4 Points Before The Weekend Action

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Will “Big Sam” Start Delivering?

Sam Allardyce’s has established a name for himself in saving teams from relegation.
After exiting the England job due to a corruption scandal, the man who saved Bolton,
Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland was given a lifeline back into management to save
Crystal Palace when Alan Pardew’s contract was terminated.

Allardyce’s return to the EPL has not been smooth. In seven games, Crystal Palace has
won once, drawn once and lost five, a record similar to Pardew’s last seven matches.
Pardew’s side scored 14 goals, whereas Allardyce’s have managed just five.
Palace currently sit in 19 th place, above Sunderland due to a superior goal difference.

Palace’s misery reached a new low last weekend after a first half 4-0 loss against fellow
strugglers Sunderland. With widespread condemnation from the fans, including an
attempted attack on Darmian Delaney, Allardyce knows that his next run of games will
be crucial in buying support, building confidence and launching a last ditch survival
effort.

Allardyce brought in three players in the January transfer window. Patrick Van Aanholt
and Jeffrey Schlupp have experiences surviving relegation. They could be key for Palace.

Palace will face Stoke this weekend and then fellow strugglers Middlesbrough in March’s opening fixture.

Stoke is not an easy team to play after a humiliating defeat to Sunderland, but Allardyce
will hope that their turnaround can begin there.

What to expect: A very attacking Palace side. Sam Allardyce barking instructions all
game.

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Can Leicester turn their season around?

Not many expected Leicester City to repeat their last season’s heroics. Many, including
us, predicted they would struggle, but not this bad.  After a humiliating 3-0 defeat to Manchester United, Leicester City’s is now officially fighting for survival.

Leicester have not scored in the 2017 calendar year.

While Leicester’s Vardy and Mahrez have struggled to find the net this season, the
departure of Kante has been the most pronounced difference in Ranieri’s squad. Kante
has left a big hole—literally— in Leicester’s midfield. His absence has left vast space in
front of Robert Huth and Wes Morgan, leaving them exposed and vulnerable against
quicker players.

But Leicester have 14 games to turn things around. They will need another 19 points to
reach the 40-point mark to avoid relegation. Leicester will need to win at least 6 of their
remaining games, a tall order given their current form.

Leicester sit one point above the relegation zone, but still have to face Manchester City,
Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham. Leicester’s record against the “big teams” is not great. They drew at Arsenal and Spurs and beat City, but lost to United (twice),
Liverpool, Chelsea.

Their status as a Premier League team will hinge on how they perform against these
teams and against other teams in the relegation zone. They are not incapable of creating another magical run-in, but morale is in short supply at the King Power Stadium.

Ranieri’s job looks to be threatened. The once close knit squad is said to be in disarray.
In the coming weeks, Leicester will need to show the same courage and calmness under
pressure that characterized their post-Christmas campaign. More importantly, they will
need Vardy and Mahrez to inspire them again.

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Will the Wenger Out Brigade Come Out Again?

Arsenal and Arsene Wenger are having a rough time. The manager is serving a four-
match touchline ban and the team lost their last two games (2-1 against Watford, 3-1
against Chelsea). It was the latter defeat that reawakened the age-old debate about
Wenger’s suitability for the Arsenal job. Chelsea’s win called Wenger’s tactics into
question, but also the willingness of his team to put up a fight in trying times.

Arsenal have been here before and always they have managed to have a strong finish in
time to secure a Champions League spot, an achievement that has become the club’s top priority in recent years.

With United, Spurs, City, Liverpool, West Brom, and Everton still to come, Arsenal’s
chances of qualifying for Europe look threatened more than ever before. Arsenal will face Hull City this weekend. Three weeks ago, many Arsenal fans would have counted this game by three points, but their current form leaves no room for easy assumptions. On the other hand, Hull City look to have turned things around under Marco Silva. Silva’s team beat United in the EFL semi-final second leg, held United in the league and beat Liverpool last week.

What To Expect: Neither Arsene nor his players will take kindly to the amount of criticism they’ve received. Silva’s Hull will put up a fight but Arsenal will be out to prove a point – and likely succeed. If Hull manage to score first however, it’s not unlikely that Arsenal will capitulate.

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Can Liverpool rise to the Spurs test?

Liverpool have had a torrid start to 2017 – they’ve yet to beat anyone that’s not Plymouth Argyle so far. Their form has been staggeringly bad, losing to the likes of Swansea, Wolves, and – albeit a revitalized – Hull.

Spurs present the toughest challenge for Liverpool thus far into the year.

This is a high stakes game for both teams – Liverpool need a win to claw out of their rut and regain confidence, while Spurs will look to close the gap on champions-elect Chelsea. The North London side have not won at Anfield in two years, and so even though Liverpool are in the worst form since Klopp joined, they’ll have it all to do.

Although the Reds will surely miss the likes of Lallana and Lovren, their forward players have a massive chance at making an impact. Mane, Firmino, Wijnaldum, and Coutinho have all played a massive role in Liverpool’s 52 goals scored this season.

They face the stingiest defense in the league – 16 goals conceded- but Spurs have injury problems themselves: Rose and Vertonghen have both been ruled out. Spurs’ usually stellar defense might be put to the test with Davies and Wimmer filling in for their injured teammates. The latter is the most worrisome of the two as he’s struggled to put in quality performances this season.

What to expect: The las few confrontations between Liverpool and Spurs have been particularly chaotic matches. Both teams rely on a press – Liverpool’s being the most intense in the league – and as such they’ll both be striving to make each other uncomfortable on the ball. Tottenham have a solid pairing in Wanyama and Dembele, whereas the Reds rely on Henderson to be able to regain possession and spray passes. While the match will certainly be decided in the middle of the pitch, Kane will look to have a more pronounced performance. Lately he’s been somewhat anonymous – he will have to excel at holding up the ball if he’s to have a good game at Anfield.

 

 

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