Premier League: Teams Hopes and Fears

Premier League is back!

First blog posting in how many weeks. Someone pinged me during the week asking what was the story? The story is that this site is not a full time thing, it is a part time / hobby interest and for the last couple of months, I have been undertaking certification in PSM I and Financial Investment (CFA Investment Foundations). All passed with flying colors but the same cannot be said for the runners and riders who take to the start line for the commencement of the English Premier League. Hawkeye Sidekick previews the hopes, the fears and expectations of each side.

Arsenal:

The hope: secure top four football next season.

The fear: defensive and goalkeeping vulnerabilities exposed against the top teams; lack of leadership due to player departures in the off season. Can Pepe deliver immediately?

The expectation: Solid start to the season. An exciting strike force which should produce goals, the question marks are defensively and whether David Luiz in particular can provide the leadership and nous to settle the side in the key games against the top teams.

Aston Villa:

The hope: survival in the top flight. Home form is paramount. Tom Heaton signing was an astute buy, defensively upgraded after that deal.

The fear: Will the side be the Fulham of last season? Massive investment on numerous players who are unproven in the league. Will Dean Smith get the time to gel the side together before being given the dreaded vote of confidence by the board.

The expectation: Big club. Jack Grealish will provide the inspiration for Villa and I see them just about staying up despite squad depth issues midseason. John McGinn and Conor Hourihane could be prospective targets for the better teams come January; expect them to make an immediate impact.

AFC Bournemouth:

The hope: keeping Callum Wilson fit and healthy. Ryan Fraser to continue his good form of last season. Home form solid and away counter attack potent to nick points on the road.

The fear: defensively were stretched to breaking point last season; have the reinforcements at the club sufficient quality? Nathan Ake is a major cog in this side. Any injury or suspension for Ake and the side are in trouble.

The expectation: established side in the top flight; a good early start is essential, fancy Bournemouth for a top ten position this season.

Brighton & Hove Albion:

The hope: new manager, new ideas, new ethos, new philosophy. Potter will aim to excite the fans with an expansive style of play. Early wins should solidify his situation; otherwise could be in trouble and an early candidate for the push.

The fear: A poor start to the season. After their ruthless sacking of Chris Hughton, Potter could follow and the club could spiral out of control with a new manager with more new ideas to throw to the mix.

The expectation: The Maupay deal is make or break for the club. Glenn Murray dependency last season for goals was huge. Maupay has the talent and whether he can bring that form from Brentford to the top flight is another story. Relegation dogfight, will just about survive with a new manager in charge come the end of the season.

Burnley:

The hope: after a trying last season where injuries, lack of form and unusually generous defensive gaffes plunged the team into a relegation dogfight, it is hoped that this season will see a much improved side.

The fear: Squad depth is tight, hard working unit but the question remains on the goals front. Who will score?

The expectation: Sean Dyche will be focused on a good start to the season; no European football to contend with which hindered the side early doors. Mid to lower mid table is achievable. Turf Moor fortress will secure the forty points required.

Chelsea:

The hope: Frank Lampard era. The Chelsea playing legend returns to the Bridge, looking to galvanize the side.

The fear: The transfer embargo. Departure of Hazard who is huge, key player for the club last term. The owner and his thoughts on the club will be interesting as the season progresses.

The expectation: Early season form due to the new managerial arrive will make way for some trying results. The defensive side of the team looks vulnerable. Cahill and Luiz left the club; two solid professionals. Sixth place position for Chelsea.

Crystal Palace:

The hope: Wilfred Zaha’s head space is on point from this weekend. The player wanted out of the club but failed to secure a move away from Selhurst Park. He carries the attacking threat. Palace better hope that Zaha lights it up and secures as many points to forty before January before he goes to another club then.

The fear. Wilfred Zaha attitude. The squad need the player to deliver, a job for Roy Hodgson to energize and cajole the player.

The expectation: Palace and goals are always a problem. Apart from Michy last season, who else stood up along with Zaha upfront? Sufficient squad depth to just about survive but it won’t be pretty.

Everton:

The hope: more investment, more players, more potential and squad competition. Can Silva galvanize the new signings and make a concerted bid for top six this term?

The fear: the new acquisitions need time to settle. Are Everton defensively solid to keep clean sheets early in the season? The jury is out.

The expectation: Top eight position again beckons for Everton. Silva may be put under pressure early if the results are not good.

Leicester City:

The hope: Brendon Rodgers era. Attacking football philosophy, playing to Vardy’s strengths with early quick ball behind defenses.

