lino struck in the 93rd minute to relegate the Barcelona-based club with one round remaining and Mestalla went wild as the home side sealed a point which could keep their team up.

For the second game in a row, Espanyol were furious with the officials. In their 3-3 draw at home to Atlético in midweek, they had been unhappy that an Antoine Griezmann effort was allowed to stand, despite there being no conclusive proof that the ball had crossed the line. And here, they complained of a foul in the build-up to Lino’s late leveller.

Nevertheless, they will play in Spain’s Segunda División next season along with bottom club Elche, with the final relegation spot to be decided next Sunday as six teams all battle to avoid the drop.

Valencia are one of those. They have 41 points, along with Cádiz and Getafe above them. Almería and Celta Vigo have 40, with Real Valladolid on 39. All of those teams have their destiny in their own hands going into the final round of matches.

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the 2022/23 LaLiga season live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
Premier League Review: The Final Day

Premier League Review: The Final Day

That is that then. The 2022/23 Premier League campaign is over. There were only a few things to settle heading into the final day but it was still drama-filled. For the last time this season, a look at some of the most significant talking points.

By Sam McGuire, Premier League expert

Emery is taking Villa on a European adventure

When Unai Emery replaced Steven Gerrard as Aston Villa manager in November, few would’ve envisaged the Spaniard sparking such a remarkable turnaround in form. Villa were in the bottom five at the time but have been one of the form sides since the former Arsenal manager made Villa Park his home. The 2-1 win over Brighton meant they pipped Spurs to a Europa Conference League place by a single point. 

Douglas Luiz capped off his most productive season to date with his sixth of the season while Ollie Watkins eclipsed the 14 goals he scored during his debut campaign with the club with his 15th goal turning out to be the winner. 

It was a deserved win with the hosts finishing the game with an Expected Goals haul of 2.85 to the visitor’s tally of 1.35. 

No new manager bounce at Elland Road

Leeds had to beat Spurs to have any chance of remaining in the Premier League so eyebrows were raised when Sam Allardyce named a fairly defensive starting XI. The former England boss named six defenders in his team, though Robin Koch was deployed in midfield once again, and went with just one real goal threat in Rodrigo. 

They found themselves 1-0 down within two minutes. Leeds did respond well to this and finished the first half with a higher xG (0.82 to 0.61). However, the game got away from the home side after the break with Spurs adding a second just two minutes into the second half. 

Jack Harrison halved the deficit for two minutes before Harry Kane added his second of the day and his 30th of the season. Lucas Moura added Tottenham’s fourth in added time with his final goal for the club. 

Allardyce’s men did have almost twice as many shots as Spurs but created just a single big chance. His arrival in the dugout didn’t give Leeds the boost they needed to stay up and he added just one point across four matches.

The Foxes pounce too late

Leicester were another team battling relegation. Dean Smith’s men needed to win against West Ham while also needing Everton to drop points at home to Bournemouth. The Foxes held up their end of the bargain, claiming a 2-1 win over the Hammers courtesy of goals from Harvey Barnes and Wout Faes. 

In what was likely his final game for the club, Youri Tielemans put on a show for the home fans. The Belgium international created two chances and claimed an assist while also winning 100% of his ground duels and tackles. 

Results went against Leicester though and the 2015/16 Premier League champions are going to be playing Championship football next season. 

The Toffees get out of a sticky situation

Everton knew that a win would keep them in the English top flight. A draw might be enough if results elsewhere go in their favour but their fate was in their own hands. 

Sean Dyche was without Dominic Calvert-Lewin and started the game without a recognised striker on the pitch. It wasn’t the prettiest of matches and chances were few and far between for both the home side and Bournemouth, though the hosts did dominate the ball with 62% possession.  

In the end, Abdoulaye Doucoure’s long-range effort just before the hour mark proved to be the difference maker with Everton holding out for a 1-0 win. The Toffees finished two points outside of the relegation zone. 

