Rival Lines

Match Preview
Man Utd V AFCB
Blogger Interview - Old Trafford Faithful
Twitter: @OTFaithful

This week I spoke with Jordan Street from the Old Trafford Faithful website on the form of Manchester United ahead of the match with Bournemouth. United are looking stronger than ever with the inclusion of Bruno Fernandes who has scored five goals in eight games and the striking power of Anthony Martial who hit three against Sheffield United. They have had two clean sheets in their last two Premier League games so the Cherries are really up against a form side today.

CC: Are you surprised that Anthony Martial has suddenly hit the sweet spot in his scoring having had the first hat-trick for Man Utd in an absolute age?

OTF: I'll be honest, I am. I'm not the biggest Anthony Martial fan out there, though I appreciate he's a super-talented young man. Inconsistency has really hampered his growth over the last few seasons, but now with a manager in place who believes in him, perhaps he can take his game to that next level? I'm more than happy to be proven wrong!

CC: Marcus Rashford is the best role model in English football at the moment. But how has he done since the restart on the§ football field?

OTF: He's struggled, though we have to remember he was suffering from a pretty serious back injury before lockdown. I'm happy to give him another couple of weeks to get back up to speed before judging him too harshly, though!

CC: What would be success for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this season - FA Cup winners and fifth place? And is it good that the press have stopped talking about him losing his job?

OTF: I'm pleased that the press is off his back for now, because I genuinely believe he has been the best manager we've had since Sir Alex Ferguson.

To me, it's all about trophies. An FA Cup win would be lovely, while I give us a great shot in the Europa League, too. A top-four finish would be the icing on the cake as Champions League football is key when it comes to attracting those big-name signings.

CC: Do you expect Man Utd to make a move for either Josh King or David Brooks this summer?

OTF: I think the Josh King boat has probably sailed. I said it at the time, but there were definitely worse options available in January than the former United man.

As for David Brooks, I love watching him operate. It's a shame that injury has wrecked his season because he was outstanding last term. He definitely fits the player-profile that Solskjaer had shown a preference towards. He'd be pretty pricey, but it's a deal I'd fully get behind.

CC: Where do Man Utd need to strengthen to become a challenger for the Premier League title next time around?

OTF: United need a world-class right-winger, another centre-half and some more depth in midfield - hence why I like the possibility of the versatile Brooks joining.

CC: What do you think of how Bournemouth have performed this season and their league position?

OTF: I, like all Bournemouth fans I'm sure, are feeling pretty disappointed. The results and overall displays haven't been anywhere near the level I expected - though I appreciate injuries and behind-closed-doors situations (Ryan Fraser) haven't helped...

It's sad because I love Eddie Howe and the work he is doing down there. I just hope Bournemouth stay up!

CC: Which three teams do you think will go down?

OTF: I think Villa and Norwich are already gone. West Ham, Watford and Bournemouth are all in danger of finishing eighteenth and going down. Personally, I think it'll be Watford as the other two have so much quality in their ranks, but right now it's a toss-up...

CC: Bournemouth managed to beat Man Utd at Dean Court this season, so is this far from a gimmie for Man Utd at Old Trafford despite AFCB's recent poor away form?

OTF:  There must be something in those South Coast waters as we always struggle down there! Jokes aside, I feel far more comfortable with this game being at home, and we're playing pretty well right now.

No game is a gimmie, and United will have to perform, but I'm hopeful we can pick up all three points here, sorry folks!

CC: How would you expect Man Utd to line up for this game?

OTF:  As strong as we can. We need to win every single fixture to give ourselves the best shot at finishing in the top four.

David de Gea, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial.

That's about as good as it gets for us right now, though that front five must be pretty scary for any opposing side!

CC: How many do you think Man Utd should win by?

OTF: Two? Three. I'll go for a 3-1 United win...

Well thanks Jordan for confirming that United are ready to get some revenge on AFCB. It is just about the worse time to play Man Utd at Old Trafford but the lack of a crowd may make it different for our players. Of course Bournemouth have not played well yet in an empty stadium and all the prospects are for a United victory. United have lost to Burnley at home in the league this calendar year so it is not impossible to win there. Still,  I fear for a drubbing in this game. Bournemouth can only go out and try and improve on their recent performances and at leasts try and get a few shots on targets, which has been woeful since the restart. Do take a look at Old Trafford Faithful for more news and views on the Man United team.

Match Preview Wolves v AFCB
Blogger interview: Wolves Blog
Twitter @thomasbaugh

It has been a long time since I tried to speak to a rival fan for Rival Lines. Thomas Baugh was my first stop after Project Restart got underway and he write on the Wolves Blog. Wolverhampton Wanderers have been in fine form and even have a shot at getting into the Champions League so is there any thing that isn't rosy about being a Wolves fan?

CC: As we look at the table before the restart, Wolves are in sixth place. Would that satisfy most Wolves fans if you finished there - one better than last season?

WB: That's tough to answer as the team seems like it has the potential to compete for 5th and potentially Champions League football. But I think if we're being sensible you'd have to say sixth would still represent a great achievement, particularly when you consider we'd be finishing above the likes of Spurs and Arsenal who have been amongst the established elite for so long.

CC: Nuno Esprito Santo has done a fantastic job, but do you fear he is now firmly on the go get list for other clubs?

WB: Definitely, but that's the price of success. Hopefully we can match his ambitions and keep him at the club for a long time to come. The setup at Wolves seems perfect for all involved so I would hope it would take a seriously good offer to wrench him away.

CC: Wolves are still in the UEFA Europa League's last 16. Are you keen for this competition to be played out this season?

WB: Yes. If nothing else, it's another opportunity to get into the Champions League and with second legs being eliminated Wolves are potentially just 4 wins away from lifting the trophy. We're rubbing shoulders with some illustrious clubs now and given that most of my time supporting Wolves has been in the second tier, these glory days must be savoured.

CC: How did your warm up games go against Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City, did you get much feedback about the performances and are there any injured players?

WB: Didn't hear much about those games but the proof was in the pudding against West Ham. The lads looked fit, sharp and organised. We deservedly won the game so hopefully, it continues to be business as usual.

CC: How did you feel Wolves did against West Ham in your first match back?

WB: Very well. I don't think West Ham are in great shape but our goalkeeper didn't make a save and once we started really attacking with some intent after Traore came on, it was fairly routine. We were keeping a lot of clean sheets before the season paused, so it was great to see that continue. We're a tough nut to crack and a threat going forward - what more can we ask?

CC: Wolves will have a big say in what happens at both ends of the table. Do you think Wolves have to take points off of West Ham, Bournemouth, and Aston Villa to stand any chance of making the top six?

WB: Possibly not for sixth but if we have aspirations of competing for fifth or higher, we probably need a return of 7-9 points. We've got 3 on the board after turning West Ham over but every game in the Premier League is tough, so I won't be taking Bournemouth or Villa for granted despite their respective struggles.
CC: Would you be agreeable to cash in on Adama Traore if clubs like Liverpool, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Barcelona are willing to pay crazy money for him, ie over £110m?

WB: I don't want him to go because he's a unique talent, so keeping him is preferable. I honestly believe this squad could get even better and challenge the top four. But if he does go, yes, it must be for silly money, so we can use that injection of cash to build out the squad and I'd obviously prefer to see him going abroad than to domestic rivals.

CC: What chance do you give for Bournemouth staying up this season and what are your predictions for the bottom three?

WB: I thought you'd stay up before the weekend but with Brighton getting that win and Palace winning fairly comfortably at the Vitality, I think you're in a spot of bother. I wouldn't like to choose between Bournemouth, West Ham and Villa. Brighton aren't completely out yet either as they've got a tough run of fixtures to come. I don't think Watford are going to drop. At present, I would say definitely Norwich, probably Villa and then 50/50 between the others. It will be interesting to see how your lads respond to that defeat to Palace.

CC: How will you watch or listen to Wolves v AFCB and what is your score prediction?

WB: It's on BT so I shall be watching from home and based on form and league positions, I can't go with anything other than a Wolves win. 2-1.

Good luck for the rest of the season Cherries - after Wednesday!

CC: Some excellent points made by Thomas. I get the feeling he might have a bit of a soft spot for Bournemouth out of the teams that are battling to stay up, but it must be strange to be supporting a team that is on the verge of its best season for many a year and yet being held up by the lockdown up till now. I can imagine the frustration, while fans of teams like Bournemouth are hanging on to every second of being a Premier League club. Bournemouth probably need some complacency to get into the Wolves camp to have a chance of picking up points at Molineux. Can the form book be turned around in just 72 hours. I am keen to find out, just like Thomas. You can see more Wolves build up on the Wolves Blog website.

Match Preview
Liverpool v AFCB 
Blogger Interview - This is Anfield
Twitter @thisisanfield

CC: I talked to Henry at This is Anfield just before their latest FA Cup defeat against Chelsea. Although their has been a bit of a slump in Liverpool's results, I don't see a big concern about their performance as they have so many great players, it only takes two or three to have an exceptional game to sweep a side any team in the Premier League. Once they pick up a win I expect they will just put their blip behind them. What I am worried about is that Bournemouth provide them with the perfect game to get back to winning ways.

CC: You are nearing Liverpool's first Premier League title. Can you imagine what the celebrations will be like in the city when you do get over the line?

TIA: I honestly can’t, unless the coronavirus has struck! It will be an incredible party in the city, making last season’s Champions League celebrations pale into insignificance. We’ve waited 30 years for this, so it will be something special to witness. These players will be heroes forever, assuming Liverpool get over the finish line.

CC: Liverpool's recruitment has been amazing over the last two seasons, but is there a position that you'd like to see strengthened in the summer?

TIA: In terms of the best possible XI, no. This is an incredible team and there are six or seven players who are among the best in the world in their position. A new creative midfielder is the one player that could potentially improve the team further - Kai Havertz has been linked and is a special talent - but it’s more about signing backup players, such as at left-back. Timo Werner would be a great signing in attack, adding even more competition for places. I think that will happen.

CC: What do you think has been Jurgen Klopp's best statement of the season - it could have been something amusing he said, something showing his frustration or his humility?

TIA: Good question! I actually loved what he said the other day about the coronavirus, both in terms of playing down it ruining Liverpool’s season, but also stressing the importance of listening to experts rather than him. He is so modest, which is part of his charm, and realises that he is just a great football manager, nothing more.

CC: Was the unbeaten run becoming a bit of a burden for the club and more of a big deal for pundits rather than Liverpool's fans?