The fear: Harry Maguire departure. There should be sufficient coverage with the likes of Evans in the squad but Maguire was a huge player for the club in previous seasons.

The expectation: Top ten finish for me. Leicester City have pace to burn on the flanks. If Vardy hits form early, there should be no relegation worries.

Liverpool:

The hope: can they go one better than last season? So agonizingly close. The players could not give anymore; the hesistation in January 2019 was decisive.

The fear: squad depth, interesting fixture calendar for Liverpool with the World Club championship in December. Can the squad sufficiently balance another competition to an already hectic calendar?

The expectation: unless City are taken off their perch, Liverpool are destined to be second again. They are the side who could topple City but need to take four points off City to secure the title.

Manchester City:

The hope: an incredible domestic season. Can they deliver this dominance in the Champions League? Keeping key players fit in the season. Sane out for seven months is an ominous start to the campaign.

The fear: Keeping key players fit in the season. Sane out for seven months is an ominous start to the campaign.

The expectation: they are the side to be beaten this season again. Pep and the squad are the best. The clear favorite again but a slip in form like in December could still happen.

Manchester United:

The hope: Harry Maguire signing is the catalyst to provide more stability at the back, improve the passing game from the back to boot.

The fear: lack of signings in central midfield and attacking positions. Herrera and Lukaku gone so the onus falls on the young squad players like McTominay and Greenwood to deliver.

The expectation: squad depth deadwood to be exposed at various points of the season. A sneaky top four if United beat Chelsea this weekend; otherwise Ole is under pressure along with Ed Woodward.

Newcastle United:

The hope: Mike Ashley leaves the club.

The fear: Mike Ashley stays at the club.

The expectation: Relegation dogfight. Wily Steve Bruce needs results past given his managerial resume which included a stint at Sunderland. The squad looks exposed if injuries play a part. Who scores the goals upfront with the likes of Perez gone to Leicester? Relegation beckons.

Norwich City:

The hope: Carrow Road fortress.

The fear: Squad effort not in doubt, squad quality is.

The expectation: Farke strikes me as a measured manager but he will have his work cut out for survival. Decent quality but don’t look like keeping enough clean sheets and scoring enough goals. A baptism of fire at Anfield tonight. Damage limitation. If they are thumped tonight, then they are doomed. Relegation.

Sheffield United:

The hope: Bramall Lane is a fortress. The home support is vocal and make an intimidating atmosphere.

The fear: Lack of goals becomes an issue early and often.

The expectation: Out of the promoted sides, Sheffield United may impress early doors but squad depth issues may surface. If sides can cope with Sheffield United uptempo game in the opening half of games, then Sheffield United could get picked off. Brave attempt to stay in the league but fear that they may be relegated.

Southampton:

The hope: new manager has had the summer to part his football ethos to the squad; got rid of Charlie Austin and Matt Targett surprisingly to spook the rest of the squad to perform.

The fear: If Danny Ings gets injured, who takes on the goalscoring mantle? Long is honest as the day is long but the goal / appearance ratio is low.

The expectation: Difficult season if Redmond fails to fire early doors. Just about will survive. The youth setup at the club will come to the club’s aid once more.

Tottenham:

The hope: Pochettino has a settled squad, no major squad inclusions and the side will look to rebound from the disappointment of the Champions League final. The first full season at the Lane; home form paramount.

The fear: The lack of transfer activity in the summer defensively. Trippier departure means that squad depth must deliver early. Can Dele be the key player for the club in midfield given Eriksen and an impending departure from the club in January?

The expectation: Flirting with a title race but will sit in third place again. Pochettino will look for pastures new come the end of the season.

Watford:

The hope: continue the good form of last season; early form was the platform. The attacking threat with Deeney and Success should pose issues for sides.

The fear: The chopping and changing at the club. What happens if there is an indifferent start to the season? Garcia immediately on the backfoot.

The expectation: Top ten position. Watford have sufficient quality to stay in the division yet not in the mix for top eight.

West Ham United:

The hope: the squad will galvanized after the departure of Marko. The squad looks settled for the most part and the emergence of Declan Rice as a leader this season. Felipe Anderson will be a key threat.

The fear: the love / hate relationship of the fans with the owners could influence matters on the pitch. An indifferent start to the season – take note.

The expectation: Midtable position again. Squad form inconsistencies key throughout the season.

Wolverhampton:

The hope: continue the form and quality of last season, an incredible debut season in the top flight. The football on show was sublime at times.

