Brighton & Hove Albion

Brighton & Hove Albion slideshow

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Brighton & Hove Albion vs Tottenham Hotspur - The American Express Community Stadium, Brighton, Britain - April 17, 2018 Tottenham's Son Heung-min in action REUTERS/Toby Melville
Premier League - Brighton & Hove Albion vs Tottenham Hotspur
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Brighton & Hove Albion vs Tottenham Hotspur - The American Express Community Stadium, Brighton, Britain - April 17, 2018 Tottenham's Son Heung-min in action REUTERS/Toby Melville
The fact he said it twice, both times unprompted, suggested Mauricio Pochettino wanted to convey a message after watching Tottenham Hotspur suffer their eighth successive FA Cup semi-final defeat. Pochettino responded to questions regarding Tottenham’s failure to get over the line in semi-finals and finals by saying the club needs time “with me or another manager”. He later admitted he could change his policy in next season’s FA Cup and play his kids, even though it could result in early elimination. Tottenham want Pochettino to sign a new £8.5 million contract at the end of the season, but it seems the Argentine wants something other than just a pay rise in return. Knowing that Chelsea would love him to be their next manager, and that he would be near the top of Real Madrid’s list if the Spanish club make change, Pochettino will want to be sure that he is given the tools to keep Spurs moving forwards. Even without a trophy there has been progress once again this season, as Tottenham reached the last 16 of the Champions League and should qualify for Europe’s elite competition for a third successive season. But defeats to Manchester City, in the Premier League, and United in the FA Cup, either side of a draw at Brighton, have highlighted that Pochettino needs more depth and quality in his squad. Chairman Daniel Levy was at Wembley to see that three of Tottenham’s major signings from the past four transfer windows, Lucas Moura, Serge Aurier and Moussa Sissoko, all started as substitutes. Fernando Llorente was not even on the bench. That left 21-year-old Davinson Sanchez as the only signing of recent times deemed good enough to start the semi-final against Manchester United. The Colombian was beaten in the air by Romelu Lukaku in the build-up to Ander Herrera’s winner. Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur player ratings United’s January signing Alexis Sanchez, who has struggled to justify his eye-watering wages, scored his side’s first and had a hand in Herrera’s goal. Marcus Rashford was introduced as a late substitute, while Anthony Martial and Juan Mata could not get off the bench – further highlighting the gulf in resources between the two clubs. “The most important thing is we competed against a team that spends a lot of money and have unbelievable players,” said Pochettino. “With a different philosophy, we were able to compete with this team.” But Tottenham’s squad is simply not strong enough to compete on all fronts and the quality of the recruitment has not matched the progress made on the pitch. Wilfried Zaha is near the top of this summer’s wishlist and Levy will be under pressure to deliver him. Like Pochettino, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris will all be offered new deals, but, like their manager, the players will want to know Spurs are able to push forwards. Tottenham have been linked with Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Dele had given Tottenham an early lead from an Eriksen cross, but, after Eric Dier hit the post in first-half stoppage time, Pochettino’s team never got close to scoring again. Kane has understandably looked off the pace since being rushed back from his ankle injury, but Llorente has not proven to be an able deputy so Spurs cannot afford to bring the England striker back slowly. “It’s not easy after injury,” said Pochettino. “Harry needs time to recover his best. He is ok. But, of course, the performance sometimes cannot be what we expect. Harry Kane, the whole season, cannot score every single game.” Kane said: “I feel good. I feel sharp. It's been a tough week for the team. The City game, frustrating against Brighton and obviously frustrating today. “For me personally, can I do better? Probably, yeah. Can the team do better? Yeah. So it's a collective effort. We'll all be disappointed today, as will I. But all we can do is try to secure the Champions League place. Heartache | Spurs' eight successive FA Cup semi-final defeats “There’s obviously a reason why we’re falling short in the semi-finals, or in the big games. So we have to do better. I wouldn't be able to tell you exactly what it is. But it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating personally, it's frustrating for the team. We just have to find our way round it.” On his fitness, Kane added: “No problems. I feel good, feel sharp. We’ve still got four games to go and I’m looking forward to those four games and a big summer ahead.” Having claimed before the semi-final that winning the FA Cup “would not change the lives” of his Tottenham players, Pochettino has suggested he might approach the competition differently next season. Asked if it would make his life easier to field a young side in the the competition and risk getting knocked out earlier, Pochettino replied: “I am thinking with Tottenham to play with kids the next time, yes. I agree with you. Maybe yes, next we will provide the possibility to play with kids and I’m sure it will be fantastic for experience and everything. Then we stop to arrive in this situation.”
