Rival Lines

Match Preview: Everton v AFCB
Blogger Interview: Grand Old Team
Twitter @grandoldteam
Andy's personal thoughts and opinions
Andy on Twitter @AndyCostigan1

I chatted to Everton blogger Andy at Grand Old Team this week to preview the Everton v Bournemouth match. I wonder if Bournemouth have risen to Everton's level or if Everton are starting to fall back to Bournemouth's level as the two teams sit right next to each other in the league on 27 points from there 21 games. In the past, Goodison has not been a good place for the Cherries to go visiting but this time Bournemouth will perhaps have one or two ex-Liverpool players who just might up the performance of AFCB in this game.

CC: Everton are being linked with Barcelona winger Malcom. Is he the kind of player you need or do you feel Bernard and Theo Walcott are doing okay

GOT: I think whenever you’re linked with a player from Barcelona, you have to be interested. That’s a club who’ve truly built up a enviable reputation for recruiting top talent and if they’re not commanding a place in their first team, there’s surely an opportunity to try and make the most of them in England... if they can adjust.

As for the Bernard/Walcott element, Bernard is settling in well, getting stronger and fitter with every game, and for me, his willingness to get involved is critical. He appears to have a really good work ethic and is skilled on the ball – I like him. Walcott is a different issue – he seems to be something of an enigma. Even Arsene Wenger couldn’t get a level of consistency from him to make him a regular fixture on the Arsenal team. Sometimes, he looks almost disinterested, I’d venture nervous, but that should be ridiculous given his experience. We’re tended to play him wide right and maybe, just maybe, he needs to be tried more centrally. He’s played almost a #9 position for Arsenal and England and with his undoubted pace and ability to shoot with either foot, if we don’t give him the opportunity to play there – succeeding or failing – we might be doing ourselves a mis-service.

CC: The 5-1 win against Burnley was some win. Why do you think Everton found it hard to build on that result in their next two games?

GOT: Whilst the Boxing Day win at Burnley was extremely welcome and we did play well, it was a performance massively owed due to the poor run of results since the Anfield ‘derby’. A lot has been said about the squad being tired for the subsequent games at Brighton and at home to Leicester, and it has to be pointed out that over the four festive period games, Everton had the shortest ‘recovery’ time of any of the Premier League sides. I think certainly we the fans and maybe the team underestimated Brighton on their own pitch, they’re no pushover these days as you guys found out in the cup tie. As for the Leicester game, well the Foxes came with their counter-attacking tactics and beat us without breaking sweat. We huffed and puffed, but didn’t find anything like the cutting edge and guile to undo Evans and Maguire. And they countered as they perfected in the title-winning season using the pace and clinical finishing of Vardy.

CC: What is the verdict on Marco Silva now? Is he the manager that will bring Everton fans Silverware?

GOT: I think it’s fair to say that the jury on Marco Silva is very much out and considering. We have to stick with him as we can’t keep changing managers every season (or less), but his adoption of zonal marking is causing mayhem at the back and we’re beginning to look very easy to play against. As it happens, I’ve just published a blog article on exactly this conundrum, what was it that made us pursue Silva so hard and what the effect of ZM is having on our squad.

CC: Do you think the gap to the top six can be closed by Everton this season?

GOT: In a word, No. The gap between Everton and indeed the rest of the best of the rest and the ‘big six’ is too big this season. We have the intent, but I’m not sure we’ve yet got a fully credible plan as to how to mount a real challenge for a Champions League qualifying place. In Marcel Brands, I think we have a progressive Director of Football, but he is going to need more than one season, probably nearer three and the accompanying six transfer windows, in which rectify the deficiencies within our squad, attract the right new players and determine the style of football that he has to oversee and that the manager must coach to. To my mind, the hierarchy of a DoF determining all policies and the manager and his coaching staff then working to implement said policies is vital. You can’t have a manager working at odds or differently to the overall scheme and determination of the DoF.

CC: If Liverpool win the title will you look away or applaud them?

GOT: If Liverpool win the title, I will neither applaud nor look away. Let’s be fair, they’re a very good side and Klopp has repaired the faults they had last season. They do play some very good football, but they also enjoy an incredible amount of luck, good fortune and let’s say favourable decisions going their way. If they win it, they’ll probably deserve it because the Premier League is the toughest in Europe, but their fans and the sycophantic media will make life nauseating for all of us for years to come.

CC: Richarlison is the leading goalscorer for Everton. Do you think he needs a strike partner this January?

GOT: Yes, we definitely need a striker. Whether we can acquire one this month is a huge ask and I’m not holding my breath. But we do need to find one in the summer if we can’t this month, as Tosun and Calvert-Lewin, for all their honest endeavour and effort are simply not good enough. As for Richarlison, I’m not personally convinced that he should play as our #9. As before, I think we should give Walcott a chance in that role, but we need to do it quickly to see if it can bring out the best in him.

CC: Ademola Lookman impressed in the FA Cup - would you like to see him given some starts now? And are there any players you would like to see leave the club this window?

GOT: Lookman is probably, no definitely the single most exciting player we have that we haven’t given enough game time too. He’s quick, can play off either flank, likes to take people on and can shoot with either foot. This lad is, in my opinion, one of the players we need to be building upon for the future.I think there’s a strong case for a number of players being allowed, maybe even encouraged to go out on loan. The problem we have is we spent a lot of money acquiring so many of them that if we sell them at a big loss on their book value, it damages the balance sheet and end of year accounts. Better to loan them out, saving on the wage bill while reducing their book value as their contracts run down. As for names, I’d suggest that on top of Holgate to West Brom and Dowell to Sheffield United, we should look for loans/sales for Niasse, Tosun, Tom Davies, Calvert-Lewin and Schneiderlin.