The fear: Europa League commitments means extra strain on the team. Burnley had challenges last season. Will the same fate fall on Wolves?

The expectation: Top eight / top ten berth would be considered a successful second season. Attacking qualities will pose opposition problems.

UEFA Champions League Final: Key Talking Points (Preview)

The waiting is finally over. Madrid. June 1st, 2019. An All England UEFA Champions League final showpiece between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the fixture, identifies the key talking points leading into this fixture.

Does Harry Kane start?

For me, the answer would be no but whether Mauricio Pochettino thinks so is an entirely different question. Kane is a potent striker but there are questions on match fitness here. If he is to start, then it is a massive gamble as if it is not fully right, an early substitution would derail Tottenham.

The performances of Moura and Son in this tournament have been excellent. Both players have pace to burn and would pose serious questions for Liverpool’s defensive back four. Pochettino has to trust his squad tonight, pick the players who are fully fit and ready to do a job. Kane can be left in reserve and brought on in the second half to score the vital goal.

Tottenham formation?

It is a tricky question to answer. There are issues in the full back positions for Tottenham to address. Can Rose and Trippier provide sufficient defensive cover from the threat of Mane to allow Tottenham to go three at the back? Mane and Salah are going to rotate and probe on the flanks all night and can Robertson and Alexander-Arnold provide the attacking threat to overwhelm the Tottenham flanks?

Liverpool midfield?

It is an area of the park that Liverpool have excelled in this season. Henderson, Fabinho, Wynaldum and Milner have provided the side with stability defensive while also supporting the front three consistently all season. You then add the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain who is looking to impress and you have serious competition for those starting three midfield berths.

Milner is going to feature tonight, expect him to start ahead of Henderson who will be summoned to close out the contest. It is a tough, tough call for Klopp to make. Someone in this midfield engine room is going to be disappointed by the omission.

Liverpool Front Three

This is where the final is won or lost tonight for Liverpool. Firminho needs to be fully match fit and be on it from the opening minute. His work rate without the ball sets the tone for others around him to press. Mane and Salah can then look to probe more on the flanks to exploit Tottenham.

Will Daniel Sturridge provide a key cameo tonight? Firminho for me may only go sixty / seventy minutes tonight given his injury issues as of late. Sturridge is the type of player who revels in occasions such as tonight. Do not be surprised if Sturridge popped up and scored the winner?

Managerial Composure

The cup final record of Klopp is poor (lost last six finals). Pochettino has never won a managerial honor to date despite his excellent managerial resume. Can Klopp control his emotion enough tonight to allow his side to impress? Can Pochettino trust his squad to execute the game plan, stay compact for the opening hour to potentially allow Harry Kane to come on and win the final?

Verdict

As a neutral tonight, I am hoping for an early goal to set the tie alight. This final could get increasingly cagey and nervy otherwise. Liverpool will enter the final as warm favorites but I expect Tottenham to come into the fixture with no pressure and with Eriksen, they have a match winner in their ranks. If Tottenham Hotspur can keep in the game after sixty minutes, they are my tip to win with Kane to come off the bench and score the winner!

FAI Junior Cup: Aisling Annacotty 2 – 1 Newport Town AFC

Aisling Annacotty edge local derby FAI Junior Cup tie

Aisling Annacotty advance to the last sixteen of the FAI Junior Cup as a late Aaron Murphy header broke Newport Town AFC hearts in a high energy, competitive encounter in Annacotty. Hawkeye Sidekick was in attendance and reports on a 2-1 triumph for the Limerick District League Premier Division outfit.

As soon as the draw was made in early December, this fixture stood out for anyone in the Midwest. Aisling advanced to the last thirty-two of this competition with an excellent 4-0 win over Blarney Celtic on the road. Newport Town AFC who play in the Limerick District League 1B advanced to this stage of the competition courtesy of a nail biting penalty shootout win over Carbery (Sligo) at home.

The form book suggested that Aisling Annacotty would have too much quality for Newport Town AFC but the romance of the cup never dies and the 1B outfit set about their task from the first whistle with organization, determination and skill. The Tipperary outfit were the dominant side for the opening exchanges; winning the second balls and with the ever dangerous Christy Doyle upfront posed a threat for the hosts defense.

Davy Ryan on the flank for Newport Town AFC had a strong opening and his link up play setup Doyle for the first chance of the game on eighteen. Doyle’s rasping drive brilliantly kept out by the Aisling Annacotty net minder. Newport Town AFC were compact and creating further chances as Doyle again tested the home defense with a header on thirty minutes.

