Preseason performances raise hope for Manchester United and Liverpool

By Stuart Howard-Cofield

Two of the main contenders for the top four positions in the English Premier League, Manchester United and Liverpool, have recorded relatively impressive results in their preseason tours. After a couple of major signings this summer, both sides will be pleased with how preparations have gone during tours across the globe before the new campaign kicks off.

Louis Van Gaal’s team began their tour on a positive note by defeating Club America by a lone goal. Thereafter, they defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 3-1. Barcelona, the current Champions League title holders were also beaten by the same margin.

Manchester United’s preseason tour results have shown that one of their new arrivals, Memphis Depay can connect very well with the veteran centre forward, Wayne Rooney. According to a recent analysis of The Red Devils’ tour performance published in the Telegraph, United’s defensive line has now become more secure with Luke Shaw and Matteo Darmian putting up impressive performances so far.

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Without any major injury cases to worry about at this time, Louis Van Gaal simply needs to find a good backup for Wayne Rooney. Unfortunately, Rooney is the only experienced centre forward in the team. Bastian Schweinsteiger, the European Champions Cup and World Cup winner displayed a stellar performance in midfield during the tour and looks an excellent addition. But United must not take the same risk they took in the 2014/15 season, as a bad start eventually cost them the league title by some margin.

Manchester United must do everything possible to win their first ten games if they want to clinch the league title and steal a march on their rivals. All eyes will be on Schweinsteiger and Rooney as they strive to pump in the goals in the first few games. is offering Premier League tickets for sale including the match between United and their fierce rivals Liverpool as they battle for the UEFA Champions League slots.

Liverpool fans should also be excited their tour as they’ve gone unbeaten through preseason. They defeated three of their opponents including the Thailand All-Stars, Brisbane Roar and Adelaide United. They were then held to a 1-1 draw with Malaysia XI and have since beaten HJK and Swindon Town. Although some commentators have said that none of their opponents were strong enough to match the stiff opposition they will face in the Premier League, Liverpool have shown that they are serious about finishing among the top four in the new season after last year’s disappointment.

Liverpool have made so many new signings this summer in a bid to revive the game plan of Brendan Rodgers which enabled them to get very close to taking the league title in the 2013/14 season. Christian Benteke is a star signing, while James Milner and Nathaniel Clyne add drive to the attack from deeper. Roberto Firmino, who left Hoffenheim to join Liverpool, should be able to use his experience in the Bundesliga to create plenty of chances for his teammates.

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However, Rodgers needs to address the weaknesses in the centre of defence and settle down with a stable playing pattern in order to get the best out of the new signings. Benteke and Firmino did not travel on tour with the Reds so it’s difficult to give an objective assessment of how well they will fit into the team but both will be expected to be regular starters in a new-look Liverpool lineup.

Both Manchester United and Liverpool must ensure that they can decide their best starting lineups early as both will look to be at their best to win most of their matches and remain unbeaten for as many games as possible when the new season starts on Saturday.


Are Crystal Palace on course for their best ever Premier League season?

Crystal Palace enjoyed their third consecutive away victory in the Premier League when they beat West Ham 3-1 at Upton Park on Saturday and have been in fine form since Alan Pardew took over as manager at the beginning of January this year.

The Eagles travel to Southampton tonight and a positive result at St Mary’s would certainly leave Palace pondering over the possibility of achieving the best Premier League finish in the history of the club.

Considering last year’s unbelievable turnaround under manager Tony Pulis, many would have predicted that Crystal Palace would struggle this season after he walked out just days before the first game of the campaign.

When Pulis quit, Keith Millen briefly took over before reverting back to assistant manager when Neil Warnock was appointed. Warnock struggled for results, picking up just three wins from the 16 games that he was in charge and was consequently shown the door, which made way for Alan Pardew’s arrival from Newcastle.

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Pardew has been an instant hit both with the players and the fans and has been welcomed with open arms as many can probably still recall his playing days for the South London side in the late 1980’s through to the early 1990’s.

He has re-instilled belief and positivity at Selhurst Park, and generally brought a feel good factor back in to the Holmesdale air.

The 2013/14 season was the club’s best ever Premier League finish, but breaking down the numbers of Crystal Palace’s form under Alan Pardew shows there is a real chance that the red and blue army can make history for the second year running.

Palace in the Premier League

Palace eventually managed to survive relegation comfortably last season and in doing so, consecutively maintained their Premier League status for the first time since its inception. They had never avoided the drop when competing in the Premier League and they now look set to further establish themselves in England’s top division.

Crystal Palace's Premier League record under Pardew

If Pardew ensures Crystal Palace continue to pick up points at the same rate they have done since he took over, then they will amass 50 points come the end of the season – five points more than they did in last year’s record-breaking campaign.

It’s certainly a big ask to maintain such consistent form, but it isn’t out of the question and Palace fans may be pinching themselves at how well the team are performing.

You only have to cast your mind back to May 2010 and this was a club not only struggling in the Championship but also on the verge of extinction due to extreme financial issues. A 2-2 draw away at Sheffield Wednesday on the final day of the season that year under the management of Paul Hart almost certainly saved Crystal Palace from going under.