CC: Which player has improved most this season in an Everton shirt?

GOT: The most improved this season as against last season is without doubt Michael Keane. He endured a torrid first season with an awful injury, was rushed back into the team far too quickly and subsequently lost a massive degree of confidence. This season, he looks much more like the player we thought he might be when we lashed out £25 million on him. Of the new players, Lucas Digne and Andre Gomes have quickly become fan favourites.

CC: Everton were 0-2 up against Bournemouth in the reverse fixture and came out with a draw. Do you expect a much different game this time around?

GOT: Given your recent run of poor results, heaven only knows how the game on Sunday will pan out. I might be wrong, but I don’t see you guys coming to Goodison to defend. I think Eddie Howe will sense a chance given our defensive frailties to get at our back four. Naturally, I’ve got to suggest Everton will win, and with a full week to prepare for it, I think we will but, I can see it being a very close game.

CC: How do you think Everton will line up for the game?

GOT: My team selection would be... Pickford, Digne, Zouma, Keane, Kenny, Gueye, Gomes, Sigurdsson, Lookman, Bernard and Richarlison.

CC: It's good to hear at least one Everton fan who wants to give their manager a fair crack at managing the team. It took Klopp a few years to build Liverpool into title contenders and Everton are probably coming from further back so need to give Marco Silva time. AFCB have given Eddie Howe lots of time but there are only so many clubs that can be successful and competing with teams like Everton is success for AFCB. I expect a goal-filled game, but would welcome not conceding three or more goals for a change at Goodison!

You can read more of the Grand Old Team  and Andy's own Wordpress site by clicking on the links.

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

Over the Christmas week, I got in contact with Jordan at the Old Trafford Faithful website for some pointers on what the mood is like now at Old Trafford following the departure of José Mourinho. Somehow, I think this game is coming at the wrong time for Bournemouth and a very good time for Man Utd, which is the luck of the draw. But Bournemouth will always look forward to taking on the likes of Man Utd in what should be another game with plenty of goals.

CC: Was it right for Mourinho to go now?

OTF: I think so. Personally, I've given him all my backing even through the bad times this season, but you could just tell the players had stopped playing for him, and once that happens, his sacking was inevitable.

CC: Has the mood changed already at Old Trafford or do you think it will take a while to bring back the fun factor?

OTF: Instantly, it just felt like a happier place. Whether it's due to Mourinho going or Ole arriving, or a combination of both, who knows.

CC: What do you think about how United played in Solskjaer's first two games against Cardiff and Huddersfield?

OTF: The intent is there. At United, all we ask for is giving it 100% and having a go, we've seen that recently so we have to be happy.

CC: If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got United int the top four in his six months in charge would you want him to keep the Man Utd manager's job?

OTF:  My heart is already set on Mauricio Pochettino. I worry about Solskjaer in the long-term. Unfortunately, I think he's a very limited manager and as the season goes on I think we'll start to struggle more and more.

CC: Would you like to see Solskjaer given money to spend this January or can the changes wait until the summer when perhaps a more experienced manager is in place?

OTF: It's tough where transfers are concerned. With him being only in the job in the short-term, I don't think he'll get money to spend. This is a good squad but it's not a title-winning one. Perhaps give him a little bit of cash, but maybe limit the age of the players he can buy and ensure that we don't overpay at any cost.

CC: Most of United's problems have come in defence. What do you think Solskjaer might do first to try and halt the amount of goals United are conceding?

OTF:  It all comes back to confidence. Victor Lindelof is a good defender, Eric Bailly was amongst the best in the country during his debut season. If you play those two, I think you've got a real base to build from, but Phil Jones and Chris Smalling just aren't good enough.

CC: Is there reason not to sell Paul Pogba?

OTF: Simply put, he's the most talented player at the club. He's brilliant yet frustrating in equal measure. If we're to win titles in the short-term, he'll be key, but he has to show more consistency.

CC: Which players need to be moved on as soon as possible?

OTF: Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian. Attack-wise, this squad is strong. The midfield could do with a little bit of TLC, but it all starts with a good defence.

CC: What has been the most disappointing result for Man Utd fans this season and why?

OTF: The defeats to both Liverpool and Manchester City hurt, don't get me wrong, but the home game against Tottenham Hotspur was appalling. 3-0 down and it looked like the players didn't have a care in the world.

CC: What is the real feeling about Lukaku among the fans at United - are they split about him – is he good enough?

OTF:  I'm a Lukaku fan, but right now I'm firmly in the minority. He has been dreadful this season but he knows where the back of the net is. Perhaps Solskjaer can help bring out the best in him.

CC: What do you make of Bournemouth this season?

OTF: Brilliant. I love Eddie Howe and he should be in the conversation to potentially get the job at Old Trafford (although he'll probably come up short). They play good football and they entertain people. That's what it's all about.

CC: What injuries do you have ahead of the Bournemouth match?

OTF: Smalling is definitely out, while Lukaku and Martial could return. Sanchez may be on the bench but I doubt he'll play.

CC: There has been a lot of interest in Nathan Aké from United. Do you think it would be a good time for him to come to Old Trafford?

OTF:  I think he's a talented young man. If I'm being picky, I wish he was a few inches taller, but positionally he looks great and he loves a tough tackle. He was super against us earlier on in the season.

CC: What is your score prediction for the game?

OTF: I'll go 3-1 United, in a close game.

CC: Thanks Jordan for letting us in on some of your thoughts on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in particular. The Baby Faced Assassin might not have the experience yet to really be a manger to insight fear in the opposition, but he has already got Ma United up and running again. This will be just as hard for Bournemouth as the match against Spurs and with our defenders and midfielders falling like flies, it may be just a victory to get through the game without losing any more players at the moment for AFCB. Here is hoping to AFCB closing out 2018 with one of their best games of the year.