A good start from the visitors was undone on thirty-three minutes as Aisling Annacotty took the lead with their first realistic chance of the game. Good work down the left flank caused chaos in the Newport defense, the ball was cleared but the second ball was headed back towards goal where Jason Lipper was on hand to nail home taking advantage of lack of defensive tracking from Newport. The finish was tidy, little time to set himself as Jimmy Fyffe came quickly out of his goal but the header was decisive. 1-0 Aisling.

A local derby was always going to see some cards issued by the man in the middle and so they duly came. The most significant of those yellow cards was on 37 minutes when Christy Doyle was given a yellow for cheekily heading the ball out of the Aisling keeper’s hands and putting it in the net. That card would become a key talking point as the game wore on.

Newport Town AFC buoyed by a strong away support responded well and more good play down the right flank nearly saw the Tipperary side win a penalty. Doyle brought down just outside the edge of the box, the subsequent free kick was saved but the threat from the visitors was still abundant to the locals in attendance. Half-time: 1-0.

The opening period was at times cagey with both sides content to sit back and see what the other side would do. The middle third was quite congested but the second half started with good tempo with both sides making encouraging attacking breaks. Half chances for both sides in the opening exchanges as the game was opening out.

Aisling Annacotty’s young side looking to hit Newport Town AFC on the break but the Tipperary side were dealing with the threat and duly equalized midway through the half. The goal was all about Davy Ryan as his incisive run into the box and lay off left Christy Doyle with the chance and the effort was emphatically placed to the right hand corner. 1-1. The away support roared with approval. Game on!

Heading into the last twenty minutes of the contest, it was a 50/50 contest. Aisling responding well to the concession of the goal and started to make advances to the Newport Town AFC goal. Cue the key incident of the game. Christy Doyle who was ever dangerous for Newport Town slid into a tackle and with a yellow card already to his name, he needed to get the tackle spot on. Unfortunately for Newport Town AFC, he was slightly late and the match officials after taking time to consider their decision issued a second yellow card. Newport Town AFC down to ten players. Advantage very much with Aisling Annacotty.

The player advantage initially did not hinder Newport Town AFC as the O’Sullivan brothers continued to take the fight to their opponent with some lung bursting runs from deep. The 1B side were continuing to make the tackles and their defense were well organized until five minutes from time when Aisling Annacotty struck the front.

Newport Town AFC will reflect on how the goal was conceded. A cross from the right flank was delivered just in front of the defense and goalkeeper. It forced Newport Town AFC defensively to make a decision. Jimmy Fyffe made the call to come out but was just beaten to the ball by Aaron Murphy who headed superbly into the net. Cue home celebrations! 2-1 Aisling.

A devastating goal to concede. The 1B side punished again for another defensive lapse. The fine margins in a cup tie highlighted by the goal. Newport Town AFC tried to respond and only for a last ditch tackle from Aisling Annacotty, an equalizer could have been scored. On the other side, Aisling could have scored a third only for a smart save from Jimmy Fyffe as Newport Town AFC went for broke.

The final whistle was greeted with relief by Aisling Annacotty. Their young side had won, the performance at times lacked composure but their resiliency to keep in the contest and wait for their opportunities was impressive. Jason Lipper, Brian Butler, Aaron Murphy stood out at different intervals. A key win for the side whose young age profile bodes well for the future.

Newport Town AFC were a credit to their division. The 1B side performed superbly well and belied their league divisional status. They matched their Premier Division opposition for long periods and to a man played with work rate, determination and attacking menace. The red card was a sickening blow and the game winner was cruel luck on the side who provided much to an exciting local derby.

Aisling Annacotty advance to the last sixteen. The facilities were first rate and the manner in which the club is been run and the future plans means that the Limerick club are primed for success on and off the pitch for years to come. This result will increase morale and confidence in this young group of players ahead of a busy Premier League calendar block.

Newport Town AFC romantic run ends in the FAI Junior Cup but the memories of this cup run will be remembered for years to come. The penalty shoot out win over Carbery a season highlight. Derryleigh Park is a fine venue and with the incredible support from Newport, the club’s future looks bright. The players in the side need to kick on now and secure 1B promotion. The season cannot die now. The travelling support was considerable and added plenty of atmosphere to the occasion.

Fantasy Premier League: Game Week 17

It has been a while since I last posted on my Fantasy Premier League team. A tough couple of weeks particularly when I forgot to take out Aguero from my starting lineup and zero points coming from Mr. Crystal Palace (Wilfred Zaha) so time to panic transfer and also hoping that certain players emerge from the treatment table.

It feels like I am embattled. Yes, you have that right and if results go against me this weekend, then I will be propping the league table in my friend’s private league. I will be the proverbial turkey at Christmas during 12 pubs of Christmas coming to an East Limerick village this weekend. I could be primed for the slaughter. 

Injury doubts, misguided trust predominant themes

The injury doubts at the time of this blog posting center around Alexander-Arnold who is rated 75% to play against Manchester United. Aguero is rated 50% to feature against Everton at home but given the fact that City are now second in the league, could Pep Guardiola decide to thrust his star striker back into the starting lineup. His presence and potency in front of goal has been missed. Here is hoping both players play and score high. 

The striking options for Hawkeye Sidekick XI is a mixed bag. Zaha is injured so is taken out of my squad. Glenn Murray has been added in, has been prominent this season with some key goals. I have Mitrovic again in the starting lineup to deliver goals. West Ham at Craven Cottage could be a good fixture to deliver. My trust levels on both picks are suspect right now. Barry Fry style management transfers could be in the offing next week. 

The rest of the side is unchanged. Matt Doherty scored last week, prominent in Wolves’ attacking threat in recent weeks. Neves would want to follow suit, patience wearing thin with the Portuguese midfield dynamo. Pereyra provided an assist on MNF so hoping for a good run of form from the Watford midfielder and with Cardiff City at home, optimism is high. 

Ederson and Azpilicueta are my consistent go to picks this season. Both players have good points accumulated this season. The problem has been in midfield and striking areas. Time hopefully to arrest the slide! 

Euro 2020 Qualification Draw Reflections

Republic of Ireland up against it

When the Republic of Ireland were drawn in the dreaded Group C alongside Germany and The Netherlands today, the draw looked mission impossible for the draw hosts but thankfully given the host country status, Republic of Ireland were moved to Group D and renewing familiar acquaintances with Denmark, Georgia, Gibraltar and Switzerland. A competitive group but one that looks a bit better on paper than what Northern Ireland have to deal in Group C. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the draw. 

Group A: England stroll 

Nothing here to unduly worry England in this group. Kosovo should spring a couple of surprise results against their Eastern European rivals but this is a group setup for England to further experiment and use it to blood more underage prospects into the national squad. England to top the group and a toss up for the second placed berth. 

Group B: Competitive 

Take the minnows Lithuania and Luxembourg and this is a very competitive group. Portugal will look to be the favorites to the top the group but Serbia and Ukraine will pose problems for the Iberian side. Serbia disappointed in the World Cup 2018 and Ukraine will look to continue their good form in the League of Nations tournament. Will Serbia and Ukraine take points off each other and in doing so give Portugal a distinct advantage? I think this scenario may play out. 

Group C: Northern Ireland unlucky 

A group containing Germany and The Netherlands now faces Northern Ireland, an unfortunate chain of events given that it was the Republic of Ireland who were slotted in this group originally. NI will be well organized but they are up against it with two heavyweights opponents. Estonia and Belarus complete the group, little threat to the top three. Will NI shock a vulnerable Germany at Windsor Park to make this group interesting? Here is hoping. 

Group D: Acquaintances renewed 

Denmark and Republic of Ireland supporters will be sick of the sight of each other by the end of this campaign. Denmark have made their feelings known about the Republic’s style of play so it will be interesting to see what Mick McCarthy conjures up in this campaign. Switzerland look a solid bet to advance from the group; good squad core and with Xhaka and Shaqiri in good form, Switzerland will be tough opposition. Georgia are a dangerous fourth seed here; their recent form and ability to give opposition tough games in Tbilisi setting up an intriguing group. Throw Gibraltar into the mix as cannon fodder and this group looks like it will go down to the wire. 

Group E: Croatia look the class act 

A group which should produce plenty of easy football on the eye. Croatia and Wales will fancy their chances of progression but with a Slovakia side who will be competitive at home, a couple of surprising results could surface. Hungary and Azerbaijan look limited and should fall away quickly from this group. 

Group F: Spain to top this pool 

Spain look the class apart in this group. Enrique and the playing squad are gradually putting behind a shambolic World Cup 2018 behind them and this pool will offer a further chance for the side to build momentum and form. The second place berth looks interesting as Sweden, Romania and rejuvenated Norway will have merits for playoff progression. Faroe Islands complete the group and perhaps may nick a point or two from their Scandinavian brethren. 

