Sports Mole previews Monday’s Liga MX clash between Cruz Azul and Puebla, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Cruz Azul have an opportunity to end the Apertura campaign on a positive note when they host Puebla on Sunday at Estadio Azteca.
La Maquina are 16th in the Liga MX table following a 1-0 defeat at Chivas in their previous domestic encounter, while Los Camoteros need a win to have any hope of making the Apertura play-in round, currently a point behind Santos Laguna after a dramatic 5-4 victory at home versus Club Leon....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
It has been a domestic campaign full of turmoil for Cruz Azul, with rumoured tensions between coaches and management and plenty of distractions off the field.
Those supposed issues led to the dismissal of Ricardo Ferretti in early August as this team was in a tailspin throughout the first half of the Liga MX season, claiming just a single point from their first five games.
Former midfielder Joaquin Moreno has salvaged a little pride in this historic club of late, though, with the new Cruz Azul manager winning two of his previous three league fixtures in charge, including consecutive clean sheets at home.
Even if they were to triumph in their final encounter of the Apertura though, Los Celestes would still finish with a mere 20 points, their lowest total in the first half of a domestic campaign since claiming 19 in 2016-17.
During the 2023-24 Apertura campaign, Cruz Azul were in a winning position at the interval four times, failing to emerge victorious in each of those instances, and those 11 points dropped could have put them in the final phase of this competition.
It was a rough beginning to the new Liga MX season for Puebla, who had just one point from their opening five fixtures, though they have picked it up since the end of October, unbeaten in three successive league games.
Defensively Puebla were a mess in the 2022-23 Clausura season, tied for the third-most goals conceded (32), and it has not been much better so far this year, having allowed multiple strikes in seven domestic encounters and allowing two more goals when compared to their previous Apertura campaign.
Ricardo Carbajal has seen his side squander six points when scoring first in this competition, conceding an equalising goal twice in stoppage time.
With a victory on Sunday, though, they can match their points total in the Apertura from a season ago, as Puebla are currently on 19 points.
La Franja have picked up 12 of their 19 points this season away from home, and are unbeaten in their previous five road contests in this competition.
Cruz Azul Liga MX form:
Puebla Liga MX form:
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Cristian Jimenez is doubtful for Cruz Azul this weekend because of an ankle injury, while we saw one new face in their starting 11 from matchday 15 to 16 as Alexis Gutierrez came into the lineup replacing Carlos Rotondi.
Andres Gudino has collected back-to-back clean sheets for them at home, while Angel Sepulveda had the winner in their previous triumph over Juarez (2-0) when Uriel Antuna collected a goal and an assist.
Carlos Rodriguez had two goal involvements in their previous league fixture versus Puebla, scoring the opener in a 3-1 triumph when former defender Julio Cesar Dominguez and current Nacional striker Gonzalo Carneiro found the back of the net.
Facundo Waller will not be available for Puebla on Sunday because of a muscle injury and we saw the same starting 11 for them in their previous encounter, with Gabriel Carabajal being the only newcomer to feature, replacing Pablo Gonzalez in the second half of their last match.
Guillermo Martinez picked up a hat trick in their victory over Leon, putting him at nine goals domestically this season, two behind Harold Preciado for the league lead, while Diego de Buen and Miguel Sansores also netted in that wild finish.
Former winger Jordi Cortizo put them ahead in their previous visit at Cruz Azul last season, while current forward Martin Barragan netted just before the half-hour mark, enabling his side to earn a 2-2 draw.Cruz Azul possible starting lineup:Gudino; Rivero, Salcedo, Ditta, Escobar; Huescas, Castano, Rotondi; Antuna, Sepulveda, Morales
Puebla possible starting lineup:Rodriguez; Ferrareis, Olmedo, Silva, Angulo; Velasco, Carabajal, de Buen, Alvarez; Barragan, Martinez
We say: Cruz Azul 1-1 Puebla
Puebla are not as strong in the attacking third as their previous result might suggest, and we expect to see an even match with two sides who have failed to find much consistency this season.
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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