Manchester City Claim Festive Schedule Threatens ‘Sporting Integrity’ of the Premier League

Manchester City have claimed that the Premier League’s recently released festive fixture list threaten the ‘sporting integrity’ of the competition, complaining that title rivals Liverpool have a far more favourable schedule. 

The crux of the complaint lies with the decision to push back the champions’ Boxing Day clash against Wolves – the team that beat them in their last game – at Molineux to the day after at 7.45pm, leaving them just 48 hours before they host Sheffield United.

Pep Guardiola

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Omar Berrada, City’s chief operating officer, said:

“We’re disappointed that the schedule is so tight for the players over Christmas. Premier League games are a huge physical demand, and it’s not ideal to be made to play twice in less than 48 hours because it doesn’t give the players time to properly recover.

“We obviously understand that the paying rights-holding broadcasters are an important consideration when it comes to scheduling, but we also need to make sure that we protect the players’ wellbeing, the sporting integrity of the league, and the quality of the product.”

It is understood the ?Citizens attempted to have their match against the Blades pushed back to no avail, and Berrade admitted: “We’ve had an open dialogue with the league to consider other options, but ultimately, we will have to comply with the kick-off times and dates as they have been presented to us.”

This is despite the fact that Liverpool also have the Club World Cup to deal with in Qatar from the 18th to the 21st of December.


Indeed, the news hasn’t gone down too well on Merseyside, either, with Reds’ supporters’ group Spirit of Shankly claiming the scheduling of their Boxing Day clash against Leicester for 8pm  offers no consideration to match-going supporters, and suggesting a 3pm start instead.

Speaking to the Telegraph about the situation, Kevin Miles, the Football Supporters’ Federation chief executive, declared: “In some ways fans have been softened up for this, but it’s not fair – it’s taking advantage of the match-going fan. The fans contribute so much. They play an integral part of what the Premier League is selling to broadcasters.

“I’m a Newcastle fan and our match against Aston Villa has been moved to a Monday night. It’s the 14th consecutive away Monday night fixture for Newcastle. Someone has taken the decision that ‘those daft Geordies’ will travel anywhere, any time so we can get away with it’.

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“There is a real danger, particularly for away fans, that moving matches disrupts the ability to be able to plan travel and your life.”

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Denis Zakaria: 5 Things to Know About the Man Utd & Spurs Target Tearing Up the Bundesliga

?If you’ve been keeping a watchful eye on the Bundesliga in recent years, you’ll be all too familiar with Borussia Monchengladbach battler Denis Zakaria.

It’s difficult to miss the Switzerland international as he rampages round the middle of the park, forcefully dispossessing opponents, before pinging deft balls out to his teammates. The 22-year-old has grown into one of the finest midfield destroyers in Europe over the last few seasons, alerting a number of elite clubs to his talents.

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According to German news outlet ?Bild, Zakaria is the subject of interest from ?Manchester United and English rivals ?Tottenham Hotspur, though Monchengladbach are set to demand a bumper fee for his services.

Here’s five things you should know about the youngster who’s currently ripping the ?Bundesliga apart.


Patrick Vieira 2.0

Denis Zakaria,Thomas Delaney

At 6’2, the imposing figure and rangy legs of Zakaria make him a superb midfield anchor for Die Borussen. However, he also offers an attacking threat with his powerful dribbling abilities, despite defence being his primary focus.

The Genevan’s style of play is reminiscent of some of the best in his position, Zakaria himself ?saying recently: “I’ve been compared to [Patrick] Vieira and [Paul] Pogba – two players I really respect and, in a way, see as role models. When I watch videos of them, I think I’d like to play that way.

Given Zakaria’s impressive statistics in 2019/20, as well as prior campaigns, it’s not unreasonable to think he could blossom in the physically demanding ?Premier League. Tackles completed, interceptions, blocks and clearances are all areas of the game in which he has excelled of late.


His Lofty Price Tag

Denis Zakaria

€50m – that’s how much United and Spurs must fork out in order to land the Monchengladbach powerhouse, assuming that a bidding war doesn’t break out and escalate the asking price.

That’s a marvellous profit for his employers – who paid just €10m to bring him in from Young Boys in his native Switzerland just two years ago – and demonstrates the progress the starlet has made since choosing to challenge himself in Germany.

What’s more, ?Borussia Dortmund tried to lure him across North Rhine-Westphalia in the summer of 2018, yet their offer of €22m was emphatically rejected. It seems Monchengladbach are well aware of Zakaria’s enormous potential and know they can command a pretty hefty fee.


Plenty of International Experience

Josip Drmic,Denis Zakaria

Having played above his age level for the Switzerland youth teams, Zakaria made his debut for the senior side in 2016 as a fresh-faced 19-year-old, eventually becoming an irreplaceable fixture in the heart of the midfield.