Group G: Poland will be happy

Poland will be delighted with this group and should top the group. The chasing pack looks compelling with the likes of Austria, Israel and Slovenia in a three way battle for playoff progression. Macedonia potentially will provide away blues for teams in Skopje but their squad depth will hinder progress. Latvia look cannon fodder. 

Group H: Routine for Le Bleu 

France will be not losing much sleep on this group setup. Iceland will provide physicality and strong threat in the set piece but were well exposed in top seed opposition this year. Turkey or Albania may be poised to be the second place side in this group. Turkey are well overdue a tournament appearance. The other teams in this group are Andorra and Moldova, recent form indicates a slow painful group phase for both. 

Group I: Interesting Lineup 

Belgium the perennial team that tipsters will look for major tournament glory will be relatively satisfied with this lineup. Russia after an excellent World Cup 2018 were inconsistent in the League of Nations action. Scotland have  improved under Alex McLeish so the group looks evenly poised. Cyprus in Nicosia have never be taken likely either and could nick points from Russia and Scotland in particular. San Marino and Kazakhstan look out of their depth in this group. 

Group J: Italy rebuild to continue

A nice group for Italy to rebuild. The opposition will up their game against the Azzuri but Italy should advance as top dog in this group. Greece, Bosnia-Herzegovina will probably fight it out for second spot with Finland looking to push their weight around given their recent upturn in form. Armenia away could be a tough task for all sides as well so the fight for playoff progression looks the intriguing headline in this group. Liechtenstein have improved but they look outgunned in this class of opposition. 

Fantasy Premier League: Toca Me, I need a miracle!

Before you start reading this blog, may I suggest you listen to this classic trance anthem from clubland lore. You will get the theme when you see the strife of my Fantasy Premier League team in recent weeks. 

A disastrous couple of weeks since the last blog and no I did not blog because it was that embarrassing. The Maddison and Mitrovic experiments were utter failures and they are dropped from the starting XI.

Looking for a miraculous upturn in fortunes to even get to a respectable position in our private league this season; languishing third from bottom. The banter has started on my selections; a long overdue pint with the lads and it will properly kick off!

Mercenaries XI

Ederson continues in goal; has being superb this season with multiple clean sheets but this weekend is the Manchester derby and anything can happen, cannot think of dropping the player. Easy points throughout the season. 

The Alexander Arnold experiment potentially has one week left, looking for a big performance from the player or he is out of my side for the next game day.

Azpilicueta has being a solid points player; the same cannot be said for Matt Doherty in recent weeks but will persevere with the Irishman for another week. He offers plenty going forward so hopefully a few assists against Arsenal (hope more than expectation). 

Maddison is sidelined with injury so it is the perfect time to look at my options. Neves produced seven points last week and hopefully can do the same this weekend on set piece duties on the road to Arsenal.

The Liverpool contingent should be smelling blood as Fulham come to Anfield; playing like a Championship side at present. I am expecting a good points haul from Mane and Salah; otherwise there will be trouble ahead.

Pereyra is my new pick; the player has impressed early doors (a sure sign that will fall off the cliff now) but a fixture against a Southampton side who are defensively vulnerable after a trouncing to City bodes well. 

The striking options. Manchester United cannot keep a clean sheet so Sergio potentially may be in for a goal or assist. He has being stellar this season and his cameo last weekend against Southampton was superb despite the yellow card. 

Wilson is my new pick to the strike force; impressed with his movement and goal last week against Manchester United and given Bournemouth’s pace and speed, they could potentially cause massive issues for Newcastle on the road.

Wilfred Zaha (Mr. Crystal Palace) has being quiet lately, hoping that the London derby will revitalize him as it has being a tough few weeks for the Selhurst Park outfit. Roll the dice and let us see what the weekend brings!

Fantasy Premier League: Game Week Eight

Houston. We have a problem. The fixture list is conspiring and I am starting to go more up than down the private league standings and more woe lies potentially in wait after this weekend. 

Mercenaries XI

You see the predicament that I face by looking right down the spine of my side. Liverpool play Manchester City in the ‘Challengers vs. Champions’ fixture on Sunday evening. What would I like most? A total shootout like last season when Liverpool won 4-3. Here is hoping. 

Ederson is going to be a busy goalkeeper this weekend; that front three for Liverpool has serious pace and threat. Anfield holds mixed memories for the player after his clearance was pounced upon by Salah to chip over the keeper for an outstanding goal. I cannot see Ederson keeping a clean sheet but it is only this weekend where issues may surface as he has being racking up clean sheets so far this season. 