The Champions are defeated

Manchester City’s game against Brentford was a bit of a dead rubber. City were already champions and their attention was no doubt on next week’s FA Cup final – it would explain the starting XI put out by Pep Guardiola. The Bees had secured a top-half finish and the highest they could climb would be to 8th and for that to happen they needed Spurs to lose. 

Ethan Pinnock found the back of the net in the 85th minute. With Brentford holding on for the win it meant Thomas Frank’s side did the double over the champions. 

It also meant that the champions finished on fewer than 90 points for only the second time in the past seven seasons. City claimed the title in 2020/21 with 86 points. 

Ending the season with goals

How about this for a stat – 11% of Southampton’s goals for the 2022/23 campaign were scored on the final day. 

The Saints scored four against Liverpool and despite having a 4-2 lead with just 25 minutes remaining, they failed to pick up maximum points. The Reds rallied to score two late goals and salvaged a point to extend their unbeaten run to 11. 

It had a real end-of-the-season vibe to the game at St Mary’s with both teams changing their starting XIs. Jurgen Klopp’s side were the dominant team though, amassing an xG of 4.05, taking 30 shots and having six big chances. 

(Images from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the 2022/23 Premier League season live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
FIVE games to follow this weekend: Decision day in Ligue 1, the Bundesliga, and elsewhere

FIVE games to follow this weekend: Decision day in Ligue 1, the Bundesliga, and elsewhere

In this weekend preview we summarise the best five games to follow on your match feed. And make a couple of suggestions for matches that you may otherwise miss.

By Bill Biss

🇩🇪 Borussia Dortmund vs. Mainz

Could Saturday be the day that Bayern Munich’s 10-year stranglehold on the Bundesliga finally comes to an end? It’s all set up to be a dramatic final day of the season in Germany’s top flight with the biggest prize still up for grabs.

After a couple of months in which the title race has ebbed and flowed as both Klassiker rivals have faltered, or found form, last weekend’s results have left Borussia Dortmund in charge of their own destiny. Before Bayern were beaten soundly, at home, by RB Leipzig, it looked like being just another year, albeit one in which the margin by which the FC Hollywood juggernaut won the league was closer than normal. But following that result, combined with the ease with which Dortmund dispatched Augsburg last Sunday, it’s the black and yellow’s who are favourites to lift the Meisterschale.

With all of Saturday’s games kicking off simultaneously, all Dortmund need to do in their game vs. Mainz is match whatever is happening in Cologne, between FC Köln and Bayern. Beat Mainz and the club’s ninth title is secured, draw and they must hope Bayern drop points. With Bayern’s superior goal difference, goals scored, and head-to-head record this season, any slip-ups from Dortmund will most likely gift their rivals what would be their 11th straight title.

If that’s not enough for you, there’s also drama at the other end of the table, plus European places still up for grabs. For a full extended Bundesliga preview click here.

🇫🇷 Strasbourg vs. Paris Saint-Germain

We’ve reached the penultimate weekend in Ligue 1, but here too, we’ll probably see the title decided on Saturday.

PSG look like they’ve stumbled their way to defending the championship that they’ve won in four of the last five years despite losing more games than they did in each of those title-winning seasons. And with further disharmony caused by doubts concerning the methods of coach Christophe Galtier, and the fall-out from an early exit in both the Champions League and the Coupe de France.

That will, likely, all be forgotten for a while if the superstar Parisians can pick up at least a point from their road trip to 15th placed Strasbourg. Although the club from Alsace aren’t mathematically safe from relegation, a defeat here would be a massive shock. And one that would keep RC Lens dreaming of a late steal in the title race.

Lens currently sit six points down on PSG but with wins in all but one of their last ten games (the outlier being a trip to Paris), they are the form side in the division. And they perhaps face the easier run-in, with Saturday’s clash against the already relegated AC Ajaccio, followed by a trip to Auxerre.