Please check out more of Jordan's views at Old Trafford Faithful.

Spurs v AFCB
Blogger Interview: Harry Hotspur
Twitter @HarryHotspurWHL

I spoke to Harry at the Harry Hotspur website before Christmas to see how confident he was of seeing Tottenham mount a Premier League title challenge. Spurs' press conference have been dominated with Pochettino rumours but would they start to annoy the fans and the team as much as they were already getting to the club's press secretary?

CC: How worried are you about Pochettino being linked with Real Madrid and Man Utd?

HH: Significantly. Poch isn't going to have any money other than that generated from sales for the foreseeable future, which limits his transfer activity. In fact, it already has. We were the only club in Europe's top 5 leagues not to buy anyone in the summer.

Worse yet, by the the time he could reinforce, our existing best players will mostly be retired or in China.

CC: Do you feel that too much has been made in the media about the lack of signings last summer for Spurs or should Levy have spent?

HH: Not enough has been made. In any other business sphere this would be referred to as sabotage.

CC: If Harry Kane gets injured, can you see Spurs keeping pace with Liverpool and Man City?

HH: Curiously enough, we haven't experienced any dip in goals when he's been out. Which is a positive.

CC: How important is Son Heung-min to Spurs' attacking play. He seems to have come back stronger than ever?

HH:  He can produce some real magic, as well as quite a lot of bumbling about. He's certainly matured since he joined us.

CC: I'm almost afraid to ask - what is the latest on when the new stadium is supposed to be ready?

HH: It's an omni-shambles. They should have never knocked down The Lane. Hopefully there's a frequent typhoon in North London, it gets blown away in a billion pieces and we discover it wasn't insured.

CC: Has the Barcelona result changed what the outlook on what Spurs can do this season?

HH: Not really. This squad on it's day can best anyone, the only problem is beyond the first XI there's no depth to the squad and we've been plagued with muscle injuries which are produced by fatigue.

CC: What injuries have Spurs got ahead of the game with Bournemouth?

HH: Mousa Dembele was last seen been led into a glue factory; Eric Dier has an appendicitis, Jan Vertonghen has a thigh strain, Victor Wanyama has joined the Scientologists and Vincent Janssen is now working in a Butlins at Yarmouth.

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

Trippier - Alderweireld - Sanchez - Davies
Sissoko - Winks
Son - Alli - Eriksen

CC: Would you like to see Jermain Defoe get some minutes against Spurs at Wembley?

HH: Of course, lovely chap. And vegan.

CC: What is your score prediction?

HH: We will win by one goal.

CC: Thanks Harry for some intelligent replies as usual. I am not sure if Tottenham fans' cup is ever half empty or half full, but if they land their first trophy this season and hold on to Pochettino I think it will be considered a breakthrough season for them and with a new stadium it should be exciting times. But with all of those things seemingly under threat, just beating teams like AFCB is not a given and if Spurs stumble a few times along their way, it is teams like Bournemouth who are eager to get success against a team that has traditionally got the better of them where we could see a shock result this coming Boxing Day.

Make sure you read up on Tottenham at Harry Hotspurwho says Pochettino is nailed on to join Man Utd.

Match Preview: Wolves v AFCB
Blogger Interview: Wolves Blog
Twitter: @wolvesblog

This week I spoke to Thomas at Wolves blog about the great start to Premier League life that Wolves have managed since their return. As well as having a forward-thinking manager they have several young players that have contributed to the good start and I don't see this as an easy game for the Cherries who only just sit above Wolves in the table.

CC: What do you think Nuno's best qualities are as a manger?

WB: I like the fact he has a clear idea about he wants his team to play and never deviates from this regardless of the opposition. I also think it's admirable in the age of soundbites that he says little and prefers to let his team do the talking.

CC:  It has to be the best time to be a Wolves fan right now, but were you surprised at how long it took to get back to the Premier League?

WB: Well, I didn't expect consecutive relegations that's for sure. But we've spent the vast majority of the last 30 years in the second tier trying to get out so it was nothing new. Our previous owners were never that ambitious, so the Championship felt like our level until Fosun took over.

CC: To me it looks like Wolves have much more of a vision of how they want to play and how the club can develop now - is that a comfort to the fans?

WB: Absolutely. It feels like everyone shares the same vision for how we should be playing and there's limitless ambition. The owners have spoken openly about wanting to compete with the Big 6 and haven't been shy about backing that up with considerable investment. It's exciting times.

CC: You have had some great results in the Premier League already, but why do you think Wolves results against the top six have been better than some of the results against the bottom six?

WB: I think we play better on the break and when we're winning possession high up the pitch from teams trying to play out from the back. The top teams tend to do that more than those struggling at the bottom. Motivation and the pressure of expectancy may also be a factor.

CC: A lot of attention has been focussed on Morgan Gibbs-White. Do you think he could be fast-tracked and be involved for England in the next European Championships in 2020?

WB: He's only just had his first Premier League start for us so probably premature to be talking about England. But certainly if he plays consistently for the next year or so as well as he did against Chelsea the other day, why not? The talent is most definitely real. He's been talked about for years so it's great to see the potential coming to fruition.

CC: Are you enjoying not having a derby game this season?

WB: It's certainly nice to be top dogs in the West Midlands as we haven't enjoyed that status in my lifetime. Every game has that derby atmosphere in your first season back in the Prem, so I'm not too bothered if I'm honest.

CC: Do you think we are yet to see the best of Ruben Neves?

