Sports Mole previews Thursday’s Europa League clash between Maccabi Haifa and Villarreal, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Both looking to keep their European dreams on track, Maccabi Haifa will host Spanish outfit Villarreal at the AEK Arena in Larnaca on Thursday night in the Europa League.
The Israeli side return to competitive action for the first time in over a month in this one, while the Yellow Submarine are pondering another change of management following a poor recent run. ...Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Due to the ongoing conflict in Israel, Maccabi Haifa will play the remainder of their Europa League home matches outside of the country until further notice, with Cyprus set to host their third group-stage contest – a game in which they need to win in order to stand a realistic chance of escaping into the knockout stages.
Goals from Ludovic Blas, Adrien Truffert and Bertug Yildirim were enough to see Ligue 1 club Rennes get the better of Maccabi during a one-sided encounter on matchday one of the competition, and after a goalless draw with Greek club Panathinaikos in the second match, Messay Dego’s men are not in the best position to advance.
Haifa’s preparation for Thursday night’s clash will not be helped by the fact that their last competitive fixture was that stalemate back on October 5, with the Israeli Premier League being abandoned for the campaign due to the ongoing fighting in the country.
One of Haifa’s six permitted foreign players was enjoying a productive start to the league season before its suspension, with Haiti international Frantzdy Pierrot bagging three goals in five league appearances, and the 28-year-old will be aiming to open his continental account in Larnaca.
Dego’s men currently sit at the bottom of the Europa League Group F standings having collected just a single point from their opening two matches, and although second-placed Panathinaikos are three points ahead, the Greek giants have played a game more.
Pressure is beginning to pile severely onto the shoulders of Villarreal manager Pacheta after a highly-disappointing 3-2 loss against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday evening, with the hosts at Estadio de la Ceramica unable to build on back-to-back successes against Granada and Chiclana.
The Yellow Submarine produced a questionable first-half performance in front of their home faithful, leading to them being three goals behind at the break, with Inigo Ruiz de Galarreta, Nico Williams and Inaki Williams all getting onto the scoresheet for Ernesto Valverde’s men.
After taking the reins in September, 55-year-old Pacheta has managed only two wins in La Liga – both against clubs currently occupying places in the relegation zone – and has failed to capture the imagination of an expectant fanbase who were celebrating their team’s Europa League triumph just over two years ago.
Following a shock defeat to Panathinaikos on the road during the first matchweek, Villarreal responded on home soil with a 1-0 victory over Rennes to pick up their maiden points of the European term, with Alexander Sorloth’s 36th-minute strike proving the contest’s decisive moment.
Pacheta’s side have been extremely reliant on the attacking powers of Norwegian Sorloth and Spanish veteran Gerard Moreno this term, with only four of Villarreal’s 17 La Liga goals so far this season being provided from outside of that intimidating two-man forward line.
Maccabi Haifa Europa League form:
Maccabi Haifa form (all competitions):
Villarreal Europa League form:
Villarreal form (all competitions):
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Maccabi Haifa are expected to name a similar side to the one which earned a goalless draw with Panathinaikos last time out in the Europa League, meaning Anan Khalaili, Erik Shuranov and Din David will make up the hosts’ attacking line.
Lorenco Simic and Abdoulaye Seck were a solid centre-back partnership during the game back in early October, and the pair should retain their places in Cyprus for this one.
Villarreal are still waiting on the return of winger Yeremi Pino, and although the 21-year-old has commenced training on the grass following a hamstring issue, he will not feature for the visitors on Thursday.
Former Arsenal enforcer Francis Coquelin suffered a serious cruciate ligament injury in February and is still in the process of rehabilitation, meaning Daniel Parejo and Etienne Capoue are set to start in the engine room.
Denis Suarez lasted just 30 minutes during the Yellow Submarine’s last Europa League game before being replaced due to a thigh injury, and the midfielder is targeting a return to action following the upcoming international break.
Maccabi Haifa possible starting lineup:Kaiuf; Sundgren, Simic, Beck, Cornud; Show, Jaber, Saba; Khalaili, Shuranov, David
Villarreal possible starting lineup:Jorgensen; Altimira, Albiol, Mandi, Moreno; Akhomach, Capoue, Parejo, Baena; Moreno, Sorloth
We say: Maccabi Haifa 1-3 Villarreal
After not featuring in a competitive fixture since early October, it is safe to say that Maccabi Haifa could be slow out of the blocks at their temporary home in Larnaca on Thursday.