🇵🇹 Benfica vs. Santa Clara

We talked up Benfica’s chance of winning the Liga Portugal at the home of their Lisbon rivals Sporting in last week’s edition of this column. But the league leaders failed to do so – only rescuing a point with a 94th minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw! And thus, we need to highlight their last remaining game, which takes place on Saturday.

Benfica have a two point advantage over FC Porto going into the final round of games but frankly, the Eagles couldn’t ask for a friendlier opposition. While Porto face Vitória, who need points to secure a place in next season’s Europa Conference League, Benfica have bottom side (and already relegated) Santa Clara.

If you’re not familiar with the name, Santa Clara are based in the Azores, an archipelago out in the mid-Atlantic. In fact, they were at one time officially affiliated with Benfica and take a lot of their inspiration from the mainland club – just look at the similarities between their crests!

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Everton vs. AFC Bournemouth

After last weekend, when the Premier League title was won by Manchester City, and mid-week games where Manchester United secured the last Champions League spot, we’re left with a final weekend of fixtures where all the drama will take place at the bottom of the table.

The equation is fairly simple: Two from three sides will join Southampton in dropping to the Championship. And the fate of both Leicester City and Leeds United, the two sides currently occupying 18th and 19th, rests mainly on the outcome of Sunday’s game between Everton and AFC Bournemouth. Hence our selection here.

The Toffees currently have a two point advantage on the two sides below them and they know a win would keep their proud top flight record alive. Only Arsenal have been in the division for a longer period of time without relegation.

Bournemouth have lost their last three games and with their survival already assured that recent form might just continue. But even if they do them a favour, both Leicester and Leeds face a final day where they could win and still go down (all games take place on Sunday). In a scenario where Everton lose, Leicester beat West Ham and Leeds triumph at Tottenham, it’s Leicester who are best placed to survive, in terms of goal difference. Leeds need both Everton to lose and Leicester to drop points in order to leapfrog them both.

Whatever the outcome, expect tears before bedtime.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Coventry City vs. Luton Town

Waiting in the wings to replace one of those sides in the promised land of the Premier League will be the winners of Saturday’s Championship Play-Off Final at Wembley. This match-up, oft-described as the richest game in football, features two of English football’s less fashionable clubs but teams with storied histories and recent hardships.

Both have suffered financially in recent decades, something that has resulted in points deductions, relegations, and even homelessness in the case of Coventry City. For their part, Luton were playing in the fifth tier of English football as recently as 2014 and they’ve not graced the top flight since 1996. The Sky Blues fell as far as the fourth tier in 2017 having been a Premier League mainstay throughout the 1990s and up to 2001.

But now, in spite of everything both sets of supporters have faced, one of them are just 90 minutes from a glorious return. To get even this far tells you all you need to know about these sides – Coventry beat Michael Carrick’s Middlesbrough side by a single second leg goal having trailed them by five points in the regular season. And Luton turned around a first leg deficit to beat Sunderland 3-2 on aggregate.

Plus two hidden gems from a little deeper in your match feed…

This week is a little different as there are two more potential title stories that need telling.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 WSL title decider: Reading vs. Chelsea

The top flight of women’s football in England, the Women’s Super League, also comes to a close this weekend. And similarly to other matches we’ve highlighted above the line: The trophy is still up for grabs.

Going in to Saturday’s final games; two-time defending Champions Chelsea currently have the upper hand while relative upstarts, Manchester United, will be waiting in the wings for any potential slip-ups.

It’s been United who’ve lead the way for a large proportion of the season but with Chelsea racking up the games in hand due to long campaigns in other domestic competitions and the Champions League, the Blues have always known they could come back in to it. They now have a two-point cushion on United and the benefit of experience going into their game against bottom side Reading. A win would seal the deal. And a draw will likely be enough due to their superior goal difference.

For United though, there’s still a chance that a first ever major trophy will be theirs. Reading are fighting against relegation and need to win to stand any chance of staying up. But first and foremost, the Reds also require three points from their trip to North West rivals Liverpool.