WB: I'd say so. He continually improved last season and peaked down the home stretch and it could be the same this time. He's had to adjust to the pace and quality of the Premier League but you can see he's got a lot of quality himself even though he doesn't have it all his own way at times. He'll play in the Champions League again at some point, I'm certain of that. He's got the ability and temperament to go right to the top.

CC: Nuno has not played too many players, but if money is available in January what type of player would you like to see come in to improve the team?

WB: I think we need more options and more physical power in midfield and attack, so an athletic midfielder and a proper number 9 would be handy, even if they're just options we can call upon from the bench.

CC: Have Wolves got many injuries ahead of this game?

WB: Wing-back Jonny Otto is still out but other than that, I think we're dealing from a full deck, which is nice as we head into a busy December.

CC: How do you expect Wolves to line up?

WB: 343 - Patricio in goal, back three of Bennett, Coady and Boly, Doherty and Vinagre at wingback, Neves and Moutinho in midfield with Gibbs-White, Jimenez and Jota in attack.

CC: Do you see Bournemouth at home as a must win game, a difficult game or possibly one of the more entertaining games?

WB: A very difficult game but hopefully win or lose a good spectacle. There will certainly be two teams intent on playing attractive football and trying to get the three points, so should be a great match up.

CC: Thanks to Thomas who has a great Wolves Blog. You'll see some answers to questions that I answered for Thomas on his blog this week. I think Wolves are enjoying life in the Premier League and are one of the teams that are capable of surprising teams, so it is going to be a tough ask for Bournemouth to get something from this game. I wouldn't be too disappointed with a score draw.

Match Preview: Man City v AFCB
Blogger Interview: City Watch
Twitter: @City_Watch

This week I had a talk with Dean at the City Watch website and tried to find out how confident he was of the Cherries getting pushed aside by this strong Man City team. City's players look motivated and keen to extend their gap at the top of the table, but perhaps having played in mid-week AFCB can find a chink in Man City's game. Here is what Dean thought.

CC: Do you feel that wins are coming easier for Man City than last season in the Premier League?

CW: I'd say so – just a little. It's easy to forget that City had a lot of late goals to snatch wins last season (Sterling especially prolific at doing that!) but are just sweeping most teams aside this time.

CC: Should Man City be judged more on what they achieve in Europe this season?

CW: It's high time City did a little better in Europe with semi final a minimum aim, so it has to play a part. Winning it requires talent and a lot of luck – so I don't think winning it is everything but they have to be there near the end. Winning the Premier League twice in a row (not done for 10 years) would surely be a great achievement also!

CC: Has Pep Guardiola done anything that has surprised you this season?

CW: Guardiola is constantly making tactical changes that surprise us – and because they surprise us so much, they're almost unsurprising! I wouldn't say he's done anything very out of character though.

CC: Raheem Sterling has signed a new contract. Is he the most improved player at City this season?

CW: It's between Sterling and Aymeric Laporte – but I'd say Laporte. Sterling was amazing last season – look at his numbers! As an overall player he has improved but Laporte has gone from seriously good to world class so I'd put his improvement at the top of the list.

CC: Do you expect City to buy anymore players in January and if so in which positions?

CW: Guardiola has said NO signings despite a new defensive midfielder being needed. City are close to signing USA goalkeeper Zack Steffen though - so it looks like they will spend but unless Pep was lying then no major signings.

CC: What players are currently injured for City?

CW: De Bruyne, Mendy and Bravo are definitely out. Bernardo Silva, Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus missed Tuesday's draw with Lyon but Guardiola sounded very hopeful they will be back to face Bournemouth.

CC: How well is Mahrez fitting in at City?

CW: He started slow – then really improved and has now settled in but is still having the odd stinker. I'd say he is still a WIP (work in progress) and inconsistent, but overall has improved since his early games.

CC: Leroy Sane has begun to get some starts, do you think his call up for Germany has given him fresh impetus?

CW: Missing out on the World Cup seemed to have an effect on Leroy, then Guardiola didn't use him much in the infancy of the season. Now he's really performing most weeks and absolutely devastated West Ham last weekend! He looks motivated.

CC: Are City fans thinking of only of the Liverpool home match as the game that could pretty much seal the title, or do you see Spurs and Chelsea as still being in the title race?

CW: I don't want to sound too overconfident - but I can only see Liverpool challenging at this point. They are stubbornly persistent in keeping up. Chelsea are good but Morata is an average forward and their results have become inconsistent. Spurs are missing squad depth and should've spent last summer.

CC: Man City played Lyon this week before playing AFCB, so what line up do you think Guardiola will pick to face Bournemouth?

CW: My prediction is, assuming the three injured come back: Ederson, Danilo, Kompany, Laporte, Delph, Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Mahrez, Sterling, Jesus

City play Watford a few days after so Guardiola has to make some changes.

CC: What is your score prediction for the game?

CW:  Looking at the head-to-head, it's hard to look beyond a City win despite Bournemouth's improvement and impressive league position. I'll go 3-0 to City.

CC: There is no doubting that City are strong favourites to beat AFCB at the Etihad. I can see why Dean fancies their chances of a 3-0 win and thank him for his answers. What we don't know is how much a win for AFCB could do for their season? It is pretty unthinkable, but those are the kind of odds that AFCB have always liked. Do take a look at City Watch for the latest news on Man City.

Match Preview: Newcastle Utd v AFCB
Blogger Interview: The MAG
Twitter: @NUFCTheMag

This week I had a chat with a Newcastle fan called Jonathan Drape-Comyn who works for the MAG. Newcastle have had a poor start to the seasons and Rafa Benitez has been under pressure. Still, a first home win last game against Watford should have given the Toon something to smile about. Playing Bournemouth next might not have been their pick of teams to play, but Newcastle have always managed to have a go against Bournemouth and the Cherries may find this game tougher than many others with the Toon army behind the home side.

