Monday, 29 July 2013

Premier League 2013/14 season guide: Part 1

With only 38 days until the start of the new Premier League season, we take a look at all 20 teams in he league and preview their chances over the next 12 months. In the five part guide, all teams will be looked at in detail, from the key players to watch, to their opening fixtures to their season, it will be covered. In part one, we take a look at Arsenal, Aston Villa, Cardiff City and Chelsea.

Ending the final ten games of last season unbeaten, made sure that the Gunners claimed the final Champions League spot pipping their North London rivals Spurs to it on the final day. However the one thing concerning Arsenal fans currently, will be the lack of transfer activity which has only seen young French forward Yaya Sanogo arrive on a free transfer. They have been linked with numerous players so far this window but are yet to sign any big names. Having missed out on Gonzalo Higuain to Napoli, the main target it seems for Wenger this summer is Liverpool striker Luis Suarez. But having seen two bids already rejected, it is looking unlikely the Uruguayan will be making the move south to the Emirates. 

One positive for Arsenal is Jack Wilshere, who having missed much of last season with an injury, is back to match fitness and has featured regularly in pre-season so far and for some Gunners fans may feel like a new signing when he takes to the field come August 17th. Although Arsenal desperately need another striker, the form of Frenchman Olivier Giroud in pre-season is also another positive as the striker has six goals to his name so far. If they are to miss out on signing a big name striker this summer, then Giroud will be expected to be regularly hitting the net alongside fellow forward Theo Walcott. 

With seven weeks to go until the end of the transfer market, Arsenal really need another defensive midfielder and a striker if they are to make any serious challenge for the title. If they don't then it will be another hard battle fighting for a Champions League position. 

Key Player: Jack Wilshere

Predicted finish: 4th

Aston Villa:
Villa fans will certainly not want a repeat of last season as they narrowly avoided the drop, however there were still positives to take from their campaign. The number of younger players included in the first team is something that fans should take great heart from. Matthew Lowton, Ashley Westwood and Andreas Weimann all played a big part for Villa last season. In particular Weimann, who alongside Christian Benteke formed an excellent partnership up front with fans favourite Gabby Agbonlahor. Benteke who recently signed a new deal at Villa Park, helped himself to 19 league goals last season and proved to be one of the bargains of the season. However there wasn't so much success at the back as they conceded 69 goals in 38 matches. The departure of Richard Dunne has seen a number of new signings brought in by Lambert including Danish international defender Jores Okore who will challenge for a place at the back.

Villa have a tough start to the season having to face Arsenal away and then Liverpool at home in their opening two fixtures. They will expect to finish much higher up in the table this season, with Lambert clearing out the dead wood, and bringing in fresh young talent to his squad. The blend of experience and youth within the team should see Villa finish around mid table. The goals of Benteke will again be critical to Villa, with the Belgian striker's excellent finishing, hold up play and strength all key to him becoming one of the division's top marksmen.

Key Player: Christian Benteke

Predicted finish: 12th

Cardiff City:
Joining Swansea City in the Premier League, Cardiff's promotion last season made sure that this year would see two Welsh sides compete in the top tier of English football. Having been known to suffer play-off heartbreak, Cardiff avoided the three games as they were crowned winners of the Championship last year under Malky Mackay. One thing Cardiff fans would have expected Mackay to do this summer was strengthen his squad ahead of what will be a tough campaign for the Bluebirds. However with only two signings made so far, Mackay will be required to further strengthen his team before the season kicks off. One of the new acquisitions is Danish striker Andreas Cornelius who broke the club transfer fee as £8.5 million was spent on the front man. Alongside him is Craig Bellamy, who now in his second spell with Cardiff has plenty of Premier League experience under his belt.

Cardiff have been linked with a number of players so far in the window with the most notable Tom Ince who recently declined a move to the Welsh capital. If they are to start considering themselves as a regular Premier League side, then Mackay will need to start spending. The Bluebirds kick off their campaign with a trip to Upton Park to face West Ham. The Hammers home form last season was excellent and it will be a tough ask for Cardiff to leave with any points.

If money is spent within the next couple of weeks, and experience is added to the Cardiff side, then there is no reason why they can't become a regular face in the Premier League. Big things will be expected of record signing Cornelius and if he provides the Bluebirds with goals then there is a strong possibility of staying up.

Key Player: Craig Bellamy

Predicted finish: 17th

It has been quite an eventful 12 months for Chelsea. Despite having three managers in that time, the club still finished third and claimed the Europa League. Taking over from interim manager Rafa Benitez, Jose Mourinho was uncovered as the next boss of Chelsea this summer which sees him in his second spell at Stamford Bridge. With managers changing at both the Manchester clubs, Chelsea fans may start to believe that this season may give them one of the best chances of winning the league. Chelsea have had a good pre season which has seen new arrivals in the shape of Marco van Ginkel and Andre Schurle. Romelu Lukaku has also returned to London having had an excellent loan spell at West Brom last season. Having made a number of appearances scoring four goals in pre season, Lukaku may be given his chance to shine in a Chelsea shirt under Mourinho this season.