Mauricio Pochettino seeks funds for Spurs to climb higher after Cup defeat
The fact he said it twice, both times unprompted, suggested Mauricio Pochettino wanted to convey a message after watching Tottenham Hotspur suffer their eighth successive FA Cup semi-final defeat. Pochettino responded to questions regarding Tottenham’s failure to get over the line in semi-finals and finals by saying the club needs time “with me or another manager”. He later admitted he could change his policy in next season’s FA Cup and play his kids, even though it could result in early elimination. Tottenham want Pochettino to sign a new £8.5 million contract at the end of the season, but it seems the Argentine wants something other than just a pay rise in return. Knowing that Chelsea would love him to be their next manager, and that he would be near the top of Real Madrid’s list if the Spanish club make change, Pochettino will want to be sure that he is given the tools to keep Spurs moving forwards. Even without a trophy there has been progress once again this season, as Tottenham reached the last 16 of the Champions League and should qualify for Europe’s elite competition for a third successive season. But defeats to Manchester City, in the Premier League, and United in the FA Cup, either side of a draw at Brighton, have highlighted that Pochettino needs more depth and quality in his squad. Chairman Daniel Levy was at Wembley to see that three of Tottenham’s major signings from the past four transfer windows, Lucas Moura, Serge Aurier and Moussa Sissoko, all started as substitutes. Fernando Llorente was not even on the bench. That left 21-year-old Davinson Sanchez as the only signing of recent times deemed good enough to start the semi-final against Manchester United. The Colombian was beaten in the air by Romelu Lukaku in the build-up to Ander Herrera’s winner. Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur player ratings United’s January signing Alexis Sanchez, who has struggled to justify his eye-watering wages, scored his side’s first and had a hand in Herrera’s goal. Marcus Rashford was introduced as a late substitute, while Anthony Martial and Juan Mata could not get off the bench – further highlighting the gulf in resources between the two clubs. “The most important thing is we competed against a team that spends a lot of money and have unbelievable players,” said Pochettino. “With a different philosophy, we were able to compete with this team.” But Tottenham’s squad is simply not strong enough to compete on all fronts and the quality of the recruitment has not matched the progress made on the pitch. Wilfried Zaha is near the top of this summer’s wishlist and Levy will be under pressure to deliver him. Like Pochettino, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris will all be offered new deals, but, like their manager, the players will want to know Spurs are able to push forwards. Tottenham have been linked with Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Dele had given Tottenham an early lead from an Eriksen cross, but, after Eric Dier hit the post in first-half stoppage time, Pochettino’s team never got close to scoring again. Kane has understandably looked off the pace since being rushed back from his ankle injury, but Llorente has not proven to be an able deputy so Spurs cannot afford to bring the England striker back slowly. “It’s not easy after injury,” said Pochettino. “Harry needs time to recover his best. He is ok. But, of course, the performance sometimes cannot be what we expect. Harry Kane, the whole season, cannot score every single game.” Kane said: “I feel good. I feel sharp. It's been a tough week for the team. The City game, frustrating against Brighton and obviously frustrating today. “For me personally, can I do better? Probably, yeah. Can the team do better? Yeah. So it's a collective effort. We'll all be disappointed today, as will I. But all we can do is try to secure the Champions League place. Heartache | Spurs' eight successive FA Cup semi-final defeats “There’s obviously a reason why we’re falling short in the semi-finals, or in the big games. So we have to do better. I wouldn't be able to tell you exactly what it is. But it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating personally, it's frustrating for the team. We just have to find our way round it.” On his fitness, Kane added: “No problems. I feel good, feel sharp. We’ve still got four games to go and I’m looking forward to those four games and a big summer ahead.” Having claimed before the semi-final that winning the FA Cup “would not change the lives” of his Tottenham players, Pochettino has suggested he might approach the competition differently next season. Asked if it would make his life easier to field a young side in the the competition and risk getting knocked out earlier, Pochettino replied: “I am thinking with Tottenham to play with kids the next time, yes. I agree with you. Maybe yes, next we will provide the possibility to play with kids and I’m sure it will be fantastic for experience and everything. Then we stop to arrive in this situation.”
