Can Manchester United finally break into the Premier League top 4?
Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United project is nearly there. United’s last Premier League defeat was all the way back in October, a 4-0 humiliation against Chelsea. Since then they have gone on a 16-match unbeaten run which has taken them to within two points of the Champions League qualification places. A tendency to draw winnable games has seen United sit in sixth-place for too long and Jose Mourinho will be hoping to break into the top-four this weekend, with the visit of struggling Bournemouth on Saturday lunchtime. The Cherries, meanwhile, have yet to win in 2017 and boss Eddie Howe will surely want to get back on track with a big away win at Old Trafford. With fourth-place Arsenal playing fifth-place Liverpool, might this be a weekend where Mourinho’s United finally occupy a top-four berth?
Do Everton have what it takes to claim a big away scalp?
Ronald Koeman might be beginning to think to himself that his Everton project is looking in good shape for next season. The Dutchman’s side are unbeaten in 2017 and posing a serious attacking threat. What they are lacking, however, is an ability to win tough matches away from the fortress that is Goodison Park. The Toffees are stalling away from home, having only won on the road four times this season, with the last two of those coming against struggling Crystal Palace and Leicester City. Their away trips those above them this season have not been up to the standard that Koeman would have expected, a 5-0 humbling at Chelsea and a 1-1 draw against Manchester City. With Liverpool and Manchester United to visit after their trip to White Hart Lane, now might be a good time to kickstart a run of form away from home.
Which under-fire manager will come out on top at Anfield?
Rewind back to August and it would have been inconceivable that Jürgen Klopp would find his position at Anfield under threat. Maybe that is overstating it a little, but crashing out of the FA Cup at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers and a limp exit from the EFL Cup at the semi-final stage to Southampton hasn’t exactly helped the German. Coupled with tame Premier League results, the latest a 3-1 surrender away at the resurgent Champions Leicester City, Klopp is starting to feel what the pressure cooker of the Premier League is like. What Klopp needs is a performance to rival that of the 2-0 victory of Tottenham Hotspur last month, where the returning Sadio Mané was unstoppable. His counterpart, Arsene Wenger, has seen his own job security thrown into doubt after the 5-1 humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League. With rumours swirling that both Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez are stalling over new contracts the Frenchman has some serious thinking to do. Might both Arsenal and Wenger be ready for a parting of the ways once his contract is up in the summer, even more so now that a certain vacancy has appeared at Barcelona?
Juventus Fans Arrested After Clash with Police
Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash between Juventus and Ajax has already been marred by violence and controversy, before the teams even took to the pitch.
According to Ansa, citing a report from De Telegraaf, dozens of fans were reportedly arrested in Amsterdam in the hours leading up to the game.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini (h/t Football Italia) took to Facebook live video to state that “around 120” fans had been arrested.
Per the report from De Telegraaf, fans near the Johan Cruyff Arena were “in possession of knives, clubs, pepper spray and flares.” Also, dozens of Ajax supporters were reported to have clashed with riot police in separate incidents outside the stadium and were eventually dispersed with the use of tear gas and water cannons.
The Mirror posted the following images on their Twitter page:
Man City forward Raheem Sterling Looking to Combat Racism on the Pitch
Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, who spoke out last month after being subjected to taunts during England’s game in Montenegro, is looking to take his fight against racism to the pitch, saying he would rather stay on the field than let racism force him to walk off of the pitch during a match.
Sterling’s manager Pep Guardiola, stated that he would support players walking off in protest if it happened again, in a strong statement that racism is simply not acceptable.
“I think everyone are entitled to their own opinions. My mum has taught me to be comfortable in my own skin and I am,” Sterling said, according to the Manchester Evening News.
“I wouldn’t personally agree with [walking off], to win the game would hurt them even more they’re only trying to get you down. If you walk off they win, to score or win would be better.
“Everyone’s different. Everyone has their own opinion, how they deal with things emotionally and you have to support everyone.”
Sterling opened up about the racism he has faced in his life, discussing when he first expereinced racism when he moved from North London up to the north-west back in 2010.
“I don’t think trying to make a difference or making a difference, it’s about speaking what you experience. Some people might shy away from it, if more players speak up that might be better.
“It’s offensive but growing up my mum always told me I’m a wonderful black child and I know this. When I hear it, it’s nothing new. I’m happy with it. I’m confident, I’m black and I’m proud. Some people can’t take it but my mum has always told me to love who I am.
“The first time I experienced racism is when I went up north to Liverpool – in London in schools and on a day-to-day basis you’re surrounded by a diverse community. Only a few occasions growing up in the academy in Liverpool, and then mainly in the last couple of years of being a professional.”
Birmingham City Fan Jailed for 14 Days for Punching Aston Villa Player
27-year old Paul Mitchel, a Birmingham City fan has been jailed for 14 days after he plead guilt to assaulting Aston Villa midfielder Jack Graelish during the derby on Sunday.
Mitchell rushed the pitch and took a swing at Graelish when the player’s back was turned at Birmingham City’s St. Andrew’s stadium during the Championship match on Sunday.
Mitchell admitted to invading the pitch and has been officially banned from attending any football match in the U.K. for up to 10 years, and was also ordered to pay £350 in total fines.
Graelish made a statement in which he described how he was “shocked and scared” by the attack.
“I cannot help but feel how lucky I was in this incident,” he said (h/t ESPN). “It could have been so much worse had the supporter had some sort of weapon.”
“He cannot explain what came over himself yesterday morning,” Mitchell’s lawyer, Vaughn Whistance, said on Monday.
“His initial foolish intention was to go onto the pitch to whip up the crowd. He is certainly remorseful today. He is a man with a partner, they have a 2-year-old together and they’re expecting their second child.”
“This weekend a line has been crossed in terms of fan behaviour,” said a spokesperson for the FA.
“On Sunday we saw two separate incidents, at Birmingham City and Arsenal, of individuals entering the field of play and assaulting players.
“Not only is it an offence to enter the pitch, which could result in a club ban and criminal charges for the individual, but it also puts the safety of the players at risk.
“This is entirely unacceptable and we strongly condemn both incidents.
“We will be working with the clubs, the leagues and the police to discuss what collectively needs to be done to protect players and officials on the pitch.
“In addition, we have written to both Birmingham City and Arsenal to seek their observations to examine the security measures they had in place.”
Birmingham City apologized to Grealish and Aston Villa and banned Mitchell for life.
“Birmingham City Football Club would like to apologise to Jack Grealish and Aston Villa Football Club for an incident in Sunday afternoon’s derby match,” a club statement said.
“We deplore the behaviour of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St. Andrew’s for life. The club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.
“The club will be working with the relevant authorities to investigate all the circumstances and we will be reviewing our stadium safety procedures.
“What happened has no place in football or society. Jack is a Birmingham lad and regardless of club allegiance should not have been subjected to this — there are no excuses.
“Again, we apologise to Jack and all at Aston Villa Football Club.”
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