TIA: I wouldn’t say it was a burden, to be honest, but I think it would’ve been if we’d won the title and still been unbeaten. In a weird way, I am slightly relieved it’s over now, and that it didn’t happen against a rival. Man City ending it, or Arsenal or Chelsea doing us right at the end of the season, would’ve been grim. It was certainly a bigger deal for those looking on from the outside, rather than for Klopp and his players.

CC: Do the two defeats to Atletico Madrid and Watford as well as the difficult win over West Ham indicate that Liverpool's players could be feeling drained with such a long season?

TIA: I don’t think there’s tiredness necessarily setting in, I just think the winter break has completely killed the rhythm of this side. They were flying, then they stopped, went away and haven’t been able to find their previous level. Since returning, the players simply haven’t look as sharp, and Klopp’s system demands perfection. Watford was particularly terrible. I do think the rhythm will come back, but I must admit I’m very worried about the Atletico Madrid game now.

CC: Are Liverpool coping without Jordan Henderson or is he a bigger miss than you might have expected?

TIA: After a slow start to begin with, this has been Henderson’s best season in a Liverpool shirt. He has been outstanding, especially since November. He finally looks like he belongs as Liverpool captain, but he has not only led superbly, his quality has been great through. He remains one of the most underrated players of his generation, in terms of rival supporters still blaming he is ‘average’. Henderson has been a massive loss since getting injured, with his drive and passion make an enormous difference. We need him back ASAP.

CC: What have you made of Adam Lallana's time at Liverpool?

TIA: Disappointing. When he arrived in 2014 I had high hopes for him, but he has flattered to deceive too often. Injuries have certainly played a part, but when he is fit, he looks like he is making things happen but actually isn’t. The constant Cruyff turns are painful, and one goal and assist apiece since May 2017 sums it up. He is a strong leader off the pitch, in fairness, and he has had some good moments this season, but he has definitely underperformed at Liverpool.

CC: Do you expect Harry Wilson to play for Liverpool next season or could he be loaned out again or even sold?

TIA: I don’t think he will be at Liverpool next season. He is a good young player, without question, but he is no longer at the Reds’ level, considering they are arguably the best club side in the world. Liverpool are now in a position where they need really top class backup players and I don’t believe Wilson will ever be that good. I see his future lying at someone like Bournemouth - he would be a really good permanent signing for you, in my opinion.

CC: Which game was the most satisfying of the season so far?

TIA: Leicester away on Boxing Day was the most complete team performance - Liverpool were unbelievable that night, at a time when the Foxes were flying. It was 4-0 and could possibly have been more. The Reds were also great at home to Manchester City, winning 3-1 and comprehensively outplaying the champions at a time when the title race was far closer.

CC: Which three teams do you think will be relegated from the Premier League?

TIA: If I had to put money on it, I would go for Norwich, Aston Villa and West Ham. I like Bournemouth as a club, so I hope you stay up. It will be very tight, though, and I’m afraid you will be in for some nervous afternoons between now and May. I wouldn’t bank on the Cherries staying up, I’m afraid.

CC: What have you made of AFC Bournemouth's season and seeing them struggle even with Harry Wilson and occasionally Dominic Solanke in the side?

TIA: Watching Liverpool achieve such incredible things has dominated things this season, and for the first time ever, I feel like I have switched off a little in terms of knowing exactly how everyone else is doing. From what I’ve seen, though, Bournemouth have just seemed too nice a team at times to play against, rarely being able to win ugly or make life tough for opponents. When I see Bournemouth away in the fixture list, it’s a game that always looks appealing on paper, because Eddie Howe tries to play football and that makes it easier to pick you off. It’s admirable in many ways, but also a bit naive. It just feels like your natural cycle in the top flight is slowly edging towards its conclusion. Sorry. Wilson appears to have faded, when fit, while Solanke looks to have been a bit of a disaster, showing why Klopp was right to sell him.

CC: How do you think Liverpool will line up against Bournemouth considering you have the second leg against Atletico Madrid to follow our game?

TIA: I would go for this: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, OxladeChamberlain, Wijnaldum, Salah, Mane, Firmino.

Klopp may have an eye on the Atletico Madrid game, though, so I may be wrong with a couple of selections.

CC: What is your score prediction for Liverpool v AFC Bournemouth?

TIA: I will go for Liverpool 3-1 Bournemouth. A return to winning ways, but not always massively convincing.

CC: Some great answers from Henry. I don't think This is Anfield are that worried about losing a couple of games. If they were to slip up against Bournemouth though then we could see some slightly worried faces in the Kop. Jurgen Klopp has a way with dealing with set-back's he just rubs it off his shoulder. But Bournemouth know they'll be up against it at Anfield and that the mighty Liverpool won't be sure about how they will play considering recent results. It could be an interesting first 30 minutes, Bournemouth's task is to spread the contest over 90 minutes.

Match preview: Burnley v AFCB
Podcast Interview: No Nay Never
Twitter: @nonaynever

I caught up with Burnley podcast site No Nay Never this week. Matt gave me some views about whether Burnley are a long-ball team and if they are does it matter? While Bournemouth languish near the foot of the table, Burnley are in 11th and looking at a top 10 finish, and possible European football next season. So what exactly has Sean Dyche got so right?

CC: With Burnley riding high in the top half of the table and European football becoming a possibility - would the club be better equipped at a European campaign next season and what would you need in the summer to cope better?

NNN: The squad is certainly stronger than it was 18 months ago, however this summer is looking like it is going to be an important one in terms of incomings and outgoings. Starting a European qualifying campaign in late July coupled with some players featuring in Euro 2020, it wouldn’t leave a club that does it's business as ‘cautiously’ as Burnley with much time to strengthen further. Last time, Dyche played almost two different 11s for Europa and PL games and our lack of depth of quality was exposed.

CC: Burnley still have to play many of the lower half clubs, so do you think the club could achieve its record points total in the Premier League this season?

NNN: It’s certainly possible. We are currently 20 points behind 2018’s final total, however the points seem to be being shared a lot more this year with the middle of the table getting quite congested and lots of teams still in the running for those European places.

CC: Sean Dyche's team gets accused of long-ball football, but do you see more adaptability in the current squad?

NNN: There have been moments this season when we have found different ways of a getting a result, which is something we haven’t necessarily done consistently before, with Dyche being criticised for having no plan B. The team does sometimes adapt it’s approach to suit the opponent, being guilty at times of showing too much respect to the likes of City [Ed - we'd suggest that is Man City, calm down you Norwich and Leicester fans!] and Liverpool, but at the same time will come out strongly at home against teams around them in the table and look to get ahead in a game and then see it out.

CC: Does Nick Pope get the credit he deserves in goal, considering he has had nine clean sheets?

NNN: Not entirely. He’s probably guaranteed to be part of the England squad this summer, but if you look at his stats, he should also be the number 1 keeper. The issue is whether Southgate is brave enough to drop Pickford. I think the test will be the games in March, if Pope features in them then he could have a good chance of being England’s no. 1 this summer.

CC: Burnley have had some unexpected wins of late. Why are the main reasons for the upturn in form compared to the start of this season?

NNN: I’ve said for a while that this team is a team of runs. They are almost always on a bad or good run. The question when they are on a bad run, as happened over Christmas, is where the next win will come from and how they will snap out of it. By all accounts, the squad simply go back to doing the basics well and stay positive and supportive of each other and once 1 result comes, others follow.

CC: How do you feel about the home form, having drawn with Arsenal but lost to Norwich in the cup at Turf Moor?

NNN: We’ve come to accept that Dyche clearly prioritises the league over any potential cup run as that’s what keeps us financially stable. He sees the ties as opportunities to give the rest of the squad playing time and as he rarely changes his starting 11 in the league it means that the cup teams haven’t had much game time together to gel and it quite often shows. Our home form is usually what keeps us up, as we generally don’t do as well on our travels, but this is improving, with 4 away wins this season already.

CC: Has there been a particular VAR decision for your team that you were pleased with or really annoyed about?

NNN: The most annoying one that sticks in my mind is the one away at Leicester where Johnny Evans was chasing lost cause, a shot from Chris Wood that Schmeichel hadn’t managed to stop, into his own net and felt the slightest of touches on his heel and went down like he’d been shot. Naturally VAR had a look and because there had been the tiniest accidental contact, ruled it out. Madness.

CC: What's the best thing about being a Burnley fan?

NNN: Firstly, the history. Founder member of the football league that has sunk right to the point of almost falling out of the league and then risen back to the top flight and is surviving in the toughest league in the world.

Secondly, the community. Burnley is a town team. Regular attendances of 20,000 from a town with a population of a little over 80,000 shows how much the club means to the people. Walk down the street and you’ll see more Claret replica shirts than any other. The club is the town.

CC: Burnley have got the better of Bournemouth once already this season. Do you think Burnley are better suited to playing Bournemouth than a lot of other clubs in the Premier League?

NNN: As I mentioned earlier, we adjust our approach according to our opponents and I guess we see ourselves very much as an equal of Bournemouth, small clubs, punching well above their weights, so the matches are always going to be close.

CC: Who has been Burnley's most improved player of the season so far?

NNN: That’s a tough one. There’s a number of players who have maybe stepped up a level from last season, but to single one out, it may have to be Chris Wood, for his consistency of finishing chances that are created for him, or Nick Pope, for returning to the number 1 slot and generally dominating that area.

CC: How do you expect to line up against Bournemouth?

NNN: Dyche doesn’t change a winning team if he doesn’t have to, so assuming Chris Wood isn’t fit enough to start it will be: Pope, Bardsley, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor, Hendrick, Westwood, Cork, McNeil, Rodriguez, Vydra.

CC: What is your score prediction?

NNN:  I think the momentum is with us and we have the ‘finish line’ of 40 points in sight so I’m going for a 2-0 to Burnley.

CC: I can't argue with the confidence that Matt speaks about his beloved Burnley. They have certainly raced up the league in recent weeks and are now only looking upwards. It is going to need something special to slow their progress and it could be considered an upset of Bournemouth did get a win at Turf Moor. But Burnley don't always beat Bournemouth twice in a season and we'll just hope that Burnley have a few problems at home in this game so we can claw a few points back on them and some other teams.

Make sure you check out the No Nay Never site for all things Burnley FC.

Sheffield United v AFCB
Blogger Interview: Dem Blades
Twitter: @Dem_Blades

A second Sheffield United blogger interview. This time I spoke to Sam at Dem Blades who managed to squeeze in some answers for me before the game. Let's see if he is as confident as Blades Podcast on Sheffield United's match against Bournemouth.

