After a successful week in Europe, England’s representatives return home to focus their attentions on domestic matters. Week 16 has some tasty games to look forward to with Man City vs. Arsenal and Tottenham vs. Liverpool are the pick of the bunch.
Some of the EPL’s best goals from November 2013
FA to consult fans over Hull name change
The Football Association will consult with Hull City fans when considering the proposal to change the club’s name.
On Wednesday, City owner Assem Allam formally applied to the FA to change the club’s name to Hull Tigers.
“A consultation process will be undertaken with various stakeholders including supporter groups,” the FA said in a statement.
A large group of Hull City fans are against the name change and are urging the FA to protect their heritage and tradition.
The City Till We Die campaign group said it was confident the FA “would make the right decision”.
Hull owner Allam caused controversy recently suggesting those City fans who chanted “City Till I Die” during games could “die when they want”, and that those who unfurled banners were “hooligans” who distracted the players.
The City Till We Die group claims no research or consultation has taken place with fans despite Allam giving assurances that no name change would proceed without any.
The group has received messages of support from fans of many other clubs from home and abroad and will hold a public meeting before their televised game against Stoke City on Saturday.
Supporters Direct, which represents 180 fan trusts across Europe, said the FA should introduce mandatory rules for clubs to consult supporters on changes in name, kit color or ground, as part of a mandatory democratic process.
In a statement, Supporters Direct said: “The very identity of football clubs, and their fans and communities, is simply too important to be entrusted to temporary owners, who are generally more interested in what they can take out of a club rather than what they can put back in, and whose decision-making does not take account of the wider interests of those who count their loyalty in tens of years and generations.”
Robin van Persie out for a month
Manchester United forward Robin van Persie will be out of action for a month with a thigh strain.
The Dutchman, 30, only played the last thirty minutes in the 1-0 over Shakhtar Donetsk, but injured himself while taking the corner that led to Phil Jones’ goal.
It’s unfortunate,” said boss David Moyes. “Our record is good with Wayne Rooney and Robin in the team. We’ve not had them for quite a period recently.”
Van Persie endured many disrupted campaigns during his time at Arsenal, but seemed to have overcome his injury troubles with three years of relatively injury-free soccer.
Despite struggling for fitness, Van Persie has managed to score seven goals in 11 league appearances this term.
Moyes added: “Marouane Fellaini has a bit of a back injury. Michael Carrick is missing and Robin is going to miss four weeks with a thigh strain. That is a big blow to us.”
Ban kids from heading urges campaign group
A leading campaigner on head injuries in sport has called for a ban on children heading the ball when playing soccer.
Chris Nowinski, a former professional wrestler and co-founder of Sports Legacy Institute, believes children should be protected from the dangers inherent in certain physical sports.
Nowinski told BBC Radio 5 live: “In football [soccer], introduce heading at a later age.”
“We can still play those games without contact but who thinks it’s a good idea to hit a 10-year-old in the head 200 or 300 times a season?”
Nowinski suffered from concussion because of regular blows to the head when playing college American football, but due to a lack of understanding about his symptoms, he continued to wrestle and work out for five weeks while symptomatic. He developed post-concussion syndrome and was forced to retire.
Following his retirement, Nowinski co-founded the Sports Legacy Institute, a non-profit organisation dedicated to studying sports concussion through education, policy, and research.
He said: “A new study came out in the US two days ago showing repetitive brain trauma is still causing brain damage.
“Based on all this research, we know we’re giving some of those kids a chance of brain damage because we choose to introduce contact so young.”
However, Headway spokesman Luke Griggs said that banning children from heading in football was not the answer.
Griggs told BBC Sport: “For us, the key is not being as drastic as to ban children from contact sport. It’s more about improving awareness among coaches, referees and, importantly, parents. A minor injury can have consequences so it’s about dealing with them immediately, so we need to raise awareness.
“There is limited research which shows the danger of heading and it will need more research before we contemplate supporting that. There is merit in what Chris says, but banning kids is not the way forward. It’s about awareness.”
The Football Association declined to comment on the matter. In the UK, children tend to play with size three balls until Under 15 level, at which time size five balls are introduced.
|Man City v Arsenal||2-1|
|Cardiff v West Brom||1-2|
|Chelsea v Crystal Palace||3-0|
|Everton v Fulham||1-1|
|Newcastle v Southampton||2-1|
|West Ham v Sunderland||1-1|
|Hull City v Stoke City||1-1|
|Aston Villa v Man Utd||1-2|
|Norwich v Swansea||1-2|
|Tottenham v Liverpool||2-2|
Man City vs. Arsenal
Week 16 kicks-off with dazzler a of a game as league leader’s Arsenal head up to Manchester to face Man City who are the only team in all of England’s professional divisions to boast a 100% record on their home turf.
Last season’s runners-up City have struggled playing away this season, but have been imperious at home winning all seven of their EPL games this season and scoring 29 goals in the process—which is the most by a top-flight team in their opening seven matches since Tottenham in 1962-63 (also 29). They drew 1-1 away to Southampton in their last EPL game, but then beat European champions Bayern Munich 3-2 midweek in the Champions League, so will be brimming with confidence ahead of Saturday’s game.