🇧🇪 Top two clash: Royal Antwerp vs. Union St. Gilloise

Lastly for this week, we think you should keep an eye on Sunday’s big game in Belgium. Here, we’re in to the penultimate round of the Championship play-off group and we’ve still got three potential title winners.

Two of them; Royal Antwerp and Union St. Gilloise, are level on points, meaning Sunday’s game between them will be pivotal. And for both, there’s so much riding on this.

Antwerp might have won the country’s main Cup competition as recently as last month but they’ve not lifted a national league championship since way back in the 1956/57 season. And they’ve not even finished as runners-up since the 1970s.

For Union, the wait has been even longer! Historically one of Belgium’s most successful clubs, they only made it back to the top flight in 2021 after spending 48 years in the doldrums, and following major investment from new owners. Now the club is back on its feet and looking to win the league for the first time since 1935!

If you want to follow any of the games mentioned above, click on the relevant link and tap the bell icon to receive all the key match updates.

Or join us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to discuss all the important football going on this weekend!

Cover Image from IMAGO

Posted by Bill Biss
Bundesliga Preview: The stage is set for final day drama

Bundesliga Preview: The stage is set for final day drama

It’s all you ever want on the final day – who will win the league and which two from four will be automatically relegated? Thankfully the Bundesliga has them both to play for, Matchday 34 is primed to give us winners and losers of epic proportions.

By Chris Williams, our Bundesliga expert

And then there were two

Union Berlin and Freiburg’s exceptional seasons eventually suffered a small drop off; however, one of them will feature in next season’s UEFA Champions League for the first time. RB Leipzig’s fifth straight victory was enough to secure third place on Matchday 33, but as the final 90 minutes approach it’s all about two clubs, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern München.

Thomas Tuchel is safe in the dugout if you listen to the numerous reports coming out of Bavaria, but there must be some part of him that feels like he’s living a nightmare. When appointed just nine weeks ago Bayern were being touted as potential treble winners, now they must hope Dortmund slip up against Mainz for a shot at winning ‘just’ the league title.

To end the season trophyless would break an 11-year run of winning either the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal or Champions League. For a club that has routinely won two out of the three pots on offer taking home nothing would come as a massive shock.

Since beating Dortmund on 1 April (a result that many saw as Bayern flexing their title credentials) the Rekordmeister have picked up 13 points from the 21 on offer, a return that has seen them drop from one point in front to two behind Dortmund.

Their season can almost be encapsulated by three statistics; shots on target per match 7.7 – a league high, but two other league highs give insight into their inability to convert – big chances created 100, big chances missed 82. Carpe diem has not been Bayern’s phrase of late.

90 minutes from glory

Meanwhile, 600km northwest of Munich life couldn’t be more different. The mood around the city of Dortmund is pure excitement. The local council are planning for the ‘party to end all parties’ should the fixture against Mainz go as planned – for the first time in over a decade the Bundesliga title is in Borussia Dortmund’s own hands.

Having known the fate of Bayern before they kicked off against Augsburg last weekend it may have been enough to unsettle a team that has come close before but ultimately ended with nothing.

This season however, it’s been a little different. Sweeping aside Augsburg 3-0 was just a continuation of their recent form.

Edin Terzić’s side have hit the net 14 times in their last three matches. Draws against Stuttgart and Bochum during the run-in should have been enough to count them out of the title race, but they have shown vast mental toughness to bounce back and reclaim the position of power at the top of the table.

Perhaps the biggest compliment to the way in which Dortmund’s 40-year-old boss likes to play football can be seen by the way in which goals are spread out across the entire team.

In the past Dortmund have had one main goal getter. Prior to this season it was of course Erling Haaland, before that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and before him Robert Lewandowski.

But goals this season have been easy to come by, and from all areas. Donyell Malen, Julian Brandt and -spectacularly – Sébastien Haller sit on nine goals apiece with Jude Bellingham just behind on eight.