CC: Why do you think Chris Wilder has got it so right this season?

DB: Square pegs in square holes! There's a simplicity to our success, a squad who works hard for each other at all times and individual players who know their part in a team. When they work in concert, it allows for moments of individual brilliance and creates space for our most potent threats to attack.

CC: Are you at all surprised by the gap Sheffield United has made over the other promoted sides or did you expect Norwich and Villa to struggle and the Blades to do well?

DB: I am surprised at the gap I suppose, but not necessarily the fact that we are above those teams. We were always a superior defensive outfit to Norwich and Villa. So for me, it was unsurprising that they've struggled at the back seeing as their defensive recruitment was poor to none existent. 

CC: Are Sheffield United fans thinking it would be a disappointment now if they didn't get into Europe at the end of the season?

DB: I don't think we'd be disappointed. We'd be getting way beyond our station if we thought we 'deserved it'. But I think we will make it to Europe based on our form throughout the whole season. There gets to a point when you look at our points per game (1.44), and then you look at our run-in (not too scary) and barring a huge drop-off, we'll be close to those European spots. It's worth remembering too, that the Blades under Wilder usually end the season strongly (in our promotion to the Championship we won our last 7 games to get 100 points). 

CC: Who has been the best buy that Sheffield United have bought for their Premier League campaign?

DB: Difficult. Most of the players we have bought have been kept out by the players who got us promoted last year. But for goal and points, it would have to be your former player Lys Mousset. We can't always get him fit, but Wilder can get a wonderful tune out of him! I've not seen a defender who looks comfortable against him. 

CC: How do you feel the home form is holding up having recently played Aston Villa, Watford, West Ham and Man City at Bramall Lane?

DB: It's a tough one because we have suited being an away side. But I think as the season draws on, our form will improve. With the pressure of staying in the division all but lifted, I think we'll come out and attack teams with a touch more freedom. 

CC: What game has been your favourite win and why?

DB: Favourite win....ooh. Let's say Burnley at home. We just blew them away in what we thought might be a tough game. Likewise Aston Villa at home too. 

CC: Do you think the goal that Dean Henderson let in against Liverpool earlier this season actually helped him to raise his game in subsequent matches?

DB: I'm not sure on that one. Henderson is a fine keeper. Freakish things happen to good keepers and that was one of them - maybe it helped him to keep his high standards but I'm not sure about raising them.

CC: Are you looking forward to see how Aaron Ramsdale does in Bournemouth's goal as a former Sheffield United lad?

DB: Yes, it was a shame when Ramsdale left. A great keeper and one who is growing into one of the best in England (not quite as good as Deano though). 

CC: Who do you prefer to play up front - McGoldrick, Mousset, Sharp or McBurnie - do they all offer something different?

DB: David McGoldrick is like watching Dimitar Berbatov (who can't score). I love him. He comes deeps. He has more time on the ball than anyone on the pitch in pretty much every game he plays (a bit like your boy David Brooks). He's just magic to watch. Over the course of the season, McGoldrick and Mousset. I love them all though. 

CC: Which players do you think might leave Sheffield United in the summer because they are in demand?

DB: Jack O'Connell is the only one I think we might seriously struggle to hold onto. A strong, ball-playing centre half who is unbelievably reliable and has barely missed a game in three years. Other than that, I think we're fine. 

CC: How do you expect to line up against Bournemouth?

DB: Same team as last time out (McBurnie and Sharp up top, new signing Sander Berge in midfield).

CC: What is your score prediction?

DB: 3-0 Blades win. 

CC: I was beginning to like Sam until I saw his score prediction. I am not sure if Sheffield United have scored three at home that often so he's definitely got it in for the Cherries. I, on the other hand, think it will be a much tighter game with possibly a 1-2 away win. Bournemouth have a real team spirit to build on their recent wins and if they can get points up in the steel city then I think it will ease the pressure in their next game. So I'm backing the Cherries for a win.

Many thanks to Sam at Dem Blades for telling us more about Sheffield United.

Match Preview: Sheffield United v AFCB
Podcaster Interview: Blades Pod
Twitter: @bladespod
Ben at Blades Podcast was kind enough to spare a few minutes to answer some questions ahead of the game on Sunday. I wanted to find out why Sheffield united fans felt they had been doing so well and if they were prepared for what lies ahead- top six finish, European football, FA Cup glory! It's not a bad time to be a Blade is it?

CC: What do you think has been the real secret of Sheffield United's great season?

BP: There's a number of factors but a lot of them come back to the manager and backroom team. Our fitness levels this season have been sensational and we've avoided any serious injuries (touch wood). As to our manager and assistant, we've tweaked our formation and style for the Premier League and reaped the benefits of becoming a team that can live without the ball and break quickly. At the same time, we've retained (and improved on) the skill levels we had in possession last season, allowing us to break presses by playing out from the back against even the top teams - but now we have the pace of Mousset or the target of McBurnie to give us something different if we need it.

CC: If the club got into the top six do you think it would be ready for European football or could it be problematic for the club in the Premier League next season?

BP: Honestly no way of knowing. We were told we didn't have the depth for the Championship, then the Premier League, and now here we are. The club has spent some money in the last couple of transfer windows and we're not slow to move players on and find better versions of them, even in positions where it might not seem urgent to do so (eg, a fifth centre-back). We've also seen players take big leaps forward under Wilder in their second years with us, so I'd expect a few of the newer players to do that next year and suddenly emerge as genuine first-team players rather than fringe ones.

CC: Are you worried that Chris Wilder is getting linked to new jobs now more often than Eddie Howe?

BP: No - it couldn't be much rosier at the moment. A messy ownership dispute was settled a few months ago, Wilder recently signed a contract until 2024 and the club just broke its transfer record for the fifth time in seven months. Plans are in place on and off the pitch for the continued progress of the club and I just don't see a situation where Wilder leaves unless there's a job he truly can't turn down - and teams like Man Utd are too myopic to consider him. With respect to someone like Everton, what do they really have that the Blades currently do not?

CC: Which game do you think has been Sheffield United's best result and why?

BP: On paper, the 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, coming back from 2-0 down, is probably the standout. But I thought our dismantling of Burnley - a "proper" Premier League team - was just an incredible performance. We were 3-0 up at half-time and Burnley seemed utterly shellshocked at the speed and incisiveness with which we attacked. Their left-back was hauled off at half-time and we should really have made it 4, 5 or 6 in the second half.

CC: Do you feel you are in with a big chance of getting to the latter stages of the FA Cup and does the competition interest fans as much as the Premier League?

BP: It is a very, very good opportunity to have a run. Reading away is about as winnable as you could ask for at this stage, and then you're into the last 8 where only Man City are probably a "no chance" opponent (I'm assuming Liverpool will continue to play half a team, at best). The 5th round doesn't take place until early March, and we're 99% likely to be safe by then if we're not already, so we can afford to take it seriously. I think a lot of fans weren't bothered for the first few rounds but our league form has meant we can suddenly look at it with a bit more interest.

CC: What have you made of Lys Mousset?

BP: Amazing. We can't believe how good he is. There was a lot of rubbish written about this being the "worst signing of the season" when he joined but he immediately looked fantastic for us. He's so fast, plus his touch, finishing and strength are first-rate - he scored with his first five shots on target with us, and has set up plenty of goals himself. The only issue is his fitness - he's still not good enough for much more than 60-70 minutes. If we can get him to peak fitness this summer... wow.

CC: Which of your players were you most worried about losing in the transfer window just past?

BP: I was confident none of them were going anywhere, although I do think someone will severely test our resolve for Jack O'Connell in the summer. The left-sided centre-back is not only a superb out-and-out defender but is superb on the ball and going forward. We can't understand how Tyrone Mings is in the England squad ahead of him, put it like that.

CC: Have you any injuries ahead of the Bournemouth match?

BP: David McGoldrick has missed the last few games but may be back for this one - we tend to take our time with injured players which is part of the reason we don't have many recurring injuries. Other than that, everyone sounds like they're good to go.

CC: What would you tell Bournemouth fans to look out for if it is their first trip to Bramall Lane?

BP: The beer. Sheffield is a brilliant city to visit as an away fan, particularly if you're going to Bramall Lane rather than the other lot. The Sheffield Tap is on Platform 1 of the station and well worth a visit, and then you're a short stroll from a huge range of pubs and bars - all within about ten minutes' walk from the Lane.

CC: What is your score prediction?

BP: 2-0 Blades, which would probably finally stop some United fans fretting about relegation...

CC: Which three teams will be relegated this season from the Premier League?

BP: Norwich are too far gone, West Ham have a brutal run of fixtures coming up and a poor manager/no home advantage whatsoever. The third one is harder - I think Watford will be fine, and Villa seem to squeak out a result when they need it. From the outside, it feels like a lot of things are going against Bournemouth with the injuries etc - you've picked up some important results recently, but if you end this month in the bottom three (or close to it) then it could be a rough end to the season with the fixtures after that.

CC: Have you followed Aaron Ramsdale's career since leaving the Blades and do you think he could potentially be England's number one?

BP: I have followed his career with Bournemouth, it's been good to see him playing in the Premier League. It was a move that made sense for us at the time as we were a League One club. As to playing for England - he's probably the next man up after Pickford, Pope, Heaton and Henderson, would be my guess. 21 is still incredibly young for a goalkeeper so he has plenty of development time ahead of him - playing in the Premier League at such a young age can only help that.

CC: Excellent answers from Ben at Blades Podcast. I have to admit, Sheffield united were not one of the teams I expected to see in the top 10 let alone the top six at this stage o the season. They have been particularly hard to beat but Bournemouth must find a way past them this time unlike i the first game in the season that ended as a -1 draw.  Slip up here and we know Bournemouth could find themselves back in the bottom three.

Match Preview: Norwich City v AFCB
Blogger Interview: City of Yellows 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/cityofyellows

I had a moment to ask some questions this week of Richard Voisey who runs the City of Yellows blog for Norwich City. Norwich City fans haven't had much to get excited about apart form a home win over Man City but they'll know that Bournemouth are in wretched form and they they have a real possibility of three points that could just give them a last shot at trying to stay up.

CC: As an on looker, it seems that Norwich have some great players but are perhaps just short of one or two top players in defence to make a better fist of the Premier League. But are there bigger problems elsewhere?

COY: It’s interesting that all season long so many Norwich City players have been rumoured with moves to bigger clubs.

Rather than having any stars or big-time Charlies, Farke created a team that won the Championship. With a low wage bill individually and collectively there is no reason why players should stay.