The fact he said it twice, both times unprompted, suggested Mauricio Pochettino wanted to convey a message after watching Tottenham Hotspur suffer their eighth successive FA Cup semi-final defeat. Pochettino responded to questions regarding Tottenham’s failure to get over the line in semi-finals and finals by saying the club needs time “with me or another manager”. He later admitted he could change his policy in next season’s FA Cup and play his kids, even though it could result in early elimination. Tottenham want Pochettino to sign a new £8.5 million contract at the end of the season, but it seems the Argentine wants something other than just a pay rise in return. Knowing that Chelsea would love him to be their next manager, and that he would be near the top of Real Madrid’s list if the Spanish club make change, Pochettino will want to be sure that he is given the tools to keep Spurs moving forwards. Even without a trophy there has been progress once again this season, as Tottenham reached the last 16 of the Champions League and should qualify for Europe’s elite competition for a third successive season. But defeats to Manchester City, in the Premier League, and United in the FA Cup, either side of a draw at Brighton, have highlighted that Pochettino needs more depth and quality in his squad. Chairman Daniel Levy was at Wembley to see that three of Tottenham’s major signings from the past four transfer windows, Lucas Moura, Serge Aurier and Moussa Sissoko, all started as substitutes. Fernando Llorente was not even on the bench. That left 21-year-old Davinson Sanchez as the only signing of recent times deemed good enough to start the semi-final against Manchester United. The Colombian was beaten in the air by Romelu Lukaku in the build-up to Ander Herrera’s winner. Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur player ratings United’s January signing Alexis Sanchez, who has struggled to justify his eye-watering wages, scored his side’s first and had a hand in Herrera’s goal. Marcus Rashford was introduced as a late substitute, while Anthony Martial and Juan Mata could not get off the bench – further highlighting the gulf in resources between the two clubs. “The most important thing is we competed against a team that spends a lot of money and have unbelievable players,” said Pochettino. “With a different philosophy, we were able to compete with this team.” But Tottenham’s squad is simply not strong enough to compete on all fronts and the quality of the recruitment has not matched the progress made on the pitch. Wilfried Zaha is near the top of this summer’s wishlist and Levy will be under pressure to deliver him. Like Pochettino, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris will all be offered new deals, but, like their manager, the players will want to know Spurs are able to push forwards. Tottenham have been linked with Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Dele had given Tottenham an early lead from an Eriksen cross, but, after Eric Dier hit the post in first-half stoppage time, Pochettino’s team never got close to scoring again. Kane has understandably looked off the pace since being rushed back from his ankle injury, but Llorente has not proven to be an able deputy so Spurs cannot afford to bring the England striker back slowly. “It’s not easy after injury,” said Pochettino. “Harry needs time to recover his best. He is ok. But, of course, the performance sometimes cannot be what we expect. Harry Kane, the whole season, cannot score every single game.” Kane said: “I feel good. I feel sharp. It's been a tough week for the team. The City game, frustrating against Brighton and obviously frustrating today. “For me personally, can I do better? Probably, yeah. Can the team do better? Yeah. So it's a collective effort. We'll all be disappointed today, as will I. But all we can do is try to secure the Champions League place. Heartache | Spurs' eight successive FA Cup semi-final defeats “There’s obviously a reason why we’re falling short in the semi-finals, or in the big games. So we have to do better. I wouldn't be able to tell you exactly what it is. But it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating personally, it's frustrating for the team. We just have to find our way round it.” On his fitness, Kane added: “No problems. I feel good, feel sharp. We’ve still got four games to go and I’m looking forward to those four games and a big summer ahead.” Having claimed before the semi-final that winning the FA Cup “would not change the lives” of his Tottenham players, Pochettino has suggested he might approach the competition differently next season. Asked if it would make his life easier to field a young side in the the competition and risk getting knocked out earlier, Pochettino replied: “I am thinking with Tottenham to play with kids the next time, yes. I agree with you. Maybe yes, next we will provide the possibility to play with kids and I’m sure it will be fantastic for experience and everything. Then we stop to arrive in this situation.”
