Today’s football: Must-win for Man City against Southampton, West Ham off to Burnley for battle, Man Utd host Bournemouth

Hello, happy Sunday. I was up a bit later than I hoped this morning, so I won’t get a chance to preview the first of today’s games, which is Crystal Palace vs Chelsea. I mean, I could preview it, but the game will be well underway by the time I post this so there isn’t really any point.

What I will say, though, is that I find it very strange that Maurizio Sarri picks Marcos Alonso and Willian in his team every week. I wrote a while ago – after Chelsea played Manchester United – that Alonso was a liability in a system that plays with four at the back. I stick with that, and I believe he’s far more suited to playing as a wing-back, which allows him to get up the pitch more frequently and make something happen. But with Sarri not playing that system, that’s obviously not possible. Maybe Sarri wants to give him time to really adapt, but it’s a surprise he hasn’t given Emerson Palmieri a run out at left-back.

Willian is even stranger. He has a good reputation amongst rival fans, who see his highlights and think he’s brilliant because he scores the odd screamer. And I used to think he was a really good player, until I saw the Chelsea fans giving out about him and decided to watch him more closely. He really doesn’t do much. He goes missing quite a lot, and loses the ball at times when he should be making something happen. The winger is very frustrating to watch, and I don’t blame the Chelsea fans for not wanting him in the team.

About that game in general: how bad are 12pm kick-offs? It’s far too early for a game of football. Of course, if you don’t live in Europe, it’s probably amazing for you. Anyway, let’s have a look at today’s other games.

Southampton vs Man City

Manchester City have a must-win game at St. Mary’s today. They now trail Liverpool by 10 points, and absolutely have to close that gap. If the gap remains that big, their season is in huge danger. Liverpool go to the Etihad on Thursday, and if City don’t win today and lose to Liverpool, it could be curtains in the title race. There’s no other way of putting it: they have to win.

Southampton are rejuvenated under new boss Ralph Hasenhuttl, and they won’t make it easy for City today. They’re up to 17th in the Premier League table and need to keep picking up points to move away from the bottom three. The Saints are just one point clear of Fulham, who are 18th, and a win today would be absolutely huge. they had some very positive results when they beat Arsenal and Huddersfield, but a loss to West Ham last time out was disappointing. Today’s game will obviously be very difficult for them, but if they give everything they have, they’ll have a chance.

Man City have dropped off considerably, and need to get back on track. They say the title can be won or lost during the festive period, and this seems especially true this season. Losses to Crystal Palace and Leicester in their last two games were very surprising, but they can’t afford another surprise today. Pep Guardiola’s men need to go out and win this game, and if they turn up, they will. They always have the potential to win comfortably, and will be hoping to blow Southampton away today.

Burnley vs West Ham

Today’s game at Turf Moor is the only game of the day that isn’t televised here in Ireland, so I won’t be watching it. It’s a big game for both, though. Burnley need to get something from it, because they’re really struggling at the moment. The Clarets are currently 19th and three points from safety. They’re a shadow of the side we saw last season when they finished seventh and really troubled almost everyone they played.

Last season’s form was built on a solid defence, but that hasn’t been there this campaign. The only team in the league to concede more than Burnley’s 41 goals is Fulham, with 43 conceded, and this shows just how bad they’ve been. Fulham were being annihilated some weeks, but Burnley aren’t far off them now. It seems that it’ll be very difficult for them to stay up at this stage, but there’s plenty of football still to play. A win today would go a long way to restoring some confidence and could set them on their way to going on a run. With Huddersfield, Fulham, Watford, Southampton and Brighton to come, this is a huge run of games for Sean Dyche’s men.

West Ham are 11th, but will go up to seventh with a win today. There’s an interesting battle going on in that little mid-table mini-league, with seven teams all within four points of each other. It would be surprising if any of them managed to break into the top six, but seventh place, and a potential Europa League qualification spot, is well within their reach. That’ll certainly be West Ham’s aim, anyway. After a poor enough start to the season, they’ve got going. Mauricio Pellegrini’s men have won five of their last six games, with a 2-0 loss to Watford the only blip in their recent run. The Irons are feeling really good about themselves, and so they should.

West Ham will be confident of going to Turf Moor and winning today against a poor Burnley side. They have more than enough quality to get the job done, but they’ll have to battle today. Sean Dyche sends him team out to really fight with the opposition, and West Ham have to be ready for that. They need to stick together and fight together, and if they do, their superior quality should come out on top.

Man United vs Bournemouth

Manchester United host Bournemouth in the late game of the day. United are feeling better after they got Jose Mourinho out of their club, the bastard. They’ve won two in a row under new man Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. But they can’t get too carried away with themselves, because those games were against Cardiff and Huddersfield. Apart from the results, there has been huge improvement under Solskjaer. They’re playing so much better, with their football being more attractive and exciting. They could actually be a joy to watch for the rest of the season, rather than dull, defensive and dour. A win today would move them just three points behind Arsenal, which is quite incredible considering the long unbeaten run Arsenal were on while United were awful.

Bournemouth are another team involved in that mid-table battle. They’ve started to drop off a bit after their tremendous start, though. This can be put down to their fixtures, as they have been very tough. The Cherries won last week against Brighton, before being hammered 5-0 by Tottenham at Wembley on Wednesday. But they won’t be too down about their recent run. They’ve been exceptional this season, and can be proud of how they’ve played. They’re really good to watch, as they’ve been playing some really good football. Going to Old Trafford won’t be easy for them, but if they play as they have at times during the season, they can get something from the game.

I’m really looking forward to today’s football. Having three games back-to-back is always enjoyable, and they could be three really enjoyable games. Crystal Palace vs Chelsea is on now; I’m watching it while I’m writing. It’s a half decent game, but there haven’t been any huge chances yet. Chelsea have hit the post twice, through Willian and Ross Barkley. It’s an interesting one, but Chelsea are just on top. They’re really not playing that well, though. That one is half-time, with the score 0-0.

You’ll get my thoughts throughout the day on Twitter, and I’ll be back tomorrow with more. I was half thinking of writing an article on Arsenal needing to back Unai Emery in the transfer market, but I might do that tomorrow as I may not have time today. That’ll probably be tomorrow morning’s blog.

Bye now, enjoy the day’s football!

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