Trending on FotMob: November Edition

Trending on FotMob: November Edition

The world of football moves fast and with fifteen million active monthly users, we’re in the perfect position to see where the eyes of global fans have been drawn in November.

A couple of Premier League classics, a Spanish supernova and the completion of a hat-trick of hat-tricks have all played their part. Here’s our rundown of FotMob’s most viewed players, clubs and matches over the last 30 days. 

And there are some surprises.

By Mike Backler

Most Viewed Players

10. Alex Grimaldo (Bayer Leverkusen)

Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen are the most red hot team in Europe, right now. 17 wins in 18 games, in all competitions. A huge part of that is the sparkling form of their two swashbuckling wing backs: Jeremie Frimpong and Alex Grimaldo. The Spaniard has 9 goals and 5 assists, with 4 goals in just 3 starts in November and a return to the national side, where he also assisted in a 3-1 win over Cyprus. 

9. Serhou Guirassy (VFB Stuttgart)

FotMob users have been flocking to view Guirassy’s page, since the start of the season, as the man from Guinea just could not stop scoring. The goals have slowed down a little, but it was hard not to after 13 goals in his first 7 games. His one strike in November was the match winner against Dortmund and he’s still keeping Harry Kane honest, at the top of the Bundesliga scoring charts.

8. Endrick (Palmeiras)

Real Madrid are our most followed club on the app, and their fans came in their droves to find out who the 17-year-old wonderkid is that’s lighting up the Campeonato Brasileiro. Signed by Los Blancos this time last year, for £52m, the teenage sensation has to wait until the summer to grace The Bernabeu, but November saw another dream realised – a debut for Brazil against Colombia.

7. Erling Haaland (Man City)

From a left-footed striker starting to make his mark to one who has cemented his place as the world’s most formidable front man. November, like every month, saw lots of goals from Erling Haaland. 6 in 5 games. That’s 71 in 73 games for City. 261 goals in 266 games for club and country, since he left Molde as a teenager. And a treble-winner for good measure. And he’s only 7th, because it’s all just so inevitable.

6. Jérémy Doku (Man City)

Jérémy Doku has been a breath of fresh air. Outside of Ligue 1 fans, not many would have seen his ability to glide past full backs, in full flight. Canny Fantasy League managers were rewarded with the performance of the season, as Doku cut Bournemouth to ribbons, registering 4 assists and a goal, in early November. He backed it up with 2 more assists for Belgium and a fantastic display against Liverpool. The world is taking notice.

5. Mo Salah (Liverpool)

Just when you start to think Mo Salah’s star is fading, he comes back better and more deadly than ever. Still rapid, still lethal, still clocking up goals and still the Premier League and the world’s most dangerous right winger. Fresh off a Merseyside Derby double in late October, he put 2 more past Brentford, flew to Cairo and hit 4 against Djibouti, 4 days later. 13 goals and 5 assists, this season, spearheading Liverpool’s revival.

4. Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid)

October’s most viewed player on FotMob and Real Madrid, England and the world’s golden boy. Jude Bellingham’s quite incredible start for Real, has been hampered by injury in November. An El Clasico double in late October launched him into a new realm of superstardom for a 20 year-old midfielder. He returned on Sunday, and scored. Midweek, he scored again against Napoli. That’s 15 goals in 16 games. Brand Bellingham will be back in the top three, soon enough.

3. Cole Palmer (Chelsea)

Well, well, well. Football does throw up some surprises. In November, Chelsea featured in two of the most enjoyable and talked about Premier League games for years. A goal and assist for Cole Palmer in a 4-1 win against a maverick nine-men Spurs, before he took centre stage in a pulsating 4-4 draw against Man City, both in terms of his performance and the narrative. A sparkling, fearless display and an emphatic last-minute penalty against his former side that left FotMob users worldwide asking “Who is this Cole Palmer?”

2. Ronaldo (Al Nassr)

He may have traded in a career among the elite clubs of Europe for the up and coming Saudi Pro League, but Ronaldo’s 20+ years of era-defining brilliance and relentless goalscoring will always put him in a world of his own. Well, almost his own. In the land of the mega stars, the US, Ronaldo remains the most viewed player, by quite some distance. 4 goals in November, 24 goals in 27 for the season and 863 in a glittering career.

1. Harry Kane (Bayern Munich)

It’s fair to say that England’s captain and record goalscorer has taken to the Bundesliga. With 22 goals and 7 assists in his first 18 games, his move to Bayern Munich has catapulted Kane to new levels of appreciation of just how good he really is. A consummate professional and teammate, a lethal finisher with either foot and with his head. Link up play better than anyone in the world, a humble work ethic and an array of dynamic attacking midfielders and wingers to hit with that impeccable passing range. Harry Kane left Spurs to win things. He’s just won FotMob’s Most Viewed Player in November. Will he get his hands on the Bundesliga? The Champions League? The Euros? With him in the team, there’s always a chance.

Most Viewed Clubs

1. Manchester City

2. Manchester Utd

3. Arsenal


5. Real Madrid

6. Barcelona

7. Liverpool

8. Tottenham Hotspur

9. Chelsea

10. Al Nassr

Football’s megabrands dominate the top ten most viewed clubs on FotMob, but within that there’s a couple of very notable mentions.

Ronaldo’s global army of superfans have made Al Nassr and their 25,000 capacity stadium the tenth most viewed club in the world, on FotMob. Placing the Saudi club higher than giants of the game, in Bayern Munich, the Milan clubs, and Juventus.

Beyond that, there’s a story that contains no stars at all. Catalan club Girona have shocked the football world by daring to mix it with LaLiga royalty. Having amassed 35 points from their first 14 games, they sit level at the top of the table with Real Madrid. Everyone loves an underdog story and FotMob users are converging on their club page with curiosity to discover more.

Led by Michel and featuring a truly global team including Ukrainians Artem Dovbyk and Viktor Tsigankov, Brazilian teenager Savio, Dutch veteran Daley Blind, Venezuelan midfielder Yangel Herrera and the hugely impressive Alex Garcia, they are defying the odds and mixing it with the big boys. Long may it continue.

Most Viewed Match

12 million views of a perfect storm of a football game. Spurs v Chelsea in the Premier League saw 5 goals, 5 chalked off by VAR, 2 red cards, 25 shots, 8 yellow cards and a hat-trick. Throw in some of the most admirable but bewildering tactics ever seen in the Premier League, from Ange Postecoglou, and you’ve got a London derby for the ages.

It was also the perfect storm to drive views. A huge amount of notifications to accompany a game packed with incident, sent out to global fans of our 8th and 9th most followed clubs. And with the game played out on a Monday night, in the UK, fans in the US could follow during the working day, and fans in Asia could awake on a Tuesday morning, open FotMob and try their very best to make sense of it all.

More games like this, please.

Images from IMAGO

Posted by Bill Biss
FIVE games to follow this weekend: big games for league leaders, derbies, and Cup action

FIVE games to follow this weekend: big games for league leaders, derbies, and Cup action

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

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Premier League: Arsenal vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Arsenal recaptured top spot in the Premier League last weekend, thanks to Kai Havertz last-gasp winner at Brentford, and Manchester City’s draw with Liverpool. And by virtue of playing first this weekend, the Gunners have the chance to extend their current one point lead in the standings when they welcome Wolves to the Emirates on Saturday.