Their opponents on Saturday have not had the best of weeks, the Gunners were held 1-1 to Everton in their last EPL game and then just managed to qualify for the Champions League second round after losing 2-0 to Napoli in Italy.
Despite being the best team EPL so far this season, many pundits have questioned their championship pedigree, and their credentials will be severely tested in the next couple of weeks as the face City, then West Ham away, before hosting Chelsea on the 23 December. If Arsenal can come out of those games still top of the table, then I think people will really have to start taking them seriously.
Manchester City are expected to recall Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure, who were all rested during the 3-2 win over Bayern Munich.
Arsenal will assess defender Bacary Sagna, who is nursing a hamstring problem. Lukas Podolski is fit after three months out with a hamstring injury but is unlikely to feature due to a lack of fitness.
This game is unquestionably Arsenal’s biggest this season and if they can avoid defeat I think they will be happy. City currently sit six points behind Arsenal so cannot really afford to lose this one, but with the form they are in I doubt they will be worrying about losing.
Arsenal are top of the table, but I think they will lose this game as City seem unbeatable at the Etihad at the moment—in fact, I think they could win ever game at home this season, which would be an incredible feat.
Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace
Chelsea simply cannot lose this game, while Crystal Palace have nothing to lose.
The Blues surprizingly lost 3-2 away to Stoke last week and after that loss Chelsea boss Mourinho said his team was in trouble. The west Londoners currently sit third in the table and could be close to within a point of leaders Arsenal with a win against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
The Eagles currently sit third from bottom in the EPL languishing in the relegation zone, however, Palace are inform having won three of their last four EPL games since the appointment of coach Tony Pulis.
Chelsea defender Gary Cahill has a thigh problem and missing out. While Cesar Azpilicueta looks set to continue at left back ahead of Ashley Cole.
Crystal Palace defender Dean Moxey is doubtful with a hamstring injury suffered against Cardiff, though winger Yannick Bolasie is available following suspension.
Palace are on a good run with three wins in their last four, but they have only taken two points from their eight previous Premier League meetings against Chelsea and are winless in 11 attempts in the league since a 2-1 home victory in August 1990.
Aston Villa vs. Man United
Both these sides lost last week and will be looking to bounce back with a good result and performance in week 16.
Aston Villa were defeated 2-0 away to Fulham, but will feel a tad hard done by, especially as the second goal came via a controversial penalty decision. The Villains have been hit and miss this season, winning games they were expected to lose and losing ones they were expected to win.
They carry a real threat going forward with the likes of Benteke and Agbongalhor, but have struggled defensively and seem to give the opposing side too many opportunities, which could spell trouble as they face Manchester United on Sunday.
But the champions have really struggled under new boss David Moyes, and have only picked up two points out of a possible twelve. The Reds Devils might complain about tough fixtures and injuries, but those excuses mask the real problem, which is that their central midfielders are not good enough to compete at the top end of the table.
Aston Villa midfielder Fabian Delph serves a one-match ban for accumulating five bookings this season. Ron Vlaar is likely to miss out with a calf injury, while Libor Kozak and Antonio Luna both remain doubts
Manchester United woes continue as forward Robin van Persie has been ruled out for a month with a thigh injury, though Wayne Rooney returns after missing out last week’s defeat through suspension. Meanwhile, Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick have back and achilles injuries respectively and are unavailable.
United have a terrific record against Villa, losing only one in their last 35 league games against the Midlanders. However, all of those games were overseen by a certain Alex Ferguson and since his retirement United have looked extremely vulnerable. Nevertheless, I’ll back United to just edge this one.
Tottenham vs. Liverpool
Week 16 could be in for a blockbuster finish as sixth placed Tottenham host second placed Liverpool.
Tottenham have been criticized recently, especially after they lost 6-0 away to City, as they have failed to reach the high-expectations set by spending heavily during the close season—The north Londoners spent close to $174m during the summer. However, it was always going to take a while for all the new players to gel and assimilate, and since that heavy loss they have won comfortably and played well.
Liverpool are enjoying their best start to a season for a few years—They are 11 points and 15 goals better off than at the same stage of last season. The Reds currently sit four points off leaders Arsenal and boast arguably the best player in the EPL and the world right now in Luis Suarez—the Uruguayan has scored 14 goals in only 10 EPL games.
Spurs will assess the fitness of Danny Rose and Christian Eriksen, who returned from injury lay-offs on Thursday against Anzhi Makhachkala.
Vlad Chiriches (knee) and Younes Kaboul (thigh) are both doubts, and Jan Vertonghen is definitely out with an ankle injury.
Liverpool are boosted by the return of Daniel Agger, who returns after missing the win over West Ham because of illness, but Steven Gerrard joins Daniel Sturridge on the treatment table and will not feature, though Jordan Henderson has overcome a badly bruised ankle.
Tottenham have won their last six games against Liverpool at White Hart Lane— four of those defeats have been by a 2-1 scoreline—suggesting Spurs should win this one. However, Liverpool are much improved this season and carry a serious threat with the ever dangerous Luis Suarez, but the loss of captain Gerrard might hamper their chances of getting anything from this game.