Europa League Places at a Premium in EPL

The English Premier League continues to grow in strength throughout their table. Where a few seasons ago any light follower of the EPL could predict places 1-7 as soon as the first ball was kicked in the season, the EPL now has the talent pool and the coaching talent to provide shocks, surprises, and quality play from top to bottom. With the way the EPL is growing, will the battle for Europa League spots become as heated as making the top-four once was?

This year, if we have a situation like last season where top four clubs win the continental club cups, the Europa League spots will be fought over by six to seven clubs. Although either Tottenham or Arsenal will probably end up in the top four when the final game is over, the teams that will be in the hunt for the Europa spots include Everton, Liverpool, Swansea, West Brom, and Stoke City. Considering teams like West Brom and Swansea have rarely ever been in a situation to be involved in European competition, this is making for a fascinating race.

European competition adds serious money to any team’s coffers. Although you will only be making a fraction that the Champions League provides, entry into the Europa League still provides your squad with a definite addition to your bankroll. Teams like Everton and Liverpool would prefer to be in the Champions League, but their coaches and players will start to look towards the Europa league once they realize that CL qualification is out of their reach.

Swansea is definitely a club that would be great to see in European competition. Their nickname of Swansea-lona is very apt and their passing would provide some fantastic football for the entirety of Europe to enjoy. Swansea may also find their qualification route through winning the League Cup, so they definitely have the most likely pathway of the smaller clubs.

West Brom has started to fall off their early season hot-streak that saw them sitting in the top four for a large portion of the season, and a fixture against Liverpool will definitely define the direction that the rest of their season will be heading in. Steve Clarke has done wonders with the club, and Europa qualification would be a dream-realized for a club the size of West Brom.

Liverpool and Everton will both want Europa qualification merely so that they can hold it over the head of their rival. Although Everton have been consistent this season, they are experiencing a similar situation to West Brom and the nagging injury that star-man Fellaini continues to play with may end up costing them in the long run. Liverpool, however, have shown that they are coming back to prominence by collecting draws against Arsenal and Manchester City.

Although this will definitely take a better shape in the next few weeks, the depth of the EPL is providing excitement across the entirety of the table. For all we know, the battle for Europa qualification may soon become something that clubs start to target at the beginning of a campaign. All I know is, I am loving this!

Written by: Andrew McCole, soccerprose.com

Roberto Mancini

Can the Premier League title race be reignited this weekend?

Earlier this week, we posted about the possibility of Manchester United having already secured the Premier League title. With a nine-point lead and the fact United has not lost since Nov. 17, United seem to be cruising. However, Manchester City’s manager does not think the title is locked up and neither does United striker Wayne Rooney.

“They have nine points more than us because they did better than us. But in three months, everything can change like last year. If we can recover eight points in six games, I think to cover nine points in 13 games will be easy,” Mancini said according to ESPNFC.

“Results are the most important thing now. Look at Manchester City against QPR. They should have got the win, had a lot of chances but ended up dropping points,” Rooney said according to ESPNFC. “Once it comes down to the last four or five games, then we will see what position we are in and work out what we have to do.”

If City is looking for a chance to get back into the title race, this weekend is the perfect opportunity. Everton head to Manchester United this weekend while Manchester City head to Southampton.

In the two clubs first match of the season, Everton beat Manchester United 1-0 at home. This second matchup could have huge ramifications for each team depending on the result. Manchester United are trying to maintain their nine point lead atop the table and Everton is currently three points behind Tottenham for the final Champions League qualifying spot. Everton has not been on quite the same run of form as United, however, Everton has not lost a game in the Premier League since Dec. 30.

Manchester City, on the other hand, will not have as difficult of a game this weekend as league leaders United. Southampton is currently in 16th in the Premier League, only three points above the relegation zone. Even though Southampton has been struggling to get points, they have been a hard team to beat at home. This season, they have won three games, drew five and lost only four games playing at St. Mary’s Stadium. In their past four matches, Southampton has tied Chelsea, Everton and Wigan and only lost to Manchester United 2-1. When these two clubs met earlier in the season, Manchester City won narrowly 3-2.

Even though the quality of opponent is much lower for Manchester City than Manchester United this weekend, neither game will be easy for the teams from Manchester to win. However, for City, if United is to lose this weekend, you cant get a better opponent than Southampton to try and pick up points against. With a United loss and City win, the lead at the top of the table will be cut to six and make the title race exciting once again.

Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com

Man United - 2013

Will Manchester United win the Premier League?

The other day, we posted about Barcelona and their domination this season in La Liga. Despite only holding a nine-point lead on Atletico Madrid, it seems predetermined that Barcelona will win La Liga this season. However, when we look at Manchester United, it does not seem predetermined that they will win the Premier League, even though they hold the same nine-point lead as Barcelona.

Therefore, I pose the question: Is it safe to say United will win the Premier League? Through 25 games, United has won 20, tied twice and lost only three times. Is the reason people don’t give United enough credit in the Premier League because they find them boring? In January, Fox Soccer columnist Leander Schaerlaeckens voiced his opinion of United.

However, United has scored 60 goals, the most in the Premier League. The next closest team is Chelsea with 51 goals, and those 60 goals are only 12 goals behind the team many claim to be the best team in the world, Barcelona. So it is not like United are playing 0-0 draws every week. Maybe it isn’t the lack of goals, but the fact that United are so consistent, a fact that Schaerlaeckens pointed out, that makes them boring. If you want to find the last time United lost a game in the Premier League, you must go back to Nov. 17.

Maybe the reason they are boring is because, despite being a big name club, United do not have many big name players. As ESPNFC’s Mark Payne points out, United has Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie, but who else?

“When asked to discuss the midfield, United fans often scratch the back of their heads and say something like, ‘They’re okay,” according to Payne. “This has not been the most illustrious year for United’s defence. Seven teams have been more effective at protecting their goal than the league leaders this term.”

The ultimate question remains: Is it safe to say United will win the Premier League? Is United boring because we are just too used to their winning ways? Let us know what you think about the Premier League title race and United’s style of play.

Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com


Mario Balotelli is going to AC Milan

Mario Balotelli is heading back to Milan, however, this time he will be with the other Milan club. Balotelli played for Inter Milan before joining Manchester City in 2010. Balotelli has played in seven games in the Premier League for City this season, but has only scored once.

“Milan reportedly paid $27 million plus bonuses for Balotelli, who will be taking a pay cut to play for the club he has supported since childhood,” according to ESPNFC.

Balotelli’s time at City has been up-and-down. Last season, Balotelli netted 13 goals with one assist as City claimed the Premier League title. That’s the good. The list of bad, as documented by BBC Sport, is much longer. Balotelli has always been a controversial figure and it seemed his time at City was finished several times before the news of his transfer.

Balotelli will be a welcome addition at AC Milan after striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic departed for PSG. AC Milan is currently 12 points behind league leaders Juventus and six points behind Lazio for the final Champions League spot. AC Milan must be hoping the addition of Balotelli will help the team net more goals and climb the table in order to be in the Champions League next season.

Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com

Manchester City v Arsenal

Manchester City heads to the Emirates Stadium

If you are a soccer fan, Sunday is the perfect day for you. Not only do Liverpool travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United, but Manchester City travel to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal as well.

Both teams come into the match with plenty of positive recent results. Both teams come into the match winning four of their past five games in the Premier League. However, they are still separated by 11 points in the league.

The game is also a must-win for both teams. Manchester City is currently seven points behind league leaders Manchester United. A loss on Sunday could extend United’s lead at the top to double digits, which would be hard to come back from. Since City has already been knocked out of the Champions League, they will want to compete for the Premier League if Mancini is to keep his job after the season.

As for Arsenal, they are currently 18 points behind United, but, more importantly, four points behind Chelsea. Chelsea is currently in fourth place and holding onto the Champions League qualification spot. Arsenal cannot afford to drop points this late in the season if they hope to be part of the Champions League next season.

On a side note, the two teams are having a spat off the field already. Some Manchester City fans are refusing to pay the high-ticket price to watch the game.

“The English champions were given an allocation of 3,000 tickets, but 912 have been sent back and are being sold to Arsenal supporters,” according to ESPNFC.

ESPNFC continues, “A survey carried out in October confirmed Arsenal have the most expensive adult match day ticket and season ticket in the Premier League.”

The dispute between clubs on ticket prices and the fact that both teams need a win on Sunday should create for an exciting match. The first match between these two teams on Sept. 23 ended in a 1-1 tie. Hopefully, this time one of the teams will be able to find a winner and fans will get to see more goals.

Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com