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Manchester City vs Manchester United

Manchester City will have a near fully fit squad this weekend for the first time this season. Jack Grealish has picked up another injury but…

Manchester City will have a near fully fit squad this weekend for the first time this season. Jack Grealish has picked up another injury but Josko Gvardiol is almost fit. Kevin De Bruyne was a sub at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium and was brilliant on Tuesday against Luton Town providing three assists in Erling Haaland’s five goals. Pep Guardiola was hoping to feature all three in the derby match against United on Sunday. John Stones’ fitness is a continual worry. The coach said, “He’s still not top but Manu (Akanji) and John are back. John has had a lot of setbacks this season and he’s not like Phil (Foden) for example who only needs two training sessions to be fit and ready.” Stones is back in his defender-midfielder role and the coach is relying on Bernado Silva, Foden, Stones and Rodri to have the ability to keep the ball and control the centre moving forward. Erling Haaland’s extra training early this week paid dividends and he has regained his lethal scoring touch.

After United’s disastrous 0-1 loss to Fulham, Erik Ten Hag knows he is fighting to keep his job at the end of the season. The Reds are 6th in the table and eight points behind fourth placed Aston Villa. Qualifying for European football is essential to Ten Hag’s survival. What he needs is for his players to step up and play their hearts out because the injuries are mounting up. Rasmus Hojlund has been ruled out for two or three weeks with a muscular problem. Luke Shaw might not be available for the rest of the season. Mason Mount is still missing and Anthony Martial had groin surgery last month. Lisandro Martinez is not back until April and Tyrell Malacia has not played all season. Ten Hag has looked at moving Marcus Rashford to the centre and is considering bringing back Anthony. He celebrated his 24th birthday last Sunday and as he made a wish blowing out his candles I think it was probably to play well this weekend if selected. Winger Omari Forson has been promoted to the senior squad and like Liverpool, United have brought several youngsters in from the Academy to train with the first team squad.

Ten Hag has again been criticised that United have no focus. With City you can almost predict, out from the back, through Rodri, up to De Bryune or Foden and on to Haaland. It has worked time and again. United seem to play left, right, centre, almost anywhere and with fingers crossed. Ten Hag defended his decision not to include Anthony until the dying minutes of the match against Fulham and he said, “It had nothing to do with fitness. He is fit but we have many options on the right side where we lack in other positions due to injuries. The form Anthony is in – we have all seen it – he has to step up. I see it in training but also Omari and Amad and Garnacho deserve to play.

Points deduction a win for Everton fans

I personally never believed in deducting ten points from Everton because of financial irregularities within the club. It was the owners and management who created the problems but it was the fans, the coach and the players who were made to suffer. Put that alongside the ridiculous amount of time the club has had to wait for an appeal verdict to go through and for most of the season the club did not know what their true league position was. Now the “fine” has been reduced to six points, Everton sit six places from the bottom of the league but with a five point cushion outside the relegation places. Sean Dyche is a fine coach and the players have done well this season but it is the fans who deserve praise. Everton fans make the most noise, travel around the country in huge numbers and support their team through thick and thin. For them the points deduction is well deserved and a win.

Grealish suffers another injury

Manchester City’s midweek FA Cup win over Luton Town should have been Jack Grealish’s comeback game. He limped off the field against Copenhagen two weeks ago with a muscle injury. That was his first start in six matches. Jack pulled up in the Luton game despite there being no challenge on him. He was devastated and left the field only to hide his head inside his warm jacket for a couple of minutes. He was clearly upset. Consequently he did not appear for the second half and I was later informed that he was complaining of pain in his groin. Pep Guardiola had not spoken to the club doctors but he said, “A little bit similar to previous problems. Jack felt really good before the game but unfortunately was injured again at the beginning. It’s been a tough season for him and he has to recover well before we play him again.”

Odegaard positive Arsenal will win title

Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard spoke out this week and said the Gunners are not afraid of the intense title race with Manchester City. Following a 1-0 win over Bournemouth they now head off to bottom of the League Sheffield United who are 11 points from safety and look doomed to relegation. Arsenal have moved back to one point behind City in third place and the two meet at the Etihad Stadium on March 31st. Odegaard said, “Now is the moment to show that we’re not afraid, to show what we learnt from last season when we failed at the last moment. That will not happen again.”

Where Pochettino got it all wrong

Chelsea owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali were at Wembley to see their Chelsea Carabao Cup side beaten by Jurgen Klopp’s Academy Kids 1-0. It was an embarrassing after match drink in a Wembley lounge as the Blue’s coach Mauricio Pochettino explained to his bosses what went wrong.

Chelsea played their part in an entertaining match but with Chelsea sitting 11th in the table and 17 points outside the top four, it was their last chance of silverware this season.

Kelleher benefits from Alisson

Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher has made the most of his time standing in for the world’s best goalkeeper Alisson. All the main Liverpool first team squad train together and especially the goalkeepers who have a special set programme. Kelleher was excellent in the Carabao Cup and he has been performing well in the league. As Ireland’s No1 goalkeeper he will have a decision to make when Alisson is fit again. He will not want to sit quietly on the bench and several clubs are tracking his situation and will come calling at the end of the season.

Casemiro’s legs have gone

I spoke with Manchester United and Arsenal this week and discussed Casemiro and Jorginho. Erik Ten Hag has an admission to make. He automatically calls up Casemiro for major games. However, most Premier League clubs have worked out that “his legs have gone” and I have seen him several times this season and he looks like he is carrying a bag of rocks on his back as he struggles for pace. He was never the quickest player, even at Real Madrid, but his lack of speed means that coaches train their players to run at him and past him during play and they can easily exploit his lack of pace as he fails to catch them. It happens to the best players. Wayne Rooney retired in his early thirties but one player who has proven his current club was right to sign him is Arsenal’s Jorginho. He is the same age as Casemiro and admittedly doesn’t have the pace of his mid-twenties but he can win the ball, is strong in the tackle and he relies on Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Kai Havertz to collect his accurate passes and do the running. Very clever move by Mikel Arteta.

 

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