CC: Can you see some light now that Newcastle have their first win?

No, not really. I don’t mean to come across all doom and gloom but light at the end of the tunnel would have to involve Mike Ashley leaving the club and I don’t see that coming any time soon.

As a fan base I think it is fair to say we are somewhat divided at the moment, and for fans like me, results on the pitch are not the most important thing presently.

CC: What worked better against Watford do you think - was having Rondón up front a help as a target man?

TM: I am not sure anything worked better to be honest. We should have been three or four nil down at half time! We played far better in the previous week at home to Brighton. On that occasion, they scored with their only chance. We scored with our only chance against Watford.

That’s football for you! Swings and roundabouts.

CC: Would you be happy with a 17th place finish?

TM: Yes, but if I was offered getting relegated in return for Mike Ashley leaving the club I would snap your hand off.

CC: How well is Matt Ritchie playing at the moment?

TM: Rafa gets the absolute maximum out of him, and likewise Ritchie gives his maximum out on the pitch. I wont pretend to know what he was like against Bournemouth, but for Newcastle he guarantees you 7/10 performance every week. He may lack quality or end product at times but that is a problem with the squad as a whole and not just Matt Ritchie.

CC: Who would you say has been Newcastle's best player so far this season?

TM: Well, we haven’t been very good have we? Federico Fernandez has been a brilliant signing and I think all of the fans are very happy with him. For me though, Jonjo Shelvey always looks like our biggest threat.

The odds are slimming on Newcastle picking up points regardless of what squad they put out, but if Shelvey isn’t playing then I don’t see us having much hope at all.

CC: Do you feel like teams like Bournemouth have overtaken Newcastle United in some respects?

TM: Yes, in every single respect actually. I cant think of a respect where Bournemouth haven’t overtaken Newcastle to be honest. Capacity? Historical Success? There’s two but I can’t think of many more.

Bournemouth appear to be a club with more ambition, a better team, a better ownership, a happier fan-base, better facilities, young players either coming through or picking them up from lower leagues etc. Also, your style of football is something to be envious of too, as well as having a young English manager.

CC: What kind of signings are needed in January, how many, and do you think Mike Ashley will give Benitez the funds to buy anyone?

TM: A left back, right back, centre midfielder, a winger, a number 10 and a striker. Will Rafa get one of those? I doubt it.

CC: Are there any players with injuries who you think will miss this game?

TM: Florian Lejeune is out for the whole season which was a big miss at the time but Fernandez has stepped up and is doing well.

Muto, Lascelles and Shelvey went off injured against Watford. As I said before, I would still hope we could something without the first two of those players, but with no Shelvey I would worry.

CC: How do you think will Newcastle line up against Bournemouth

TM: The same as Rafa always does (4-2-3-1).
Yedlin, Schar, Fernandez, Dummett (assuming Lascelles is injured)
Diame, Shelvey
Ritchie, Perez, Kenedy

CC: Is this a game you can feel confident about?

TM: Not at all. I don’t feel confident about any Newcastle games at the moment. If we drew Sunderland in the cup, I probably wouldn’t be confident about that! That is the way Mike Ashley has most fans today.

No belief, no hope!

CC: Well a big thanks to Johnathan who is certainly a suffering Newcastle United fan. I don't know if most Newcastle fans are more despondent that they won't get anywhere while Mike Ashley is the owner or that Sunderland fans are probably happier than them even if they are playing in League One! Still, football goes on and there is a game on Saturday to be won. The MAG has an update on the injuries for their players ahead of the game. Enjoy the game.

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

Watford have become a team that Bournemouth have found good rivals in recent season ever since the Championship days. But meetings in the most have been close and with Watford's start to this season Jason at From the Rookery End has every right to be confident of the Hornet's chances as they line up against the Cherries this weekend.

CC: Why do you think Javi Gracia has taken to the Premier League so well?

FTRE:  I think there's still a way to go before we can truly judge where Javi sits amongst those that have led Watford in the Premier League. There have been ups, downs and points of improvement since he joined in early 2018. His home record is incredible and on a par with the top six teams. His away record was less than impressive for the back end of last season and we didn't score outside of Vicarage Road, under him at all, until our first away game this season. But unlike the other head coaches, who have ruled under the Pozzos in the top flight, he has had the advantage of a full pre-season, with players he'd had the chance to look at and with the opportunity to put things into place exactly as he wanted them. So far, this seems to be bearing fruit for the Hornets.

CC: Are you at all fearful of Watford doing their regular season trick of getting points on the board before having a poor second half of the season?

FTRE:  Given the fast start, that has already been in the back of the minds of some Watford fans and being predicted on the social media timelines of rival supporters! What we have benefited from so far, touch wood, is a very settled team with minimal disruption to the starting 11 through injuries or suspensions. Our treatment list has rivalled that of the hospital next door to the stadium in recent seasons. So maybe if things can improve on that front, the "typical Watford" limp to the summer break might become a slow trot or jog for a change!!

CC: Do you think Andre Gray is going to have a much stronger impact this season and that he can score goals in this team?

FTRE:  He can and he has done so far, with three to his name already this season. He is one player who is definitely more suited to the change in formation that Gracia has implemented. Now playing alongside Troy Deeney, opposition defenders have some thinking to do. With Troy dropping short to receive and hold up the ball and Gray using his pace to try and stretch the defence, gaps are created for the likes of Roberto Pereyra to exploit. With Will Hughes, Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure all comfortable going forwards and our full backs equally encouraged to do so, Andre will then find space of his own to take advantage of.

CC: Daryl Janmaat's injury has coincided with a slight slowdown in Watford's results, is he an underrated player?

FTRE:  I don't think many Watford fans expected neither Daryl, nor his left sided compatriot Jose Holebas to be the starting full backs this season. Kiko Femenia delighted the stands with his performances in the right back slot, ahead of his own injury troubles last season. His pace causing opposing players defensive worries, as well as making it difficult for the wingers he was up against to get away from him. But with Kiko preferred in a more advanced role, albeit from the bench this season, Janmaat has had the chance to show off his qualities again. Javi's desire for his full backs to attack has suited Daryl, particularly as he likes to make runs outside to in and pop up unexpectedly in the penalty area. Occasionally there are question marks over his defending, but if he can put his frequent injury troubles behind him and get a good run in the team, then we hope he can iron those problems out and establish himself as first choice once more.

CC: Troy Deeney seems to be back to his best. How would you rate him against previous Watford captains?

FTRE:  There was talk of Troy leaving this summer. In fact there's always talk of Troy leaving in the majority of transfer windows. And we always say the same thing. It would take at least two players to replace him. The striker and the leader. He's done this job for a while now. So he's not just the captain, but (avoiding calling him Mr. Watford) he is that consistent element, part of the club, our club, his club, that he is the obvious, natural and correct choice to lead this team. It's difficult to rate him against other Watford captains as the culture at the club is very different to the time before he became captain, as is the role of the captain in the media, both social and mainstream. And I'm sure you've noticed Troy doesn't mind the odd media appearance! However, when the time does come for Troy to depart from the Vic, I'm sure he'll be spoken about alongside legends of Watford past.

CC: Roberto Peryera has also been amongst the goals. Why has he been so effective in the way Garcia has set up the team?

FTRE:  Bobby P is back playing in his favourite position, on the left and cutting back on to his right foot. Last season he picked up an injury in the first game of the season. Richarlison came on to replace him and made that position his own. Even when exhausted towards the end of the season, he was still ahead of Pereyra when it came to the team sheet. Roberto was deployed in other positions behind the lone striker, but never to the same effect.

CC: Watford were well in the game against Arsenal when it slipped away in the last 10 minutes. But do you believe Watford can go to top six grounds and get results more often now?

FTRE:  What was in evidence against Arsenal probably more so than in our other recent games against top sides is that we are making ourselves as hard to beat as we possibly can, but not holding back in creating chances by doing so. Fitness seems to be key to this and the team works incredibly hard to make up for where we can't match the opposition for skill. If we do want to go to the grounds of the big six and win, then we need to take our chances. Something that we didn't do against Arsenal. But that performance showed that it is an achievable aim.

CC: Three established Premier League teams were relegated last season, so do you feel Watford are in a much stronger position to avoid being sucked into a relegation battle these days than when they first came up?

FTRE:  Absolutely. We've gone through many changes, player wise and head coaches. Perhaps there are some areas where we have tinkered and perhaps not advanced as much in terms of the ability of the players as when we first arrived in the top flight. But this summer has been more about topping up the squad. The core has remained the same and grown together, and over the seasons we have been able to add real quality with the likes of Pereyra and Gerard Deulofeou. As well as adding some exciting prospects such as Will Hughes and Nathaniel Chalobah. But we cannot be complacent and think the job is done just because of our playing squad. They still need to work hard for those results!!

CC: Beating Spurs in the league was probably Watford's highlight of the season so far. What do you think inspired the comeback and belief that day?

FTRE:  It felt very similar to the Arsenal game from the previous season, famous now for Deeney's "cojones" comment post match. I feel the only reason we had to come from behind was because we were too cautious early on. Perhaps that was part of the game plan, contain then destroy. But it must have been hard to explain from a Spurs point of view. Three big centre backs on the pitch and they allowed themselves to be bullied out of the game by a determined Watford side. The belief wasn't just on the pitch. As the side grew in confidence so did the crowd and the whole thing just seemed to snowball towards a fitting crescendo.

CC: Is Ben Foster a big reason for the goals against being so low?

FTRE:  He's part of the reason, but not the only one. The consistent centre back pairing of Craig Cathcart and the ever improving (and king of Watford Twitter!) Christian Kabasele have impressed in this fledgling season. There's still work to be done. Only one clean sheet so far won't have been good for the defensive bonus pot I'm sure, but the signs are promising. As for Ben, we knew what we were getting as he'd spent the early stages of his career with us on loan during the Aidy Boothroyd era over ten years ago. His outstanding contribution so far this season was an impressive display at home to Palace, when some key first half saves kept the game goalless at half time, from where the Hornets took a 2 goal lead on the way to a 2-1 victory.

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

FTRE:  More of the same. We've kept with the 442 line up and only one enforced change due to Janmaat's injury all season. I don't see any reason why Javi would look to change that at this stage, particularly as the Arsenal performance was a positive one, despite the result.

CC: A massive thanks to Jason for sharing so much information on Watford FC. I think I have learned a season's worth of facts about the club and yet we are only seven games into the season! The new manager and the mix of old and a few new recruits has certainly worked well for the Hornets and even if Harry the Hornet isn't there to taunt us Bournemouth fans this weekend, we know that Watford have some very capable players who will make this one of the hardest games of this season for the Cherries. To read more of Jason's thoughts, do pop in on the From the Rookery End podcast.

Match Preview - Burnley v AFCB
Blogger Interview - Up the Clarets
Twitter: @utcdotcom

This week  I sent some questions to Tony Scholes who is the editor of Up the Clarets! While Burnley have not had the greatest of starts I wanted to see if Tony could give any insight into why it had been a slow start for Burnley and whether last season was perhaps a bit of a burden.

