World Cup 2018: Belgium to rely heavily on Chelsea’s Hazard?

Once again we welcome back the knowledgeable Vincent Van Genechten who has ample experience covering Belgian and Italian football. In Part II of our Q & A with Vincent, we delve deeper into the affairs of the Belgian national team and turn attention to specific players, namely Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku.

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Q1) Eden Hazard had a great 2016/17 Premier League season. He was ranked as one of the top EPL Fantasy Players. How important is Hazard for Belgium?

You just have to look at who is Belgium’s captain to know how important Hazard is for this team. He has been very important since Martinez took over. He is not that vocal like Vincent Kompany or Jan Vertonghen, but you can clearly see much revolves around Hazard when the Red Devils play. In the past Hazard had the tendency to disappear in big games but those times are behind us. When Belgium needs him, he makes himself visible on most occasions. Continue reading

Premier League: Manchester United struggling in away games

Manchester United were crowned English Premier League champions in 2013. Since 2013, United had just one top four finish. In the Premier League era, beginning with 1992, United have not previously endured such an extended spell of struggling to challenge for the league title.

Under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, only on three occasions out of 21 seasons, did the club finish outside of the EPL’s top two spots. Each time, Manchester finished third. United’s league performances have witnessed a visible decline following Ferguson’s departure. The Scotsman had an innate ability to inspire his team to victory, even when his players were not performing close to their best. There were a few examples of that during his final season at the club.

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Whereas second place Manchester City (and despite beating United 2-1 at Old Trafford) lost away games against Sunderland, Southampton, Everton and Tottenham, not to mention a disappointing 0-0 draw with last place Queens Park Rangers, United showed more resolve on their travels.  They did not lose a single away fixture during the second half of the season.

Narrow victories over Fulham, QPR, Stoke and Sunderland earned United the points which were ultimately vital in winning the title. A steely determination, instilled by an inspirational manager was one of the main catalysts for United’s uncanny ability to win tricky away fixtures. All has changed since Ferguson’s departure with United struggling for away wins.

Of 57 away games, United have lost 21, with several of those defeats coming against mediocre teams and not just their biggest rivals. The away struggles were particularly magnified when United was managed by Louis Van Gaal. A significant number of draws throughout the Dutchman’s first season in charge, eight in total, was followed by a disastrous away form during the next campaign. Swansea, Bournemouth, Stoke, Sunderland, West Brom, Tottenham and West Ham, all defeated United, to dent the club’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League.  United eventually failed to do so as goal difference ruled in Manchester City’s favor.

Although they performed much better on their travels during the 2016-17 season when Jose Mourinho improved an insecure defensive line which had conceded 26 goals away from Old Trafford during the previous campaign, United once again finished outside the top four. The reason for that was disappointing home form, winning less than half – eight – of 18 games.  Only one surprise away defeat, a 3-1 loss to Watford, was endured.

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Mourinho’s art of setting his team up to contain and prevent opposition teams from playing, made United a far more balanced side.  They have continued to improve this season. Their progress has however been slowed by a surprise defeat to Huddersfield.  United’s away form so far has been less than convincing. Mourinho appeared to settle for a dire 0-0 draw at Anfield by setting up his team in a defensive manner before even kicking a ball against hosts Liverpool.

To challenge for the title, United will have to run some risks, in particular away from Old Trafford. The question is whether Mourinho will opt to play a more adventurous lineup, perhaps demand from his players to attack in bigger numbers, or if he will resort to negative tactics such as “Park the Bus” as infamously terms by his detractors.

With likes of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku on his team, it would be a shame if the Portuguese mastermind restricted their exuberance and attacking inclination.

Are Martial and Rashford on your www.fantasy-premier.com Team? How about the excellent shot-stopper David de Gea? Is he on your www.eurofantasyleague.com multi-league Team?

 

Burnley reach new heights in the English Premier League

Turf Moor is a stadium where most visiting teams leave either bruised physically or with little in terms of result. The visitors tend to be aware that they will be involved in a highly competitive game.

When they were promoted to the English Premier League in 2016 as champions of the English League Football Championship, Burnley lost just two of their 23 home games, whilst collecting 51 points. They continued that fine form through the 2016/17 season in the Premier League. Out of 19 matches at Turf Moor, Burnley collected 33 points after winning 10 home matches. Mind you they finished the season with a total of 40 points. Thus, there away form was miserable and just yielded 7 points.