The squad is made up of youngsters and third division Germans so struggling was pretty much on the cards. We should never have started the season without an additional centre back as three all had long term injuries with Klose, our most experienced lad still yet to be seen.

CC: What do you like about Daniel Farke as the manager?

COY: Through my eyes, Daniel Farke can do no wrong. He is a genuine gentleman and I am proud to call him our manager. He has overperformed to get us in the Premier League and had a thankless task to keep us here.

CC: Which result has been the most disappointing for you this season?

COY: Ipswich beating Accrington Stanley last weekend and halting a fifteen game run without a win. I dread the idea of playing them again next season.

I loathe everything about Manchester United and their plastic fans so it was a double blow last weekend. Only one shot in the first half produced a feeble performance against them. That makes it one win in 17 league attempts.

CC: You have a new signing, Ondre Duja, a Slovakian midfielder on loan, who Farke says might help with some goals and assists. Is it good to get some new players in now?

COY: Most fans including me are surprised with two midfield additions. Farke has up to now always eased new lads the first 11 after a number of weeks at the club. It will be interesting to see if this approach changes due to the current dilemma we find ourselves in. Having said that new faces are vital to freshen up the camp. Why no new defender though?

CC: Have you been surprised at how well Todd Cantwell has played in the Premier League and do you think you'll keep hold of him?

COY: Todd Cantwell was not a first pick throughout last season and required a couple of breaks to refocus. He has chipped in with more goals than expected and linked well with Pukki.

Having said that, he is not the finished article. He has lapses, leaves his full-back exposed on regular occasions when playing wide. He gets knocked off the ball easily and doesn’t get close enough to attackers on the edge of the box thus failing to cut out crosses.

It’s great he is a local lad but I’m not fussed if any player leaves if they don’t want to be at Carrow Road.

CC: Do you think the Bournemouth game is Norwich's last chance to have a real say in whether they can stay up?

COY: Last week was probably the final nail. The form change required to stay up would be incredible rather than possible. If we do win, it would resurrect some hope.

CC: For Bournemouth fans who haven't visited Carrow Road before - how would you describe it?

COY: A traditional yet modern and very tidy yellow and green decked stadium with three decent stands and one, the small Geoffrey Watling stand that is earmarked for development to take the capacity from 27,000 to 30,000 plus. The away fans are housed in the 12,000 South Stand.

There are two-tiered stands behind each goal. The vocal Barclay will produce excellent flag waving before the start and rendition of ‘On the ball City’ the oldest football song in the world!

A full house is expected this weekend as it has been for years, even for our season in League One. Fifteen minutes from Norwich city centre and it’s an impressive range of historic pubs, its Norman Castle and two Cathedrals. A truly fantastic City.

CC: Would you be more concerned if Bournemouth changed manager before the game?

COY:  Most clubs benefit from the honeymoon period of a new manager. Watford are a prime example. From what I understand, like City, the Cherries has horrible injury issues.

CC: Which Bournemouth player do you worry about most for this game?

COY: Harry Wilson is class and especially from set-pieces which Norwich has suffered from due to awful zonal marking on a regular basis.

CC: How do you feel the side has been playing at home of late?

COY:  If matches lasted just 45 minutes City would be way up the table. 22 home points would have been accumulated. If we concede first, we will lose.

CC: Have you any injured players for this game?

COY: Grant Hanley limped off and has a cold but should be ok. The other centre back Ben Godfrey is training again after a long break but will not be ready. Timm Klose might be back before the end of the season. Teemu Pukki has a hamstring and damaged toe but should be back in contention.

CC: How do you expect to set up for the game?

COY: The same set up as for every game this season and set up to win the game. One upfront with a number 10. Two wide midfielders and two defensive midfielders. Two centre backs with two attacking wingbacks.

CC: We are on a terrible run, so what is your score prediction?

COY: 1-1 which will be unhelpful for both of us.

CC: And who do you think will end up in the bottom three?

COY: Norwich City, Villa and Bournemouth.

CC: Many thanks to Richard of City of Yellows for writing his answers for this post. It's good to see the dislike of Ipswich Town shows no signs of let up. Neither of these teams wanted to be in their situation at this time of the year but for one of them there could be a last reprieve if they could get three points from this match. There isn't much time left for Norwich to get out of trouble and Bournemouth are going to lose touch with safety if they don't get the win. This game is now the biggest of the season for both teams and I imagine the hopes of our teams survival or not will be made a little clearer after this result.

Do check the recent posts of City of Yellows.

Match Preview: West Ham United v AFCB
Blogger interview: Claret and Hugh
Twitter: @ClaretandH

I spoke with Hugh at Claret & Hugh over the Christmas week about West Ham United's form. Most of these questions were asked before West Ham's defeat to Leicester City, but then Manuel Pellegrii was sacked shortly afetr and I thought I'd better get back to Hugh for one more question.

CC: Do you agree with Ian Abrahams (West Ham fan & TalkSport broadcaster - The Moose) who has been saying Manuel Pellegrini is a manger can't doesn't inspire his players - and if so who would be best to inspire the Hammers?

C&H: It's always difficult to tell from a distance, but one has to bear in mind the man's calm approach not only to football but life itself. There was no problem last year when we were safe from the usual relegation worries by Christmas playing a brand of football for which we had been crying out for years. He lost key players in Hammer of the Year Fabianski at your place and word is he'll be back for the Bournemouth game. Antonio, has been colossal since his return, and the Chelsea and Saints wins were really all about him.. Non-inspirational Pellegrini? Jury still out on that, but I don't believe it to be the case.

CC: What was West Ham's biggest transfer mistake of last summer - either in or out?

C&H: Absolutely no question about that one. Goalkeeper Roberto was entirely inept and responsible for conceding 14 goals in six PL games and another four against Oxford in the Carabao Cup. At Burnley he came to punch clear and planted in the back of his net. He's been a disaster and probably responsible for the shortage of confidence right through the squad until being replaced.

CC: Where will Bournemouth and West Ham finish this season - are there three worse teams?

C&H: I don't see either team going down and reckon the Hammers have enough quality to be much closer to or within the top 10. The aim was always top seven for us but without some tweaking in January that's a tough call. The Cherries are a tightly knit unit and Eddie Howe will sort the form out. I'd see us alongside each other.

CC: No wins in your last five home games - what's been the main problems in the way you have been conceding goals?

C&H: Well of course we had a comedy goalkeeper between the sticks with Fabianski injured and although he had been replaced by the time Arsenal arrived, we were hurt by a team that looked very poor but had players who could hurt you which they did with three goals in ten minutes. Beyond the Spanish stopper we have been very weak at set pieces.

CC: If you could shoes a Bournemouth player to buy in January, who would it be and why?

C&H: A striker is a top priority in the summer and the club is apparently looking everywhere. Callum Wilson has been regularly linked but not sure he's a £70 million player. I've always liked Josh King - he'd do for me. Quick over the ground, eye for goal. I like the bloke.

CC: Score prediction for WestHam v AFC Bournemouth?

C&H: Hmm... we owe you cos you did the double over us last time so I'm gonna be loyal and go for a 2-0 on the basis that Fab is back along with Lanzini. But Antonio is the man to inspire a win.

The extra question
CC: What are your first thoughts of Pellegrini's sacking and the re-appointment of David Moyes at West Ham United?

C&H: I was a huge Pellegrini fan like most others when the appointment was made but the change unquestionably had to be made. He completely lost his way and the club needed to appoint someone quickly. There was no time for negotiations with employed managers and Moyes has been there and done it before. He knows the club and has a better squad than last time and I believe the right decision has been made. I think the first thing he will do is go three at the back which is where he started last time. I feel more confident now than I did ahead of Leicester City.

CC: I also wrote some answers for Claret & Hugh so do have a look on that website to see my thoughts ahead of the game. They should be up on the site at some point today.

West Ham Utd Home Form

AFCB Away Form

Match Preview: Brighton & Hove Albion v AFCB
Blogger Interview: We are Brighton
Twitter @wearebrighton

Despite the hectic Christmas period I managed to get a few words with We Are Brighton blogger Scott. With virtually nothing between the teams as they go into this fixture I wanted to know if Brighton fans were pleased with the season so far and if they were better placed at avoiding the drop than they have been in the past.

CC: Is Graham Potter a better manager than Chris Hughton?

WAB: The jury is still out on that one. Statistically, we're no better off at the minute than we were in our two Premier League seasons under Hughton. The football under Potter however is worlds away from what we saw under Hughton. Gone is the Brighton that would consider a 1-0 win to be the perfect result and in it's place, Potter has brought an attacking, possession based style which is extremely pleasing to watch.

We won't know if changing managers has paid off until the end of the season, and if we do end up being relegated there would be a debate to be had about whether you'd rather bore your way to top flight safety or go down, but do so playing expansive football that justifies the extortionate cost of a matchday ticket at the Amex. But at the moment, the signs look good.

CC: Do you feel the team is better equipped to do better in the Premier League this season, and where are you stronger/weaker?

WAB: One glaring weakness we now have is at the back. Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy were one of the best partnerships outside of the top six, but Potter has dropped Duffy in favour of our £18m signing from Bristol City Adam Webster. That decision has been made on the basis that Webster is a better footballer and while he can certainly play a pass better than Duffy, he cannot defend as well and looks like a rabbit in the headlights anytime he is confronted with a ball in the air.

In terms of strengths, we're no longer reliant on Glenn Murray to score all our goals. Over the previous two seasons, Murray was responsible for 36 per cent of our output, no team in the history of the Premier League had even been so reliant on one player. We've now got goals coming from Neal Maupay, Leandro Trossard and Aaron Connolly and Aaron Mooy's arrival has eased the creative burden which fell on Pascal Gross. We may be weaker defensively, but we're a lot more capable going forward.

CC: Is there a position where Brighton really must bring someone in during the January window?

WAB: We desperately need a left back. Potter has been using 6'7 centre half Dan Burn there this season which very much looks like a square peg in a round hole. Going forward, Burn is fine - which is astonishing really when you consider his height and his natural position. Defensively though, he's struggled whenever a side has pushed a half decent winger against him. Not helped by the fact that we play 4-2-2-2 most of the time, so he doesn't have any help from a covering winger either. If you're going to use such a narrow formation, you need to have specialist full backs who can cope.

CC: Young Aaron Connolly reminds me of a youthful Wayne Rooney. Do you think he has the talent to score such a variety of goals as Rooney in time?