CC: Where you disappointed with the small number of summer signings Burnley made?
UTC: I think everyone was, and that certainly includes the manager who has commented on it on several occasions. We were playing in Istanbul on the final day of the deadline, which doesn't help. The chief exec stayed behind to try and complete potential deals but nothing happened.

CC: Why do you think Burnley have had a slow start to the season?

UTC: It's so hard to pinpoint the reasons. We were told constantly from outside that our involvement in the Europa League qualifiers would affect us. It does seem ridiculous that we had to play on six consecutive Thursdays with some of those games intermingled with pre-season friendlies.

I think we had all decided that was the reason and that things would be fine once we'd got over the travelling and had an international break. It's not quite worked out like that yet.

CC: Sean Dyche has spoke of fatigue, do you think the players are as fit as last season having had a short pre-season?

UTC: If they are fatigued then I don't think it is a lack of fitness as such but the games programme we've had. We've played on Thursday nights in Turkey and Greece and flown straight home. That must hit the sleep patterns and unfortunately, because of how the European ties were drawn, we followed those trips with away games at Southampton and Fulham.

CC: What did you make of the team's performance against Wolves in your last game?

UTC:  I was considering not even answering this question. It was as bad as anything I've seen for some considerable time to be honest. We were in disarray and it was only the inept Wolves forwards who helped us keep the score down.

CC: Are there any of the recent results where you felt the team were really unlucky not to have won?

UTC: We should have won the opening game at Southampton. We were better than they were, considerably so, but had to settle for a 0-0 draw. A week later, having conceded an early goal, we were level at half time against Watford and were, again, by far the better side. We then conceded two goals in the opening minutes of the second half and it has been pretty poor stuff ever since.

The only exception was our performance against Olympiacos. We were outstanding that night and really, with any luck, would have gone through and would have been playing in Europe again this week.

CC: Who has been Burnley's best player so far this season?

UTC: I'd say take your pick from Joe Hart, James Tarkowski and Jeff Hendrick. Hart has had a couple of outstanding games, Tarkowski is just a very good Premier League defender and Hendrick, who is often the target when things aren't going well, has been as good as anyone else forward of the defence.

CC: Who has been the most disappointing player?

UTC: It's not just one player. The two full backs have disappointed, so have the wide players, Aaron Lennon and Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, and Chris Wood has looked poor up front.

CC: Which players are injured at the moment and might come back to make an impact soon?
UTC: Steven Defour and Robbie Brady. We've missed them terribly. Defour has been out since January but played nearly an hour for the under-23s this week while Brady, who was brilliant at Bournemouth last season, suffered a serious injury on the following Saturday at Leicester and hasn't played since.

Get those two players back in the reckoning and there is absolutely no doubt we are strengthened.

CC: Do you think Burnley just need one good win to bring the belief back?

UTC: One win would certainly be a good start and I think it would be a great help to get things moving again. We shouldn't be bottom of the league but right now that's exactly where we are and we need to start getting results.

CC: How will Burnley line up against Bournemouth?
UTC: This will be interesting. Given the result and performance at Wolves I'd expect changes but it would be impossible to be honest right now to even think what the line up might be.

CC: What is your score prediction?

UTC:  We need a win, we'll get one sooner or later, so I'll go for us to win this one 2-0.

CC: I never find it easy asking fans of teams that are struggling in the league. We have all been there and it hurts. But I agree with Tony that Burnley shouldn't be there and they will pick up results sooner or later. I do believe the efforts of last season mentally might still be weighing on the team. Joe Hart has come in and been exceptional but he needs those in front of him to show similar need not to want to get beat. Bournemouth's players though are in a great place mentally, and in terms of form and while Burnley are at home, all the pressure is on Burnley's players in this fixture. To be honest it's as a good a time as any to play Burnley and that is said respectfully, as Turf Moor is one of the hardest places to go and win a game usually. What I can assure you is that it will be long odds against on a 0-0 draw. There will be goals at both ends.

Check out more of Tony's views at Up the Clarets! 

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

Chelsea have had a great start to the season winning their three Premier League games. The charity Shield defeat to Man City seems a distant memory and while media interest in their owner's troubles, and the will Eden Hazard go or stay saga has kept the tabloids busy, we wanted to know if Maurizio Sarri was the answer to all Chelsea's problems? Chelsea Daft gives some opinions ahead of the match with AFC Bournemouth.

CC: What are the main differences that you have seen in the way the team is playing since Sarri has come in?

CD: Main difference is that we are always looking to play on the front foot and to move the ball forward at pace.

CC: The game against Arsenal was a belter, do you think it set the tone for what could be a great season for Chelsea as you didn't buckle having had a two goal lead wiped out?

CD: It's nerve wracking for Chelsea fans and frustrating. We defend too narrow and allow space on the wings which Arsenal exposed. We are far from the finished article but will take every three points we can get at the moment no matter they come.

CC: Have you been surprised that the team has made this season with all the goings on off the pitch at Chelsea and the defeat to Man City in the Charity Shield?

CD: Chelsea still have the basis of our title winning side from two seasons ago with a couple of additions and let's face it, we are used to all sorts going on away from the pitch. It's no problem.

CC: How do you feel about the possibility that Abramovich might be looking to sell and the new stadium now being in jeopardy?

CD: It's to be seen if there is any real substance in these reports and I would be surprised if there was. In my opinion the press have taken two and two to make five based on the owners visa issues. The stadium is on hold and will be completed at some stage.

CC: Eden Hazard looks like he is enjoying his football again and that has to be good news for Chelsea after all the transfer talk. Is he back to his best?

CD: Keeping hold of Eden Hazard has been the best piece of business for us this summer. The guy looks better than ever and has started the season on fire. There is no one better in this league.

