FIVE games to follow this weekend: Arsenal vs. Spurs, plus derbies and clasicos elsewhere

FIVE games to follow this weekend: Arsenal vs. Spurs, plus derbies and clasicos 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

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Premier League: Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Sunday is one of those days in the European football calendar where the powers that be have colluded to give us a day packed full of Clásicos and big Derby games. And in the Premier League, that means we’ve got the North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

Both sides come in to the game unbeaten and on the same number of points – each having won four, drawn one. Spurs have looked transformed under the man-management of Ange Postecoglou. And despite the loss of talisman Harry Kane in the transfer window, only Brighton and Manchester City have managed to score more than the 13 goals they’ve got to their name (City have 14, Brighton 15), and no one has created more big chances (13).

And its down to that goal difference that Spurs come in to this game against their bitterest rivals second in the table, to Arsenal’s fourth. The Gunners have actually been better defensively, conceding at a rate of 0.8 goals per game but they haven’t been at their most fluent at the other end of the pitch – their wins, other the match against Manchester United have all been won by a single goal margin. That said, they did cut through Dutch side PSV Eindhoven with ease in Wednesday’s Champions League opener, as the club celebrated their return to Europe’s elite competition with a 4-0 win.

It is early days, but this particular North London Derby could be one of the games of the season. Both teams will obviously want the win, but after Mikel Arteta’s side did the double over them last season (with an aggregate score of 5-1 over the two games), Spurs in particular, have a score to settle.

🇫🇷 Ligue 1: PSG vs. Marseille

Once the dust settles on Sunday’s packed Premier League schedule, there’s still the biggest games of the weekend in Ligue 1 and LaLiga to contend with. Kicking off first is Le Classique, the battle between Northern and Southern supremacy in France, between Paris Saint-Germain, darlings of the capital, and the port city outsiders of Marseille.

Five rounds in to the new season, l’OM are one of four unbeaten sides, alongside leaders Monaco and Nice (who play each other on Friday night), and Rennes. They have only won twice though, with frustrating draws against Nantes and Toulouse halting their progress in recent weeks. Their only competitive defeat came in a Champions League play-off – which saw them move in to the Europa League, where they opened with an entertaining 3-3 draw, at Ajax, on Thursday. They fell behind three times in that game, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looked inspired, scoring his second brace of the season.

PSG, for their part, won their midweek game, beating Borussia Dortmund 2-0 in a Champions League group of death that also includes Milan and Newcastle United. That went someway to banishing memories of last weekend’s 3-2 defeat at home to Nice, a game where they were outplayed, and outshot for the first time this season.

After another summer of unwanted speculation, Kylian Mbappé has settled back down to business in his customary fashion, scoring seven league goals already, and adding to that tally in midweek.

PSG are unbeaten against their rivals in five league matches but Marseille will look to last season’s win in their Coupe de France meeting for encouragement ahead of this one.

🇪🇸 LaLiga: Atlético Madrid vs. Real Madrid

Kicking off a little later but overlapping Le Classique, and essentially giving TV viewers a decision to make, is the Madrid Derby on Sunday evening (you can, of course, set FotMob alerts for one while watching the other!).

Madrid have a perfect record in LaLiga, winning all five of their games and conceding just three goals in the process, and they top the table. Granted, they’ve needed late goals from Jude Bellingham, or comebacks provided by players like Joselu in some of those victories, but Carlo Ancelotti’s side have started strong nevertheless. And it was a similar story on Wednesday night when German side Union Berlin held out for 94 minutes at the Bernabéu only for Bellingham to score with Madrid’s 32nd and final shot of the night. They’re not exactly winning ugly, but in terms of title contenders very much earning their luck, their form fits the bill.

For Atlético, the start of the Champions League saw them making the headlines, as well, but for the wrong reasons as Lazio goalkeeper Ivan Provedel scored a blistering late header to deny the Spanish side all three points from their game at the Stadio Olimpico.

In the league, Diego Simeone has been searching for consistency – the club’s last two results being a 7-0 win at high-flying Rayo Vallecano followed up by a 3-0 defeat at an equally in-form Valencia team last weekend. Los Colchoneros have scored 2.5 goals per match though, more than their City rivals, but that’s translated in to a points tally seven fewer than the league leaders.

Recent derbies have favoured Real, with Atlético having won just one of their last 12 competitive meetings but it would be wrong to write them off at this stage.

🇮🇹 Serie A: Empoli vs. Inter

Inter Milan lead the way in Serie A where they are the only side with a 100% record after four rounds. And confidence will be sky high after last weekend’s 5-1 demolition of Milan in their own big derby game. Their record of 13 goals for, and just one against, should give you a clear picture of how they’ve started the campaign.

Okay, so they needed a late Lautaro Martínez goal to draw 1-1 at Real Sociedad in the Champions League during the week but the point stands, Simone Inzaghi’s side have been performing well!

And now, also on Sunday, they face Empoli, the only side who’ve lost all four of their league games. They’ve not even scored a goal so far, creating chances worth just 2.3 xG all season. The loss of highly rated goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario to Tottenham Hotspur looks to have been highly significant with those that remain conceding goals at a rate of three per game. They were beaten 7-0 by Roma and the usually conservative José Mourinho last weekend so one worries for them again this weekend.

But this is football, and there’s no such thing as an away banker. Is there?

🇩🇪 Bundesliga: Bayern München vs. Bochum

In Germany, Bayern München will look to follow their midweek victory over Manchester United by getting back to winning ways in the Bundesliga. Last weekend, they were held to a 2-2 draw by form side Bayer Leverkusen, with Leon Goretzka’s 86th minute goal cancelled out by a stoppage time penalty, converted by Leverkusen’s Exequiel Palacios.

That was the champions’ first dropped points of the new season after comfortable wins in their first three fixtures. But coach Thomas Tuchel will be happy with his side – Harry Kane already has four Bundesliga goals to his name and other summer signings such as Kim Min-jae have settled seamlessly in to his preferred starting XI. On Saturday, they host the winless Bochum at the Allianz Arena, a side who’ve not kept a clean sheet in their last 15 matches.

To give their opponents some credit, though, Bochum have drawn their last three – a run that includes a derby against Dortmund, and a home clash with Eintracht Frankfurt.

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

🇳🇱 Eredivisie: Ajax vs. Feyenoord

This week, these gems aren’t particularly hidden as we’ve selected games from the Benelux countries, with both Netherlands and Belgium also choosing Sunday to stage their biggest rivalries.

In the Eredivisie, that means a clash between Ajax, of Amsterdam, and defending champions Feyenoord, from Rotterdam. If you’ve not been following us on social media, you may have missed the fact that Ajax have suffered their worst start to a league season since 1965, and last weekend’s defeat to FC Twente included a blow that coach Maurice Steijn would have felt keenly, as his son, Sem Steijn, was amongst the scorers for the opposition.