WAB: Definitely, yes. The similarities between Rooney and Connolly are glaring really - they're both powerfully built for their age, both have an astonishing work rate and both hold no fear. Connolly's second goal on his full debut against Spurs was very Rooney-esque in the way that he latched onto a through ball and caught the opposition goalkeeper by surprise by having the confidence to take a shot on early. He's an exciting prospect and one we're very lucky to have.

CC: Neal Maupay has been among the goals. Have you been shocked at quite how well he has done since signing last summer - well worth the price-tag?

WAB: Maupay took a bit of time to get going, but now he's up and running you can see what a quality addition he is. I'm always very dubious when Brighton spend big money on a player as normally, they turn out to be rubbish. Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Jurgen Locadia were nearly £40m worth of attacking talent who managed three goals between them last season.

Maupay though is worlds apart from those two. He's always in the right place at the right time - as is shown by the number of easy chances he misses as well as scored - he never stops running and he loves to wind opposition fans up. He's proving to be quite the fan favourite.

CC: What was Brighton's best game this season so far for you?

WAB: Spurs at home wasn't just our best game of the season, it was probably our best game in the Premier League to date. Mauricio Pochettino was on his last legs and they were terribly out of form, but even so to win 3-0 and be totally dominant with Maty Ryan not having a save to make against a side who reached the Champions League final four months previously was superb.

CC: And the worst game?

WAB: Sheffield United at home last week. We had no answer to their overlapping centre backs and every Brighton player was a three out of 10 at best. Hopefully, that was a one-off.

CC: Any really bad VAR decisions or good for Brighton?

WAB: We've been quite lucky with VAR. It gave us a penalty in our 3-2 win against Everton when Michael Keane accidentally trod on Aaron Connolly's toe when challenging for a high ball in the box. It was never a spot kick in a million years and I believe that it was one of the rare instances so far where even the FA had to say that VAR got it wrong. Sheffield United also had two goals ruled out against us last week which stopped our 1-0 defeat to them becoming an embarrassment.

CC: Why hasn't Lewis Dunk been called up again to the England squad yet - is it that Brighton aren't fashionable enough or has his form dropped?

WAB: I just don't think he's a Gareth Southgate type of player. Southgate wants to promote young players who've been through the England system and Dunk was never capped below senior level. He's also 28-years-old, so it's understandable that Southgate would want to look at the likes of Fikayo Tomori who is going to be around for the next 10-15 years rather than Dunk. I don't think our style of football under Hughton helped either. England are obviously wanting to play out from the back which is something we never did previously. Potter's appointment could help Dunk's England chances in that regard, but sadly I think the boat has sailed for him barring an unbelievable run of form in the New Year or a load of injuries to the players ahead of him in the pecking order.

CC: What is your favourite Brighton & Hove Albion v Bournemouth match from the past?

WAB: Well, we've not beaten you in the league since New Year's Day 2008, so it's slim pickings! In fact, I can't recall ever seeing us win at Dean Court in my lifetime as I didn't bother with the FA Cup game last season. That most reason league win came with Alex Revell scoring his only hat-trick for Brighton, which he was promptly awarded for by being sold to Southend United a few weeks later. His replacement though was a certain Glenn Murray, so that hasn't worked out too badly for us.

CC: What injuries have you got before the Bournemouth game?

WAB: Only two long-term absentees at the time of writing - Solly March and Jose Izquierdo.

CC: How do you think Brighton & Hove Albion will line up?

WAB: Genuinely, no idea. Trying to predict a Potter lineup is like knowing what the lottery numbers are going to be. This season we've gone into one game with four centre backs on the pitch, another with five central midfielders and another with three wingers - and we don't actually use any wingers. Saturday is obviously complicated as well by the fact that it is our second game in the space of 48 hours, so there will definitely be players rested. We're away at Spurs on Boxing Day, a game we probably won't win so Potter could well sacrifice that game by naming a weakened line up in favour of having a full strength side fit and firing for the more 'winnable' Bournemouth game. The only player I could say with any certainty that will start is Ryan in goal.

CC: What is your score prediction?

WAB: We never beat Bournemouth and we've only ever managed one league win over Eddie Howe when he was at Burnley. I'm going for a 2-2 draw, which will be a significant improvement on our last meeting at the Amex!

Thanks to Scott who has some excellent coverage of Brighton & Hove Albion We are Brighton. The Seagulls look much improved to me over the past times when we have played them and the FA Cup win last year they had is an indication that they are now very capable of beating the Cherries, so this is going to be a tough one with both teams knowing any loser could be sitting in the bottom three by the end of the afternoon.

Cherry Chimes also answers some questions for We are Brighton - Opposition view. Remember it's a 12.30 kick off today!

Brighton Home Form

AFCB Away Form

Match Preview: Chelsea v AFCB
Blogger Interview: Chelsea Daft
Twitter @Chelseadaft.org

This week I chatted to Chelsea Daft after their successful Champions League match that took them into the last 16. But the league form had a shock last week when a rejuvenated Everton beat Chelsea comfortably. So, is there any chink in the Lampard reign or is he the best thing that has ever happened for Stamford Bridge fans?

CC: Has Frank Lampard changed what Chelsea fans thought might be possible before the start of the season?

CD: For me 100%. With the transfer ban and losing Eden Hazard, knowing that youngsters were going to be given a chance, I'd hoped that we could challenge for top six and identified that as a success. Now, the top four is possible.

CC: After the good start to the season with young players, do you think Frank Lampard would rather work with young players than buy in proven internationals at this moment in his career?

CD: I think Frank doesn't mind who he works with as long as they feel the club, knows what it means to be Chelsea and puts in the effort.

CC: Ross Barkley has made a few mistakes off the pitch, but do you think having Lampard as a manager has been good for him?

CD: Yes I do. The perfect role model as Frank has been there and done it as far as being a success and has proven himself.

CC: Christian Pulisic has hit the ground running in the Premier League. What do you think his best qualities are?

CD: He reminds me of Eden Hazard when he first arrived. He is raw, hungry and believes in his ability. After a slow start he is now finding his feet and is growing in confidence every week.

CC: Who has been Chelsea's best defender?

CD: I would have to say Fikayo Tomori as far as the defensive side of the game goes. There are still mistakes in his game but he has been the standout so far. Now Toni Rudiger is back that will change.

CC: Tammy Abrahams has a difficult first couple of weeks this season and then started scoring loads. Has he surprised you in the amount of goals he has been able to get and to keep Olivier Giroud out of the starting line-up?

CD: Being honest Yes, based on the fact he had played in the Premier League before. I thought that 15 goals would a great target for him for the season but he has been fantastic. 

CC: Is Callum Hudson-Odoi getting enough game time at Chelsea or can you see reasons why he doesn't start every week?

CD: I don't buy into the Hudson-Odoi talk personally and feel that he needs to grow much more. Of course that comes with playing regularly but he has a long, long way to go. The form of Willian and Christian Pulisic has kept him out of the side.

CC: Chelsea will probably be keen to make amends for the Everton defeat. But did you see an away defeat like that coming?

CD: No, I didn't. With Everton on the ropes, it was the ideal opportunity for us to take advantage and we blew it.

CC: Have Chelsea got any major injuries ahead of the Bournemouth match?

CD: Only Ruben Loftus-Cheek who has been out for the season.

CC: How do you expect Chelsea to line-up for the Bournemouth match?

CD: 4-2-3-1 - Kepa, James, Rudiger, Zouma, Azpi, Jorginho, Kovacic, Willian, Mount, Pulisic and Abraham.

CC: Which three teams do you think will be relegated this season?

CD: Southampton, Norwich and Watford.

CC: And which four teams will finish in the top four?

CD: Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester and Chelsea.

CC: Thanks to Chelsea Daft. The impact Frank Lampard has made is remarkable considering that he has not managed in the Premier League before. The Everton result was probably the first little bump in the road for him, but he'll want to bounce back quickly. Bournemouth go to Stamford Bridge with a stretched squad, but it is good to see that Chelsea Daft does not include the Cherries in their bottom three.

Match Preview: Crystal Palace v AFCB
Blogger Interview The Eagles Beak
Twitter: @TheEaglesBeak

CC: I had a quick few hours to try and get a word wit jay at the Eagles Beak ahead of the match tonight against Crystal Palace. They are on a reasonable run away from home and will want to bring that form to Selhurst Park. While they sit ahead of the Cherries, a win against Palace could put Bournemouth back ahead of the Eagles. So what have Bournemouth to be worried about?

CC: You have played a lot of the top teams in recent weeks so are you confident of a good run of results in December?

TEB: We were handed a rough deal by the fixture computer, that's for sure but we have got through with perhaps not the points some of our play has deserved. There was a concern that the confidence would be hit but seeing the win at Burnley at the weekend, it is clear that has not been the case which is good news going into a kinder run of games. No game is easy, but December hands us fixtures that we need to be looking to take points from and we have started in the best way possible.

CC: How do you fee about the team's home form?

TEB: Better than we have become used to when comparing with previous season's. We were unbeaten before hosting City which was pleasing, and it has been nice to see some results at home. It could be better but there has been a distinct improvement. I do find we struggle more at home as the onus is on Palace to take the game to the opposition and that often presents it's own problems. But, for the most part, we have done well this season.

CC: What is the injury situation like at the moment?

TEB: Pretty good, we only missed Joel Ward and Gary Cahill at the weekend - Ward could miss a couple of weeks while Cahill could be back on Tuesday. Connor Wickham is pushing for a place on the bench but Scott Dann left the pitch injured against Burnley, so we will have to see how he is. Good to see Mamadou Sakho back in his place at the weekend who has missed most of the season so far.
 Who would you say was the most improved player for Palace this season?

TEB: Good question - a lot of fans were disappointed by the fact we failed to replace Aaron Wan-Bissaka after his sale to United in the summer so we only had Joel Ward to step in. Ironically, he lost his place to AWB and the youngster never looked back, but Ward has done a great job this season and while he has a completely different style, it may sound odd but we have not really missed AWB which is testament to his performances.

CC: Whose form is dipping at the moment?

TEB: That has to be Patrick van Aanholt. He struggled last season, but while he has had one or two decent games he has not really got himself of the rut that he found himself in. He has a horrible habit of pushing a winger inside too many times rather than forcing them out wide and not getting close enough. Going forward, he really gives us something extra but defensively he really has regressed.

CC: What position needs to be strengthened in January?

TEB: Striker and we need to start planning for life without Wilfried Zaha but the latter will probably have to wait for the summer. We have actually done okay up front this season which is largely thanks to Jordan Ayew making the lone striker role his own since sigining on a permanent deal. However, we do need to give him some support. Christian Benteke has been a shadow of his former self and with not being able to rely upon Connor Wickham we could do with a third option.