In total the Schwarzgelben have eight different players contributing a total of 61 goals, their football has been tremendous to watch. Now 90 minutes stands between Terzić and the exorcism of Jürgen Klopp’s ghost which has haunted the Westfalenstadion since his departure almost eight years ago.

Time to say goodbye

Hertha Berlin’s relegation to 2.Bundesliga was made official after their draw at home to VfL Bochum on Matchday 33, but the final automatic drop spot and the relegation playoff place for the 16th ranked team in the league remains wide open.

Schalke 04 occupy 17th as the final day approaches, it probably doesn’t need that much of an explanation how a situation whereby Dortmund win the league and Schalke get relegated would go down in both cities, Gelsenkirchen obviously for Schalke!

VfB Stuttgart and Bochum are the other clubs for whom the axe weighs heavily. Augsburg are all but safe from immediate relegation, unless they leak 16 goals to Borussia Mönchengladbach, but all three sides can still finish the season with 180 minutes of hell via the playoff.

For those unaware, 16th place in the Bundesliga plays third in the 2.Bundesliga over two legs, the winner either gains or retains top-flight status.

Honourable mention…

An honourable mention must go to Bayer Leverkusen. Xabi Alonso’s side just missed out on a Europa League Final appearance by virtue of some world class Mourinhoball. The Portuguese coach parked the bus in the BayArena and his AS Roma side face Sevilla in the final to see who the Spaniards will beat en-route to their seventh title.

Leverkusen must better Wolfsburg’s result at home to Hertha to be sure of a place in the Europa Conference League next season, win away to Bochum and it’s guaranteed.

And that is it, after 33 matches, 2970 minutes of football and nine months it all comes down to the final fixture for the 11 clubs with something to play for. One will be crowned title winners and one will face automatic relegation. The roller coaster is on its final loop – enjoy.

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the 2022/23 Bundesliga season live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
Serie A Review: Inter win the Coppa Italia and Juventus’ rollercoaster season continues

Serie A Review: Inter win the Coppa Italia and Juventus’ rollercoaster season continues

It’s been another typically busy week in Italian football so, as always, we turned to our friend Matteo Bonetti for his insights on the big talking points.

By Matteo Bonetti

Inter win second trophy of the season thanks to world class Lautaro Martínez

Inter beat Fiorentina 2-1 on Wednesday in the final of the Coppa Italia mere months after demolishing rivals Milan to lift the Supercoppa. This run of form in cup competitions only further cements manager Simone Inzaghi’s reputation as an expert in these knockout situations. With his club only weeks away from facing Manchester City in the Champions League final (could this be an alternative treble?), Inzaghi tried out his full strength squad (at least out on pitch) against an offensively minded Fiorentina that has the second best possession stats in Serie A. 

The Viola started the match in scintillating fashion with a beautiful low cross in the third minute by Jonathan Ikoné that picked out Nicolás González at the far post for the early goal. After that moment, Inter started weathering the storm put on by Fiore and absorbing their high press. World-class players make the difference in finals and it was Lautaro Martínez who had himself a half for the ages. The two goals he scored were a perfect example of what the Argentine does best. The first came from a surgically precise through-ball by Marcelo Brozović, which found Lautaro making his usual instinctive run in behind the defence. Viola centre-back Nikola Milenković wasn’t in line with the rest of his backline and was at fault for keeping Lautaro onside. From an acute angle, Martínez blasted the ball to the bottom corner at the far post. It was the finish of a striker who has bags of confidence. After all, he has scored 10 goals in his last 11 matches. Not even ten minutes later, Nicolo Barella looped a ball over the Fiorentina defence which Inter’s no.10 struck first time on the volley, right past the flailing arms of keeper Pietro Terracciano. It wasn’t just the goals though, Lautaro’s passing was as incisive as his finishing and movement. All of these traits, as well as his ability to dribble past his man, have shown just how great a striker Lautaro Martinez is when he’s brimming with confidence. 