Arsenal were in full flow during the week, sailing in to the Champions League knockout stages thanks to a 6-0 win over French club Lens, with the goals coming from six different goal scorers. As one friend of ours on Twitter pointed out, everybody ate!

Wolves will have spent the week resting up after a number of VAR decisions went against them in Monday night’s 3-2 defeat at Fulham. Gary O’Neil’s side will therefore return to London with fresh impetus, and perhaps a sense of injustice, as they look to secure what would be their third away win of the season. The club currently sit twelve in the table and can already boast impressive victories over big six clubs Man City and Spurs.

For a full preview of the Premier League weekend, including more insight on this game – click here.

🇮🇹 Serie A: Napoli vs. Inter

One week after their involvement in the Derby d’Italia – a 1-1 draw with Juventus – Serie A leaders Inter face another daunting away trip. This Sunday, they travel south to take on defending league champions Napoli.

In midweek, the Nerazzurri were in Lisbon for a Champions League clash with Benfica, where they took their current unbeaten run to 11 games. Something that didn’t look like happening when Benfica’s João Mário scored a first-half hat-trick! But goals from Arnautović, Frattesi, and Alexis Sánchez saw them fight back to claim a 3-3 draw, ensuring they still have the chance to top their group, to go along with the place in the Round of 16 that’s already been secured.

Napoli were also involved in a high scoring game in Europe’s elite competition. But despite taking the lead as early as the fourth minute, away at Real Madrid, they were eventually beaten 4-2, and therefore still need something from their final group game later in the month. That was returning coach, Walter Mazzarri’s second competitive game, since he signed on to replace Rudi Garcia, who himself had only been in post since the start of the season.

Anywhere else, that would suggest turmoil, but in Napoli’s case – their title defence hasn’t actually gone that badly. They start the weekend in fourth, eight points down on Inter, and have only lost three of their 13 league games. Mazzarri’s second stint begun with a 2-1 win at Atalanta last weekend, a game in which the ever-reliable Giovanni Di Lorenzo and star winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, in particular, performed well.

🇪🇸 LaLiga: Barcelona vs. Atlético Madrid

On a day full of top level games, Sunday sees reigning LaLiga champions Barcelona host Atlético Madrid at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys. These two Spanish giants are locked together on 31 points, four points down on current leaders Real Madrid, and surprise package Girona.

The two were also both involved in Champions League action during the week – Barça coming from behind to secure their Round of 16 spot with a 2-1 win against Porto, and Atlético doing the same with a more convincing 3-1 victory at Dutch champions Feyenoord.

The similarities between their respective seasons are also manifest in the individual star players at both – former-Barcelona player Antoine Griezmann has been on fire for Atlético, scoring 13 goals in all competitions, and João Félix, on loan from Atlético, has begun to find some form for Barcelona, scoring in the week, and averaging a FotMob rating of 7.32 in the league so far.

In recent times, Barcelona have had the upper hand in this fixture, winning the last three meetings with an aggregate scoreline of six goals to two.

🇩🇪 Bundesliga: Bayer Leverkusen vs. Borussia Dortmund

Also on Sunday, there’s a big-name clash in Germany’s top flight. Here, Bayer Leverkusen face Champions League heroes Borussia Dortmund, in a game between first and fourth, as things stand.

Bayern play struggling Union Berlin – on Saturday, meaning Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen side might need a result to reclaim that top spot by the end of round 13. But they’ll be up against it – Dortmund looked inspired in the week, when they went to Milan, claimed a 3-1 win and sealed their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League. They were also 4-2 winners last weekend, taking the imaginary title of the best Borussia, having beaten Mönchengladbach in that game.

Dortmund have lost only twice in the league this season but they sit 10 points down on the unbeaten Leverkusen. In a notoriously high scoring league, Dortmund are averaging 2.1 goals per game, and they’re being spread around the side too, with Donyell Malen, Julian Brandt, and Niclas Füllkrug tied on four goals each.

Only Bayern have outgunned Leverkusen’s 37 goals in 12 games but it appears that, in his first full season, Xabi Alonso’s coaching philosophy is coming to the fore. No one passes the the ball more than Leverkusen, who average over 600 passes per match. And that is something that has resulted in 45 big chances being created, and some headline grabbing performances from a pair of marauding wing-backs – Alex Grimaldo is the club’s joint top scorer with seven goals and four assists, while his right sided counter part, Jeremie Frimpong, has four goals and five assists.

There should be goalmouth action in this one!

🇫🇷 Ligue 1: Nantes vs. Nice

Going back in time, Saturday night’s headliner in Ligue 1 is worthy of inclusion here, seeing as unbeaten Nice have the opportunity to move above PSG at the top of the table – should they win away at Nantes.

The INEOS side have been inspired under 34-year-old Italian coach Francesco Farioli, who took over ahead of this, his first season with a club in one of Europe’s top leagues. Farioli’s team have been compact, and highly efficient, picking up eight wins from their 13 matches, and scoring 14 goals from a xG figure of 17.9.

But here comes the really interesting stat: Nice have conceded just FOUR times all season. That’s one every 300 minutes played, give or take, and presuming most games under current guidelines edge closer to 100 minutes in duration, rather than the old school 90. Needless to say, but that is the best record of anyone in the big five leagues, and all the more impressive when you consider one of their centre-backs is Dante, the 40-year-old former Brazil international.

Nantes, for their part, currently sit in mid-table having recorded four wins thus far, and just one in their last five. They are, however, scoring at a better rate than their opponents going in to this match up – at a rate of 1.3 goals per game to Nice’s 1.1. That has just not translated in to results.

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

🇩🇪 2. Bundesliga: St. Pauli vs. Hamburg

Football rivalries don’t come much fiercer than the Hamburg Derby, the battle between St. Pauli and Hamburg, set to take place on Friday evening. Two sides from juxtaposing sides of the city divided, traditionally, by everything from politics to football. And this particular derby falls at a time when both are fighting to get out of Germany’s second tier and sat first and second in the league.

St. Pauli are the home side on this occasion and having not played at the top level since 2011, they appear to be extra motivated to get out of this division. After consecutive fifth placed finishes that saw them miss out on even a play-off spot, they have started the season with a 14-game unbeaten run. In fact, in all competitions, and going back to the previous campaign, they’re unbeaten in 21 matches.

They’re not the most prolific scorers, and they’ve drawn nearly as many games as they’ve won in that run, but they are built on a solid foundation. They’ve conceded just 11 goals this season. That’s the best record in the division by far.

But you’ve guessed it, St. Pauli’s last defeat, and the last time they did ship a few goals came in the last derby – with Hamburg claiming a dramatic 4-3 win at the tail end of last season. Hamburg went on to suffer a cruel defeat in the promotion/relegation play-off having also missed out on the title on the final day of the regular season. So they too, have reasons to want to claim promotion this season, and they’ve gone about that with a very solid start to the campaign. Their recent defeat to third placed Holstein Kiel was their only loss in their last eight, so they come in to the derby in good nick.

🏆 FA Cup: Wrexham vs. Yeovil Town

This one should come with a *SPOILER ALERT*, as Sunday’s FA Cup clash between world famous Wrexham and Yeovil Town might just make the next series of the Welsh club’s popular documentary series. This is Round 2 of the World’s oldest national cup competition, so the round before the big boys of the Premier League and Championship enter, and therefore an opportunity for one of these sides to slice out a piece of history for themselves.