CC: Would European football be great or would it come to soon if it happened in May?

TEB: Wolves have really taken it in their stride this year while Burnley struggled with the additional games. Whichever way it comes, yes, it would be fantastic to see Palace qualify for Europe. You cannot plan these things and you have to take them when they come along - a little like our promotion back to the Premier League, many fans said we were in no position to compete in the top division but we've done alright.

CC: What's your score prediction for Crystal Palace v AFC Bournemouth

TEB: After the result at Burnley at the weekend I'm hoping that we can follow that up with a good result to force ourselves back into the top ten. It will be a tough game as always against the Cherries but I fancy us to take advantage of your dip in form and take a 2-1 win.

CC: Thanks to Jay for some great inside information on Crystal Palace from the Eagles Beak. I might be able to put a smile on my face if Scott Dann is unable to play - he's caused AFCB loads of problems in the last few meetings. It seems that AFCB have been falling and Palace rising in recent weeks and they now meet when the top 10 place is up for grabs for either of them. The loser though would be perhaps slightly behind the pace for this season, while 19  for Bournemouth or 21 points for Palace would a good return from 15 games. Back-to back wins are difficult for any team apart form the top three, but Bournemouth need to pick up points now to avoid problems by the end of December.

Match Preview
Newcastle Utd v AFCB
Blogger Interview: NUFC Blog The Talk of the Toon
Twitter: @NUFCBlog

I spoke with Olly this week at NUFC Blog a leading Newcastle United blog. I wanted to see how things were now under Steve Bruce and if the fans were getting down to watching to football and if they had a strong opinion about any of the new players.

CC: What have you made to Steve Bruce's start to the season - is he beginning to win fans over?

NUFC: It's been worrying at times, with us often leaving our new £40m striker far too isolated and lacking a real threat in the final third as a result, but results over the past few weeks have picked up. I'm still disappointed by his appointment and worry for us this season, but am encouraged by the fact we've steadied the ship with two wins, one draw and one loss at Chelsea in our last four.

CC: Last time out Newcastle went into a 0-3 win against West Ham and the game looked over, so how concerning is it that the Hammers scored twice late on?

NUFC: It was more the fact we failed to finish our chances to put the game completely out of sight - although I was very encouraged to finally see us create and score more than once for the first time this season! That said, it is a slight worry that we made hard work of a game we should've won by three or four, with us clinging on in the end despite a completely abject display from West Ham in all areas of the pitch. We can't afford to be so wasteful at both ends on Saturday.

CC: Allan-Saint Maxim was remarkably quick against West Ham. Has it taken him a while to get up to speed in the Premier League?

NUFC: He is a real livewire and tore Pablo Zabaleta to shreds on Saturday, so he's a real one to watch for you this weekend. I hope your right-back is ready as he'll be coming up against Europe's most prolific dribbler according to the stats!

He's settled into life on Tyneside brilliantly, but it must be said that a hamstring injury made for a stuttering start to his season. Thankfully, he's come through our last few games unscathed and looks a huge threat - although he must improve his final ball, with him wasting a few big one-on-ones at West Ham.

CC: I hear Matt Ritchie is out with an ankle injury that he had operated on. Is he a big miss for Newcastle United these days?

NUFC:  Luckily, Dutch loanee Jetro Willems has come in and played superbly in Ritchie's absence, meaning he may struggle to get back into the side when fully fit. That said, his energy, passion and commitment to the cause is absolutely outstanding and has been missed at times. He isn't the most talented of players, but he's a fan favourite for his drive and determination alone.

CC: Selling Ayoze Perez to Leicester must have gone down pretty badly with Newcastle fans, I'm guessing - signs of no ambition - perhaps?

NUFC: It was a bitter pill to swallow, but Leicester's ambition on and off the pitch over the past few seasons proves exactly why he was right to join them, sadly. He was a streaky player who'd go missing at times then suddenly fire in five goals in four games, but he always worked hard, chipped in with vital goals and flourished under Rafa Benitez's guidance over the past two years.

CC: JonJo Shelvey appears to be back to his best. Do you think he is playing his best football at the moment at Newcastle?

NUFC: He was back to his best last Saturday, but that was a rare start for him these days and the sort of performance that has been few and far between during his Newcastle career in recent years. He has bags of ability and stunning technique at times, but consistency and his work ethic off the ball has always been the big issue. The true test will be seeing if he can put in a repeat performance on Saturday, with him almost certain to start with Sean Longstaff suspended.

CC: Newcastle have played many of the big teams so do you have a false league position and that the team can start picking up points more rapidly now with the next round of fixtures?

NUFC: You're right, we have played several top six sides this season and are set to face several more 'winnable' games between now and Christmas, however it's worth nothing that we've beaten Man Utd and Spurs but failed to win any of our games against Norwich, Brighton, Watford and Wolves so far. No disrespect, but Saturday's game will be a test of our ability to win against a beatable side at St James' Park.

CC: Having beaten Spurs and Man Utd, Newcastle seem to get up for the big games. So is it more of a worry when you have a team like AFC Bournemouth coming to your ground?

NUFC: Definitely. It's almost like we don't know how to approach a game where we are expected to be on the front foot, where as we thrive against 'bigger' sides, being better when we sit back, absorb pressure and then hit teams on the counter.

That said, we'll be motivated to come away with another win on Saturday and keep the momentum going after by far our best attacking display of the season at West Ham last time out.

CC: Only Watford have scored fewer goals than Newcastle - is that because Steve Bruce stets up too defensively?
NUFC: At times yes, without a doubt. Joelinton has been far too isolated for the vast majority of this season, however our transfer policy has also been flawed.

We lost two proven Premier League goal scorers over the summer in Perez and Rondón and replaced them with a talented but unproven young duo from abroad in Saint-Maximin and Joelinton.

They have plenty of ability, but we've placed a lot of pressure on young shoulders here so have to hope we can play with much more attacking intent as we did last weekend. Things are starting to click, but our front three have scored just once between them all season, so confidence in front of goal is still low – despite signs of improvement.

CC: How do you expect Newcastle to line up for this game?

NUFC: Dubravka - Yedlin, Fernandez (Schar if he's fit to return), Lascelles, Clark, Willems - Hayden, Shelvey - Almiron, Joelinton, Saint-Maximin.

We tend to play with three centre-backs, two wing-backs, two holding midfielders and two wide men either side of a central striker. It's often a 3-4-2-1 with the ball and a 5-4-1 off the ball.

CC: What is your score prediction for the match?

NUFC: My heart fancies us to pick up from where we left off and take all three points in a 2-1 win, but my head fears that we'll struggle to cope with Wilson and King and be picked off. With that in mind, I'll say a 1-1 draw.

You have a dynamic attack that can cause any defence trouble on your day, but I've noticed you've scored just one goal in your last four and will be without Jefferson Lerma. A draw seems the most likely outcome to me.

CC: Thanks to Olly. The score prediction is a tough call this week. I don't think either team will want a draw but it could be a likely out come with clean sheets prominent for Bournemouth. Newcastle will have to show their home fans they can do it at St James' Park and that brings its own pressure, but Steve Bruce is clearly loving it back in the Premier League and AFCB will need to be ready for his game plan. Read more re-match views of Newcastle United at NUFC Blog.

Match Preview
Watford v AFCB
Podcast Interview: From the Rookery End
Twitter @watfordpodcast

This week I had a quick word with Jason at From the Rookey End Podast. We all know that Watford have had a bad run of it, but there must be something fundamentally wrong at the moment at Vicarage Road. Perhaps Jason can shed some light on the situation?

CC: Why have things not been working out so far this season for Watford?

FTRE: Putting it simply we can't score goals and we can't defend. We have created a lot of chances in our games this season, but our finishing has been poor. The defensive issues had been apparent towards the end of last season and the attempts to address that over the summer have not been successful.

CC: Does the FA Cup final still have a legacy that has stayed in the players' minds or were there problems surfacing even before the final last season?

FTRE: In 2019 we have won more cup ties then league games. Towards the end of the season we were only able to beat already relegated Huddersfield and soon to be doomed Fulham. It feels like we were beaten before walking out on the pitch at Wembley, as opposed to our current predicament being a result of that game.

CC: Has the team deserved to be at the bottom or do you blame injuries, VAR or any other reason for some of the dropped points?

FTRE: We've had a few injuries including captain Troy Deeney, but by no means is it an excessive list. We do feel that we've not had the rub of the green when it comes to VAR. Handballs that should have been given in the lead up to equalising goals by Newcastle and Spurs spring immediately to mind. However, we should not allow this to cover up for some poor performances this season. The opening day defeat at home to Brighton and the absolute hammering received at Manchester City were difficult to stomach.

CC: Why do you think there hasn't been much of a bounce from the change in manager?

FTRE: In Quique’s first game in charge at home to Arsenal we did have something of a bounce. The second half performance by Watford was one of the most dominant we have seen at Vicarage Road for many a season. We should have won that game and that could have been the springboard to get our season going. However, this recent run of games has included trips to Manchester City, Wolves and Spurs. All very tricky games. Two draws in our last two games with solid performances to match will hopefully mean we are now starting to get things going and that “bounce” is not far away.

CC: Watford perhaps should have won against Tottenham last time out so can you see yourself out of the bottom three by Christmas?

FTRE: With the talent we have in the team we have the ability to get ourselves out of the bottom three by Christmas. The question that needs to be answered is do we have the mental strength to do that. Since we have been back in the Premier League, we have started each season strongly but tailed off towards the end. How we cope after such a poor start remains to be seen.

CC: Can you foresee another change of manager if the points don't pick up soon, given the Pozzo's history?

FTRE: The football world seems to be well aware of how the Pozzos operate. A lot of people and pundits are uncomfortable with it. The positive in all this is that they are quick to make decisions when they need to be made. They do not let situations plod along until it is too late to do anything about them. I would not see them changing their modus operandi if things weren’t to pick up in the next couple of months.

CC: What have you made of Danny Wellbeck since joining the team - four minutes wasn't much of a run out for him last game?

FTRE: Unsurprisingly, the club have taken things easy with Danny given his history with injuries. We have seen glimpses of what we know this ex-England international is capable of in a Watford shirt, but nothing more. In his first full 90 minutes against Coventry City in the League Cup, it felt to me like he was being asked to take it steady and, at times, just seemed to be on the fringes of the game. We hope soon that he can put his injury troubles behind him, and we get to see the Danny Wellbeck of old.

CC: Is Abdoulaye Doucoure the one player Watford can't afford to lose come January if they are to have a good season?