Inter will need a similar performance from Lautaro if they are to have any chance in the Champions League final. The good news is that all of the Nerazzurri skill players are hitting their best form together at the ideal time of the season. The Inter strikers figure they won’t have nearly as many clearcut chances against arguably the best team in Europe, so making the most of the few chances they have and showing off their clinical side will be key. At the moment, it seems like Edin Džeko is still favoured over Romelu Lukaku to start against City. Inzaghi has seemingly settled on this formula of bringing on Lukaku around the 60th minute of games and having him run at tired legs. Even though Lukaku should work better in a game where Inter will hit out on the counter and play mostly in a low block, Džeko’s ability to hold up play and come back to the midfield to help out in possession could be vital. He’s also one of the best headers of a ball in Europe, so Inter might try to make the most of their set piece chances rather than believing they will have a ton of success in possession.

Juve’s rollercoaster season

Juventus received their second point deduction of the season, after their first -15 point penalisation was overturned. They’ve now been given a -10 point penalisation, with only two rounds to go in Serie A.

The deduction once again sees Juventus drop out of the top four, meaning that a Champions League spot is currently out of their reach. The whole situation has been an accurate reflection for the way Juve’s season has gone – disjointed, inconsistent and ultimately disappointing. The whole situation has also annoyed fellow Serie A coaches like José Mourinho, who have admittedly changed their side’s approach to recent games owing to the fact that they thought a top four finish was no longer in their reach.

The Roma coach said: “It’s a joke to know this with two games remaining.

“For us and everyone, even for Juventus. Our approach would have been different if we had known before the games with Monza and Bologna. I am sorry for Allegri and his players, but at the league level, I have to say that it changes things a little.”

Juventus came into the 2022/23 Serie A campaign as one of two favourites to win the Scudetto, alongside Inter. The team started off woefully under Max Allegri given that expectation. They were knocked out of the Champions League group stage and consistently dropped points against relegation threatened teams. To make matters worse, the entire board unexpectedly resigned right in the middle of the World Cup which signalled ominous news on the horizon.

Shortly after, the “plusvalenze” scandal took centrestage and the punishments were handed out. With the ten point deduction now looking set in stone, Juve will have to have a long think about whether or not a rebuild is on the cards. Max Allegri’s style has not brought out the best in star players like striker Dušan Vlahović, who has struggled to find consistency. Not only that, but bowing out of European competitions means that Juventus could lose upwards of €90m not received from being in the most elite tournament in football. This means players on astronomically high wages could be cut. Players like Ángel Di María, Adrien Rabiot, Leandro Paredes and potentially even Vlahović could be sacrificed to try to balance the books.

A complete rebuild could be on the cards, with ageing players sent away in an effort to focus on the talented youth that Juventus already have on the books. What they do with the manager is the most interesting aspect of the off-season. Max Allegri is the highest earning “mister” in Serie A alongside Mourinho, but Juventus have had an involution given what the preseason expectations were. A change to a younger manager with more modern offensive ideas could be interesting. Names that pop up straight away are Roberto De Zerbi, who miraculously brought Brighton to a Europa League spot in the competitive Premier League, and Fiorentina’s Vincenzo Italiano. Both managers have done wonders in transforming their squads into some of the most aesthetically pleasing footballing teams. 

(images from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the 2022/23 Serie A season live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
LaLiga Review: Important results marred by racism

LaLiga Review: Important results marred by racism

It was quite a decisive weekend in LaLiga but one where behaviour in the stands proved to be the main talking point and all for the wrong reasons.

By Ben Hayward, LaLiga expert

Valencia’s vital win over Real Madrid marred by racist abuse aimed at Vinícius Júnior

Valencia marked 100 years at Mestalla with a vital victory over Real Madrid on Sunday which all but seals survival for Rubén Baraja’s side with three rounds of LaLiga left to play, but the match was marred by ugly scenes as Vinícius Júnior was subjected to racial abuse outside the stadium before kick-off and again late in the game.