He now sits on 24 international caps and three goals, all of which were scored after the start of the 2018/19 season. However, the Servette academy graduate had to be patient for an opportunity in Vladimir Petkovic’s first-choice XI.

Though Zakaria was restricted to only two substitute appearances at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, he had secured a starting berth by the time the Nations League finals rolled around this June.


Slick Passing

Denis Zakaria

Zakaria took to the Bundesliga like a duck to water, posting a passing accuracy of 100% in each of his first four games in the competition. By the end of his maiden campaign in Germany, that figure stood at 91%.

The following season’s performance was similarly strong with regards to his distribution and ball retention, with the midfielder on track for another stellar performance this term. 

United have struggled for creativity and quality in central areas for years, whilst Spurs are yet to replace the all-action, influential Moussa Dembele. Zakaria is a perfect candidate to help solve both of those problems, but who wants him more?


No Nonsense

Denis Zakaria,Christian Dingert

You’ve got to have some steel if you’re to thrive in the English top flight, and Zakaria has it in abundance. He may be a bit overzealous on occasion, but the wunderkind can learn to control his emotions and hone his skills.

Just four other players have committed more fouls in the Bundesliga than the Swiss this year, with that contributing to him receiving the joint highest number of yellow cards. 

Nevertheless, he has shown he can use his talents to devastating effect after performing excellently in aerial duels, as well as battle on the ground. Additionally, his engine makes him a menace for opponents to have to contend with.


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Leeds United Unveil Striking New Centenary Kit on Club’s 100-Year Anniversary

?Leeds United revealed a limited edition centenary kit on Thursday, commemorating the club’s 100th birthday with a nod to their early jerseys. 

And when they say limited edition, they really mean it! There are just 1,919 of the classic white kit available, celebrating the founding of the club in 1919 – each numbered from one to 1,919 to offer fans a unique slice of club history.

Elland Road hosted the Centenary Gala Dinner on Thursday evening, with Chairman Andrea Radrizzani presenting club legends and current players with their own shirt to mark the milestone.

Fans following the event coverage on social media would have felt a warm sense of nostalgia, witnessing some of ?Leeds‘ recent heroes coming together. The likes of Robbie Keane, Gary McAllister, Gordon Strachan, Danny Mills and Lee Bowyer were all in attendance for the centenary celebrations.

The players will get the honour of wearing the shirt, complete with a laced collar and embedded Yorkshire rose, in Saturday’s home fixture with ?Birmingham, as reported by the ?club’s official website.

Fans lucky enough to snag their own version will also receive the ‘Official History of Leeds United’ book, helping them relive the club’s finest moments over the past century and packaged in a presentation box. Priced at £149, the kit is now available for purchase via the club website.

?Leeds have stuttered in recent weeks, dropping points in four of their previous six ?Championship fixtures. However, a win against Birmingham could sends them top of the table, if results go their way, and would be the ideal way to commemorate one hundred years of The Whites.

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Manchester United vs Liverpool: Why the Upcoming Clash Probably Won’t Be as One-Sided as You Think

On the face of it, you’d think the latest clash between Manchester United and bitter rivals Liverpool will only go one way.

A Liverpool win…and a comfortable one at that. 

No one could blame you for thinking that. All the signs are pointing towards a…err, bit of a steamrolling by Jurgen Klopp’s men. They top the table, they have a 100% win record in the league and they’re scoring goals for fun.

As for United, well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will know that they’re not doing fantastically at this moment in time – resulting in them currently sitting just two points above the relegation zone. Anyone who knows anything has seemingly been keen to express in their own way just how bad the Red Devils have been. 

It gets worse as well, David de Gea is definitely out and Paul Pogba is probably out. So, yes, how on earth can we possibly even consider anything other than a Liverpool win?

Well, as has been proven on countless occasions in the past, form goes out the window when a team takes on their rivals. And this isn’t just any rivalry, this is ?Manchester United vs Liverpool.

It doesn’t matter when it is or the form of either team, no player will take this contest for granted. Take Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson, who ?reaffirmed exactly this when claiming:

It’s Man Utd vs Liverpool. It will be a one-off game and we’ll see who comes out on top.” 

The Scotland international went on to state that there is no better time for their opponents to kickstart their season than against their bitter rivals – and he is right.

Andy Robertson,Marcus Rashford

United – with the crowd behind them – will have a hunger and motivation to prove the critics wrong and this, compiled with the fact that they have an opportunity to break the Reds’ winning streak, will only add to the intensity of their performance.

Now, of course, hard work alone isn’t going to be anywhere near enough to conquer the runaway Premier League leaders. However, despite the fact that the Old Trafford side have ?endured some astonishing low points in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, they have continued to perform in this fixture.

Since Klopp took over as manager of Liverpool in October 2015, the German has only recorded two wins in all competitions against United in nine attempts. In fact, the last time the Anfield side scored a goal from open play at Old Trafford in the league was way back in September 2015 – Christian Benteke the man to net on that occasion. 

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The last time these two teams faced off against each other, the game ended goalless but injuries were the main topic of discussion after the game. United lost Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard to injury in the first half, while ?Liverpool also lost Roberto Firmino. In a match which many expected Klopp’s team to run away with (much like this one, may I add), they were bereft of ideas. The Red Devils grew into the contest and were unlucky not to have found a winner late on, despite using all three substitutions in the first half due to injuries.

With Klopp growing increasingly frustrated by his team’s inability to break down the opposition, he set about rectifying this. However, this resulted in hooking ?Mohamed Salah, reaffirming just how impressive United’s defence was at shutting out a potent Liverpool attack.

To this end, Solskjaer appeared to have done his homework, with ?Marcus Rashford starting in a central striking role alongside Romelu Lukaku, but he had the license to drift wide and impact the game from there. The Manchester-born forward played through the pain barrier after picking up an injury early in the match to help his side – and he was a nuisance. Rashford constantly looked to get the better of Joel Matip and James Milner, who were struggling to deal with him.

Mohamed Salah,Luke Shaw

The last time these two sides met at Old Trafford before that match was in March 2018, where Jose Mourinho guided United to a 2-1 win over their rivals. Again, Rashford was the key component for the hosts, as he bagged two goals. The winger had the better of Trent Alexander-Arnold throughout the match and continuously exposed the right-back. 

No one can dispute just how impressive Alexander-Arnold is going forward, but he has shown minor frailties in his defensive game, and Rashford has all the necessary attributes to continue to expose these weaknesses. With ?United hopeful that Anthony Martial will be fit, the Frenchman would occupy the striking role and allow Rashford to move out wide, with the two forming a potent partnership prior to Martial’s injury. 

Even in the bleakest of times in recent years, the Red Devils have continued to produce spirited performances in this fixture and with even further disappointment this season, we should expect to see even more grit and determination to go and get themselves something from the match. 

Marcus Rashford,Alexander-Arnold Trent

While we, of course, cannot predict what will unfold on Sunday afternoon, it is clear that Solskjaer will look to use the opening day rout of Chelsea as a guide for the upcoming game – soaking up pressure, before springing with pace and power on the counter.

Liverpool may well be running away with the league this season, but that will only give their opponents more of a reason to get a result. With history and, more importantly, the crowd on their side, United will pose a real threat and one only needs to look as far as the recent meetings at Old Trafford to recognise that a sub-par United can still take points off a dynamic Liverpool.

Forget form. Forget the title race. Manchester United will rise to the occasion at Old Trafford if it means preventing Liverpool from claiming the bragging rights. 


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Marco Silva Issues Everton Rallying Call Ahead of Key West Ham Clash

Everton boss Marco Silva has issued a rallying call to his team ahead of this weekend’s crucial clash with West Ham at Goodison Park. 

The Toffees are currently languishing in 18th place in the Premier League table following four losses in a row to Bournemouth, Sheffield United, Manchester City and Burnley.

And, in response to this relative crisis, the Portuguese tactician is imploring his players to give him everything this Saturday.


“The first thing [for my team] is to give everything,” he told the club’s official website. “In the tough moments, react and put in more hard work and 100 per cent commitment. We have to be demanding of ourselves every single day.

“When you have tough moments as a football team – and this is a tough moment for us as a club and our fans – we have to do even more and then we will see [results] on the matchday.

“As a team we have to show more, that strong character and personality that will have us playing to our best level again – and achieving what we want in every single match. There are more points to win and we have to be really strong to win the next match – then the confidence will come again.

“In the tough moments, you can see the strong character… the strong personality. And how we can be strong as a team.”

The gaffer was also keen to stress that at one point, before this nadir, the club had been in a relative purple patch, having secured 12 consecutive clean sheets in 2019, behind only Man City, and that those heights could be reached once more in time.

“It is very easy in football to just look at the past month but you have to look at all the picture because that will give the players the confidence they are missing in important moments,” he explained.

“They [players] know the confidence I have in all of them and the work we are doing every day. Football is our passion, for me it is not just a job, it is my passion as well. I always try to pass this to my players – it has to be a pleasure to play a football match.

“It has to be a happy moment and at the end see the result.”

And it wasn’t just the players who he was rallying, with this call to arms issued to the Everton fans: “They play a key role in every match for us.

Andre Gomes

“They are not happy with the past month and we share their frustration. But in the next match they will play a key role again. In tough periods we need them behind us and passing that confidence and fantastic atmosphere to our players.

“We want to get three points to give them a good feeling again on Saturday.”

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