Wrexham, as most people know, went all the way to the fourth round last season, where they took Sheffield United to a fiery replay. That was before their promotion back to the English Football League, a privilege that means they’ve only had to play one game to reach this stage of the competition this season.

And anyone with decent knowledge of the FA Cup will know that Yeovil Town are the non-league side who’ve claimed the most knockout wins against EFL sides in the long history of the competition. And the Somerset side will also be out for revenge. When the sides last met, the 3-0 win for Wrexham was the result that sealed their long awaited promotion. But it was also the result that relegated Yeovil, back to regional football for the first time since the 1990s, a club that had been as high as the Championship as recently as 2014.

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 our new WhatsApp Channel for updates on all the important football going on this weekend!

Cover Image from IMAGO

Posted by Bill Biss
Premier League Preview: Matchday 14

Premier League Preview: Matchday 14

We’re now in December. The festive season is upon us. You know what that means? Mince pies galore and Premier League football on TV almost every single day. This period can make or break a campaign. So here’s a look at the key fixtures from matchday 14. 

By Sam McGuire, Premier League expert

An opportunity for Arsenal 

The Gunners are a point clear at the top of the Premier League and they are one of three 3pm kick-offs on Saturday as they host Wolves at the Emirates. A win for Mikel Arteta’s side guarantees them first place heading into the mid-week round of matches, regardless of what happens elsewhere. 

On paper, this should be a routine win for the league leaders. Arsenal are unbeaten at home and have taken 17 points from a possible 21. Gary O’Neil’s side aren’t great on the road and have scored just nine times on their travels this term. And yet, Wolves have beaten Spurs and Manchester City this season. They took the lead against Liverpool and were unfortunate not to get something from a trip to Old Trafford. 

They may be mid-table right now but had a few questionable VAR decisions gone their way,  they would be in the mix for a Europa League place. Interestingly, they have conceded five penalties this season, the most of any team in the Premier League. Arsenal have been awarded the most penalties (6) in the English top flight. Would you really be surprised if these tallies were added to this weekend? 

A sticky situation for Everton

Whereas in previous campaigns, Everton’s home form has kept them in the Premier League, their away form has been key this time around. The Toffees are five points off safety right now following their 10-point deduction but of the 14 points they have won this season, 10 have come away from Goodison Park. 

In fact, Sean Dyche’s side have won more points on their travels (10) than their hosts, Nottingham Forest have won at home (nine). 

Forest aren’t in the best of form either having won just one of their last five Premier League outings. They have conceded a minimum of two goals in four of these matches and they have lost their last two games 3-2. 

This should be a game filled with goals. A win for the Toffees could be monumental for their season after the points deduction. A loss would heap all kinda of pressure on the team. 

Saturday night at St James’ Park 

Newcastle United host Manchester United in the late kick-off on Saturday evening. A win for the Magpies would see them leapfrog the Red Devils in the Premier League table with just a single point separating them right now. 

Either team could finish the weekend in fifth spot if results go their way. 

Erik Ten Hag’s side are going a little under the radar, probably because of their European performances. They have won four of their last five in the English top flight. In fact, over the last six games, they are the form team in the league having taken the most points. They are also one of the best teams in the league on their travels having taken 12 points from six matches away from Old Trafford. Only Tottenham, Manchester City and Arsenal have picked up more. 

On home turf, Newcastle have won six from seven this season. So this should be an interesting match-up. They are also one of the most potent teams in the Premier League, averaging 2.4 goals per 90. An average that only Man City (2.5) can better. 

This match pits two of the best creative players in the league against one another. Kieran Trippier has registered six assists this term, a figure only Pedro Neto (seven) can better while Bruno Fernandes leads the way for Expected Assists with 4.2. Second on that list is Trippier with 4.1. 

Jekyll and Hyde Chelsea 

Chelsea impress one week and things appear to be clicking for them under Mauricio Pochettino before a humbling defeat arrives in their next outing. That seems to be the pattern for the Blues this term. A 4-1 loss against Newcastle United last weekend brought them back down to earth with a real bump following the 4-4 draw with Man City. 

Now they entertain Brighton at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon. 

The Seagulls have been just as erratic this term. Their win over Nottingham Forest last weekend was their first since September and, as detailed in a recent feature, they are yet to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League. 

Again, everything seems to point towards there being goals in this gam, so expect a drab 0-0. 

A win for Brighton could lift them as high as sixth while all three points for the hosts could see them cut the gap to Roberto De Zebri’s men to just three. 

A tough test for Tottenham 

Spurs don’t have a bad record against Man City over recent seasons. They have won five of their last 10 against the reigning champions and have lost on just four occasions. Considering how dominant Pep Guardiola’s side are, this is an unbelievable record. 

However, Spurs head to the Etihad this weekend in freefall having lost their last three Premier League outings. Heading into their match against Chelsea, they were unbeaten and looked like genuine title challengers. Now though, they have lost three on the bounce, conceding eight goals and scoring just three. 

They’re coming up against an in-form City side who came from behind in the Champions League to defeat RB Leipzig. Depending on how other teams get on this weekend, a win on Sunday afternoon could be enough to take them back to the summit. 

This is Ange Postecoglou’s toughest test as Spurs boss. He’s taking his depleted side to the champions. If he gets something, it will be their best result of the season, all things considered.

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the Premier League live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
Will second season syndrome hit De Zerbi and his Brighton side: we look at the numbers

Will second season syndrome hit De Zerbi and his Brighton side: we look at the numbers

Brighton won their first Premier League game in over two months on Saturday.  

By Sam McGuire, Premier League expert

The Seagulls went to the City Ground to face Nottingham Forest on a six-match winless run following their 3-1 victory over Bournemouth on September 24th. Roberto De Zerbi’s side had lost just twice – 5-1 to Aston Villa and 2-1 to Manchester City – but the draws against Fulham, Sheffield United and Everton played a significant part in halting their early season momentum. 

They are still eighth in the Premier League table but after taking 15 points from the opening six matches, many wondered whether they might gatecrash the top four this term after claiming sixth spot last season. 

Despite falling behind to a third-minute Anthony Elanga effort, Brighton claimed a 3-2 victory. Evan Ferguson scored his sixth of the Premier League season while summer signing João Pedro came off the bench to notch twice to take his tally to eight across all competitions. 

The pressure wasn’t mounting on De Zerbi, he’s still one of the most highly sought-after managers in the English top-flight, but it was a big three points for him and his team on Saturday. He has so far escaped scrutiny having banked a fair amount of credit last season but that won’t last forever. Sooner or later, people are going to realise just how much of a problem Brighton have defensively. 

We’re a third of the way into the 2023/24 campaign now and the sample size is large enough to make some observations. For example, Brighton are yet to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League this season. In fact, the last time the Seagulls managed to shut out the opposition in a league match was on May 14th in the 3-0 win over Arsenal. 

They are now 17 games without a clean sheet in the top flight of English football – almost half a season. 

Furthermore, no team in the top 10 have conceded more goals than Brighton (23). 

Not only are they struggling to keep clean sheets, but they are also struggling to limit their opponents to just one goal once they have conceded. 

In fact, only three teams have conceded more goals than the Seagulls this season and two of them are in the bottom three – Bournemouth (28), Sheffield United (34) and Burnley (32). On a per 90 basis, that works out at 1.8 for Brighton, 2.2 for the Cherries, 2.5 for Vincent Kompany’s side and 2.6 for the Blades. 

If you extrapolate that over a 38-game campaign, De Zerbi and his players are on course to concede almost 69 goals this season at their current rate. For context, last season Brighton conceded 1.4 goals per 90 and allowed 54 goals in total. That is a difference of 15 goals. 

Of course, Brighton lost key players in the summer with Moises Caicedo and Alexis Mac Allister leaving for Chelsea and Liverpool respectively. But The Seagulls did spend some money to bring in Carlos Baleba, Bart Verbruggen, João Pedro and Igor. Ansu Fati joined on loan while Mahmoud Dahoud and James Milner arrived on free transfers. There was always going to be something of a drop off, but this is stark, isn’t it? 

Even the underlying numbers paint a depressing picture for Brighton this season. They have an Expected Goals (xG) Conceded average of 1.48 this season, which means they are on course to finish the campaign with an xG Conceded total of 57. Last term, their per 90 average was 1.35. A difference of 0.15 might not seem like much but it equates to almost six over a 38-game sample size. 

You also have to consider the fact Brighton have had favourable fixtures in their opening 13 matches. They played Liverpool, West Ham, Newcastle United as well as three of the bottom five teams at home. Despite this, they are struggling in their defensive third. This could well be because of what is going on in the offensive third. 

De Zerbi likes his side to smother the opposition. Last season they ranked first for Passes Per Defensive Action (PPDA) in the Premier League. This metric essentially shows how many passes a team allows the opposition before they look to stop their progress. The more aggressive you set up a team to press, the lower the PPDA number will be. During the 2022/23 campaign, Brighton had an average of 8.4. So far this season, they are at 9.8 and this figure sees them rank fifth. 

Basically, there is less pressure on the ball. This is backed up by the Posessions Won in the Final Third metric. Last season, the Seagulls were fifth with an average of 5.4, this time around they are 11th with an average of five. They have dropped off a little while other sides have become more aggressive in pinning their opponents high up the pitch. 

Now, this isn’t as simple as saying Brighton are weaker defensively because they sold Mac Allister and Caicedo but those two were important to the way De Zerbi set his side up. Both performed well in and out of possession, with the World Cup winner deceptively good at regaining possession. The Seagulls have signed talented players to replace the duo but those who have replaced them aren’t as individually dominant as their predecessors. As a result of this, Brighton aren’t as dominant as a team and we’re seeing what happens when key cogs aren’t adequately replaced. 

If De Zerbi wants his side to get back to the highs of last season, a tactical tweak to help shore up midfield might be needed. If he doesn’t do that, a Europa League place might be the ceiling for this talented squad. 

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the Premier League live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
Trent Alexander Arnold defiant display vs Man City showed Liverpool are title contenders

Trent Alexander Arnold defiant display vs Man City showed Liverpool are title contenders

Trent Alexander-Arnold went into Liverpool’s trip to Manchester City with – again – a lot of questions to answer from those outside Anfield. He did so emphatically.

By Jack Lusby,

In the buildup to Liverpool’s trip to Manchester City, much of the discourse was centred around Trent Alexander-Arnold.

His performances in midfield for England in the preceding clashes against Malta and North Macedonia sparked up the position debate again; Pep Guardiola explained how his ability to “play inside now” was the key tactical difference during his pre-match press conference; and a battle with Jérémy Doku was held up as where the game could be won or lost.

Doku emerged from his biggest game as a Manchester City player yet having completed more dribbles than any other player in the Premier League since September 2021, with 12. The Belgian also created the most chances in Saturday’s 1-1 draw, with four, and won more duels than any other player, with 18.

But the lasting image from the Etihad – bar perhaps Guardiola’s touchline spat with Darwin Núñez at full-time – was that of Liverpool’s No. 66, standing in front of the Manchester City support with his finger to his lips, having cancelled out Erling Haaland’s opener to secure a vital point.

The raw numbers produced by Doku attracted headlines, but the reality is that Alexander-Arnold, in tandem with Joel Matip, Dominik Szoboszlai and Mohamed Salah, largely kept the 21-year-old’s threat to a minimum. Those successful dribbles were often into less dangerous areas, the chances created typically snuffed out by an experienced Liverpool back line.

It was a defiant performance from Liverpool’s vice-captain, set to the backdrop of a high-profile clash that saw him singled out – Guardiola shifting his setup so Bernardo Silva dropped into spaces vacated as Doku drove on – and the latest of such against the Premier League’s traditional ‘big six’.

In 55 league appearances against Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, Alexander-Arnold has assisted 15 goals and scored four himself, averaging a goal or assist every 2.9 games – slightly better than his average of one every 3.1 games against other clubs faced in the Premier League. Of his 55 league assists, a sizeable 26.3 percent have come against those five teams, along with an even larger 30.8 percent of his 13 goals.

Perhaps the chants of ‘feed the Scousers’ and ‘sign on’ were still ringing in his ears as he shushed the fans at the Etihad, but Alexander-Arnold’s celebration could simply have been a generational player ignoring the noise over his abilities.

There are few, if any, players of this current English crop who are as misunderstood by those outside of their own clubs than Alexander-Arnold, who is talked about more for what he should be than how good he is.

Whether he would be more effective in midfield is, in Jürgen Klopp’s eyes, academic. The Liverpool manager believes his hybrid role between right-back and tempo-setting midfielder is where he is best utilised.

Klopp now calls the right wing, where Alexander-Arnold used to be almost exclusively stationed, as his “hiding place,” where he is able to drift when it suits to “influence the game massively.”

His ghosting run and finish to make it 1-1 at the Etihad showed how valuable he is in a roving central role, too, but Klopp explained afterwards that the 25-year-old “made the difference” in the second half having been pushed further forward on the right.

“Putting Trent in a different position defensively, really stepping out in the space where they found Bernardo Silva first half constantly, plus Dom and Mo closing that gap better in the second half, gave us much more stability,” Klopp said. “From there we can play football ourselves, that’s clear.”

With that in mind, Virgil van Dijk put it best, as he dismissed questions over Alexander-Arnold’s battle with Doku when speaking to journalists in the mixed zone at the Etihad.

“I think for the moment he’s playing just fine where he is right now,” the captain said. “He has that freedom to mix it up and he has to do that because you see teams are working it out at times, so he has to be able to switch from staying on the outside and going on the inside as well.

“I think it’s a good learning curve for him as well and he did that well because obviously he was playing against one of the most in-form wingers at the moment.”

Van Dijk described his second-in-command as the “complete package,” which is more apt than attempts to shoehorn such a unique player into one position or another.

There could be occasions where Liverpool would benefit from starting a more conservative right-back, such as Joe Gomez, and allowing Alexander-Arnold more freedom to push on, while there are clearly many where his tactical intelligence and technical quality, along with the compactness of the structure around him, make him so devastating as he drifts between right-back and midfield.

Though they are often treated as such, the 90-plus minutes that play out over the course of any football match are not binary, with Klopp’s in-game tweak against Manchester City evidence of that.

Alexander-Arnold is simply one of the finest exponents of modern football as a chess match, where the advantages could crop up from anywhere. His goal at the Etihad was timely, for many reasons, not least as it served to undermine the narrative that Doku had the upper hand in a battle that, despite the statistics, weighted favourably towards Liverpool.

Most importantly, though, in gaining a point it served as a statement that Klopp’s ‘Liverpool 2.0’ are genuine title contenders. If they were to hold any hope of lifting the trophy come May, this was a must-not-lose clash, with there a general wisdom that, to do so, any side must take a minimum of four points from Guardiola’s City.

At the forefront of Liverpool’s evolution is the instalment of Alexander-Arnold as one of their leaders, and with a resounding performance in Manchester, he fit the billing perfectly.

(Images from IMAGO)

To keep up to date with everything Liverpool, make sure you click follow on the team profile in the FotMob app. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss, 0 comments
MLS Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Conference Semifinals

MLS Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Conference Semifinals

The dynamic of the Major League Soccer playoffs changed again for the conference semifinals, as four teams moved a step closer to the MLS Cup.

On the back of what felt like a slightly too-long break between this round and the previous one, due to the timing of the international window, the format switched from best-of-three to single-elimination knockouts.

There was an average of 2.95 goals per game across those best-of-three Round One games, while the single-game conference semis averaged 0.75 goals per game (excluding goals scored in extra time).

Maybe it’s because once you get to this stage, all the teams are reasonably good. They have an idea of how they want to play and do a decent job of executing that game plan.

There was some back and forth in these fixtures but the defences looked more organised than we’re used to seeing in MLS.

As a result, it took special, high quality moments and performances within these games for a team to progress.

Here’s a look at the players who provided them.

By James Nalton, MLS expert

Denis Bouanga 7.2 (Los Angeles FC)

The low-scoring result of Seattle 0, Los Angeles FC 1 perhaps hides how much went on in this game.

Much of it emerged from the attacking play of the Sounders who dominated every statistic apart from the One That Matters—the scoreline.

LAFC created very few clear-cut chances of its own and only had 31% possession. But sometimes in MLS, the superior attacking quality of one Designated Player can decide a game.

This was the case here as Bouanga took it upon himself to force LAFC into the conference final with an outstanding goal out of pretty much nothing.

He picked the ball up just inside the Seattle half on the left before driving forward and setting up his path into the opposition area.

Once near the six-yard box, he blasted a shot past Stefan Frei.

In knockout soccer this season, from games across the Concacaf Champions League, Leagues Cup, and MLS playoffs, Bouanga has 17 goals in 13 starts.

In the MLS playoffs and Leagues Cup alone, he has ten in six. 

It’s the type of individual form that could see LAFC defend their title despite the team as a whole not quite being at the same level as last year.

Maxime Crépeau 9.1 (Los Angeles FC)

At the other end of the field for LAFC, Crépeau was putting in the standout goalkeeping performance of the round. A title for which he had considerable competition.

There were some impressive performances between the sticks, with Columbus Crew goalkeeper Patrick Schulte also making key saves against Orlando City, but LAFC’s Canadian stopper was as important to his side’s victory as Bouanga’s goal.

A brilliant save from a shot from the onrushing Jordan Morris set the tone early on.

Seattle had eight shots on target to LAFC’s two, and the Sounders registered an xG on-target score of 2.36.

Crépeau stopped them all and was FotMob’s highest-rated player for this round of the playoffs.

He rounded off his performance with a highlight reel fingertip save from a João Paulo shot.

“On a personal level, it was just focusing on the moment one action at a time, going through the many minutes without mistakes and keeping the team in the game,” Crépeau said after the game.

He certainly kept them in the game and as a result played a big part in helping LAFC through to the Western Conference final.

Héctor Herrera 8.4 (Houston Dynamo)

It seems inevitable that if Houston progresses, Herrera will be the standout player in the game.

This was the case again in this Western Conference semifinal against Sporting Kansas City.

It was yet another game in which the Mexican Designated Player had well over 100 touches.

His passing was tidy and creative, completing 90 of 102 passes and creating three chances.

Herrera provided the assist for Franco Escobar’s goal with a left-footed (his weaker foot) cross from a corner for the defender to head home.

Sporting KC can feel hard done to, though, as Houston centre-back Erik Sviatchenko stopped Dániel Sallói’s shot with his arm on the line. Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes believed it was a handball and should have a red card, and few would disagree with that assessment, but nothing was given.

Houston did enough to justify its progress to the next round, though, and this year’s US Open Cup champions appear to be taking its knockout soccer nous into these MLS Cup playoffs.

Aidan Morris 8.2 (Columbus Crew)

Columbus looks like one of the most coherent teams in Major League Soccer, at least in attack.

It faced another similarly competent outfit in Orlando City – a team that managed to finish second in the overall standings in 2023 thanks to the coaching of Óscar Pareja.

It was an understandably tight game between two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and required extra time to decide the winner.

A red card for Orlando defender Rodrigo Schlegel helped sway the game in The Crew’s favor and give its attack more space and encouragement.

Behind this attack was the midfield play of Aiden Morris, which has been increasingly impressive this season.

The only reason he didn’t get an assist for the Christian Ramirez goal that finally gave Columbus the lead was because it got a slight touch off Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.

But make no mistake, it was Morris’s defensive work, winning the ball on the edge of the area, and then a cross from the byline that produced this go-ahead goal.

The win was rounded off by Cucho Hernández who scored from the centre circle with Gallese off his line as Orlando chased the game.

Yerson Mosquera 7.6 (FC Cincinnati)

Mosquera’s centre-back teammate Matt Miazga was recently named MLS Defender of the Year for 2023.

But for this conference semifinal against Philadelphia Union, Miazga was suspended, so there was extra attention on Mosquera to perform.

And he did just that, scoring the only goal in a fairly scrappy contest against the Union.

There was some controversy about the awarding of this goal. It looked like Ian Murphy who headed the ball across the box was offside.

But Mosquera’s strike deserved to win the game, showing the kind of touch and finish that had been lacking from the attacking players on both sides.

If Miazga was the best defender in MLS in 2023, then by the end of the year Mosquera can’t have been far behind that level.

Roman Celentano’s performance in goal was among the impressive goalkeeping displays in this round, but it was ultimately Mosquera’s goal that sent the 2023 Supporters’ Shield winners through to the conference semifinals.

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the 2023 MLS 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 Team of the Week Matchday 13

Premier League Team of the Week Matchday 13

As far as Team of the Weeks go, this might be the most varied one we’ve had. Why? Well, no players from any of the top three – Arsenal, Manchester City or Liverpool – make the XI. Here’s a breakdown of why the players who did make the starting XI made the cut.  

By Sam McGuire, Premier League expert

Goalkeeper: André Onana 

The Manchester United shot-stopper kept his fifth clean sheet of the campaign on the 3-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park. The former Ajax and Inter goalkeeper is now tied with Nick Pope and Sam Johnstone for most clean sheets in the league following the shutout on Sunday. 

He made six saves as Everton created chances with an Expected Goals total of 1.73. The hosts just weren’t able to find a way past the 27-year-old. United are now just four points off the top four. 

Right-Back: Diogo Dalot 

Another Red Devil making the Team of the Week. Dalot was something of a revelation down the right for United against Everton. He set up Alejandro Garnacho’s goal of the season contender and created a further two chances. 

The 24-year-old, who signed for Man Utd in 2018, also won two of his three attempted tackles, recovered the ball seven times and came out on top in three of his four duels to round off a complete performance. 

Centre-Back: Teden Mengi 

Luton Town registered their first home win of the season on Saturday. Rob Edwards’ men held on against Crystal Palace to pick up a surprising three points at Kenilworth Road. Key to that success was Mengi. 

The right-sided centre-back in a back three, Mengi scored the opener, but the 21-year-old’s defensive showing caught the eye. He won 67% of his tackles and 75% of his ground duels. He also made eight-headed clearances and he played his part in repelling the Eagles. 

Centre-Back: Pau Torres

Torres is proving to be one of the signings of the summer. It is clear to see a number of Champions League-level sides wanted the centre-back. What isn’t clear, however, is why none of them made a move prior to his switch to Aston Villa. 

Unai Emery’s men are now in fourth spot following victory over Spurs. Torres powered a header past Guglielmo Vicario to equalise for the away side just before the break. It capped off a dominant showing with the 26-year-old winning 100% of his tackles, 83% of his ground duels and 100% of the aerial duels he was involved in. 

Left-Back: Antonee Robinson 

The Monday night game at Craven Cottage did not disappoint with Fulham winning a five-goal thriller against Wolves. 

Robinson played his part in getting Fulham off to a flyer, assisting Alex Iwobi with just seven minutes on the clock. Though Marco Silva’s side did concede twice, Robinson did impress defensively. He won 60% of his ground duels and 100% of his aerial battles while also recovering the ball seven times. His 8.1 FotMob rating was more than deserved.

Midfield: João Pedro 

It was quite the day for Pedro. He started Brighton’s game against Nottingham Forest on the bench but replaced Ansu Fati after just 21 minutes. He went on to put in a performance that gained him a FotMob rating of 9.1 after scoring twice in a 3-2 win for the Seagulls, their first three points in the league since September. He also won the penalty, which he converted, and put in a monstrous pressing performance, involving himself in 18 duels and winning 11 of them.  

Midfield: Willian 

Willian is rolling back the years for Fulham. The 35-year-old was the match-winner on Monday night, scoring two penalties to seal all three points for the Cottagers. He kept his cool in stoppage time to convert from the spot to give Fulham their first Premier League win since the first week of October. The former Chelsea man also created two chances.

Midfield: Marcus Tavernier 

The left-winger scored twice for Bournemouth in the 3-1 win over Sheffield United. He had a total of six shots in the game, meaning he was responsible for 26% of the total efforts had by the Cherries. The 24-year-old also created three chances to round off what was an exceptional showing. His display earned him a FotMob rating of 9.2, the highest of anyone in the Premier League this week. 

Attack: Hee-Chan Hwang 

Hwang didn’t deserve to be on the losing side on Monday night. 

The 27-year-old scored from the spot to make it 2-2 with one of his three efforts against Fulham. He helped Gary O’Neil’s side defend from the front. He was dribbled past just once, recovered the ball on seven occasions while also winning 60% of his ground duels. Hwang was a constant threat throughout the game and was fouled three times. 

Attack: Anthony Gordon 

Gareth Southgate’s decision to overlook Gordon looks a little foolish after yet another eye-catching display this weekend. The Newcastle winger scored and assisted in the 4-1 win over Chelsea on Saturday evening. He was fouled four times and involved himself in 13 duels to really emphasise how much of a modern-day forward he is – he’s part of the defensive phase as much as he is the offensive phases of play. The 22-year-old now have five goals and three assists in the Premier League this term. 

Attack: Chiedozie Ogbene 

Ogbene was a menace for Luton down their left flank on Saturday afternoon. The 26-year-old claimed an 8.2 FotMob rating for his showing in front of the home fans. He claimed an assist, put in a defensive shift and was a reliable outlet for the Hatters. The Republic of Ireland international attempted six dribbles and completed three of them. He also won six of his 10 duels showing his duality as a player in this workman-like team.

Ogbene more than played his part in lifting Luton four points clear of the drop zone. 

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the Premier League live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
Premier League Review: Matchday 13

Premier League Review: Matchday 13

The Premier League just continues to deliver. Manchester City no longer lead the way, Chelsea were humbled after a positive display prior to the international break and Luton Town continue to pull off shock results at home. Here’s your round-up for matchday 13

By Sam McGuire, Premier League expert

All square at the Etihad 

Manchester City kicked off the weekend with a home match against Liverpool. Pep Guardiola’s men knew a win would keep them in top spot, regardless of what happened elsewhere. 

They started off well but needed a huge slice of luck for the opener. Alisson easily dealt with a Phil Foden effort and then looked to spring a counter attack with Mohamed Salah breaking into the City half. However, the Liverpool No. 1 slipped while looking to play the pass and the hosts picked up possession. Nathan Aké slalomed past Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dominik Szoboszlai before threading a pass into Erling Haaland who fired a low effort past the Brazilian. 

Jérémy Doku threatened down the City left and though the champions huffed and puffed, they weren’t able to add a second.  

In the end, it came back to haunt them. Trent Alexander-Arnold picked up the ball on the edge of the area and rifled it past Ederson with just 10 minutes left on the clock. 

City will feel like they missed an opportunity to make the most of their on-ball dominance. Liverpool will feel this result showcases their resilience this season. 

Magpies run riot at St James’ Park

A severely depleted Newcastle United side welcomed Chelsea to St James’ Park looking to get back to winning ways following back-to-back losses in the Champions League and the Premier League. 

Chelsea arrived having gone toe-to-toe with Manchester City in their last outing. Mauricio Pochettino was able to field a fairly strong starting XI. 

Alexander Isak put the hosts ahead after just 13 minutes before Raheem Sterling equalised with 23 minutes on the clock. 

It was a fairly even first half with both teams carving out two big chances. The second half was a different story though. Eddie Howe’s side limited the visitors to just one shot while racking up an Expected Goals total of 1.34 on their way to scoring three goals to complete an emphatic 4-1 win. 

The Blues could well end the weekend in the bottom half of the table if Wolves win on Monday night. It extends Chelsea’s inconsistent form this term with pressure mounting on the former Spurs manager. 

Luton win at home 

Luton finally have a Premier League win at Kenilworth Road. The Hatters almost pulled off a coup a couple of weeks back when they led Liverpool until stoppage time. This time around, they held on to defeat Crystal Palace. 

The game sparked into life in the final 20 minutes. Luton took the lead through Teden Mengi before Michael Olise equalised two minutes later. Jacob Brown scored what turned out to be the winner with 83 minutes on the clock. 

In truth, it was a fortunate three points for Rob Edwards’ men. They didn’t really create many chances while Palace had an xG of 1.67 and finished the game with two big chances to their name. The hosts won’t care though. They’re now four points clear of the relegation zone. 

The Gunners leave it late

Arsenal reclaimed top spot with a dramatic late winner over Brentford. Mikel Arteta’s side had all of the ball but struggled to really create, finishing with an xG of 1.65 despite having 15 shots. By comparison, the Bees had nine shots and finished with an xG total of 1.19. So, fewer shots but more higher value attempts. 

The Gunners kept going though and eventually found their way past Mark Flekken in the 89th minute. Kai Havertz, who started on the bench, scored just his second goal of the season following his big money money from Chelsea. 