With just over 15 minutes remaining, Vinícius heard a racial slur from behind the goal and pointed at the fan in question. There was a long delay as tensions flared and the Brazilian was later sent off deep in added time for raising his arms at Hugo Duro, despite the fact that he had been grabbed by the neck in a choke hold by another Valencia player for several seconds prior to that. VAR only saw the latter and the Brazilian saw red.

After the match, he was understandably furious. “The prize for the racists is my sending off,” he wrote on Instagram. “This is not football, it’s LaLiga.” And on Twitter, he wrote: “It wasn’t the first time, nor the second or the third. Racism is normal in LaLiga.”

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti refused to talk about the football after the game and defended his player. “We have a problem,” he said. “La Liga has a problem. We need to stop this game. Any game. I would say the same thing if we were winning 3-0. I have never seen a whole stadium being racist and shouting ‘monkey, monkey, monkey.’”

One Valencia-based journalist was angered by Ancelotti’s claim that the whole stadium was making racist slurs, arguing that some were chanting ‘tonto’ (stupid) to Vinícius. But the Italian was not impressed. “Whether it was ‘mono’ or ‘tonto’, the referee stopped the game to open the racism protocol,” he said. “He wouldn’t do that if they just chanted ‘tonto’. Speak to the referee.”

Meanwhile, LaLiga president Javier Tebas has attacked Vinícius on Twitter, saying the Real Madrid forward failed to turn up at meetings he himself had requested to discuss racism, while claiming that neither Spain nor LaLiga is racist. Those tweets resulted in huge criticism for Tebas and Vinícius was also quick to respond. “He’s not my friend to talk to me about racism,” the Brazilian tweeted. “I want action and punishment.”

Valencia have taken action, announcing that the fan who targeted Vinícius has been identified and banned from Mestalla for life.

In the game itself, Valencia won all three points thanks to a first-half goal from youngster Diego López, but the home side had goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili to thank for a number of big saves in the closing stages to deny Fede Valverde, Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema.

Valencia’s win sees them climb to 13th place and they now have 40 points, five more than Real Valladolid in 18th. They are not quite safe yet, but are very close. “These are three valuable points,” Baraja said. “But we have work still to do and effort still required.”

Next up for Valencia is a trip to Mallorca on Thursday, while Real Madrid are away to Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday.

Atlético move above Real Madrid into second place

Atlético Madrid bounced back from the previous weekend’s disappointing defeat away to bottom club Elche by beating Osasuna 3-0 in a one-sided contest at the Metropolitano on Sunday.

After two early efforts were ruled out for offside, Yannick Carrasco fired the Rojiblancos into the lead late in the first half, with Saúl and Ángel Correa on target in the second period to send Diego Simeone’s side into second place above Real Madrid with three matches left to play.

Atlético also confirmed their place in next season’s Champions League, which had looked in doubt earlier in the season, The Rojiblancos now travel to relegation-threatened Espanyol on Wednesday.

Champions beaten at homecoming

On Saturday, Barcelona celebrated their LaLiga title in front of their own fans in a party atmosphere at Camp Nou, but the champions were beaten 2-1 by Real Sociedad in what was the Basques’ first win at the ground in 32 years.

Mikel Merino gave Real Sociedad the lead inside five minutes following a mistake from Jules Koundé and Alexander Sørloth made it 2-0 after a breakaway attack in the second half. Robert Lewandowski pulled one back with a header to grab what was merely a late consolation but also saw the Pole move five clear of Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema in the hunt for the Pichichi prize (top goalscorer).

Sergio Busquets lifted the league trophy in his penultimate appearance at Camp Nou and will say goodbye to the Barcelona fans in next weekend’s game against Mallorca. Before that, Barça travel to 18th-placed Real Valladolid tonight (Tuesday).

Despite the defeat, Xavi was happy as Barça celebrated their title. “A night of celebration and joy,” he said. “I’m grateful to the president, the staff, the players and the fans.”