Villarreal are in a transitional period and do not travel to Cyprus in impressive form, but the offensive threat of Moreno and Sorloth should be enough to secure a much-needed maximum.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 1.5 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 1.5:data
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Preview: Leicester City vs. Plymouth Argyle – prediction, team news, lineups
Sports Mole previews Saturday’s Championship clash between Leicester City and Plymouth Argyle, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
After both sides netted stoppage-time winners in their last fixtures, Leicester City and Plymouth Argyle will battle to make it back-to-back victories when they clash at the King Power Stadium in the Championship on Saturday afternoon.
The Foxes still have a healthy cushion between themselves and third place following the success at West Bromwich Albion, whilst the Pilgrims eased their faint relegation concerns with three points against Stoke City. ...Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Heading into extra time at The Hawthorns a week ago, league leaders Leicester City were staring down the barrel of one win in their last five matches after West Brom’s Josh Maja scored a scrappy 89th-minute equaliser following Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s opener, however it would be the East Midlanders who would have the last laugh in the Black Country.
Carlos Corberan’s men ploughed forward in questionable numbers in pursuit of a winner and were punished for their lack of defensive care in the final stages, with playmaker Dewsbury-Hall turning the provider as the Foxes struck on the break, affording former England international Harry Winks a simple tap-in to send the away end into hysterics.
Victories for all of Kieran McKenna’s Ipswich Town, Daniel Farke’s Leeds United and Russell Martin’s Southampton made Leicester’s success in the West Midlands even more important, meaning the Foxes remain eight points clear of the third-placed Whites after 19 games of the second-tier campaign.
After back-to-back away games at Hillsborough and The Hawthorns yielded four points, Enzo Maresca’s side return to the King Power for the first time since their 2-0 success over Watford on November 25, when a late Jamie Vardy brace bailed out a sluggish display from the hosts.
The Foxes face four games against teams currently 15th or below in the table before a mouth-watering encounter with second-placed Ipswich on December 23, meaning those of a Leicester persuasion will be expecting to put 12 more points onto their impressive tally ahead of the trip to Portman Road.
Making a 100th appearance for his hometown club, midfielder Adam Randell was the hero of Home Park last time out as the 23-year-old scored a 97th-minute winner against Alex Neil’s out-of-form Stoke side, extending Argyle’s unbeaten home run to four matches.
The Green Army were facing the possibility of losing only their fourth home clash of the term when Tyrese Campbell netted for the Potters in the first half, however an equaliser from Sierra Leone’s Mustapha Bundu allowed local boy Randell the chance to snatch all three points for the hosts.
Steven Schumacher’s men currently occupy 16th position in the second-tier table after collecting a respectable tally of 22 points from their opening 19 matches, and although the Plymouth boss has been linked to the vacant managerial role at Sunderland following the departure of Tony Mowbray, the 39-year-old insists that he is at the “perfect place” to continue his development as a coach.
The clear reason why the Green Army have been unable to join the likes of the Black Cats in the chase of a top-six position is Argyle’s woeful away record, with Saturday’s visitors to the King Power failing to win any of their nine league outings, collecting just three points away from Home Park so far this season.
Since securing a permanent switch from Swansea City in the summer, Morgan Whittaker has scored eight goals in 19 Championship appearances for Plymouth this term, meaning the 22-year-old is one strike away from equalling the tally he managed during 25 League One games in 2022-23.
Leicester City Championship form:
Plymouth Argyle Championship form:
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After Kelechi Iheanacho was largely unimpressive during the narrow success at West Brom last time out, Vardy could be set for a spot in the starting XI, whilst summer arrival Thomas Cannon is waiting patiently for his opportunity in the Leicester attack.
Wilfred Ndidi produced a solid display alongside goalscorers Dewsbury-Hall and Winks in the Foxes’ engine room at The Hawthorns, meaning the Galatasary-linked midfielder will retain his place in the XI.
Marseca’s men will be without the services of influential defender Ricardo Pereira after he picked up his fifth yellow card of the term last weekend, with the versatile Hamza Choudhury a possible deputy at right-back.
Changes could be made on the flanks for Saturday’s hosts, with Abdul Fatawu pushing for a start alongside Vardy and Stephy Mavididi, at the expense of Kasey McAteer.