Feyenoord’s title defence started slowly – they lost the Super Cup to PSV then drew both of their opening league fixtures. However, they’ve been flying since then with 6-1, 5-1, and 6-1 wins in their last three games. And then, in midweek, they beat Celtic on Matchday 1 in the Champions League. And they’ll be more than happy to take advantage of their rival’s poor spell should this one go to form.

🇧🇪 Pro League: Anderlecht vs. Club Brugge

In Belgium, it’s second meets third as the leagues’ two traditional giants go head-to-head. Admittedly, Anderlecht haven’t won a title since 2017 but they remain the most successful team in the country despite Club Brugge’s recent dominance – the Bruges based club have lifted the trophy in four of the six seasons played since then.

But there are positive signs for Anderlecht going in to this one. It’s them who currently sit higher in the table having won four of their opening seven games and they’ve gone six games unbeaten since defeat to Union over the opening weekend. That’s already a huge step up from their 11th place finish last season.

Club Brugge have played a game less and only sit one point below their rivals so this should be a tight contest. And especially when you consider that they haven’t lost to Anderlecht in any of their last eight meetings. But what impact will Thursday’s 1-1 Conference League draw with Beşiktaş have on the travelling side? We’ll fins out on Sunday afternoon.

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, Threads, Facebook and Instagram to discuss all the important football going on this weekend!

Cover Image from IMAGO

Posted by Bill Biss
Premier League Matchday Six Preview

Premier League Matchday Six Preview

With European football now back, the Premier League fixture list is looking a little more interesting. There’s a Saturday night game to go along with the evening kick off, as well as five matches being played on Sunday. Here’s a look at some of the biggest talking points ahead of the action this weekend.

By Sam McGuire, Premier League expert

Another six pointer

Luton are yet to pick up a point following their return to the English top-flight. Rob Edwards’ side have lost all four of their outings and are the joint lowest scorers having found the back of the net on just two occasions. 

At the other end of the pitch, the newly promoted side are struggling defensively and have an Expected Goals Conceded total of 8.2. 

On Saturday, they welcome Wolves to Kenilworth Road. Gary O’Neil’s team aren’t doing much better. Their only win of the campaign came against Everton, courtesy of an 87th minute Sasa Kalajdzic goal. 

They took the lead against Liverpool last weekend at Molineux but crumbled in the second half, conceding three goals. 

A loss here won’t make or break the season for either team but a win could go some way to kick-starting their 2023/24 campaign. For example, a win for the hosts could lift them out of the relegation zone. A win for the visitors opens up a gap between themselves and the bottom three, giving them some much needed breathing space, even at this stage. 

It is the very definition of a six-pointer. 

A sticky situation for the Bees

Brentford host Everton in the Saturday evening game looking to bring their three-game winless run to an end. 

The Bees got off to a good start this season, picking up four points from their first two outings, while also ranking favourably in attacking metrics. Up until last weekend, Thomas Frank’s side topped the Expected Goals charts. Now, though, they’re fourth with a total of 10.5. However, they’ve only scored eight goals with Yoane Wissa struggling to make the most of his opportunities in the absence of the suspended Ivan Toney. 

They lost their last match 1-0 to Newcastle, their first defeat of the season. A clash against a struggling Toffees side gives them an opportunity to get their second win on the board. 

Everton are yet to win a game themselves, they’re in the relegation zone and have just a single point to their name. Sean Dyche and his side have been extremely unfortunate though.

The Toffees have scored just two goals despite creating chances with an Expected Goals value of 7.6. They’ve missed 11 big chances, a total only Chelsea can better (12). With better finishing, Dyche would have his side comfortably in mid-table. At some point, this run of bad luck in front of goal is going to have to come to an end. 

Maybe it’ll be this Saturday. 

The North London derby 

This has the potential to be one of the best games of the season. 

Spurs make the trip to the Emirates level on points with Arsenal and unbeaten in the Premier League under new manager Ange Postecoglou.

Tottenham are going under the radar a little this term. They are joint-first for big chances created (13) alongside Manchester City and Brighton, they are third in the Premier League for shots on target per 90 with 7.8 and rank fifth got possession (61%). 

Postecoglou’s men have already beaten Manchester United this season but taking something off of Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal would be a huge statement. 

The Gunners, who are averaging 66% of the ball in the English top-flight, have just kicked off their Champions League campaign with a 4-0 win over PSV and are in fine form. Arsenal have evolved this term and seem more controlled and assured following the summer arrival of Declan Rice. 

Bringing Tottenham’s unbeaten start to an end would be a statement in itself. After all, momentum matters in the Premier League.  

Can the run continue? 

Liverpool are unbeaten in the Premier League since early April but they’ve fallen behind in three of their matches in the English top-flight this term. They also had to overturn a 1-0 deficit in their Europa League game against LASK on Thursday. 

A pattern is emerging in their matches. The Reds aren’t necessarily being cut apart by the opposition but silly errors are creeping in and leaving them everything to do to salvage something from these games. At some point, their attack isn’t going to bail out their backline.

West Ham have caused problems for a number of teams this season, beating Chelsea and Brighton while also taking a shock lead against Manchester City. Their entire game plan is built around hitting teams on the break and making the most of these transitional situations. 

The Hammers have averaged just 35% possession in their five outings, by comparison, Liverpool have averaged close to 54%.

On paper, this game seems perfect for David Moyes’ team. If they manage to pick up all three points here at Anfield, it will be their biggest result of the season. 

(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
6 players who could shine for Liverpool in the Europa League

6 players who could shine for Liverpool in the Europa League

Liverpool head into the Europa League this season for the first time since Jürgen Klopp’s maiden campaign on Merseyside, when he led his new side all the way to the final in Basel.

That night saw one of the underrated goals of any European final as Daniel Sturridge hammered home with the outside of his boot from range, but ended in a comprehensive 3-1 defeat for the Reds to tournament specialists Sevilla.

By Jack Lusby,

Over seven years on and things have changed drastically for Liverpool, who have reached the Champions League final three times since and won it once, as well as lifting the Premier League title.

But a failure of judgment and dearth of luck last term saw Klopp’s side fall short of the top four and see them qualify for the Europa League instead – a curse for some, with the prospect of games every Thursday and Sunday a daunting one, it is however one fans should embrace.

For the players, too, it provides an opportunity to lift the only trophy Liverpool have never managed under Klopp.

And while the manager will insist his plans to “respect the competition in the right manner,” the Europa League – and group clashes with LASK, Union SG and Toulouse – will undoubtedly see rotation in his ranks.

With that in mind, here are six players who could be expected to take their opportunity in Europe’s second tier.

Ben Doak

Let’s get the obvious one out the way first.

It is an open secret now that Liverpool have a prodigious young attacker in their midst; it’s just about finding the right avenue to get him into the side.

Given Doak is up against Mohamed Salah for a place on the right flank, the fact the Reds are not in the Champions League will certainly have played into his hands in that respect.

The platform of the Europa League, which is comprised of lower-level teams but ones who still pose a real challenge, could be perfect for Doak’s direct brand of forward play.

He will terrify full-backs in weeks to come.

Ryan Gravenberch

The late summer signing of Gravenberch from Bayern Munich may have surprised or even disappointed some, given the widespread clamour for Liverpool to bring in another No. 6.

But Klopp is convinced his new man can fill that role and many more, saying prior to his debut: “He is an 8, he can play as a 10 definitely, and yes, in time, he can play as a 6.”

As with Doak, though, it is just a matter of fitting the Dutchman into the side, particularly given the form of Dominik Szoboszlai, Alexis Mac Allister and Curtis Jones.

It is clear there will be a slower adjustment period for Gravenberch, but the climes of the Europa League could allow him to gain a foothold – in whichever role is deemed best.

Stefan Bajčetić

Another midfielder who finds himself on the outside looking in at this early stage of the campaign, Bajčetić broke through to become a first-choice starter midway through last season but has been sidelined through injury since March.

Back fit and clocking his first minutes back at any level for Spain U21s during the international break, the 18-year-old is now just waiting for his next chance at Liverpool.

Like with Gravenberch, the ability to shuffle his midfield pack could allow Klopp to reintroduce Bajčetić in the Europa League while resting the likes of Szoboszlai and Mac Allister.

Originally a centre-back, then converted to a No. 6, the teenager actually found his best form with Liverpool’s first team as an advanced midfielder, but his versatility could be particularly useful in Europe.

Wataru Endō

After a shaky first start in Liverpool’s eventual 2-1 win at Newcastle, in which he was brought off just before the hour mark, Klopp all but confirmed that he views Endō as a work in progress.

That is despite the experienced Japanese midfielder being among the oldest in his squad at 30, and having worn the captain’s armband at Stuttgart and for his country.

Signed for £16 million and handed a four-year contract, Endō was seemingly not a stopgap signing, and he will be relied upon this season.

The Europa League, with its varied tests and likely slower pace at times, could give him the backdrop to settle in and find his form.

Jarell Quansah

Just as fans were critical of the lack of another defensive midfield signing before deadline day, there was real scrutiny over the decision not to acquire another centre-back.

Instead, Klopp kept faith with his core of Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konaté, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez – and now, with injuries and suspensions already testing him, he has shown his belief in Quansah.

An outstanding full debut in the 3-1 comeback win over Wolves gave a glimpse of what the 20-year-old could offer as part of Liverpool’s defensive group.

While he will remain fifth choice for the time being, it would not be a surprise to see Quansah given more minutes against the sides from Austria, Belgium and France.

Bobby Clark

There were no shortage of suitors for Clark, an 18-year-old who can play both in midfield and attack, during the summer transfer window.

But as he looked poised to join League One side Derby on loan before the deadline, the deal fell through with it apparent that he will instead be given game time at Liverpool this season.

Klopp made that clear with the inclusion of Clark as part of his senior squad for the Europa League, despite the youngster – signed from Newcastle for up to £1.5 million in 2021 – being eligible as an under-21 player.

He is unlikely to be considered a starter in the early rounds, not least due to his absence from any first-team games so far this season, but his minutes could increase if a knockout spot is secured before the group stage is up.

(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
Premier League Matchday 5 Team of the Week

Premier League Matchday 5 Team of the Week

There were a number of eye-catching performances across the Premier League this weekend and it meant the Team of the Week was a difficult one to piece together. However, one team in particular, Manchester City, dominates the XI this week and their four inclusions are well justified. 

By Sam McGuire, Premier League expert

Goalkeeper: Robert Sánchez 

The 25-year-old claimed an 8.1 rating during Chelsea’s 0-0 draw with Bournemouth. The former Brighton shot-stopper made four saves, all from efforts inside the penalty area, while also showing his ability in possession by completing 91% of his attempted passes. 

It wasn’t a performance for the ages but it was one that could’ve gone under the radar in what was a big point for an inconsistent Blues side under Mauricio Pochettino. 

Right-Back: Kyle Walker

Just days after announcing he had signed a contract extension with Manchester City, Walker put in an impressive display at right-back in the comeback victory against West Ham United.

The England full-back completed 94% of his passes on his way to creating two chances for the reigning champions. Walker also recovered the ball on eight occasions while winning six of his nine duels and coming out on top in two of his three tackles. This sort of performance is becoming the norm for the former Spurs defender. 

Centre-Back: Pau Torres 

Aston Villa got back to winning ways following the 3-0 loss to Liverpool before the international break. They left it late though. Unai Emery’s men fell behind to an Odsonne Edouard goal just after half-time and only found an equaliser with three minutes of normal time remaining. They then scored two goals in injury time to claim all three points. 

Pau Torres didn’t get himself on the scoresheet but he put in a shift and a half defensively. He recovered the ball nine times and won 75% of his duels. He also attempted 124 passes and found a teammate 94% of the time. He was accurate with 82% of his long passes too. 

Centre-Back: Tim Ream

Fulham claimed their second win of the season, beating Luton Town 1-0. Marco Silva’s men weren’t at their best though and finished the game with a lower Expected Goals haul than their opponents as well as fewer big chances. 

Ream was a brick wall at the back though for the hosts, winning 75% of his tackles and 80% of his duels. The Fulham captain also recovered the ball eight times and attempted an incredible 148 passes, finding a teammate 95%. 

Left-Back: Tariq Lampety

Brighton went with a weakened XI for their trip to Manchester United and named Lampety, rather surprisingly, at left-back. It turned out to be a Roberto De Zerbi masterstroke with the 22-year-old claiming two assists in the 3-1 win. The versatile defender also won 100% of his tackles and completed 86% of his passes in what was a performance that might’ve given the Brighton boss a bit of a selection headache moving forward.

Centre-Midfield: Bernardo Silva

To say Silva put in a performance would be a bit of an understatement. The Portugal international scored a goal, registered an assist and created four chances as City mounted a comeback to claim all three points against the Hammers. 

Silva netted the second goal to give the Citizens the lead, poking the ball past an extremely busy Alphonse Areola in the 76th minute. The 29-year-old also completed 100% of his dribbles, capping off a creative display. However, he was pipped to the FotMob top rating by someone. 

Centre-Midfield: Julián Álvarez

That someone was Álvarez. The World Cup winner has been filling in for Kevin De Bruyne in the City starting XI, acting as an attacking midfielder. He’s thriving in this role too, chipping in with three assists and two goals so far this term. 

Against West Ham on Saturday, the 23-year-old claimed two assists while creating four chances for teammates. He also finished the game with a pass success rate of 92%, a remarkable achievement considering many of his passes fell into the risky category as he tried to make something happen. All of this meant he claimed an 8.8 FotMob rating, the highest of the match.

Centre-Midfield: Douglas Luiz

The Aston Villa midfield bossed the middle third against Crystal Palace. The 25-year-old kept his cool to convert a penalty in stoppage time to give his side the lead and it rounded off a stellar showing. He found a teammate with 100% of his long passes, won four of his six tackles, recovered the ball 16 times and won 10 of his 16 duels. Luiz wasn’t a one-man midfield for the Villans but he wasn’t far off. 