Meanwhile, Real Sociedad took a big step towards Champions League qualification as they moved five points clear of fifth-placed Villarreal with three games left to play. “This win moves us closer to the Champions League,” coach Imanol Alguacil said. “These players want to make history.” A win over Almería at home on Tuesday would leave them on the brink of a place at Europe’s top table for the first time since 2013-14.

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the 2022/23 LaLiga season live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
Premier League Review: Virtually done and dusted

Premier League Review: Virtually done and dusted

It turned out to be a fairly decisive weekend in the Premier League. Manchester City were crowned champions without even kicking a ball following a shock defeat for Arsenal while Newcastle United booked their place in the Champions League. Relegation is still yet to be decided though. Here’s a look at how it all went down.

By Sam McGuire, Premier League expert

Champions League football returns to St. James’ Park

Following Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Aston Villa on Saturday, Newcastle knew a point at home against relegation-threatened Leicester City would be enough to guarantee them a top-four finish. 

The Foxes needed at least a point to aid them in their bid to beat the drop but manager Dean Smith made a few questionable decisions ahead of kick-off, dropping James Maddison and Harvey Barnes while deploying a 5-3-2 shape.  

Did it pay off? They got their point but they had zero control on the outcome of the game. Newcastle peppered the Leicester goal, racking up an xG of 2.19 and having 23 shots. By comparison, the Foxes had their first and only shot of the game in the 92nd minute. 

The 2015/16 Premier League champions now need to beat West Ham on the final day of the season and hope Bournemouth pick up at least a point against Everton in order to survive.

The Toffees get out of a sticky situation

Everton left it late, really late in fact, to claim a point against Wolves. 

Yerry Mina put all of his 6ft5 frame to good use to poke home an all-important equaliser in the 99th minute to give the Blues a deserved point. Sean Dyche’s men had created more big chances on the day than their opponents and had a higher xG. 

The point at Molineux now means a point at home to Bournemouth next weekend could well be enough to keep them up. 

Mina was comfortably the Player-of-the-Match for the Toffees after he dominated the opposition in duels, winning 86% of his ground duels and  75% of his aerial duels. His equaliser was just the cherry on top. 

Forest remain planted in the Premier League

It was a game of few opportunities. Arsenal dominated the ball against Nottingham Forest with 82% possession but the hosts found a winner and in the process secured their place in the English top-flight. 

Taiwo Awoniyi scored his fifth goal in his last three appearances for Steve Cooper’s side. During this run, Forest have taken seven points from a possible nine as they have moved away from the relegation fight.  

The defeat at the City Ground also ended Arsenal’s slim hopes of the title. It has been a disappointing end to the season for the Gunners. Mikel Arteta’s side have won just four of their last 10, taking 15 points from a possible 30 as their title bid came to a premature end.

Brighton’s European adventure

Roberto De Zerbi’s men have been a real Jekyll and Hyde team as of late. 

They lost 5-1 to Everton before putting on a show in the 3-0 win against Arsenal at the Emirates. They then lost 4-1 to Newcastle having made a host of surprising changes to their starting XI.

Brighton got back to winning ways again against Southampton though, running out 3-1 winners in what was a fairly one-sided game. The Seagulls racked up an xG of 2.53 to book their place in Europe next season. 

Alexis Mac Allister was the star of the show for De Zerbi’s side, creating seven chances, completing 80% of his dribbles and winning 88% of his ground duels.

No new manager bounce for Leeds United

Leeds surrendered a lead for a second successive week under Sam Allardyce. 

They find themselves 19th in the Premier League table and need a big win on the final day against Spurs to have any hope of leapfrogging Everton and retaining their place in the league for another season. 

Allardyce will no doubt be disappointed with his team. West Ham created more chances and went looking for the win in the second half, with an xG of 1.44 after the break. Jarrod Bowen got a goal and an assist, while also creating four chances on the day as he claimed the highest FotMob rating (8.7).

(Images from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the 2022/23 Premier League season live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss