Sports Mole previews Sunday’s Premier League clash between Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
A Nottingham Forest side seeking to snap a six-game winless streak host an Aston Villa crop on the hunt for a fourth successive victory at the City Ground on Sunday.
The Tricky Trees fell to a 3-0 loss to Liverpool in their most recent Premier League affair, while Unai Emery’s team continued their magnificent home run by seeing off Luton Town 3-1....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
As Jurgen Klopp affirmed at full time, football came second during Liverpool’s showdown with Nottingham Forest last weekend, as the game kicked off only a few hours after news broke of Reds attacker Luis Diaz’s parents being kidnapped in Colombia.
Diogo Jota and the whole of Anfield expressed their support for Diaz when the former opened the scoring and held up his teammate’s jersey, which came four minutes before a Darwin Nunez tap-in, and a rush of blood to the head from Matt Turner allowed Mohamed Salah to tap home into an empty net in the dying embers.
With no EFL Cup commitments to attend to in midweek, Steve Cooper and his off-colour Forest squad have had ample time to come up with a solution to their winless woes, having played out four draws and two defeats since coming away from Chelsea with a surprise 1-0 win at the start of September.
Thanks to their double-figure points total, the 16th-placed Tricky Trees boast an unassailable lead over their fellow relegation candidates for the time being, and home is certainly where the heart is for Cooper’s troops if recent results are anything to go by.
Indeed, Forest have strung together an eye-catching seven-game Premier League unbeaten run at the City Ground – albeit while drawing each of their last three versus Burnley, Brentford and Luton Town – and only Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have prevented the hosts from scoring in a top-flight home game since their promotion.
Proving too hot to handle at Villa Park yet again, Aston Villa made it 12 Premier League home wins on the bounce when Luton Town paid a visit to their newly-fortified headquarters last weekend, their best such run since the competition’s inception in 1992.
John McGinn set the wheels in motion before Moussa Diaby doubled the Lions’ lead early in the second half, and following a pair of own goals from Tom Lockyer and Emiliano Martinez, Villa had yet another multiple-goal success to their name under Emery.
With a praiseworthy 22 points from their opening 10 fixtures, Villa – who sit fifth in the rankings at the time of writing – have made their best start to a campaign since the 1998-99 term, and it has been 70 years since the Lions last had seven wins to show from their first 10 games of a top-tier season.
A pair of 4-1 thrashings of AZ Alkmaar and West Ham United preceded their success over Luton, meaning that Villa head to Nottingham with 11 goals under their belt from their last three fixtures, but replicating their home form on rival territory is proving a challenge.
Only two of Villa’s last nine Premier League fixtures on the road have seen Emery’s men come up trumps, and they were held to a 1-1 draw by Forest at the City Ground last season, but not since 1994 have the Tricky Trees got one over their Europa Conference League-contending foes in the top flight.
Nottingham Forest Premier League form:
Aston Villa Premier League form:
Aston Villa form (all competitions):
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Forest came away from their loss to Liverpool with a couple of players walking a tightrope, as Orel Mangala and Ibrahim Sangare were both cautioned for the fourth time this season and will incur one-match bans if they enter the referee’s book this weekend.
The midfield duo will be fine to take on the Lions, but the same cannot be said for Callum Hudson-Odoi (thigh), Felipe (knee), Divock Origi (hip), Chris Wood (thigh) or Gonzalo Montiel (calf), while Danilo (thigh) is slowly working his way back to full fitness and may not be risked either.
However, Taiwo Awoniyi was fit enough to come off the bench against his old club last weekend and could be thrust back into the XI as Cooper’s central striker, a role which Anthony Elanga occupied at Anfield.
As far as Aston Villa are concerned, Emery ought to be working with an identical group of players from last week’s win, where Nicolo Zaniolo was once again available to feature despite the looming investigation over alleged illegal gambling.
Zaniolo only completed the first 45 minutes of the victory over Luton before being withdrawn for Leon Bailey, who has certainly made a case to demote the Italian to the bench this weekend, but Emery should otherwise see no need to alter a winning shape.
Long-term knee victims Tyrone Mings and Emiliano Buendia are still unavailable, as are Alex Moreno (thigh), Jhon Duran (toe) and Jacob Ramsey (ankle).
Nottingham Forest possible starting lineup:Turner; Aurier, Murillo, Niakhate, Aina; Sangare, Mangala, Dominguez; Gibbs-White, Awoniyi, Elanga
Aston Villa possible starting lineup:Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Torres, Digne; McGinn, Kamara, Luiz, Bailey; Diaby, Watkins
We say: Nottingham Forest 1-2 Aston Villa
Very few teams have been able to quell Forest’s attacking threat at the City Ground, where a fit-again Awoniyi should help extinguish Villa’s chances of a clean sheet, but keeping Emery’s men at bay down the other end is another matter entirely.
Forest’s eye-catching home exploits and Villa’s indifferent record on the road should lead to a tighter affair than the form book would suggest, but the Lions’ red-hot attackers can be relied upon to propel the visitors to an eighth maximum of the new term.For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5:data
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Newcastle United rise to fifth with deserved win over Manchester United
Newcastle United jump to fifth in the Premier League table with a deserved 1-0 win over Manchester United at St James’ Park.
Newcastle United made it three successive wins against Manchester United in all tournaments for the first time in over 100 years with a deserved 1-0 Premier League victory over the tepid Red Devils at St James’ Park.
A succession of chances came and went for Eddie Howe’s men in the first half, but Man United’s luck ran out when Anthony Gordon fired home early in the second half to sink Erik ten Hag’s team – who were second best all afternoon – although a concerning injury to Nick Pope partially marred the Magpies’ success.
While a decimated Newcastle side put out the exact same XI from their Champions League draw with Paris Saint-Germain, a handful of changes from Ten Hag saw Anthony Martial, Kobbie Mainoo, Diogo Dalot and the returning Marcus Rashford come into the fold....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
However, Ten Hag’s alterations did little to stem the flow of a rampant Newcastle, who saw almost all of the ball in the opening stages and came close in the 18th minute through Miguel Almiron, but Andre Onana was equal to his low effort.
Alexander Isak and Jamaal Lascelles both came close in the few moments that followed; the former had a strike deflected wide by Harry Maguire before Lascelles headed over the bar, which was then shaking in the 40th minute as Kieran Trippier’s free kick landed just an inch too high.
Newcastle’s shot counter displayed a whopping 14 as the referee’s whistle blew to signal half time, but Man United’s clean sheet remained intact, mainly thanks to their hosts’ wastefulness in the final third.
Any harsh half-time words from Ten Hag clearly did not have the desired effect, as Newcastle finally made one of their many forays forward pay in the 55th minute, where Gordon gave the hosts a fully merited lead.
The sloppy Red Devils were punished for losing the ball in the defensive third, allowing Trippier to flash a low ball across the six-yard box, where Gordon was on hand to tap home at the back post.
The ex-Everton man’s opener saw him stretch his St James’ Park scoring streak to four successive Premier League matches, and Ten Hag responded by calling upon Antony and Rasmus Hojlund in place of the ineffective Martial and Rashford.
Man United’s alterations did little to spark any life into the meek visitors, who were indebted to Aaron Wan-Bissaka for making a crucial block to deny Lewis Miley in the 78th minute, but it was Fabian Schar’s turn to deny Sergio Reguilon from scoring a sensational volley with a terrific block of his own four minutes later.
As Pope dived to meet Reguilon’s blocked shot, though, the Newcastle number one injured himself and stayed down as Man United built their next attack, which was stopped in its tracks to allow the stricken Pope to receive treatment.
The Englishman was able to rise to his feet, but he was evidently struggling with his shoulder and slowly trudged off to be replaced by ex-Man United loanee Martin Dubravka.
The Newcastle number two had only been on the field a few moments before an Antony volley flew past him and into the back of the net, but Maguire – whom the ball took a nick off – was in an offside position, and the linesman’s flag came to the hosts’ rescue.
The Red Devils were granted nine minutes of additional time to try to find a leveller, but Newcastle stood firm to leapfrog their visitors into fifth spot in the table, bumping Ten Hag’s men down to seventh in the process.
Newcastle have four full days to rest up before a trip to Everton on Thursday, while Man United will return to their Old Trafford headquarters to meet Chelsea on Wednesday.
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Kobbie Mainoo ‘set to double Manchester United wages’
Manchester United midfielder Kobbie Mainoo is reportedly set to double his wages at Old Trafford on account of becoming a first-team regular for Erik ten Hag....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Manchester United midfielder Kobbie Mainoo is reportedly set to double his wages at Old Trafford following his first-team breakthrough.
The 18-year-old is regarded as one of the brightest prospects in the Red Devils’ setup but was denied the chance to make an impression in the early stages of the 2023-24 campaign due to an ankle injury sustained in pre-season.
Mainoo took months to recover from the affliction, but the teenager has since exited the treatment room and was trusted by Erik ten Hag from the first whistle in last weekend’s 3-0 Premier League win over Everton.
Mainoo – who made his debut for the Red Devils against Charlton Athletic in a January EFL Cup clash – received high praise for a performance well beyond his years and was then brought off the bench for his Champions League debut against Galatasaray a few days later.