CC: Do you feel that Morata is doing well enough on his own up front or would you like to see Giroud partnering him more often from the start?

CD: Morata has well publicised issues with our teams style last year and hopefully, with Sarri-ball he will get plenty more chances to score. If Giroud starts he gives us a different option but I'd doubt we would see both start together.

CC: Kepa Arrizabalaga has kept one clean sheet against Huddersfield. Do you think he has fitted in well and is going to be another great keeper for Chelsea?

CD: It's far too early to say about our new man but because of the way we play teams will always create chances against us. He needs at least a season under his belt before we can judge.

CC: Nathan Aké will be returning to Stanford Bridge in this game. Do the Chelsea fans still think very highly of him?

CD: One of the ones that got away but at the same time, he was never going to replace our back three so the decision to sell was a good one. He is a good player and still fond of him.

CC: How will Chelsea line up for this game?

CD: I believe it will be the same eleven that started against Newcastle last Sunday.

    1 Arrizabalaga, 28 Azpilicueta, 2 Rüdiger, 30 David Luiz, 3Alonso, 7 Kanté, 5 Jorginho,
    17 Kovacic, 11 Pedro, 29 Morata, 10 E Hazard
13 Caballero, 8 Barkley, 12Loftus-Cheek, 18 Giroud, 21 Zappacosta, 22 Willian, 27 Christensen

CC: If Chelsea lost their unbeaten record in this game would it be a big surprise?

CD: On paper (no disrespect) it would but we have seen you guys turn up and spoil the party before. Should be a good game!

CC: Thanks to Chelsea Daft for being the second Rival Lines of the season. It does puzzle me why Chelsea are not talked about as title contenders when they have set the bar high at the start of the season and can point towards an unbeaten record just like Liverpool, Watford and Spurs. But perhaps Chelsea are not fancied because of all the going's on behind the scenes and a new manager. Chelsea Daft says they are used to it, but Chelsea are good at self-destruction. It may be that AFCB will lend a hand in lighting a few potential fires, if they come away with another away win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Visit Chelsea Daft for more news on Sarri's concerns and their £71.6m keeper.

Match Preview: West Ham v AFCB
Blogger interview: West Ham Till I Die
Twitter: @WestHamTil

Well, Rival Lines is back. Yes, we'll be chatting to fellow bloggers and podcasters about their teams for as many away games as we can for another season. We kick off with a friendly chat with West Ham Til I Die correspondent Jeff who hopefully has already gotten over the first week match that he saw up at Liverpool.

CC: Which summer signing that West Ham made are you most excited about?

WHTID: Felipe Anderson, for sure. Issa Diop in defence looks a good buy for the future.

CC: What do you know about your record signing Felipe Anderson?

WHTID: Well, I know he had a really good season last year in Serie A. He is skilful and hard working and looks to be a great buy.

CC: Was the club right to spend as much as it did on new players this summer and is there any worries about integrating them into the team quickly?

WHTID: Well they obviously had to give Pelligrini some money to spend as part of the terms of him coming to West Ham, so yes. I’m not worried about integrating them into the team, although we appear to be left with a bit of a top heavy squad.

CC: Many pundits have suggested that West Ham could even challenge the top six this season, what are your thoughts on that?

WHTID: No chance!

CC: What do you feel about the striker situation at the club now - who is going to get you the goals?

WHTID: Arnautovic started hitting the back of the net last season, and we’ve always got Chicarito in reserve if required. What we need is for the likes of Antonio and Anderson to score some back-up goals from midfield.

CC: Manuel Pellegrini has had plenty of experience with Man City, are the fans more expectant of Pellegrini to do better than David Moyes?

WHTID: David Moyes did what he was asked to do, which was to keep us up. At the end of the season he had us playing quite well also, so I’ve no problem with him. If our ambition is to do more than just stay up, then expectations have got to be higher.

CC: Are you feeling any more confident about winning games at home?

WHTID: Not really! But I’m hoping we can get off to a good start on Saturday.

CC: What did you make of the team that was selected to play Liverpool?

WHTID: Before the game I thought. It looked a reasonable side, after I had changed my mind. Obviously Noble and Wilshere do not look to be such a great pairing.

CC: Was it a risk to buy Jack Wilshere with his history of injury problems?

WHTID: Yes. Definitely. I hope it pays off, because a really fit Jack Wilshere would be a great addition to our squad, him being a Hammer and all. However I fear that players with a bad injury record over three or four years often never return to earlier heights.

CC: Do you think the bench for West Ham will be much stronger this season with players that can change games?

WHTID: Yes. I can see Antonio/Chicarito being on the bench raring to get on most games. The change being that Antonio is fit this year. Oh, and we’ll probably have ‘Big Andy’ on the bench at least 4 times this season.

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

WHTID: Fabianski / Ogbonna Diop Cresswell/ Fredericks Noble Rice Wilshere Antonio Masuaka / Arnautovic Anderson

CC: How important do you think a win will be for West Ham in this game?

WHTID: It will be nice if it happens. Too early to put a degree of importance on it.

CC: I felt a bit of lost optimism from Jeff after the first week of games, but trust me West ham and their fans will be another prospect at home to Bournemouth. It's a game they know they can win and will probably think they should win. But Pellegrini has to pick his players up and find a few solutions to the problems they are creating themselves as a team. He then has to set about a Bournemouth side who won't just roll over. With Jack Wilshere among West Ham's ranks, it is really set up to be a fabulous day that could get West Ham off the bottom of the league or could push Bournemouth up to top spot. Now I am dreaming! Read more about what West Ham Til I die thinks about the upcoming game by visiting their website. I also answer some of Jeff's questions on their site about AFCB.

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