Mauricio Pochettino seeks funds for Spurs to climb higher after Cup defeat
The fact he said it twice, both times unprompted, suggested Mauricio Pochettino wanted to convey a message after watching Tottenham Hotspur suffer their eighth successive FA Cup semi-final defeat. Pochettino responded to questions regarding Tottenham’s failure to get over the line in semi-finals and finals by saying the club needs time “with me or another manager”. He later admitted he could change his policy in next season’s FA Cup and play his kids, even though it could result in early elimination. Tottenham want Pochettino to sign a new £8.5 million contract at the end of the season, but it seems the Argentine wants something other than just a pay rise in return. Knowing that Chelsea would love him to be their next manager, and that he would be near the top of Real Madrid’s list if the Spanish club make change, Pochettino will want to be sure that he is given the tools to keep Spurs moving forwards. Even without a trophy there has been progress once again this season, as Tottenham reached the last 16 of the Champions League and should qualify for Europe’s elite competition for a third successive season. But defeats to Manchester City, in the Premier League, and United in the FA Cup, either side of a draw at Brighton, have highlighted that Pochettino needs more depth and quality in his squad. Chairman Daniel Levy was at Wembley to see that three of Tottenham’s major signings from the past four transfer windows, Lucas Moura, Serge Aurier and Moussa Sissoko, all started as substitutes. Fernando Llorente was not even on the bench. That left 21-year-old Davinson Sanchez as the only signing of recent times deemed good enough to start the semi-final against Manchester United. The Colombian was beaten in the air by Romelu Lukaku in the build-up to Ander Herrera’s winner. Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur player ratings United’s January signing Alexis Sanchez, who has struggled to justify his eye-watering wages, scored his side’s first and had a hand in Herrera’s goal. Marcus Rashford was introduced as a late substitute, while Anthony Martial and Juan Mata could not get off the bench – further highlighting the gulf in resources between the two clubs. “The most important thing is we competed against a team that spends a lot of money and have unbelievable players,” said Pochettino. “With a different philosophy, we were able to compete with this team.” But Tottenham’s squad is simply not strong enough to compete on all fronts and the quality of the recruitment has not matched the progress made on the pitch. Wilfried Zaha is near the top of this summer’s wishlist and Levy will be under pressure to deliver him. Like Pochettino, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris will all be offered new deals, but, like their manager, the players will want to know Spurs are able to push forwards. Tottenham have been linked with Wilfried Zaha Credit: GETTY IMAGES Dele had given Tottenham an early lead from an Eriksen cross, but, after Eric Dier hit the post in first-half stoppage time, Pochettino’s team never got close to scoring again. Kane has understandably looked off the pace since being rushed back from his ankle injury, but Llorente has not proven to be an able deputy so Spurs cannot afford to bring the England striker back slowly. “It’s not easy after injury,” said Pochettino. “Harry needs time to recover his best. He is ok. But, of course, the performance sometimes cannot be what we expect. Harry Kane, the whole season, cannot score every single game.” Kane said: “I feel good. I feel sharp. It's been a tough week for the team. The City game, frustrating against Brighton and obviously frustrating today. “For me personally, can I do better? Probably, yeah. Can the team do better? Yeah. So it's a collective effort. We'll all be disappointed today, as will I. But all we can do is try to secure the Champions League place. Heartache | Spurs' eight successive FA Cup semi-final defeats “There’s obviously a reason why we’re falling short in the semi-finals, or in the big games. So we have to do better. I wouldn't be able to tell you exactly what it is. But it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating personally, it's frustrating for the team. We just have to find our way round it.” On his fitness, Kane added: “No problems. I feel good, feel sharp. We’ve still got four games to go and I’m looking forward to those four games and a big summer ahead.” Having claimed before the semi-final that winning the FA Cup “would not change the lives” of his Tottenham players, Pochettino has suggested he might approach the competition differently next season. Asked if it would make his life easier to field a young side in the the competition and risk getting knocked out earlier, Pochettino replied: “I am thinking with Tottenham to play with kids the next time, yes. I agree with you. Maybe yes, next we will provide the possibility to play with kids and I’m sure it will be fantastic for experience and everything. Then we stop to arrive in this situation.”