FTRE: Watford fans were pleased that we were able to keep hold of Doucoure over the summer. But to be fair his performances in the back half of last season and so far this season, have not been as consistent as they were in 2017/18. Last season Étienne Capoue was the standout player in midfield and when on his game, Gerard Deulofeu is a class act. Having said all that, come the January transfer window, it may not be a case of who we can’t afford to lose, but do we need to look at a changing of the guard.

CC: Five goals scored from nine games is a bit below par, so do you need a couple of strikers in January or do you trust in Gray, Deeney and Deulofeu to get you the goals you need?

FTRE: Following on from the previous question, we haven’t made wholesale changes to the team over the summer and not lost any players of significance. This team was able to score goals and from all over the pitch. On the face of it, we have the players capable of getting the goals. But most fans will tell you that centre-back and striker were the two positions that needed addressing and have done for some time. A fit and healthy Wellbeck is an exciting prospect but keeping him that way is the challenge. We do have some potential aces up our sleeves. Young strikers either on loan or to arrive on a pre-agreed deal. The Pozzo model is not traditionally one that throws bundles of cash at a player to solve a problem, and that’s what you need to buy a “proven Premier League goalscorer”. So, one of these young starlets may end up being the roll of the dice in the striking department.

CC: Do you think it is a good time to play AFC Bournemouth at home, as we can be a pretty inconsistent team?

FTRE: As far as Watford are concerned, I’m not sure that is the case. The consistent side of Bournemouth is the dangerous pace up front that always seems to cause us problems. I don’t see that changing this weekend, so we need to make sure we are on the front foot and giving the Cherries issues of their own to think about. What we certainly don’t want is a repeat of last season’s game at the Vic.

CC: What do you expect the Watford team to look like when it takes on the Cherries?

FTRE: Quique has recently looked to a back three to address our defensive vulnerabilities and that is starting to bear fruit. Well, okay, maybe just green shoots of recovery! I don’t expect him to divert from that, so we are likely to see a 3-5-2 formation on Saturday. If things go well for Prödl and Capoue, we may see them back and involved after injuries. Otherwise, the line-up, minus Danny Wellbeck, should be similar to the one that took to the field at Tottenham last week.

CC: Let's have a score prediction - is this Watford's first win of the season in the Premier League?

FTRE: Well I very much hope so! However, in the main the games between the two sides have been tight affairs with a splash of craziness thrown in! I’m going for an exhausting 2-2 draw!!

CC: Many thanks to Jason for braving the questions. Everything is still to play for at this early stage of the season but the pressure is surely on Watford. Bournemouth have to try and use that to their advantage and try and make Watford get frustrated. The Hornets are going to be trying harder than ever to get a win and Bournemouth's players need to be up for a real battle for every ball. The Cherries need to think back at how well they finished when they played Watford last time and hold it in their memories that Watford will want revenge. The Cherries will have to defend well and must stop Watford from getting that early goal.

To listen to the latest thoughts From the Rookery End - head up to the Watford podcast site.

6 October 2019
Blogger Interview: The Daily Cannon
Twitter: @DailyCannon

This week I had a chat with Lee who is the correspondent for The Daily Cannon. Arsenal have had a reasonable start to the season and no doubt the have been enjoying the Champions League results of Tottenham. But not all Arsenal supporters are content and the questioning of Unai Emery is far from quite, so are Arsenal in good shape to take on the Cherries?

CC: Unai Emery has taken a lot of criticism from the media in recent weeks, but are the fans mainly still behind what he is trying to do at the club?

TDC: Not really, if I'm honest. There is real frustration with him from the way he is treating Mesut Ozil to the defensive, cowardly way he plays in the league. A very large section of the fanbase would be happy if he went tomorrow. We're scoring less, conceding more and playing far worse football than Wenger's last days.

CC: Are Arsenal playing a bit too open at times, like in the recent game against Man United when they looked vulnerable to the counter-attack?

TDC: That's just Arsenal now and the way Emery sets us up, especially in the league. For some reason he has no clue how to field a balanced midfield.

CC: What have you thought about David Luiz's performances - has he added some leadership?

TDC: He hasn't been as good as some expected nor as bad as others said he would be. He's not really stood out, beyond the two penalties he gave away but that's standard for an Arsenal defender these days.

CC: What can you tell us about Bukayo Saka (left winger) and Dani Ceballos (midfielder)?

TDC: Bukayo Saka looks like he's the real deal despite only being 18. He's already now being looked at as a first-teamer rather than a member of the second string for the cup competitions. He's direct, fast, and keeps it simple to great effect.

Dani Ceballos is one of the most skillful midfielders we've had at Arsenal and it baffles me that Zidane doesn't like him. If Cesc Fabregas and Santi Cazorla had a lovechild, he would be Dani Ceballos.

CC: Were you pleased or disappointed to see Iwobi leave in the summer?

TDC: I think if the club could have found a buyer for Ozil, Iwobi would still be at the club. It's always hard to watch a player who has come through the youth ranks leave, but I think he needed a fresh start for his own sake. He'd gone a bit stale in recent seasons and had stopped progressing as he should.

CC: Does Pepe just need a goal or do you think he is going to find it hard to win over fans this season?

TDC: I think Pepe is struggling a little with the pressure of playing for Arsenal and his price-tag, but he'll come good. He's just in his head a little too much at the minute but you can see the talent is there.

CC: Do Arsenal rely too much on Aubameyang for the goals?

TDC: At the minute Auba is scoring the bulk of our goals in the league but isn't that what your club striker is supposed to do? Nobody asks that of Spurs and Kane or United and Rashford. Lacazette should be back later this month and he is criminally underrated in England.

CC: The last home match you had against Aston Villa was a really difficult game for Arsenal. Do you think more teams this season are being more adventurous against Arsenal at the Emirates? Has the fear factor gone for opponents?

TDC: Under Emery I don't think there's any fear factor, especially not in the league. He's a defensive coach so that encourages the opposition.

CC: Arsenal have been linked with Ryan Fraser. is he be the sort of signing that Arsenal need, especially for the assists he is noted for at Bournemouth?

TDC: As good as he is, I'm not sure where he would fit in the side at present. He would be competing for a spot with Saka and the club, in order to keep money down, are trying to field youth where possible. That being said, I wouldn't rule us out going for him again in the summer.

CC: Who is injured at the moment for Arsenal?

TDC: Arsenal only have Alexandre Lacazette (ankle) and Emile Smith Rowe (concussion) unavailable.

CC: How do you think Arsenal will line up against Bournemouth?

TDC: Leno - Kolasinac, Sokratis, Luiz, Chambers - Xhaka, Guendouzi, Ceballos - Saka - Aubameyang - Pepe

CC: Where do you feel Arsenal and Bournemouth will finish in the league this season?

TDC: If Emery doesn't burn his main players out so much that we collapse again at the end of the season, we should get top four. As for Bournemouth, they should finish in the top half and if United don't sort themselves out I can see you finishing above them.

CC: What is your score prediction for the game?

TDC: 2-1 Arsenal, we'll absolutely concede at least one.

CC: Thanks to Lee for giving us the inside information on the Gunners. Bournemouth have a few new players in the Arsenal squad to get acquainted with. I watched Saka against Man United in Arsenal's last match and he does look a raw talent. But I am hoping Bournemouth's defenders can live with him while the big job will be whether Aké and Steve cook can stop Aubameyang. Bournemouth really need to stop the service to Arsenal's striker and I think they can get to Arsenals' new midfield.

Make sure you check out all the Arsenal news on the Daily Cannon before the game.

Match Preview: Southampton v AFCB
Podcast: SaintsFCPodcast
Twitter @SaintsFCPodcast
This week I caught up with Tom Parker who is one of the hosts of Southampton FC Podcast. We have crossed paths a few times when talking on the airwaves at TalkSport, so I though it was about time that I invited him on to our Rival Lines section to tell us why Southampton are yet again likely to cause AFCB some problems!

CC: What are the fans' feeling about Ralph Hasenhüttl and his style of play for his team?

SFCP: It is safe to say that after a few duff appointments the Saints' board have chosen a manager the fans can really get behind. Ralph is someone who plays a fast, aggressive style of football with a high press. It's thrilling to watch and with the young players we have it promises to be an exciting season ahead.

CC: Who were the main new signings that the club brought in last summer?

SFCP: Che Adams was one of the top scorers in the Championship last year and while he is yet to score he is clearly crucial to the high press Saints are trying to play. He just needs a goal and I think that will come against Bournemouth.

Djenepo is the player grabbing all the headlines with two contenders for goals of the season already. Fast, skilful and strong he is being tagged as the new Mane and if he is half the player he was then Saints have got a bargain.

Finally Kevin Danso is a previously unknown to Saints fans but is a full Austrian international left sided centre-back. He has had a steep learning curve but looks solid and comfortable on the ball.

I'd expect all of the above to play against Bournemouth.

CC: You have played two of the clubs that finished in the top six last season already, so do you feel that Southampton will have a better season that they had in 2018-19 having got in amongst mid-table?

SFCP: Last season was awful until Ralph took over but after a strong start Saints fans will be hoping that is a distant memory. We appear to be defensively stronger and in 4-2-2-2 have a system that plays to our strengths. It is clear that the players have bought into the high-press, high-intensity style of football that Ralph wants us to play and this bodes well ahead of a difficult run of games in the coming months. Overall, there is a lot of positivity among the fans who are excited about what lies ahead for the team.

CC: Which result have you been most pleased about so far this season?

SFCP: The 1-1 against Man Utd was an important one. We showed that we could come back from the disappointment of conceding an early goal and held out with 10-men against a team that would normally get a winner against us. The team showed a lot of character and it is no surprise that Ralph celebrated the final result as if it was a win.

CC: Jannik Vestergaard seems a big physical character and defends very courageously like Virgil van Dyke - do you see many similarities?

SFCP: I'm afraid not. Jannik is an enigma. A big man but not particularly strong or good in the air. VvD is the best centre back in the world... let's just say Jannik is a little way away from that!

CC: Which striker do you think will score most goals for you this season?

SFCP: Che Adams. Fast, aggressive and with a wicked shot. When they start to come for Che they won't stop. He just needs to get a lucky first goal!

CC: James Ward-Prowse scored some great goals last season, has he been playing well of late and do you think he could get into Gareth Southgate's England squad?

SFCP: Unfortunately JWP has reverted to type and doesn't seem to have carried last season's form into this one. That said his set pieces still cause a problem and his work rate is to be admired. His versatility is also important, enabling Saints to shift their shape to 5-3-2 by slotting in at right-wing back. There is no doubt of his talent though and I'm sure he will be in and around the England squad for years to come.

