English Premiership

Cherries, Red Devils and Reds hold the aces

2018-02-11 06:06
Jose Mourinho (Supplied)

Johannesburg -  In today’s English Premier League action, Huddersfield Town take on AFC Bournemouth, Newcastle United face Manchester United and Southampton take on Liverpool at home.

Huddersfield vs Bournemouth

Relegation was predicted for The Terriers since they won promotion to the Premier League, following a heroic run through the Championship play-offs.

Though David Wagner’s men scored the fewest goals in the Championship’s top six and conceded the second most to finish fifth, they squeezed into England’s top flight by penalty shoot-out wins over Sheffield Wednesday and Reading.

It seemed Huddersfield were going to be outgunned in their first return to the elite league since the 1971/72 season. The predictions of doom and gloom did not initially pan out as the club beat Crystal Palace 3-0 on the opening day and followed with a victory over Newcastle United.

A famous triumph over Manchester United in late October had supporters believing that survival was a realistic possibility. However, the sheer quality of the Premier League seems to have been too much to cope with because Huddersfield have fallen into the drop zone following five consecutive losses.

Contrast this with the changing fortunes of the visitors to John Smith’s Stadium and it typifies the emotional roller coaster ride that managers such as Wagner and Eddie Howe have to contend with. After four back-to-back losses at the start of the 2017/18 season, Howe’s previously consistent side was rooted at the bottom of the table.

This year brought three victories and two draws, including the scalps of Arsenal and Chelsea, and the south coast outfit has risen to ninth on the log.

Today’s contest in West Yorkshire is critical for Huddersfield – with 14 goals against them and just one scored this year, anything less than a point against an in-form Bournemouth could prove true the prediction that they are outgunned at the top.

Newcastle vs Man United

In 2004/05, the competitive relationship between managers Rafael Benítez and José Mourinho verged on hateful when Benítez’s Liverpool knocked Mourinho’s Chelsea out of the Champions League in the semi-finals, thanks to what the Portuguese called Luis García’s “ghost goal”.

The pair face each other at St James’ Park with their careers having taken significantly different trajectories. The Spaniard has seen his stock fall after underwhelming spells with Inter Milan, Chelsea, Napoli and Real Madrid. Meanwhile, Mourinho is still regarded as the “special one”, despite Pep Guardiola taking some of the shine away from that title in recent years.

Mourinho’s Manchester United have virtually locked down second position in the league, with the squad valued at close to £700 million (R11.6 billion).

Compare that with the struggling Magpies in 16th position, who are valued at closer to £160 million, and it’s easy to see the gaping divide in quality.

While the professional rivalry between the two bosses remains as intense as ever, it appears the Red Devils will be in control in the North East.

Southampton vs Liverpool

The return of central defender Virgil van Dijk to St Mary’s Stadium is a major talking point after his £75 million move to Liverpool last month.

Thus far, the Reds are yet to keep a clean sheet with the Netherlands international in their ranks.

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp is chasing his 50th Premier League win since taking charge at Anfield in 2015. The visitors are in a three-way battle with Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur to cement their place in the top four, and a win against The Saints could place them at third on the log.

Meanwhile, fortunes have improved for Mauricio Pellegrino this year as his side has picked up six points from a possible 15 and moved up to 15th place. The home team has a good record over the Reds in the past six matches in all competitions, with three wins, two draws and one defeat

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Fixtures
Saturday, 24 February 2018
Leicester City v Stoke City, King Power Stadium 14:30
Liverpool v West Ham United, Anfield 17:00
Brighton & Hove Albion v Swansea City, The American Express Community Stadium 17:00
West Bromwich Albion v Huddersfield Town, The Hawthorns 17:00
Burnley v Southampton, Turf Moor 17:00
AFC Bournemouth v Newcastle United, Vitality Stadium 17:00
Watford v Everton, Vicarage Road Stadium 19:30
Sunday, 25 February 2018
Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur, Selhurst Park 14:00
Manchester United v Chelsea, Old Trafford 16:05
Thursday, 01 March 2018
Arsenal v Manchester City, Emirates Stadium 21:45
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