Right-Wing: Mohamed Salah 

Salah failed to add to his goal tally during Liverpool’s comeback win against Wolves but he was integral, putting in a performance that the elite playmakers of world football would be proud of. The 31-year-old created five chances and had to settle for just two assists after the Premier League decided Harvey Elliott’s goal was in fact an own goal. The Liverpool No. 11 is now ranked joint-first for assists this season with four while only Erling Haaland (8) has more goal involvements than the Liverpool forward (6). 

Centre-Forward: Erling Haaland 

Another week, another Haaland appearance in the Team of the Week. 

The Manchester City forward was a chance magnet in the win over West Ham, having nine shots in the game. This number is even more impressive when you realise the Hammers only had six attempts in the game and Haaland only attempted 13 passes in total. 

He also missed five big chances and amassed an Expected Goals haul of 2.56. On another day, without the exploits of Areola between the sticks, this could’ve been a record-breaking day for Haaland. He could’ve easily had another hat-trick. He could’ve perhaps matched the Premier League record of five-goals in a single match by a player. 

In the end, he had to settle for just one goal. It was an important one though, putting the game to bed with the third for the 2022/23 treble winners. 

Left-Wing: Leandro Trossard

Trossard wasn’t in the starting XI for Arsenal’s trip to Everton but he played over an hour after Gabriel Martinelli hobbled off with an injury early in the game. The Belgian scored what turned out to be the winner and was genuinely one of the best players on the pitch. He created two chances, completed 100% of his dribbles, and won both of his tackles as well as all four of his ground duels while also recovering the ball six times. 

(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
MLS Matchday 32 Player Power Rankings

MLS Matchday 32 Player Power Rankings

Lionel Messi was conspicuous by his absence in Matchday 32 of the 2023 MLS regular season.

Whether he is playing or not, it seems Messi will always be the story, and being rested by his manager Tata Martino after the international break caused a stir.

But Atlanta United put on a show for the fans who had turned up to see Messi, perhaps showing that there is more to this league than one player.

And here are five more, making up the Player Power rankings for the latest round of games with the post-season playoffs just around the corner.

By James Nalton, MLS expert

Brooks Lennon 9.0 (Atlanta United)

Atlanta United looked liberated as the team stormed to a 5-2 win against Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami.

Except there was no Messi in Atlanta. The city had prepared for the Argentine’s arrival by opening up the top tier of its Mercedez-Benz stadium, shared with Atlanta Falcons of the NFL, taking the capacity from its usual soccer match capacity of 42,500 to over 70,000.

Tickets were sold at Messi prices and many fans showed up just to see Messi, but a player should always be free to rest if one is needed and a head coach should not be obliged to pick a player in every game just because marketing all over the league happens to be based around them.

In his absence, Miami’s opposition, Atlanta United, ran free. And if Atlanta United are running free Brooks Lennon is usually a big part of it, marauding forward down the right flank.

Messi’s Argentina teammate Thiago Almada pulls the strings in midfield for Atlanta, but Lennon provides width, energy, and a different kind of creativity.

Lennon picked up his 10th assist of the season, powering to the byline before crossing for Tristan Muyumba to flick a shot in off the far post. 

He then scored a goal of his own having made his way into a center-forward position to receive a cross from the left.

“We just played our style,” Lennon said after the game. “We came back to just loving the game of football.”

Denis Bouanga 9.2 (Los Angeles FC)

It has been a disappointing year for LAFC on the back of a championship-winning season in 2022.

With Bouanga in the team, however, there will always be a chance for a shot at winning the MLS Cup once the playoffs come around.

He showed his class again in El Tráfico (the name for the Los Angeles derby match with LA Galaxy) this weekend.

The Gabon international opened the scoring with a great header, finding space between the centre-backs before leaping to connect with a cross from Diego Palacios.

He then pounced on an error from the LA Galaxy defence to put his side 3-2 up, with LAFC then going on to win the derby 4-2 thanks to a goal from Timothy Tillman.

Ramiro Enrique 8.9 (Orlando City)

All of a sudden, Orlando City are in the mix at the top of both the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings.

Having slowly crept up the table towards the end of the season, Orlando now finds itself second only to FC Cincinnati in MLS, eight points behind the leaders with six games to go.

Orlando has now overtaken St. Louis City in the overall standings and will be encouraged by the performance of Enrique, the 22-year-old Argentine who joined the club this season.

This was his best performance to date, scoring the two goals that turned the game on it’s head with Orlando having been 3-2 down against Columbus Crew with just minutes remaining.

He was involved in the Facundo Torres goal that had started the comeback, laying off a pass to the scorer of the first goal, Martin Ojeda, who then set up the onrushing Torres. The Argentines combining in a packed penalty area to make it 3-2.

Then Enrique’s goals won the game. The first came as he picked up a loose ball from a free kick to equalise, and then something very similar happened for the winner, finishing first-time as the ball fell to him at the far post.

All too familiar defensive issues for Columbus Crew, but Orlando and Enrique took full advantage.

Cristian Espinoza 8.9 (San Jose Earthquakes)

San Jose recorded an important win in their quest to qualify for the playoffs, moving level on points with opponents Real Salt Lake.

Espinoza opened up the Salt Lake defence with a scything through ball for Jeremy Ebobisse, who gave San Jose the lead.

The Argentine winger also assisted his side’s second, which turned out to be the winning goal, finding centre-back Rodrigues, who was still forward from a corner, with a threaded cross using the outside of his right boot.

On his day Espinoza is one of the best players to watch in MLS, and this was one of those days.

Ryan Gauld 8.8 (Vancouver Whitecaps)

The Scottish attacking midfielder has become a regular feature in the Player Power rankings this season. 

Indeed, regular readers and MLS watchers will know he’s much more of a forward now, playing through the middle alongside American goal-poacher Brian White.

The pair have formed a productive partnership for the Whitecaps that has seen the team shoot up to fourth in the Western Conference standings and look a threat going into the playoffs on that side of MLS.

White leads the club’s goalscoring charts with 11, plus four assists, while Gauld himself has 10 goals to go with his nine assists. 

Just one more assist is needed for Guald to achieve the magical double figures for both stats in 2023.

The linkup was evident as Vancouver defeated Toronto and Gauld crossed for White to head home the winning goal in a 2-1 road win.

It all looked too easy for the pair, and Toronto’s defence merely watched as it happened, but this is a well-rehearsed routine that will pick off such sleeping defences with ease.

(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 Matchday Five Review

Premier League Matchday Five Review

The Premier League returned this weekend and it appears the international break didn’t harm the momentum of a number of in-form teams. We take a look at some of the biggest talking points from across the English top-tier.

By Sam McGuire, Premier League expert

Another comeback by the Reds

Liverpool had to mount yet another comeback, the third in their opening five matches, to pick up all three points at Molineux. 

