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Friday, April 22, 2016

PUNDIT: The FIVE Things You Need To Know Ahead Of The Weekend

By Andy Penders

The beleaguered managers inc at Wembley

The managerial situation within a host of Premier League clubs right now is more than curious. Both Chelsea and Manchester City have already named their new brooms for next season.

Some clubs are soldiering on but it’s safe to say that large numbers of fans at several clubs would like to see their current charges shown the door.

The clamour for the end of Arsene Wenger’s eternal fourth place finishes has been ringing around the Emirates for some time but at Wembley, Roberto Martinez and Louis Van Gaal in particular know defeat is simply not an option.

There have also been stories circulating this week surrounding Quique Sanchez-Flores who would seem to be a victim of simply overachieving so greatly in the first part of the season. 

One would also think that given Crystal Palace’s dismal run of form that Alan Pardew might have cause to look over his shoulder, but it’s the managers of United and Everton that will be most severely in the spotlight.

As the influence of the defensive organisation that Davie Moyes instilled at Goodison has disappeared, it would appear to be a case of ‘the Emperor has no clothes’ as a vastly talented side languishes in the lower half of the table with a woeful capitulation at Anfield in midweek the latest insult to their fans.

The feelings of the United fans towards LVG’s team has been well documented and lately his placement of players out of position has been increasing again. Mourinho is waiting in the wings we are told but the United hierarchy are saying nothing.

An appearance in the final will go some way to quashing the fans’ ire in the short term but it promises to be a tense affair at the weekend with more nails being bitten in the dugouts than anywhere else.

Benitez’s return will not be a happy one

For at least some of the Newcastle players, the penny finally seems to have dropped this week with improved performances against Swansea and City where they were unlucky not to win again.

But likewise at Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp appears to be increasingly able to get his ideas across to his players with the Reds improving both in terms of performances and consistency.

Rafa remains a popular character for the Anfield faithful but there will be no presents lying waiting for him one would expect.

Liverpool are hunting down the places above them in the league and this should be a nailed on three points for them even shorn of Henderson, Origi and Can. 

Daniel Sturridge is fit again, Klopp appears to be able to get a tune out of Joe Allen and the likes of Sakho and Lovren in defence are starting to look like Liverpool players.

Newcastle will look to frustrate the Reds and nick a goal but Liverpool should just have too much quality for them, time is running out for the Toon………

The Gunners to make things tough for the Black Cats

Now that any realistic hope of the title is gone and there is little need for any backbone or character, we can expect Arsenal to start playing well again.

The one thing they do defend resolutely also of course is their fourth place trophy and with United and West Ham breathing down their necks we can expect improved performances.

Sunderland were excellent against Norwich as Sam Allardyce strives to obtain the points they need for another unlikely survival.

Arsenal however are simply a better side than the Black Cats and there is also no love lost between the two managers. 

Sunderland will fight and make things hard for Arsenal but with Alexis Sanchez back in form, the Gunners should have too much for them this weekend.

More drama at the King Power

For weeks now I have been convinced that Leicester will finish second and there is nothing that has happened in the past week to dispel that notion – even if I do want them to win it.

The Foxes’ campaign has been mesmerising and having come so close, it would be heart-breaking if they lost it now.

This is a game they simply MUST win if they are to keep Spurs at bay. They will however be without the slightly tetchy Jamie Vardy after his antics last weekend. They have had heroes all over the pitch this season and they need another one on Sunday.

Swansea’s appearance will be akin to being rather awkward uninvited wedding guests. They can only get things wrong either by being beaten or causing Leicester to slip up again, they simply can’t win either way.

It promises to be another tense and hopefully magical game in this most incredible of seasons for the Foxes. 

Spurs to power on

Pretty much everyone in football is used to Spurs being well……. Spurs. A wonderful tradition, so many fantastic players down the years but the butt end of so many jokes as they invariably trip over their own shoe laces.

Until now.

This may be the first year in two decades when St Totteringham’s Day does not occur. Not only could they finish above Arsenal this season – they could actually win the league.

They have been far and away the best side in the league over the past two months with Harry Kane proving he is the real deal and the emergence of the wonderful talent of Dele Alli.

Mauricio Pochettino has built an excellent side and the team has the belief to match the talent. Yes they have had set backs but they have kept on pushing and they simply destroyed Stoke on Monday night.

West Brom will not stand aside and will prove a hard team to break down but Spurs are on a mission right now and three more precious points beckon. 

The only question is whether they will run out of games.

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Andy Penders

Andy Penders is a well known sports broadcaster in Asia having worked for ESPN STAR Sports, Fox Sports and Mio Stadium.

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