Alongside Demba Ba and Fernando Torres, there are a number of options available to Mourinho in attack. However with the uncertainty of Wayne Rooney's future at Manchester United, 'The Special One' has made it clear he is interested in adding the England front man to the Chelsea attack. Juan Mata will be key to Chelsea's success this season with the Spaniard having been essential in Chelsea's success last season. Despite talk of him being unsettled, Mourinho would be daft to let a player of his calibre leave.

Chelsea will certainly be one of the teams to watch this season especially with the arrival of Mourinho back at Stamford Bridge. With new managers at both United and City, Mourinho has new rivals to play mind games with, in what is set to become one of the most exciting and close seasons in the Premier League.

Key Player: Juan Mata

Predicted finish: 1st

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Euro 2013: England Women 0-3 France Women

England Ladies were knocked out of Euro 2013 tonight as they were handsomely beaten 3-0 France in their final group game.
The defeat means the Lionesses finished bottom of Group C with just the one point having been beaten by Spain and only managing a draw against Russia.
A draw with France may have been enough for England, but the quality shown by their opponents was too much and were left second best for much of the game.
An early strike from Eugenie le Sommer, and two goals inside six minutes of the second half, was enough for the French to cruise through, finishing top of the group with nine points.
Despite having already qualified for the quarter finals, the French dominated from the off and it was Le Sommer who came closest as she struck the inside of the post in the eight minute.
The striker who plays for Lyon, was involved again just 60 seconds later receiving the ball inside the 18-yard box allowing her to guide the ball past the despairing Karen Bardsley in the England goal.  
France could have been two goals up seconds later as captain Sandrine Soubeyrand unleashed a powerful 25 yard drive that flew inches over the England crossbar. 
picture: gettyimages
England couldn't handle the French pace and attack and were undone once again allowing Elodie Thomis to fire an effort at goal only for Bardsley to save well at her near post.
The second half began a lot brighter for England, as Hope Powell introduced Jill Scott to the game replacing Anita Asante in midfield. 
However the French continued their attack and Thomis was involved again as she raced through on goal, only to see her effort fly wide of the upright.
With England beginning to get back into the game, Hope Powell brought on Kelly Smith, but within moments of the change, the French added two quick fire goals.
Louisa Necib curled home from outside the box to double the lead, and she then turned provider moments later as her cross was met by defender Renard, whose powerful header flew past the helpless Bardsley. 
Despite being three goals down, and out of the competition, England showed great fight in the last 20 minutes of the game, with Ellen White guilty of missing England's best chance.
The defeat meant an early exit for the England Women who fail to get out of the group stage for the first time since 2005. 
England: Bardsley, A. Scott, Houghton, Bradley, Stoney, Asante (J. Scott 46') Williams, Aluko (Smith 60') White, Carney (Clarke 73') Duggan
France: Deville, Renard, Franco, Houara, Delannoy, Soubeyrand (Bussaglia 46') Henry (Catala 61') Necib, Le Sommer, Thomis, Thiney (Abily 46')

Monday, 15 July 2013

Euro 2013: England Women 1-1 Russia Women

A stoppage time equaliser against Russia, from substitute Toni Duggan, means England Ladies remain within a faint chance of progressing from Group C.

The Everton Ladies forward netted in the dying moments of the game cancelling out Russia's first half goal from Nelli Korovkina.

Duggan had been denied moments earlier by the woodwork but her first goal for her country means a win against France on Thursday will see the Lionesses progress to the quarter-finals.

England had started the game the better of the sides as Ellen White saw her shot on the swivel sail over the Russian goal.

Karen Bardsley was called into action moments later as she was forced into a smart save, diving to her right to palm a Petrova header away from the goal.

England's bright start continued early on as Jill Scott was brilliantly denied a goal by Russian keeper Todua who tipped her effort onto the woodwork.

Despite being on the backfoot, Russia looked dangerous on the counter and nearly took the lead as Korovkina's 30 yard dipping effort sailed agonisingly wide of Bardsley's right hand upright.

At the other end, England were creating more chances as Steph Houghton headed wide when well placed, as well as Alex Scott, whose left footed shot drifted wide of the post.

With England's inability to take the lead, it was Russia who broke the deadlock in the 38th minute of the game.

A left wing cross from Elena Morozova was poorly defended by the England back line, allowing Korovkina to head past Bardsley from close range.

The goal knocked England's confidence and gave them 45 minutes to keep themselves in the competition.

They could have been level early on in the second half, but Ellen White was unable to guide a Karen Carney cross into the goal.

As time began to disappear, Hope Powell introduced the injured Kelly Smith, who replaced Houghton as a last gasp attempt to save the game.

