Sports Mole previews Saturday’s Championship clash between Coventry City and Stoke City, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Looking to put an end to their longest losing run in over 12 months, Coventry City will welcome an in-form Stoke City side to the Coventry Building Society Arena on Saturday afternoon in the Championship.
The Sky Blues are currently a shadow of the team who reached the playoff final in May and need to pick up results quickly to keep their top-six hopes alive, whilst Stoke have started to regain some of their early-season swagger in recent weeks. ...Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Coventry City’s losing streak in the Championship extended to four matches last weekend, when the Sky Blues were unable to break their Deepdale hoodoo against Preston North End, with the Lilywhites coming out on top of a five-goal thriller following a dismal first-half display from the visitors.
A positive of the trip to Lancashire was that summer arrival Haji Wright bagged his maiden brace for the club since moving from Turkish Super Lig club Antalyaspor, however goals from Duane Holmes, Alan Browne and Montenegro international Milutin Osmajic condemned Mark Robins’s men to five matches without a victory.
The losses of attacking stars such as Viktor Gyokeres and Gustavo Hamer to Sporting Lisbon and Sheffield United respectively are cruel blows which have taken a significant toll, however Coventry have also struggled defensively this term after keeping a record 22 clean sheets in 2022-23, with goalkeeper Ben Wilson coming under scrutiny for his performances against West Bromwich Albion and Preston.
The Sky Blues currently sit 20th in the second-tier standings having collected an uninspiring 15 points from as many contests, meaning 22nd-placed Rotherham United are only four points behind, and Ryan Lowe’s sixth-placed Lilywhites are 10 points better off as we approach the third international break of the campaign.
Coventry were handed an embarrassing lost during their most-recent clash with Stoke at the CBS Arena, with Jacob Brown, Tyrese Campbell, William Smallbone and Ki-Jana Hoever all getting onto the scoresheet for the Potters as they dismantled a Premier League-chasing Sky Blues side in April.
Since returning from October’s international pause, Stoke City have shown the rest of the division why they could be contenders for a top-six placement this season, with the Potters currently unbeaten in four matches since the defeat at league leaders Leicester City on October 7.
A goalless draw with Cardiff City last Saturday at the bet365 Stadium halted Stoke’s three-game winning run following successes against Sunderland, Leeds United and Michael Carrick’s Middlesbrough, however there is still plenty of positive momentum ahead of this weekend’s journey to the West Midlands.
Alex Neil’s men have seemingly found their preferred members of the defensive line in recent weeks, and the solid centre-back partnership of former Coventry duo Luke McNally and Michael Rose has helped Jack Bonham to keep three clean sheets in succession following Mark Travers’s return to parent club Bournemouth.
Although Andre Vidigal has not found the back of the net since the 3-1 loss against Hull City on September 24, the 25-year-old has been a shining light for the Potters during the opening months of the 2023-24 season, with teammate Hoever claiming that the Portuguese has set a great example to the raft of players who also joined the club in the summer.
A sharp upturn in form since the last international break has seen Stoke move from the lower reaches of the Championship table and into 13th place, now just five points behind the top six, with a healthy nine-point gap being established between the Staffordshire club and the relegation zone.
Coventry City Championship form:
Stoke City Championship form:
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Coventry are set to make a number of changes from the XI which disappointed in the opening exchanges at Deepdale last time out, meaning playmaker Yasin Ayari and Jay Dasilva could drop to the bench.
The Sky Blues switched to a back four in the second period at Deepdale as they chased the contest, and there are suggestions that the hosts could go with a 4-3-3 setup from the start on Saturday, allowing Matty Godden and Ellis Simms to partner Wright in attack.
Kyle McFadzean is expected to drop out of the side this weekend due to a family bereavement, so the likes of Bobby Thomas and Liam Kitching will battle with Luis Binks for a spot in the backline.
Callum O’Hare has made three substitutes appearances since making his long-awaited return from injury, but it remains to be seen whether the former Aston Villa youngster will be handed a starting berth this weekend.
After hurtling towards the October international break with 10 first-team players in the medical room, Stoke had just the single absentee from training this week, with centre-back Ben Wilmot set to be sidelined until December due to a knee injury.
Club captain Lewis Baker and forward Campbell have returned to training on the grass following their respective injuries, however it is likely that neither will be ready for Championship action on the weekend.
Dwight Gayle has started the Potters’ last two matches as Ryan Mmaee recovered from a slight knock, however with the Moroccan back in contention, the former Newcastle United marksman could be forced to settle for a place amongst the substitutes.
Coventry City possible starting lineup:Wilson; Van Ewijk, Thomas, Kitching, Bidwell; Sakamoto, Eccles, Sheaf; Godden, Simms, Wright
Stoke City possible starting lineup:Bonham; Hoever, McNally, Rose, Stevens; Burger, Pearson, Leris, Johnson, Vidigal; Mmaee
We say: Coventry City 2-1 Stoke City
Coventry are failing to reach anywhere near the heights of last season, however a potential change to a back-four system for the Sky Blues will harbour hopes of a fresh start.
Stoke have been exceptional during their last four matches, although we believe that the Potters’ four-game unbeaten streak will end at the CBS Arena 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 under 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.Under 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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