Hwang Hee-chan scored within six minutes to give the hosts a shock lead but the Reds rallied in the second half. Cody Gakpo equalised moments before he was replaced, tapping in from close range after Mohamed Salah had fired the ball across goal. Salah was the provider again as Andrew Robertson, captain for the day, raced into the penalty area to give Jürgen Klopp’s side the lead with a smart finish. 

The Liverpool No. 11 should’ve had a third assist but Harvey Elliott’s strike was adjudged to have taken a significant deflection so it went down as an own goal. Salah now has four assists (the joint-most in the league) and he leads the way for big chances created (6). 

The Seagulls continue to soar 

Brighton heaped more pressure on Erik Ten Hag as Roberto De Zerbi’s side claimed a 3-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Pascal Gross has four goals at the Theatre of Dreams – only Steven Gerrard and Mohamed Salah have more goals there. He scored the second midway through the second half after Danny Welbeck opened the scoring against his former side. João Pedro added a well deserved third.

It was another win for Brighton over United – their fourth successive victory over them in the Premier League. The comfort with which a weakened Seagulls side romped home was notable, creating better chances despite having fewer shots. 

It is now Manchester United’s third defeat of the season and they have one of the worst defensive records in the league having conceded 10 goals. Only Wolves and Burnley (both 11) have been breached on more occasions. 

Spurs strike in stoppage time 

It looked as though Tottenham would suffer their first loss of the season after Gustavo Hamer gave Sheffield United a shock lead in the 73rd minute. 

However, Ange Postecoglou’s men refused to give up and scored two goals in stoppage time to steal the win. Richarlison netted in the 98th minute before Dejan Kulusevski fired home the winner in the 100th minute.

In truth, it was a deserved three points for the hosts. They had 28 shots, created three big chances, had 70% of the ball and finished with an Expected Goals haul of 2.12.

It was fitting that Kulusevski was the match-winner. He was the highest-rated player (8.3) and also attempted seven shots (the most of anyone). A constant menace throughout for Spurs. 

Manchester City maintain their 100% record 

It was never really in doubt, was it? 

Yes, West Ham took the lead against the reigning champions but Alphonse Areola was under pressure throughout the first half. It felt like a matter of when and not if City would get a goal. 

Jérémy Doku equalised just one minute into the second half and then it was just Manchester City going for the winner. Bernardo Silva scored the second before Erling Haaland got his customary goal. 

Pep Guardiola’s side had 29 shots, created eight big chances and finished with an Expected Goals total of 3.63. 

Areola made an astonishing 10 saves while Haaland had nine shots – more than West Ham (6) and almost as many passes as he attempted (13). The City No. 9 accounted for 2.56 of the away sides xG haul and missed five big chances. Julián Álvarez’s showing went a little under the radar again and he chipped in with another two assists. 

Everton lose at home again

Sometimes it isn’t pretty. It doesn’t have to be though, as all that matters is getting the win. Arsenal picked up all three points against Everton but it was far from straightforward. 

The Gunners lost Gabriel Martinelli to injury but it was his replacement, Leandro Trossard, who scored the eventual winner in the 69th minute. 

Mikel Arteta’s side struggled to create clear cut chances against the Toffees and finished with 13 shots and an Expected Goals total of a little over one.

It was another late defeat at home for Everton. They’ve now lost to Fulham, Wolves and Arsenal at Goodison Park with the winning goals being scored inside the final 25 minutes. Sean Dyche will have to address this if the Toffees are going to remain in the top flight this year. 

Arsenal weren’t at their best but they remain just two points behind Manchester City. 

(Images from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the 2023/24 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: The big leagues return with the Milan Derby and more

FIVE games to follow this weekend: The big leagues return with the Milan Derby and more

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

🇮🇹 Serie A: Inter vs. Milan

As a way to kick-start the new campaign, after an international break that stalled all the momentum across Europe’s top leagues, Serie A’s decision to schedule the Derby della Madonnina for Saturday evening looks inspired.

Especially after the two Milan clubs played out that two-legged semi-final at the San Siro in the Champions League last season – games that rekindled a wider interest in the rivalry outside of Italian football circles.

The powers that be may not have expected the added factor that makes this particular Milan Derby all the more special – the solid start that both clubs have made to the new season. Both have three wins from three and Inter haven’t even conceded a goal thus far.

Simone Inzaghi’s side have enjoyed routine wins over Monza, and Cagliari, and they thrashed Fiorentina 4-0 just before the break. Lautaro Martínez has five goals to his name already and his new strike partner, Marcus Thuram is off the mark with a goal and two assists. And having triumphed in their last four meetings with their city rivals, the Nerazzurri will be extremely confident going in to what is a designated home game for them.

Milan have scored as many goals in their three wins, and arguably, have had the tougher set of games – a home fixture against Torino coming between trips to Bologna and Roma. They were in complete control of the latter game, in Rome, until Fikayo Tomori’s second yellow card added edge to the second half, but the held firm to run out 2-1 winners, with Roma’s goal coming deep in to stoppage time.

This game also comes ahead of the week in which the Champions League groups stages get underway – Milan are back at the San Siro for a clash with Newcastle on Tuesday, and Inter visit Real Sociedad on Wednesday.

🇩🇪 Bundesliga: Bayern München vs. Bayer Leverkusen

The big Friday night game in Germany is an intriguing one. Similarly to the Milan Derby, it pits the early season pacesetters together, with both Bayern and Leverkusen having won all three of their games so far.

If anything, Thomas Tuchel’s reigning champions have looked better than they did at the end of the last campaign, boosted perhaps by the summer signing of Harry Kane. The England captain has three goals and one assist to his name already, with only a fully fit Alphonso Davies (average FotMob rating 8.62) and Leroy Sané (8.40) outdoing him in our ratings. Before the international break, Bayern shook off a bit of unwanted recent history by winning at bogey club Gladbach, and now they return to action with another tough test.

Leverkusen sat second bottom of the table when current coach – and former Bayern player – Xabi Alonso took over last October and his first priority was to change the course of their season. He did so, with the club eventually ending the season in sixth. And now, that upward trend has continued – Leverkusen have only started a season with three wins twice before in their history, and they’ve never done it by scoring as many goals as they have this term. 11 in three is testament to Alonso’s tactical tweaks – with our partners at Stats Perfom citing changes both in and out of possession, and a marked increase in attacking intent. The signing of Victor Boniface looks inspired. The Nigerian burst on to the scene with his form at Belgian club Union St. Gilliose last season and he’s carried that on – scoring back-to-back braces in wins over Gladbach and Darmstadt, and notching two assists already.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Premier League: West Ham United vs. Manchester City

The Premier League returns with seven fixtures on Saturday, with one, a kind of alternative European Super Cup, as Champions League winners Manchester City travel to West Ham United, the winners of the Europa Conference League.

The fact that both have started the season unbeaten in four games makes this match up all the more interesting. David Moyes’ side have already beaten Luton and in-form Brighton away from home, and claimed a home win over Chelsea, while City have won all four of their fixtures – starting with a 3-0 win at Burnley, and most recently hitting five past Fulham as Erling Haaland netted the 18th hat-trick of his senior career.

Haaland only featured once for Norway during the international break, but he did score in the win against Georgia, and will have reported back to City fit and well.

City, obviously, boast the best defensive record in the league but the Hammers aren’t far behind them having conceded just four goals so far. And, according to most pundits, West Ham have not only not missed Declan Rice, the star player of their successful 2022/23 season, but have looked stronger without him. The huge sum paid by Arsenal for his services has funded reinforcements with real pedigree – James Ward-Prowse and Edson Álvarez have already changed the look of their midfield and we’ve yet to even see Ghanaian star Mohammed Kudas start a game following his move from Ajax.

🇪🇸 LaLiga: Barcelona vs. Real Betis

On Saturday night, Barcelona host Betis at their temporary home, the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, which sits on Montjuïc, the hill that overlooks the city and was last remodelled for the 1992 summer Olympics. This will be just the second home game of the new campaign for the reigning champions, with Barça’s win against Cádiz starting their current run of three consecutive victories that has also taken in road wins at both Villarreal and Osasuna.

Having conceded four goals in those two games, and required relatively late winners in each of them, coach Xavi will have been pleased to get through the transfer window and can now look forward to having a settled squad as he looks forward to not only this fixture, but the start of the Champions League group stages (Barça face Belgian Champions Royal Antwerp on Tuesday). Fans may be looking forward to home debuts for latest signings, João Cancelo and João Félix, both of whom enjoyed a successful international break with Portugal.

Betis currently sit seventh in the table, three points below their opponents, and have started their season with a tough set of fixtures – they won at Villarreal but then drew a blank against Atlético Madrid and lost at Athletic Club. Before the international break, they secured a second win, at home to Rayo Vallecano. But now, ahead of their Europa League campaign, Los Verdiblancos will be looking for a positive result against a side they last beat back in December 2021.

🇫🇷 Ligue 1: Lorient vs. Monaco

Granted, PSG could overtake them before they kick-off at Lorient on Sunday, but at the time of writing, the pacesetters in Ligue 1 are Monaco. With three wins, a draw, and a whopping 13 goals to their name, the side from the Principality are looking strong.

Under new coach Adolf Hütter the club appear revitalised – regular goalscorer Wissam Ben Yedder is on form again (with four goals in four), but he’s now being ably assisted by Takumi Minamino, who has three goals and three assists. And Brazilian left-back Caio Henrique has already weighed in with four assists for his teammates.

Lorient, who showed a lot of promise last season, don’t appear to have suffered greatly from a high turnover of players over the summer window. They’ve already drawn away at PSG, drawn with Nice, and thrashed Lille. But they did have a setback ahead of the break, losing 3-0, at newly promoted Le Havre.

Having finished sixth last season, Monaco don’t have the distraction of European competition, and thus could be about to mount a serious title challenge. But to do that, they’ll need to win these types of games, away at one of the league’s more upwardly mobile sides.

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

🇺🇸 MLS: LAFC vs. LA Galaxy

Over in CONCACAF, it’s derby weekend. And in MLS, that means we get the Hudson River Derby AND another edition of El Tráfico on Saturday night. The matches between LAFC and LA Galaxy have, since the rivalry’s inception in 2018, always guaranteed goals, with both sides scoring in all but four of their 20 previous meetings.

LAFC currently sit third in the Western Conference and a play-off spot, and thus the chance to defend their 2022 MLS Cup title, looks set to be nailed on. For Galaxy though, a post-season birth is tantalisingly just out of their grasp at the moment – they sit 13th but four points short of Dallas in the all-important ninth and final play-off place. To grab a spot they’ll need to extend their current unbeaten run of four games.

Historically speaking though, Galaxy have the upper hand against their city rivals – and they’ve beaten them twice in the league, and in the US Open Cup already during 2023. The full head-to-head record is below.

🇲🇽 Liga MX: América vs. Chivas

South of the border, the big game in Mexico is the Superclásico between age old rivals América, from Mexico City and Chivas, of Guadalajara. Including friendlies and unofficial meetings, this will reportedly be the 250th game between the two.

And the first since Chivas ran out victorious in a heated semi-final in the play-offs at the end of the last Clausura season back in May. The two had finished the regular campaign level on points but it was Guadalajara’s finest who won through to the championship final where they were eventually beaten by Tigres, after extra-time, at the end of a two-legged contest.

So far, in the new Apertura season, Chivas have amassed 13 points from seven games and sit fourth in the standings while América, who’ve played a game less, sit sixth on 11 points. So expect a close contest at the iconic Estadio Azteca.

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, Threads, Facebook and Instagram to discuss all the important football going on this weekend!

Cover Image from IMAGO

Posted by Bill Biss
Premier League Matchday Five Preview

Premier League Matchday Five Preview

The Premier League is back this weekend after a short international break and the fixture list has been more than generous to us, with a number of high-profile matches to keep an eye on. Here, we take a look at some of the more intriguing match-ups.

By Sam McGuire, Premier League expert

Will form go out of the window?

The first game of the weekend is on Saturday afternoon and it pits Liverpool against Wolves. While the Reds will be without the suspended Virgil van Dijk, they are one of the form teams in the league. Jürgen Klopp’s men are unbeaten in 15 and have taken 10 points from their opening four matches this term. By comparison, Wolves have won just three of their last 10 matches in the English top-flight. However, their sole win of the 2023/24 campaign did come on Merseyside as Gary O’Neil’s men defeated Everton late on. 

Wolves have been surprisingly decent in attack, creating chances with an Expected Goals value of 6.7. Poor finishing has limited them to just four goals but you have to assume that this bad luck in front of goal will eventually come to an end – if they keep creating chances. 

Pedro Neto’s performances have gone a little under the radar. After two injury-hit campaigns, the 23-year-old looks back to his best. He’s chipped in with three assists already and has created four big chances, the joint-most in the Premier League this season. With Liverpool potentially fielding a weakened backline, Ibrahima Konate and Trent Alexander-Arnold are doubts, the Portugal international could be a difference-maker. 

The best form of defence is attack?

You wouldn’t think it, but Manchester United and Brighton aren’t doing too well defensively this season. The Red Devils host the Seagulls on Saturday looking to make it three wins from three at Old Trafford, but this is going to be their toughest challenge on home turf so far. 

Roberto De Zerbi’s side have the most goals in the Premier League this season (12) and have won three of their four matches. While they’re fairly potent going forward, they are yet to strike a balance and have struggled defensively. For context, only Bournemouth, Sheffield United and Fulham have a higher Expected Goals Conceded total in the English top-flight this term, with Brighton giving up chances worth 8.1. 

United will look to exploit this. Though they are at home, expect them to look to make the most of their pace in attack by playing on the break. Defensively, they aren’t doing much better than the visitors, racking up an Expected Goals Against total of 7.6 across games against Wolves, Spurs, Nottingham Forest and Arsenal.  

It might simply be a case of the team with the best attack on the day wins this, because going off what has happened so far this term, neither defence is going to hold up to too much scrutiny. 

A top-of-the-table clash

Few would’ve envisioned this at the start of the season but West Ham United find themselves in fourth spot in the Premier League after four matches and they’re unbeaten. David Moyes’ men were dealt a difficult hand too, coming up against both Chelsea and Brighton in two of their three opening matches. 

Yet they confidently dispatched both teams, racking up a 6-2 aggregate scoreline victory in the process. 

They now host Manchester City knowing a win over the reigning champions could take them to the top of the table. 

This particular match sees the two highest-rated FotMob players in the league, in Rodri, and James Ward-Prowse face off. The pair have an average rating of 8.37 this term and have proven to be difference-makers and match-winners in multiple games already. Whoever comes out on top in that battle could well decide the outcome of the game.

It looks set to be an interesting clash with both teams having fairly solid defensive units this season. City have the best defensive record in the English top-flight, conceding 0.5 goals per game. West Ham are third, averaging a goal against per game. 

City will no doubt dominate the ball but the Hammers are one of the best counter-attacking teams in the league this season. It could be an entertaining 90 minutes. 

Time for a reaction

Newcastle kicked off their 2023/24 season with an empathic win over Aston Villa at St James’ Park. However, Eddie Howe’s men haven’t picked up a single point since that game, losing to Manchester City, Liverpool, and Brighton. They need to add to those points on the board sooner rather than later and the Saturday evening match against Brentford is an ideal opportunity to put in a statement performance. 

The Bees are unbeaten having won one and drawn three of their opening four matches. Thomas Frank’s side have had a deceptively good start to the season and are currently ranked first in the entire league for Expected Goals (10). Bryan Mbeumo is enjoying life as the main man and has four goals to his name.  He’s actually racked up the second-highest Expected Goals haul behind only Erling Haaland while Yoane Wissa is proving himself to be a real handful during his stint in the starting XI in place of the suspended Ivan Toney. 

It won’t be easy for the Magpies on Saturday but they need to end this run of losses. If not, Howe might soon find himself under pressure despite his heroics with the team last season. 

A sticky situation for Everton

Everton picked up their first point of the season prior to the international break after claiming a 2-2 draw with Sheffield United. They now welcome Arsenal to Goodison on Sunday looking for their first win of the campaign. In truth, Sean Dyche’s men have been unlucky. They’ve scored just two goals in the Premier League despite creating chances with an Expected Goals value of 7.3. The addition of Beto and Arnaut Danjuma should ease the over-reliance on Dominic Calvert-Lewin but these chances are, at some point, going to have to be converted otherwise the Toffees will find themselves in a relegation battle. 

They’re coming up against an Arsenal team who have been in dominant form this season, despite their 2-2 draw with Fulham. They are ruthless in attack and are fairly resolute defensively.  It will be a tough ask for Everton, even at Goodison, but they did manage to cause an upset last season with a victory over the Gunners. 

(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
Liverpool were right to turn down world-record money for Mo Salah, but now must plan for the future

Liverpool were right to turn down world-record money for Mo Salah, but now must plan for the future

Whatever the figures on the table, Liverpool were prepared to hold firm and keep Mohamed Salah beyond the 10pm UK deadline set by the Saudi Pro League. A verbal offer worth up to £150 million was swiftly rejected by Mike Gordon, president of the club’s owners Fenway Sports Group, a week previous and suggestions of a world-record bid were given similarly short shrift.

By Jack Lusby,

The timing of Al-Ittihad’s push to sign Salah, which dominated the final hours of the Premier League’s transfer window and kept Sky Sports and the tabloid press ticking over in the six days to follow, was questionable, particularly given accusations of sportwashing amid a summer of heavy spending from the Middle East.

But that, in Liverpool’s eyes, was besides the point: put simply, Salah was and is irreplaceable, with no sum of money worth losing him on deadline day with no chance of signing an adequate successor. Instead, despite the possibility of raking in £200 million for a 31-year-old with two years left on his contract, the club resolved it would be worth more to keep him at Anfield.

This is, after all, a player who has scored 188 times in just 306 appearances since his £43.9 million move from AS Roma in 2017, breaking countless records on the way to fifth spot among the club’s all-time leading goalscorers.

Not only that, but Salah is a player whose creativity is becoming a more crucial aspect of Liverpool’s play. In the first four games of the Premier League season, he has already created four big chances – at least three more than any of his team-mates – while he tops Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dominik Szoboszlai (both 0.5) in terms of expected assists with 0.6.

In each of the past three seasons he has struck 30 or more goals while in each of the past two he has assisted 15 or more for team-mates. Already this campaign, Salah has two goals and two assists in four appearances, leading the Liverpool squad again.

Losing him at any point in the window would have been a seismic blow to Liverpool’s confidence and structure; a player they have relied upon for so long and who has grown into a leader among Jürgen Klopp’s squad, even if he has rarely been handed the captain’s armband and was overlooked in favour of Alexander-Arnold when it came to the decision over Virgil van Dijk’s vice-captain.

Losing Salah on deadline day would have been fatal; losing him after the English deadline due to the overhanging Saudi Pro League transfer window would have been somehow even worse.

Beyond the impact on the squad, any sale of Salah would come at a significant off-field risk, too, not least due to the prize money his goals have helped accrue – Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final in 2022, for example, brought in £106 million alone. Moreover, his marketability as one of the world’s best players and one of the most famous Arabic sportsmen is as beneficial to those on Merseyside as it would be those in Jeddah.

So FSG certainly deserve credit for not bowing to the financial pressure of a club backed by the Saudi royal family, and with both the player and his usually vocal agent keeping quiet amid speculation.

There is a growing acceptance that Salah will eventually be sold, though, despite the Egyptian himself expressing a desire to remain at Anfield for the rest of his career prior to signing a new three-year contract in 2022.

“If you ask me, I would love to stay until the last day of my football career,” he told Sky Sports during negotiations. The revamp of the Saudi Pro League, and subsequent, big-money moves from the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Neymar, Riyad Mahrez and former team-mates Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, may have changed things since then.

At the time, there were few options open to Salah, particularly as he claimed he couldn’t see himself “ever playing against Liverpool,” with the pool likely limited to Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid. Now, any of those sides owned by the Public Investment Fund – Al-Ittihad, Al-Ahli, Al-Nassr and Al Hilal – represent feasible destinations for a player who would arrive as the biggest of all draws.

There is also a growing feeling that next summer will be the right time for Liverpool to allow their legendary No. 11 to move on, particularly if similar offers are presented to them. By the end of the current campaign, Salah will be 32 and with 12 months remaining on a club-record contract worth £350,000 a week. A decision will be required over whether to present him with a new and likely significantly improved deal, sell or allow the player to stay for a final season before departing on a free transfer. At that point, it may no longer make sense for FSG to retain their asset regardless of the financial incentives tied to keeping him.