CC: How highly do you rate your keeper Angus Gunn?

SFCP: Before we let Forster go to Celtic we had three keepers, all of which could have staked a place for the number 1 spot. Gunn has it firmly for now and is showing himself to be an adept shot stopper, making crucial saves against Man Utd and Sheffield Utd. England has a glut of good keepers at the moment but I think you'll see Gunn in the full squad soon enough.

CC: What did you feel about the way Southampton played away at Sheffield United - a team that Bournemouth draw at home with on the first day of the season?

SFCP: We rode our luck a little but in the end we did a very professional job. The team switched its system at the start of the second half and from that point on we felt more comfortable. Players like Romeu and Hojberg do a great job in difficult away games and they were vital against Sheff Utd. Overall it was a very professional performance capped with a wonder goal from Djenepo making for a very satisfying day for the away fans.

CC: Which Bournemouth player do you think Southampton have to be most worried about?

SFCP: SFCP: Ryan Fraser always gives Saints problems. We struggle to defend against pace and he has that in spades.

CC: It was an absolute cracker the last time these two teams met at St Mary's. How do you think Southampton might have improved since that 3-3 draw?

SFCP: That game had the air of a crazy end of season one. I think Saints will be much more disciplined defensively and it'll be a lot tighter. Saints will rightly take Bournemouth very seriously and the opportunity to go third (for both teams) should mean it'll be a great game.

CC: What's your prediction for Southampton's starting line-up?

SFCP: Gunn, Danso, Vestergaard, Bednarek, Soares, Romeu, Hojberg, Ward-Prowse, Boufal, Adams, Djenpro

CC: What's your score prediction?

SFCP: 3-1 Saints

CC: Thanks to Tom for giving us a better insight into the thoughts of Southampton fans before the game. It's time to take a sharp breath and hope that Southampton are not quite as good as they have been in some games and that the AFCB that has goals a plenty turns up at St Marys. While there may be noises from both managers about the 3-3 being too open last season, I get the impression that we might see both sides trying to go goal crazy again, especially when the prize of sitting on 10 points will be a great one to have at the end of the game.

For more talk from Southampton FC Podcast go and have a listen to their latest podcast - South Coast Derby Special - so it is a derby then!

Leicester City v AFCB
Blogger Interview: Leicester Till I Die
Twitter: @Leicestertid

This week I spoke with Leicester Till I Die blogger Chris Forryan about his team's start to the season and the impact that Brendan Rodgers has had at the club. Leicester have also lost one of their main central defenders to Manchester United and yet they seem to still be able to get some good results as they sit fourth on the table.

CC: Were Leicester City fans annoyed at the lateness of the Harry Maguire deal to Man Utd going through or did you feel Leicester got the best of the deal with the final price-tag that was achieved?

LTID: To be honest, No. Deep down think we knew he was going would have been more annoyed to lose him last summer post world cup when he was playing better and err yes £80m+ for a player we paid £17m for and we didn't wear a mask lol.

CC: How do you feel the defence has done since Maguire's exit?

LTID: Maguire who? Soyuncu & Benkovic were bought last summer ready for a possible Maguire exit and Morgan retirement, so despite being linked with every defender available with two man of the match performances from Soyuncu, lets just say we havn't missed him.

CC: Were you happy with signing Ayoze Perez from Newcastle United for £30m and has he shown signs of repaying some of that yet?

LTID: Was a shock and very un-Leicester like. Target a player, check his get put price and pay it. He's being used as an Albrighton replacement at the moment, but has scored a few pre-season and may prove an adequate replacement for any Vardy injuries.

CC: Just how good is Youri Tielemans and are you surprised that Leicester beat off the competition for him and breaking the Foxes transfer record?

LTID: Watch out for the big boys knocking on our door next summer, this guy could be the new Hazard and I think it speaks volumes of our club that he WANTED to come to Leicester following his loan spell with us over some of the so called top six sides that were chasing him.

CC: How important was the win against Sheffield United and was it a harder game than expected?

LTID: Always hard against the new boys but that first win is always going to be important, and it keeps us unbeaten.

CC: Who do you see as the three weakest sides in the Premier League this season?

LTID: Wow that's a difficult one. I think it will be very tight down at the bottom, more so than for many a year. Brighton I think will struggle as will Newcastle who are like the Titanic looking for the Iceberg. Sheffield United will find it tough going and I hope to see Villa in the bottom three, but that is more personal.

CC: What have you seen about Brendan Rodgers way of playing that has been better than Claude Puel?

LTID: We now play, fast, attacking, football aimed at getting the best out of Vardy. None of the aforementioned could be said in the same breath as Puel.

CC: Which player form Bournemouth's team would you happily have in your squad this season if you could and why?

LTID: Nathan Ake was linked during the 'will he won't he' leave Maguire saga and if we had managed to sign him I would have been very happy. Callum Wilson would be a good addition as we do struggle if Vardy is out, but that said I have never been happier over a LCFC squad going into a new season.

CC: Would it be disappointing not to get European football at the end of this season for Leicester fans?

LTID: Winning the League has meant we always start a new season thinking we can do it again. Blue tinted glasses off though, and yes it would be disappointing. Having a good, young, squad with an experienced attack minded manager, I think we could break into the top six. But then what do I know? Lol.

CC: How do you expect to line up against Bournemouth and has Leicester any major injury worries or long-term absentees?

LTID: Nothing long term from the main squad Ndidi, & Chilwell short term worries but -

Pereira, Soyuncu, Evans, Chilwell/Fuchs
Chowdry/Ndidi, Praet
Perez, Maddison

CC: What is your score prediction for the match?

LTID:You have always been our bogey team but I think we might just have too much for you this game so I'm going a 2-1 win to the Foxes.

CC: A big thanks to Chris who is no doubt feeling pretty good about the table at the moment and the prospects for Leicester City. Fo Bournemouth, this is a chance to go up against a side that is likely to finish in the top 10 and to try and get against a team that is unbeaten so far. Such games between Leicester and Bournemouth are usually tight, so it is bound to be quite a nervy watch this weekend. To read more about Leicester City and to see my answers to Chris' questions on AFCB Bournemouth, head over the the Leicester Till I Die website

Match Preview: Aston Villa v AFCB
Blogger Interview: A Villa Fan
Twitter: @Avillafan

This weekend we kick off AFCB's first away game and it is against Aston Villa. I managed to grab a word with Stuart Young who works on the A Villa Fan website to see how he thinks Aston Villa will go this season and who we should be looking out for.

CC: What has Dean Smith given Aston Villa that previous managers were unable to do to get them to win matches?

AVF: He has given them belief. Jack Grealish highlighted this last week when he stated that Smith makes him feel like the best player in the world.

On top of that he has United a relatively split dressing room, and even club. The fans and players are one for the first time in a very long time. There is a real buzz around the place.

Something that impresses me personally is that he doesn’t insult the fans intelligence. For example, the defeat to Spurs, he highlighted where we did well and where it went wrong. Previous managers would have just taken the 3-1 defeat as a positive.

CC: Although Villa lost the first game against Spurs, did you see plenty of positives about the performance for the season ahead?

AVF: Yes. As I have already stated, there is a plan by the hierarchy at Aston Villa and the fans are on board.

The constant comparisons are embarrassing from a journalism point of view. As Christian Purslow stated on Sky Sports News on Monday night - there was a plan out together that has been executed. Now we can only hope the plan is enough to see us progress in the right way.

CC: John McGinn scored a great goal against Spurs. Is that the kind of goal he would do regularly in the Championship, holding off the last defender and picking his spot?

AVF: John McGinn reminds me of Gareth Barry a little. They both use their body very well to keep the ball. He is of course a lot more active on the field. McGinn will surprise a few away from B6 season in the Premiership.

CC: Which player would you say is your best signing of the summer and why?

AVF: Engels looks very impressive and Trezeguet could add that little bit of magic once he settles in. But I think Tom Heaton might prove to be a great bit of business.

Not only does he have the experience but he is apparently a very good character to have around the dressing room. Something Smith seems to be very keen on.

CC: How special will next Saturday be when Aston Villa plays its first home match back in the Premier League?

AVF: I think that the game is most likely going to be a sell out, tells you everything you need to know. We believe we are back where we belong. Now we have to prove it.

CC: Can you see all three promoted sides surviving in the Premier League this season?

AVF: No. I think Norwich will regret not spending more money than they did. Sheffield United will be an interesting one as they won’t lie down and die. They have the never say die attitude but discipline may prove their downfall. Time will tell.

I am confident that we will stay up but we must get some points on the board ASAP.

CC: Is Jack Grealish a much better player than last time Villa were in the Premier League - how has his game developed?

AVF: Jack has grown up. He has matured. We have always known he has the talent but he needed to get his head in the right place which I believe he has now.

On top of that, he has added some muscle and he is closer to the complete product. But he must prove himself at the top level and no-one knows that more than Jack.

CC: What have you made of Tom Heaton in goal - was the keeper position something fans were worried about this season?

Many fans believed Jed Steer should have been given the chance of playing in the Premiership following his heroics last season.

Saying that, we did need that we experienced head in goal. The saves he has pulled off against RB Leipzig and Tottenham in recent weeks are showing just what a signing he could be for Villa.

CC: What position do you believe Aston Villa will end the season in?

AVF: We must aim as high as possible but I think we will finish around 12-14th.

CC: How do you think Aston Villa will line up against Bournemouth?

AVF: I think you will see a slightly more attacking side that the one you would have seen against Tottenham.

I believe Targett will come in for Taylor and Guilbert might replace Elmo. The only thing keeping Elmo in the side would be to help Trezeguet.

We may also see Luiz or Marvelous come in for Hourihane which will allow the wing backs to get forward while offering them cover.

Predicted XI: Heaton; Elmo, Engels, Mings, Target; Luiz, McGinn, Grealish; Jota, Trezeguet; Wesley.

CC: What is your score prediction?

AVF: I am going to go for a 2-0 home win. As I have already said, I believe we need to get points on the board especially at home.

CC: Great information from Stuart. While there are some Villa fans who expect their team to walk into the top six, Stuart can see that nothing is won easily in the Premier League. I fancy this will be a close match and perhaps there will be one or two mistakes on either side. I don't believe that defence is the strength of either team so I'm going for a 2-2 scoreline.

You should also see in the next couple of days some answers to the questions Stuart set me on the A Villa Fan website about AFC Bournemouth.

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