Sofyan Amrabat was given the nod in Europe instead of Mainoo, but the Fiorentina loanee was overlooked for the youngster in Saturday’s trip to Newcastle United, where the Red Devils fell to a 1-0 defeat.
Amid Man United’s indifferent form on the field and protracted takeover saga, Mainoo has been a shining light for the 20-time English champions, and his rapid rise is now set to be rewarded.
According to the Daily Star, Mainoo is currently on a modest £10,000 per week at the Theatre of Dreams, but his salary will soon double to £20,000 per week owing to a clause in his contract.
Back in February, the Red Devils tied the 2005-born lynchpin down to a new long-term deal until the end of the 2026-27 campaign, with the option of an additional 12 months.
Rather than Man United agreeing another fresh deal with Mainoo, the midfielder’s existing terms apparently include a clause stipulating that his wages will double in size once he becomes a first-team regular.
The report adds that Mainoo’s salary increase has not been triggered just yet, but he is “close” to taking home an extra £10,000 per week, and he would already be on a higher wage had he not spent a couple of months in the treatment room.
The 18-year-old – who has been with the club since the age of nine – completed 80 minutes of Saturday’s showdown with Newcastle, which was his sixth first-team appearance for the Red Devils.
However, Mainoo and his Man United teammates were run ragged by Newcastle, who deservedly picked up a 1-0 win in freezing temperatures thanks to a second-half Anthony Gordon goal.
Having also been beaten by the Magpies in this year’s EFL Cup and a 2-0 loss at St James’ Park in the 2022-23 Premier League, Man United have now suffered three successive defeats to Newcastle in all competitions for the first time since January 1922.
The Red Devils’ sixth league loss of the season has bumped them down to seventh place in the Premier League table, and the visit of Chelsea to Old Trafford is next up for Ten Hag’s troops on Wednesday.
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Xavi reveals he wanted to sign Alvaro Morata for Barcelona
Barcelona head coach Xavi reveals that he was keen on bringing Atletico Madrid striker Alvaro Morata to Camp Nou....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Barcelona head coach Xavi has revealed that he was keen on bringing Atletico Madrid striker Alvaro Morata to Camp Nou.
For the past one-and-a-half seasons, the Blaugrana line has been led by Robert Lewandowski, who topped the La Liga scoring charts with 23 strikes en route to the top-flight title last season.
The former Bayern Munich man has already managed a respectable seven goals in the current top-flight campaign, although four players have netted more, including 11-goal leader Jude Bellingham of Real Madrid.
With a total of 27 strikes from 14 matches so far, Barcelona are the lowest scorers inside the top five of the La Liga table and have a seven-point gap to make up to Real Madrid and Girona.
Xavi’s side did strengthen their attack over the summer with the loan capture of Joao Felix from Atletico Madrid, while Raphinha, Ferran Torres and 16-year-old Lamine Yamal are alternative options in the final third.
However, Lewandowski is the only out-and-out senior centre-forward at the club, and speaking to reporters at a recent press conference, Xavi revealed that conversations were held with Morata.
The Barca boss waxed lyrical about Morata’s individual qualities and “world-class” connection with Antoine Griezmann, but he conceded that a summer transfer was not feasible.
“It’s true that I wanted to sign him. There was that possibility. I was talking to him and I wanted him in the team, but it couldn’t happen,” Goal quotes Xavi as saying.
“He’s a forward that I really like. Morata is a great forward. He is a generous footballer, who works a lot for the team, he works a lot.
“He goes very well into spaces and helps his teams a lot. I really like him a lot. With him and with [Antoine] Griezmann, Atletico has a world-class forward line.”
The well-travelled Morata has struggled to settle at various clubs throughout his career, enduring mixed spells with Real Madrid and Chelsea, who sent him on loan to Atletico for 18 months in 2019.
The 31-year-old’s switch to Wanda Metropolitano was made permanent for £30m that same summer, but he was loaned back out to Juventus for two years and missed the majority of Atletico’s 2020-21 La Liga title triumph.
However, Morata amassed a respectable 15 goals in all tournaments for Diego Simeone’s team last season and has begun the 2023-24 campaign strongly with 12 goals and three assists from 17 matches.
The Spain international has come up with a joint-high five goals in this season’s Champions League, level with Manchester City’s Erling Haaland and Manchester United’s Rasmus Hojlund, and his total for Atletico now stands at 49 goals and 12 assists from 123 games.
Morata’s contract with Atletico runs until the summer of 2026, and the striker will pit his wits against Barcelona in Sunday’s blockbuster La Liga clash at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys.
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