In a way, then, in rejecting Al-Ittihad, Liverpool have bought time to plot a succession plan. They cannot leave themselves in the position with Salah that they found themselves in when Henderson and Fabinho departed in the summer just gone, when they were forced into reactive, rather than proactive, signings. Whether Salah is to leave or not, recruitment staff should be tasked with identifying his replacement long before he moves on.

That may be easier said than done, with the likes of Jarrod Bowen (West Ham), Michael Olise (Crystal Palace), Johan Bakayoko (PSV Eindhoven) and Moussa Diaby (Aston Villa) floated as early possibilities – along with, of course, Kylian Mbappe. There are certainly options out there, with those mentioned all convincing cases along with the likes of Brentford’s Bryan Mbeumo and Real Sociedad’s Takefusa Kubo, but the reality is that there are few, if any, who directly measure up to Salah. There has long been a sense that Liverpool would prefer to nurture his successor in house, with Kaide Gordon before his 19-month injury layoff and Ben Doak now breaking through, but would either be ready to make the step up by 2024?

Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia may be the prime candidate, but even he is a more natural left winger, a position for which Liverpool already boast Luis Díaz, Darwin Núñez, Diogo Jota and Cody Gakpo as options.

The presence of those four could, however, serve as evidence of the succession plan already in effect – or, more appropriately, another solution to filling the void if Salah were to move on.

Few players are capable of producing in front of goal as consistently as Salah has for Liverpool, and therefore the best route may be to replace him in the aggregate. If there are no players on the market who can score 30 or more goals every season, Klopp will for example need two who can score 20 or more or three who can score 15 or more, every season, to adapt, evolve and improve.

In Núñez, Gakpo, Jota and Díaz, that may already be the case, while the development of Dominik Szoboszlai in the right-sided midfield role could provide another fix. But a player like Mbeumo, Bakayoko or, ideally, Kvaratskhelia would still be required to cover the losses if Salah departed.

Fortunately, Liverpool’s ferocity in talks with Al-Ittihad has ensured the luxury of time to put the pieces in place – as whether in January, next summer or even in 2025, eventually Salah will need to be replaced.

(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 Matchday 31 Player Power Rankings

MLS Matchday 31 Player Power Rankings

One of the quirks of Major League Soccer is that many of its clubs will carry on regardless during international breaks.

This was one such week. With much of the rest of the world’s top-tier men’s domestic leagues on a break, MLS provided some club football on a weekend of internationals.

It was a truncated matchday with just five games, but this smaller number of fixtures, combined with players on international duty, can offer a chance to see some teams and players who might not usually take the spotlight.

Here are five players who stood out on Matchday 31 as the post-season playoffs loom.

By James Nalton, MLS expert

Leonardo Campana 9.1 (Inter Miami)

Inter Miami were missing nine players due to international call-ups – more than any team in MLS – for their game against Sporting Kansas City, including Lionel Messi. .

The question was not just how Miami would cope on the field in the absence of Messi and others, but also whether the crowd would turn out in similar numbers for this Messi-less home game.

Both tests were passed. The attendance at the DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale remained at over 19,000, and though it was still the lowest home crowd of the Messi era, it was only by 1000 or so.

Despite going behind early on to a Daniel Salloi goal, Inter Miami rallied to a 3-2 win.

Campana scored two before halftime to put Miami in the driving seat before 21-year-old Argentine Facundo Farías made it 3-1.

Alan Pulido pulled one back for Sporting KC with around ten minutes to go, but Tata Martino’s Inter Miami ultimately showed they could get the job done without Messi.

Having Sergio Busquets, whose quick thinking at a free kick led to the third goal, and Jordi Alba to call upon certainly helped, but it was the goals of Campana that propelled them to victory.

Daniel 8.6 (San Jose Earthquakes)

Daniel has already featured a couple of times in our MLS Player Power rankings thanks to his ability to singlehandedly keep his San Jose side out of trouble.

This is reflected in some of the more advanced goalkeeping stats such as goals prevented, which takes the expected goals on target (xGOT) data minus the number of actual goals conceded.

The result usually gives you an idea of which goalkeepers are saving difficult shots, lots of shots, and maybe getting a bit lucky, too. 

As a season rolls on, the luck aspect can become less of a factor as the sample size and minutes played increase.

Daniel is up there with the much-lauded Roman Bürki of St. Louis as the best in MLS at preventing goals. 

Having played fewer minutes than Bürki, when looking at this stat on a per game, or per 90 minutes basis, Daniel is the best in the league.

This was on show in the game against a DC United side that created plenty of chances but just couldn’t get past Daniel. 

He faced a total xG of 1.92 (xGOT of 1.05) and kept a clean sheet, making eight saves. DC would look to poor finishing as the main issue, but Daniel certainly played a big part in keeping them out.

Claudio Bravo 8.7 and Larrys Mabiala 8.2 (Portland Timbers)

Two new names for this season’s Player Power rankings, and a team that has barely featured in this column apart from maybe when other players are scoring against them.

The Timbers have the worst defence in MLS having conceded 44 goals, more than any other team across both conferences, but this week they kept a clean sheet against Los Angeles FC in a 2-0 win. Both goals came from members of their defensive line.

Mabiala took advantage of an error from John McCarthy, heading home from close range after the LAFC goalkeeper failed to deal with a corner.

Then in the second half, Bravo played a ball forward, continued his run, ended up inside the LAFC box and executed a nice left-footed finish from near the penalty spot. 

It was his only touch in the area in the entire game, but it brought the goal that confirmed the Timbers’ win against last season’s champions.

Despite their defensive troubles this season, Portland still have a chance of reaching the post-season.

With six games to play, they might be relying on those around them, such as FC Dallas, Austin FC, Sporting KC, and LA Galaxy, dropping points, but a late surge would likely be enough.

Carles Gil 8.4 (New England Revolution)

It has been a turbulent few weeks for the New England Revolution. 

The club has one win in four since returning to MLS action following the Leagues Cup, but it remains the third-best team in the league according to the overall table and also has a game in hand on the second-place team, St. Louis City.

This weekend, the club’s veteran MLS head coach Bruce Arena resigned as the league investigates allegations of “insensitive and inappropriate remarks” he made.

In a more recent statement, the league said: “As a result of the investigation which confirmed certain of these allegations, should Arena wish to pursue future employment within MLS, he must first submit a petition to the Commissioner.”

Arena had resigned shortly after this matchday’s 1-1 draw with Minnesota United.

“I know that I have made some mistakes and moving forward I plan to spend some time reflecting on this situation and taking corrective steps to address what has transpired,” Arena said in a statement of his own.

On the pitch, the Revolution looked to be heading for a 1-0 win in Saint Paul, Minnesota, thanks to Carles Gil’s first-half goal, but Franco Fragapane scored an added-time equaliser to add to New England’s difficulties.

(Cover image from IMAGO)

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Posted by Bill Biss