On their travels, Burnley not only struggled but could not get more than a single win.  The solitary win was secured at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace. They did however earn a point by holding Manchester United to a goalless draw at Old Trafford. Despite their disappointing return of points from away fixtures, they still retained their place in the top tier of English football.

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This season, they have already won two away games and secured a draw in two other games. From five away matches played during the current campaign, Burnley have amassed one more point than the number – seven – they did in the entire 2016/17 season.

By guiding his team to wins over both Chelsea and Everton, whilst also drawing against Tottenham and Liverpool, manager Sean Dyche has succeeded in getting the best out of his squad and managed to rebuild their confidence away from home.

He has created a well-balanced team, made up of the same defenders who helped the club win the Championship along with some astute midfield and attack-minded signings. While Ashley Barnes and Sam Vokes remain the forward options for Dyche, with the pair scoring 17 goals between them last season, Chris Wood has been recruited to strengthen Burnley’s attack. The 26-year-old Wood has seamlessly integrated into Dyche’s side and been on the receiving end of some quality service, with players such as Scott Arfield, Robbie Brady and Steven Defour delivering the passes.

Burnley aim to continue in this fine form and rather than battling against relegation, it may sound realistic to aim for a top 10 finish in EPL. This of course is based on their early season form. Last season, any points earned away from home were treated as an unexpected bonus, particularly since they lost 14 of their 19 games away from Turf Moor.

Now Burnely’s players are proving to be part of a team capable of competing with the bigger clubs in the English Premier League, as seen in the win over Chelsea and confirmed by the draws against Tottenham and Liverpool. Perhaps the big question is where will Burnley finish at the end of the Premier League season, but one thing is for sure- the aim is to sustain this promising start at all costs.

 Do not forget to challenge some of the best Fantasy Managers at www.fantasy-premier.com

EuroFantasyLeague’s Video Recap of Top Moments in EPL, La Liga and Serie A – Week 10

Nicholas Carroll is back with the latest edition of EuroFantasyLeague’s Video Recap covering the best highlights and top performers from Week 10 in the English Premier League as well as Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga. Continue reading

Arsenal: Great Promise but Little Success in the English Premier League

Arsenal once went an entire league season unbeaten. Today that achievement feels like a glorious episode from another lifetime! By winning 26 matches and securing a draw in the remaining 12 English Premier League games during the 2003-2004 season, Arsenal won the title while remaining undefeated.

Ever since that title, whilst they have consistently shown great promise and potential, Arsene Wenger’s Gunners have enjoyed little success in the Premier League. The London side has found it much easier to impose its will in the FA Cup. Wenger has overseen Arsenal’s last 7 FA Cup triumphs, including an impressive haul of three FA Cup trophies out of the last four tournaments. However, Arsenal have struggled to contend in the Premier League and have been unable to add to their haul of three EPL titles under Wenger. Continue reading

Fantasy Premier League Week 9 Picks

Here are our top fantasy football (soccer) picks for the English Premier League for week 9: Continue reading

Liverpool host Manchester United in Premier League’s Game of the Week

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United will travel to Liverpool knowing the home side will not have star player Sadio Mane. Sadio’s absence cannot be underestimated. The Senegalese international has scored 3 goals in 5 Premier League appearances this season.

Last season, Mane scored 13 goals and provided 5 assists in 27 EPL matches. His absence will surely be felt though having Egyptian hero Mohamed Salah will serve to ease some of pain Liverpool fans must cope with due to Mane’s injury. Salah has managed to score 4 goals in 7 Premier League games so far. Continue reading

Manchester clubs turning the Premier League into a two-horse race

The current English Premier League table shows Manchester City and Manchester United at the top separated by goal difference- in fact a single goal to City’s advantage. Based on current form and the ease with which they have dispatched opponents, it is hard to argue with the current standings.

Both City and United deserve to be on top. Tottenham, in 3rd place, is already 5 points behind the co-leaders after 7 rounds of EPL action. The two Manchester clubs have each conceded only two goals. David de Gea ranks as top fantasy goalkeeper in EPL followed by City’s Ederson Moraes with the Spaniard standing tall at 40 fantasy points while Ederson has 35 points based on our thorough rankings at https://eurofantasyleague.com/players/stats. Continue reading