The back line has one enforced change. Vertonghen is out injured so decided to go with Matt Doherty (Wolves). The defender has impressed in recent weeks with his attacking runs from deep; assist streak continues after his cameo against Southampton last weekend. Doherty looks dangerous against a Crystal Palace side who looked defensive brittle on MNF. 

Alexander-Arnold could be bound to get sent off in the City fixture; could be tempted to switch with Robertson next week. Azpilicueta continues in the back line; a road trip to a Southampton side who are indifferent at best could see the Spaniard earn yet another clean sheet and perhaps a goal from a set piece (hope more than expectation) 

Maddison comes into the side for the expense of Kante. The Leicester City players looks a real threat in open play and set piece; a bargain deal considering the points tally this season. Fraser from Bournemouth for the transfer fee is a snip too. Maddison faces an Everton side who are inconsistent at best; expecting some more good points from the player. 

Mane and Salah are in my midfield. Both players will lift it for this fixture, a key game in the EPL season. Salah’s form of last season was an one off but he has being decent this season without getting the goals / assists. Mane’s pace will cause City endless issues so as mentioned hoping for a high scoring contest at Anfield. 

Neves continues to rove the midfield; his creativity and talent to the fore but no goals or assists in recent games. Crystal Palace defensive indiscipline may provide some set piece delivery opportunities for the Portuguese player to exploit. 

The front three remain the change. Aguero will look for goals against Liverpool but it won’t be easy given the improvements made in the Liverpool back line. Mitrovic at home against an Arsenal side who have had Europa League action poses a good threat of scoring a goal or two. Zaha against Wolves at home will need to conjure magic on his own as Wolves look a good bet to win on the road this weekend. 

There is a lot of hope in this team selection but also a lot of trepidation in the same sentence; things could go spectacularly well in the Anfield clash or it could be a boring 0-0 draw. Roll on the weekend!

Fantasy Premier League: Game Week 7

Mercenaries XI

Sixty-one points from Game Week 6, rewarded for keeping some tangible faith with Alexander-Arnold as the City contingent in the side continue to generate points for fun. Mitrovic came in and did a job against Watford. An interesting week beckons this time round with the meeting of Chelsea and Liverpool. Hawkeye Sidekick is more hoping than optimistic at this stage. 

Ederson is such a solid pick right now in the keeper position. The number of clean sheets alone so far this season has being impressive and his ability to launch swift counter attacks. Six points last week, hoping for more this weekend with the Brighton & Hove Albion visiting the Etihad. 

The Chelsea and Liverpool player clash starts with the back line. Alexander-Arnold and Azpilicueta are in the back three, both players could have torrid afternoons given the pace and speed of the attacking units on display. I am not hopeful on either this week, grin and bear and hope neither player does not get booked (wishful thinking). 

Vertonghen is hopefully the saving grace for the back three this weekend. A trip to Huddersfield, a clean sheet and perhaps a goal from a set piece would do nicely. Tottenham need a result after a torrid couple of weeks in the league; they should get the job done here against a Huddersfield Town side who are neither scoring enough or preventing goals defensively. 

The midfield four again has a Chelsea player (Kante) and two Liverpool players (Mane and Salah). I am rather pessimistic that there will be a goal fest at the Bridge (hoping for it) but need to be realistic given the curse of the Sky Sports advert campaign. 

Neves comes into the picture and it is a time for him to impress. Wolves play Southampton who look quite shaky as of late. Neves has to increase his attacking threat in the final third; hope (yet again) that the Portuguese midfielder will deliver a man of the match performance. Mark Hughes is under pressure at Southampton as it is and I think it intensifies after this fixture. Wolves if they have their shooting boots on could win well. 

The front three are unchanged. My best mate Mitrovic scored against Watford but anyone else feeling that Mitrovic is going to do something stupid and get sent off. I cannot think like that in team selection so he retains his spot and a game against a vulnerable Everton outfit could see the Serbian striker score another goal. 

Sergio Aguero is a points machine. He is having an outstanding season and that run of fantasy league points looks set to continue with the trip of Brighton & Hove Albion who will try to sit deep but think City are too slick in their passing. An early strike and BHA get opened up which will be music to the ears of Aguero. 

Mr. Crystal Palace continues as the third striker. Zaha plays a Bournemouth side smarting from their 4-0 drubbing on the road to Burnley last weekend. MNF game for Zaha to flex the muscles and suspect that Palace will score a goal on the road and inevitably Zaha will be key from an attacking perspective. 