With Bundu finding the net against Stoke, Plymouth striker Ryan Hardie could find it slightly more difficult to force his way back into the starting XI following time out due to a hamstring injury.
Brendan Galloway started his first game since April at left-back as the Green Army saw off the Potters, however the 27-year-old could make way for Mickel Miller at the King Power.
Last weekend’s match-winner Randell could be rewarded with a starting spot in the East Midlands, with Schumacher potentially preferring the 23-year-old over more attack-minded players such as Luke Cundle and Finn Azaz.
Leicester City possible starting lineup:Hermansen; Choudhury, Faes, Vestergaard, Justin; Ndidi, Winks, Dewsbury-Hall; Fatawu, Mavididi, Vardy
Plymouth Argyle possible starting lineup:Cooper; Kesler-Hayden, Scarr, Gibson, Miller; Houghton, Cundle, Azaz; Mumba, Whittaker, Hardie
We say: Leicester City 2-0 Plymouth Argyle
Leicester will be delighted to be back at the King Power following two tricky Championship outings, where the home faithful will demand maximum points and a dominant display from the league leaders.
Plymouth are one of three sides in the Championship who are yet to taste success on the road this season, so we are expecting the Pilgrims to struggle in the East Midlands on Saturday. 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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Arsenal considering Viktor Gyokeres signing, scouted him more than once
Arsenal have been closely monitoring Sporting Lisbon striker Viktor Gyokeres ahead of a possible approach, according to Portuguese publication Record (page 14).
The Sweden international had a good stint in the Championship with Coventry City last term. He registered 22 goals and 12 assists from 50 appearances.
He was linked with a potential switch to the Premier League over the summer, but Sporting eventually won the race to sign him for €20 million plus add-ons.
It is now reported that the Gunners have scouted him more than once this campaign and they are now considering the possibility of landing his signature.
However, Sporting are quite clear that they don’t want to lose him in January unless any club is willing to trigger the hefty €100m release clause in his contract.
Arsenal linked with surprise move for Gyokeres
The 25-year-old was linked with a Premier League switch last summer after Coventry missed out on top-flight promotion to Luton Town via the play-offs.
West Ham United were the most interested English club in the Swede, but he chose to make the move to Sporting, who are currently top of the Primeira Liga.
Gyokeres has been pivotal for the club with 15 goals and seven assists from just 17 appearances and we are not surprised that Arsenal are monitoring him.
The Gunners already hold an interest in his teammate Ousmane Diomande, but any deal could be delayed until the summer with Sporting unwilling to negotiate in January.
A move for Diomande seems justifiable with his huge potential as a 19-year-old centre-back, but we believe there are better strikers that Arsenal could pursue over Gyokeres.
Gyokeres would be a good acquisition for a mid-table Premier League side, but the Gunners should aim higher and recruit someone like Victor Osimhen if they want to win titles.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com
AC Milan ‘intensify efforts to sign Arsenal defender Jakub Kiwior’
AC Milan are reportedly set to step up their efforts to sign Arsenal’s Jakub Kiwior and are ready to open discussions over a possible move for the player in January....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
AC Milan are reportedly set to step up their efforts to sign defender Jakub Kiwior and are ready to open discussions with Arsenal over a possible move for the player in the January transfer window.
The 23-year-old arrived from Italian outfit Spezia in the last window but has not been able to nail down a regular starting role under Mikel Arteta during his time in North London.
Kiwior has made only five starts in all competitions over the last 11 months, with two of those coming in the Carabao Cup.
According to 90min, Kiwior is keen to play more regularly, and The Gunners are open to granting the defender a loan to move away from the Emirates Stadium in January.
The report adds that with the possibility of the defender becoming available in the New Year, AC Milan have emerged as one of the frontrunners to secure the 23-year-old’s services and are preparing to open discussion with Arsenal over a potential move.
It is understood that the Rossoneri are keen on a loan move for Kiwior, with the option to purchase him outright next summer.
The Serie A giants are also believed to be happy to agree with an obligation to buy the player next summer if it will help get the deal done.
AC Milan are expected to be active in the upcoming transfer market as they try to bolster their defensive line, with the likes of centre-backs Malick Thiaw and Pierre Kalulu currently sidelined through injury.
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