Brentford have now lost consecutive matches in the Premier League and find themselves in 11th position. 

Another loss for Spurs 

For a third successive game, Spurs took the lead but failed to even pick up a point. This time, Aston Villa took full advantage of a Tottenham Hotspur side lacking in confidence.

To be fair to Ange Postecoglou and his players, it was a depleted XI. The Australian boss was forced into naming Emerson Royal and Ben Davies as a centre-back pairing. Despite this, Spurs started well and Giovani Lo Celso opened the scoring after 22 minutes. 

Aston Villa thought they’d immediately equalised but, after a VAR check, it was clear Ollie Watkins was offside moments before heading the ball into the back of the net. 

Unai Emery’s men did find their way back into the game just before halftime when Pau Torres powered a header past Guglielmo Vicario.

Watkins did get his goal though, scoring the eventual winner just after the hour mark. It is his seventh of the season and only four players have more than him in the English top-flight this term. 

Sticky situation for the Toffees

The Goodison Park faithful expected a performance from Everton. The Toffees were docked 10 points during the international break and a reaction was expected as they welcomed Manchester United to Merseyside on Sunday afternoon.

However, the players didn’t get the memo. Well, that might be a little harsh. The Toffees did cause André Onana a number of issues and created chances worth 2.73 Expected Goals while finishing with 50% possession. United finished with an xG of 2.18 and this included a penalty. 

The Red Devils had a ruthless streak on the day. Alejandro Garnacho scored a goal of the season contender with a stunning overhead kick. Marcus Rashford scored from the spot and Anthony Martial finished in style to really add an exclamation point to proceedings. 

Erik Ten Hag’s side are now just four points outside of the top four. Everton remain joint-bottom. 

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the Premier League live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
FIVE games to follow this weekend: Club football is back with a bang!

FIVE games to follow this weekend: Club football is back with a bang!

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

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Premier League: Manchester City vs. Liverpool

The powers that be have scheduled the biggest game of the Premier League season, to date, for the early kick-off slot on Saturday. Liverpool, who’ve struggled on the road (earning 9 points from a possible 18) but sit second in the table, go to leaders Manchester City, who’ve won all five of their home games so far, conceding just three goals in the process.

It’s a big fixture every year, with these two clubs sharing the last six titles (City 5, Liverpool 1) between them, but this one comes at a crucial time in the season. The narrative during the international break has been that supposed ‘injuries’ and withdrawals from various national team training camps will mean that Pep Guardiola’s side return to action virtually at full fitness. But also, some of Liverpool’s key performers have been on song for their countries, and come back to England in red hot form. Luis Díaz and Darwin Núñez were on fire in Colombia and Uruguay’s World Cup qualifiers, Mo Salah scored four in one game for Egypt, and Dominik Szoboszlai captained Hungary as they qualified for next year’s European Championships.

However, City can always boast of their recent dominance in this fixture. Liverpool have won just once at the Etihad since Jürgen Klopp’s appointment in 2015, and they’ve only ever been victorious in three league games since City moved to their new stadium back in 2003.

For a Liverpool take on the upcoming game, have a read of this guest column, from our friends at ThisIsAnfield – here.

🇮🇹 Serie A: Juventus vs. Inter

The weekend is bookended by another massive top of the table clash as the Derby d’Italia headlines the Serie A schedule on Sunday night. The eternal battle between Italy’s two most successful clubs – Juventus and Inter – comes at a time when they too occupy the top two places in the league. And that won’t change, regardless of earlier results elsewhere, thanks to the six point cushion that Juve, who sit second, currently have on the sides below them.

Inter’s record so far during this campaign has been phenomenal – W10 D1 L1 – and they’re also the top scorers (29 goals for) and have the meanest defence (six goals against). But Juve have only conceded seven so, as always, we’re expecting this to be a tight game. From their last six meetings, only the 2022 Coppa Italia Final (won by Inter) has produced more than two goals.

Ahead of the international break, Inter were on a nine game unbeaten run and had won their last six on the bounce (all comps). And their strike partnership of Lautaro Martínez and Marcus Thuram led both the Serie A goalscoring and assists charts respectively – Martínez with 12 goals, Thuram with five assists. For their part, Juve hadn’t lost in seven, and had won their last five league games, a run that included the Derby against Torino, and a win at Inter’s city rivals, Milan.

🇫🇷 Ligue 1: PSG vs. Monaco

Ahead of all those fixtures, Friday night brings us a treat from Ligue 1, where first face third in the French capital. Paris Saint-Germain clawed their way back to the top of the table ahead of the international break but now they must face one of the early season pacesetters that had been keeping them at bay in previous game weeks.

Monaco only lost one of their opening nine games and that came against in-form Nice. More recently, a defeat to LOSC, and a draw against newly promoted Le Havre have stalled their progress but they do remain the leagues’ second best goal scorers having outperformed their xG of 17.6 by netting 25 times.

As you’d imagine, PSG are the one team outscoring them, averaging 2.4 goals per game. Neither can boast a defence as tight as Nice though, who’ve conceded just four times in 12 games! Which is astounding.

PSG do have injury concerns coming back from the international break – captain Marquinhos will be missing along with teenage breakout star, Warren Zaire-Emery, who was injured during his goalscoring debut for France. However, they will be able to call on their talisman, and former Monaco striker, Kylian Mbappé. The Frenchman scored three and assisted three goals in the two games he played for the national team in the past week, to go with the 15 goals he’s already bagged for PSG this season.

🇩🇪 Bundesliga: Werder Bremen vs. Bayer Leverkusen

On Saturday, it’s time for the early season success story to get back to action in Germany. Bayer Leverkusen travel to 12th placed Werder Bremen looking to maintain their 17 game unbeaten start to the campaign (all comps).

Xabi Alonso’s side have won their last seven Bundesliga games and have only dropped points once so far – when they drew 2-2 at Bayern Munich. Werder Bremen can’t boast of any such success but they are unbeaten in their last three, and are perhaps showing some form after a dire start to the season that included a #Cupset against third tier opposition in the DFB Pokal and consecutive away defeats versus promoted teams where they conceded four goals in each.

Elsewhere, the league returns with Bayern’s game at FC Köln on Friday night. Besides the fact that the defending champions could move above Leverkusen with a win, the scheduling of the fixture has caused some consternation in German football circles. It’s the second time Bayern have played on a Friday following the international break and coach Thomas Tuchel was quoted as saying that the calendar is stretched to the “absolute limit” and that it was having a detrimental effect on his elite players.

🇪🇸 LaLiga: Cádiz vs. Real Madrid

In Spain, Real Madrid, like Bayern, have an opportunity to take top spot by virtue of playing their fixture before Girona, the current leaders of LaLiga. Madrid visit the southern port city of Cádiz, on Sunday, where the home side have been enduring a torrid campaign to date.

The Yellows have won just twice, and are ranked 20th out of 20 in terms of goals scored, averaging just 0.8 per match. That compares to Madrid’s 2.2 and if it wasn’t for the heroics of goalkeeper, Conan Ledesma, Cádiz would be a lot lower than their current 16th place in the table. The Argentine is averaging 4.2 saves per game, a rate only beaten by Villarreal’s Filip Jörgensen.