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Palace were in administration at the time and demotion to League One would’ve had a huge financial impact that they may not have been able to recover from. They battled through some bleak times with incredible spirit and determination and it’s been onwards and upwards since then.

Recognition and credit must be given not only to Pardew for the most recent turnaround, but also to everyone involved with the club over the last five years.

Can Crystal Palace record their best ever Premier League season this year?

MLSGB Premier League Predictions – Gameweek 17

Starting this week, the MLSGB team will take it in turns to predict the Premier League results from each round of fixtures.

This week Ben Ashton gives his predictions for the final gameweek before Christmas:

Saturday 20 December 2014 (All kick-offs are 15:00 GMT unless otherwise stated)

Manchester City vs. Crystal Palace (12:45)

Man City have done well to make up some ground on Chelsea in recent weeks with a five-game winning streak, and they sit just three points off the pace now. It has been a satisfactory season so far for Palace and you’d expect them to defend from deep and attempt to hit their opponents on the break, but with just one win in ten, City should have enough to win this comfortably.

Prediction: 3-0

Aston Villa vs. Manchester United

Aston Villa will be disappointed with their derby defeat to West Brom last weekend having previously gone on a five-game unbeaten run. Meanwhile, United can’t seem to stop winning under Louis Van Gaal at the moment and it’s unlikely that we’ll see that run coming to an end at Villa Park.

Prediction: 0-2

Hull City vs. Swansea City

Hull City are now already in a situation where every game becomes a cup final and they will be scrapping for every point they can get. Swansea can blow hot and cold and you’re never quite sure which team will turn up for them. It should be a tight game and they’ll share the spoils.

Prediction: 1-1

Queens Park Rangers vs. West Bromwich Albion

The remainder of this season is not going to be comfortable for either of these sides as they look to avoid relegation and home form is going to be crucial. QPR should just edge this with the advantage of the home support.

Prediction: 2-1

Southampton vs. Everton

Southampton are in real danger of going into freefall – that’s if they aren’t already of course. So they will be desperate to avoid yet another defeat. As for Everton, they have failed for consistency and that’s why this one will probably end all square.

Prediction: 1-1

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[The Saints need to bounce back this weekend]

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Burnley

Spurs will be buoyed from their midweek League Cup win over Newcastle and that confidence should be enough to see them over the line against a Burnley side who’ll be reliant on their home form to stand any chance of survival this season.

Prediction: 2-0

West Ham United vs. Leicester City

West Ham have been one of the surprise packages this season and they face a Leicester side who have really struggled since their reasonable start to the campaign and now find themselves rooted to the foot of the table. The Hammers should have no problems in seeing off the Midlands side.

Prediction: 3-1

Sunday 21 December 2014

Newcastle United vs. Sunderland (13:30)

Despite two heavy defeats in North London in the last week, Newcastle should still be confident of overturning an average Sunderland outfit. They’ve only lost one game at home which came on the opening day against Man City and it’s unlikely that we’ll see that change this weekend.

Prediction: 2-0

Liverpool vs. Arsenal (16:00)

Liverpool have won only two of their last eight Premier League games and they’re really struggling for form. Arsenal have been the epitome of inconsistency this season so you never know how they’re going to perform. However, the Gunners are probably slight favourites for the win and should edge it.

Prediction: 1-2

Monday 22 December 2014

Stoke City vs. Chelsea (20:00)

Stoke are always a tough team to beat, but they won’t be able to deal with Chelsea’s attacking quality. Chelsea returned to winning ways against Hull last weekend as well as cruising into the last four of the League Cup against Derby midweek, so they will be full of confidence and the minor blip at Newcastle will be a distant memory.

Prediction: 0-2

What do you think will happen in the Premier League this weekend?


MLS Expansion Draft Results: New York City FC and Orlando City SC Picks

New York City FC and Orlando City went head-to-head in a fierce search for Major League Soccer talent to fill their squad’s ahead of their debut season in MLS in the 2014 Expansion Draft tonight.

Both clubs had to select ten players each from a list of 240 players who were left unprotected by the 18 other MLS teams.

The existing MLS teams could only lose a maximum of two players in the draft, and if a player was selected from their club, they had the chance to protect another player from the unprotected list.

Orlando City had the first pick and the pair then took it in turn until all 20 selections were made in total.

Here are the results of the 2014 MLS Expansion Draft:

Full results of the 2014 MLS Expansion Draft

Full results of the 2014 MLS Expansion Draft

Many were surprised by some of the selections but both clubs look to have acquired the players they think will help them finish their inaugural MLS campaigns as high as possible.

DC United striker Eddie Johnson was available but was overlooked. Other surprise omissions include LA Galaxy’s Dan Gargan, Houston Dynamo’s Corey Ashe and New York Red Bulls duo Tim Cahill and Peguy Luyindula.

What did you make of the 2014 MLS Expansion Draft results – who do you think made the better selections?