The change paid dividend as a deflected cross from Smith fell to the foot of fellow sub Duggan who stroked the ball home from 12 yards, to give England a small chance of progressing.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Euro 2013: England Women 2-3 Spain Women

A late goal in stoppage time meant England women were left disappointed in their opening group game against Spain.

An own goal from goalkeeper Karen Bardsley late on meant that England’s lionesses began their European campaign with a 3-2 defeat in Linkoping.

England had thought they had salvaged a draw as Laura Bassett and Eniola Aluka had cancelled out Spanish goals from Veronica Boquete and Jennifer Hermoso. 

The game got off to a flyer as the Spanish typically dominated possession leading them to score the opening goal.

With four minutes on the clock, the ball fell to Sonia whose through ball to Boquete who slid the ball past the advancing Bardsley.

Despite the set back, England hit back immediately as well timed ball from Jill Scott found Eniola Aluko who finished well in the bottom corner.

England could have been leading moments later as Fara Williams 25 yard effort was brilliantly tipped over by Spain’s keeper Tirapu Ainhoa

The game began to calm down after the frantic start with either sides canceling each other with little being created.

The game sprung to life again just before half time as Karen Bardsley did well to tip a Sonia shot round the post before Ellen White was denied well by a last ditch tackle from Parades.  

The second half began at a slow pace with both teams once again finding it difficult to break each other down.

Spain’s number ten saw a snap shot go wide, while at the other end, Rachel Yankey’s effort was well blocked by a Spanish defender. 

The game did begin to liven up with 15 minutes remaining as a misjudgment by Bardsley saw the ball loop over the keeper who could only watch as Vicky Losada somehow hit the crossbar from three yards out. 

With only five minutes to go, the game looked like it would end level, however after England failed to clear from a corner, Jennifer Hermoso slammed the ball home.

Again just like in the first half, England hit back straight away, as a well worked corner saw Laura Bassett scoop the ball home after receiving an Anita Asante header.

With only seconds left, Spain crossed the ball from the left which struck the unfortunate Bardsley who could only watch helplessly as the ball rolled into the net. 

Line ups:

England: Bardsley, A. Scott, Stoney, Bassett, Houghton, Williams, J. Scott, Asante, Yankey (Clarke 90') Aluko (Carney 73') E. White

Spain: Ainhoa, Garcia, Torrejon, Paredes, Bermudez (Putellas 74') Meseguer, Ibarra, Hermoso, Boquete, Martin, Calderon (Losada 61')

Monday, 1 July 2013

Capital One Cup 13/14: First Round Draw

With the new season just over a month to go, the draw for the first round of the Capital One Cup was made. Although this competition plays second fiddle to the FA Cup, last years competition proved there is still as much entertainment as the FA Cup provides. It was Bradford City who stunned everyone last season as a mesmerising run saw them make the final having beaten Arsenal and Aston Villa on their route to Wembley. The fairytale was ended by Swansea as the Premier League side ran out comfortable 5-0 winners.

This years first round draw sees relegated QPR travel to Exeter while Football League new boys Mansfield and Newport County will face Tranmere and Brighton respectively. Runners up from last year Bradford face a tricky tie as they travel to Championship side Huddersfield Town.

Teams from the Championship down to League Two will compete from the first round with 14 teams from the Premier League entering at the second stage of the competition. The remaining six teams: Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and Swansea will come in at the third stage as they are competing in Europe and to avoid fixture congestion. Wigan Athletic of the Championship will also enter at the third stage due to European commitments following their FA Cup final win. Reading will come in at the second round.

All first round ties will be played the week commencing the 5th August while the final will be held at Wembley on March 2nd 2014.

Keep up to date on EnglishFootball4U as we follow each round of the competition.

First Round Fixtures:

Bury v Crewe Alexandra
Shrewsbury v Bolton
Middlesbrough v Accrington Stanley
Doncaster v Rochdale
Preston v Blackpool
Barnsley v Scunthorpe Utd
Tranmere v Mansfield
York City v Burnley
Notts County v Fleetwood Town
Sheffield United v Burton Albion
Oldham Athletic v Derby County
Carlisle v Blackburn Rovers
Morecambe v Wolves
Notts Forest v Hartlepool Utd
Leeds Utd v Chesterfield
Huddersfield Town v Bradford City
Rotherham v Sheffield Wednesday
Port Vale v Walsall
Gillingham v Bristol City
Bournemouth v Portsmouth
Wycombe v Leicester City
Brentford v Dag & Red
Exeter v QPR
Charlton v Oxford Utd
Southend v Yeovil Town
Millwall v AFC Wimbledon
Swindon v Torquay
Birmingham City v Plymouth Argyle
Stevenage v Ipswich Town
Cheltenham v Crawley Town
Bristol Rovers v Watford
Northampton Town v MK Dons
Leyton Orient v Coventry City
Colchester Utd v Peterborough Utd
Brighton and Hove Albion v Newport County