Carlo Ancelotti’s final season with Madrid (ahead of his move to take on the Brazilian national team in 2024) is going well. They’ve lost just once in their 17 competitive games, won at defending league champions Barcelona, beaten Girona, and have seen star summer signing Jude Bellingham race to the top of the goalscoring charts. A win at Cádiz would be their 11th league win and would see them go one point clear at the top of the table, at least temporarily.

Elsewhere, Barcelona play at Rayo Vallecano, on Saturday, and we’ll have to wait until Monday, to see how Girona respond to the weekend’s results.

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

🇺🇸 MLS Cup Play-offs: FC Cincinnati vs. Philadelphia Union

This week, we’ve chosen to highlight a couple of the Conference semi-finals as the MLS Cup play-offs head towards crunch time in the States.

And in the East, on Saturday night, we’re focusing on the battle between FC Cincinnati, who finished the regular season first in the Conference, and Philadelphia Union, who did the same in 2022. Philadelphia obviously didn’t reach such heights this season, finishing fourth, 14 points down on Cincinnati, who were also the surprise winners of the Supporters’ Shield, the prize given to the best performing side across the league as a whole.

In the play-offs, where that regular season form can go out the window, Cincinnati needed just two games to win their best-of-three series against wildcard entrants New York Red Bulls. And similarly, Philadelphia dispatched New England Revs in two. Unlike the previous round, these semi-finals are decided on the day, meaning Cincinnati’s home advantage could come in to play.

🇺🇸 MLS Cup Play-offs: Seattle Sounders vs. LAFC

On Sunday, in the West, we’ll see whether defending MLS Cup holders, LAFC can once again reach the Conference Final when they take on Seattle. The Sounders finished the regular season one point better off than the champions thanks to a late run of form that saw them lose just one of their final nine games. That contrasts with LA, who won only three times over the same period.

Both sides needed all three matches in the previous round of the play-offs – Seattle started with a win over FC Dallas, lost the second game away from home, then recovered with a 1-0 victory in game three. The first match between LAFC and their opponents, Vancouver Whitecaps, ended in a draw, with the Californians then going on to win 5-3 in game two, and then 1-0 in game three back in Canada.

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 our new WhatsApp Channel for updates on all the important football going on this weekend!

Cover Image from IMAGO

Posted by Bill Biss
Premier League Preview: Matchday 13

Premier League Preview: Matchday 13

The final international break of the year is over and we’re now closing in on the most wonderful time of the campaign. The festive season is filled with football matches galore. We kick this off at the Etihad on Saturday afternoon with one of the biggest matches in Europe.

By Sam McGuire, Premier League expert

Top spot up for grabs 

Manchester City host Liverpool in the early kick-off on Saturday with first position in the Premier League up for grabs. A win for the champions would see them open up a four-point lead at the summit. A win for the Reds would see them leapfrog City. 

The international break couldn’t have been more different for these clubs. City had a number of injuries with Rodri, Ederson, John Stones and Nathan Aké all ruled out. Erling Haaland then caused concern for Pep Guardiola and his coaches when he picked up a knock against the Faroe Islands. 

Rodri, Ederson, and Haaland have all made miraculous recoveries though and should be fit for the visit of the Reds. 

By comparison, Liverpool players enjoyed stints away with their respective national teams. Luis Díaz, Darwin Núñez and Harvey Elliott scored multiple goals while Trent Alexander-Arnold was named Player-of-the-Match for England. 

Jürgen Klopp will hope his players can carry their momentum into the game against the leaders. The Reds are without a league win at the Etihad since 2015 and their away form this season hasn’t been great. They have won just two of their six fixtures and have conceded eight goals. City have a 100% record at home and are averaging over three goals per game. 

Newcastle need to dig deep 

The narrative heading into the game between Newcastle United and Chelsea is that the former have struggled while the latter are having yet another positive campaign. Yet a win for Mauricio Pochettino’s side would move them to within a single point of their hosts. 

Newcastle suffered back-to-back losses before the international break, losing to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and Bournemouth in the Premier League.  Eddie Howe’s men have just one goal across their last three matches – Anthony Gordon’s controversial winner against Arsenal – and injuries are threatening to derail their campaign. 

If results don’t go their way this weekend, they could finish matchday 13 in eighth position, nine points off the pace in their pursuit of another top-four finish. 

Believe it or not, Chelsea have found their form. The loss to Brentford skews perception but they’ve beaten Spurs and drawn with Manchester City and Arsenal over recent weeks. After early season struggles in front of goal, the Blues have found their shooting boots with eight goals across their last two outings. 

The only thing missing for Pochettino is a statement victory against a top team. They’ve performed well against Liverpool, Arsenal and City but weren’t able to pick up maximum points while the win over Spurs was, oddly enough, disappointing from a performance point of view. 

A strong performance and a win at St James’ Park would make people sit up and take notice. 

Can Spurs get back to winning ways? 

A lot can change in the space of a week as Spurs found out prior to the international break. 

Ange Postecoglou’s side were Premier League leaders and unbeaten heading into their Monday night game against Chelsea. They lost 4-1 but, perhaps more worryingly, they lost Micky Van De Ven and James Maddison to injury while Cristian Romero was sent off. In their next outing, they conceded two stoppage-time goals to lose to Wolves. They’re now fourth in the table and play host to fifth-placed Aston Villa this weekend. 

A win for Unai Emery’s men would see them leapfrog Spurs. 

Villa have been in unbelievable form this term. 

A recent shock loss to Nottingham Forest has allowed them to go somewhat under the radar. That defeat was only their third of the season. Prior to that, they had put together a six-match unbeaten run that included five wins. This run included a 6-1 win over Brighton and a 4-1 victory against West Ham. Only leaders Manchester City (31) have more goals than Villa (29) and the Villians are going to fancy their chances of adding to that tally against a depleted Spurs side this weekend. 

A sticky situation for the Toffees

This is Everton’s first match since their 10-point deduction. A defiant Goodison Park is going to be up for the visit of Manchester United on Sunday afternoon and, if truth be told, they’re going to need to be. 

The Toffees have an abysmal home record this season, picking up just four points from their six matches at Goodison. They have lost four times in front of a home crowd and are averaging less than a goal a game. 

All things considered, United have a surprisingly good away record this term. The Red Devils have won three of five and have taken as many points away from home as Liverpool this term despite having played a game fewer. 

Erik Ten Hag’s side have won four of their last five in the Premier League with their only defeat coming against rivals Manchester City. The performances might not be great but they are getting points on the board. A win here ensures they retain sixth position in the Premier League and remain within touching distance of the top four places. 

Wolves on the prowl at Craven Cottage 

Matchday 13 comes to a close on Monday night when Fulham entertain Wolves. 

Gary O’Neil’s team have found their groove. They have suffered just one defeat in their last seven and it was a shock one against Sheffield United In their last outing, they beat Tottenham, coming from 1-0 down to snatch all three points in stoppage-time. During this run, they have also beaten Manchester City. 

A win here could see them climb into ninth position. It’d be quite the turnaround for a team tipped to be involved in a relegation battle during the pre-season predictions. They’re up against a Fulham side in free fall. 

Marco Silva’s side have lost three of their last four and have just one win since the September international break. Only Burnley (nine) have scored fewer goals than Fulham (10) and it is their lack of fire power following the sale of Aleksandar Mitrović which has seen them drop into a relegation scrap. 

(Cover image from IMAGO)

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Posted by Bill Biss