Fantasy Premier League: Game Day 5

Hawkeye Sidekick after a meh round four (47 points) performance is under the cosh. The Hail Mary / Toca Me selection of Calvert Lewin last week got what it deserved; absolutely nothing. It is time to move the deck chairs and tables around this FPL selection in attack hoping for some more points from all three attackers. 

Mercenaries XI

Ederson continues in goal; seven points last week was a superb return, do not see any other keeper in my side (infamous last words).

The back three continues as last week. Alexander-Arnold continues to worry me, think his club colleague Robertson is the option going forward but will give it another week. Azpilicueta is a solid pick; will pick up clean sheets throughout the season.

The fixture list last week conspired a bit but expecting better from the midfield selected. Southampton are primed for a thumping and Mane and Salah should get sufficient chances to score and provide assists. Mane gets into so many great positions; if he only converted half those opportunities, jackpot time. Neves has being quiet in recent weeks but Wolves are so easy on the eye that they could upset Manchester United so retain him in the side. 

Sergio continues to produce superb numbers; fourteen points last week was just desserts and a trip to Cardiff City who look incapable of keeping a clean sheet bodes well. Zaha got off the turf and slayed Huddersfield Town last week on the road; seven points tally and with Newcastle at home, hopes are high for another good day out for Mr. Crystal Palace.

The Hawkeye Sidekick change or others will perceive as the ‘throw it on the team and sees if it sticks selection’ is my new best friend Mitrovic; he has had a promising start to the season with a couple of goals for club and country and I think a Watford team who lost last week may be a good pick. Watford after a strong start have a serious test of attitude this week and Fulham may be the benefactors. Mitrovic hopefully picks up the goals for the Craven Cottage outfit or he will be out on his ear (Barry Fry management 101). Fingers crossed for this week!

Fantasy Football League: Game Day 5

Mercenaries XI

After an international football break where WhatApp audio clips were the order of the day for anyone interested in Republic of Ireland training ground shenanigans, it is a welcome relief that the EPL is back and with it some decisions for the FPL side which struggled last time out. A couple of team changes as my patience with the pup Sane and a quite clearly not required Cenk Tosun (Everton) have forced my hand. 

Goalkeeper

Ederson continues in goal. A home game against a Fulham side who will not be afraid to pass the ball around should see an exciting spectacle and perhaps an opportunity for the Brazilian keeper to provide a quick assist for his outfield colleagues. Clean sheet is the aim this week. 

Defenders

The back three remains unchanged; going to give Alexander-Arnold one more chance. A tough fixture against Tottenham, the likelihood of another yellow card but the player did show some genuine attacking threat. One more chance for the player, otherwise Robertson could be getting the nod. 

Azpilicueta is solid and with a home fixture against a Cardiff City side who are struggling to score goals, clean sheet should be well achievable and perhaps a foray on the attacking set piece could yield a goal. An added bonus (here’s hoping). 

Vertonghen has being an ever present in the side, tough fixture with Liverpool at the weekend but his threat at the Tottenham set piece could be an added bonus. Clean sheet looks remote to be honest given the pace of this Liverpool attacking unit; hoping perhaps for a goal / assist from the player. 

Midfield

I have had enough of Leroy. I have had enough of the bench warming sulking body language antics so Sane is gone from the squad, slotting Mane into the side and could be a permanent fixture given his early season form.

Pace to burn and has chipped in with a couple of goals as well, hoping for the same against Tottenham along with Salah as the counter attack style of Liverpool in this fixture could be too much for Tottenham defensively. Question marks on Lloris fitness as well.

Neves continues to impress; cannot see the player being at Wolves next season and hopefully he showcases his talent against a Burnley side who are struggling for goals and defensively have looked vulnerable. Kante will continue to do his thing; protect his back four and keep a clean sheet against Cardiff City. A goal from the French World Cup winner would be dreamland territory. 

Strikers

Sergio has proclaimed that he is in good fitness and physical condition, that will do for me and he continues. Fulham will provide opportunities for City and Aguero should be in the middle of all that will be good in City’s attacking play. 

The two other strikers are questionable picks. Zaha’s absence against Southampton last weekend was massive for Palace so I think if Zaha can stand up, he will be playing against Huddersfield Town who are ripe for another thrashing.

Calvin-Lewin should play against West Ham United in the absence of Richarlison. West Ham United defensively are not doing it for me at the moment and Everton should produce good chances. Cenk Tosun looks to have no future at the club so Calvin-Lewin will get the nod and hopefully score a couple of goals.