What is it? With the Premier League title race now over, the FA Cup represents the last opportunity for Manchester United and Tottenham to lift a trophy this season. Today's referee is Anthony Taylor from Cheshire. When is it? Today! Saturday, April 21. What time is kick-off? It's a late afternoon start - 5.15pm What TV channel is it on? BBC 1 from 4.55pm. You can also watch highlights on BBC 1 at 11pm. Or you can follow all the action with us with our live blog. Man Utd vs Tottenham: tactical preview What is the team news? Manchester United United have their first-choice line-up available. Striker Romelu Lukaku and midfielder Nemanja Matic are among those likely to return to the starting XI after playing substitute roles at Bournemouth. Back-up goalkeeper Sergio Romero has been out since sustaining a back problem on international duty with Argentina and is the only injury absentee, with Daley Blind returning against the Cherries. Provisional squad: De Gea, Pereira, O'Hara, Valencia, Darmian, Shaw, Young, Blind, Lindelof, Smalling, Jones, Rojo, Bailly, Matic, Carrick, Pogba, Fellaini, McTominay, Herrera, Mata, Lingard, Martial, Sanchez, Rashford, Lukaku. Pick your Man Utd team to face Tottenham Tottenham Spurs are set to recall Dele Alli. The England midfielder was rested for the midweek draw at Brighton as one of six changes made by boss Mauricio Pochettino, who must decide whether to pick regular FA Cup goalkeeper Michel Vorm or stick with Hugo Lloris. Danny Rose (calf) is still missing while Harry Winks (ankle) is a long-term injury victim. Provisional squad: Lloris, Vorm, Gazzaniga, Trippier, Aurier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Foyth, Sanchez, Davies, Dier, Wanyama, Dembele, Eriksen, Sissoko, Alli, Son, Moura, Lamela, Llorente, Kane. Pick your Tottenham team to face Man Utd What are they saying? Jose Mourinho says Manchester United are not at a disadvantage at Wembley, Spurs' temporary home this season. "I don't think it's an advantage at all. I played one cup final in Roma's stadium against Roma and I won. I played a cup final in my stadium and I lost. "So I think when you go to these big moments with these big decisions, semi-finals, finals, I don't think it's an advantage. "In some countries even the cup semi-final is played home and away, not (in a) neutral ground, like in England. That's just football. "I look at this, Tottenham-Manchester United, the same way I look at Huddersfield-Manchester United or Manchester United-Brighton at Old Trafford. "Sometimes it's at home, sometimes it's away. This time it's away, but I don't see any advantage. For me it's the same as playing at Old Trafford." ----- Tottenham will not get to the next level by winning the FA Cup, boss Mauricio Pochettino has reiterated. "I promise you the club is not going to change if you win or don't win the FA Cup or the League Cup. "It would be fantastic to add that trophy to the club but what would put us to a different level would be to win the Premier League or Champions League. "That is going to put you in a different level. Here, people love to talk about perception and changing perceptions. "Good Champions League group stage - you beat Dortmund, Real Madrid and you compete very well against Juventus and the dimension of the club around the world changes completely. "But in the end, we still need to improve and improve." Best-priced accumulators | New customer offers What are the odds? Manchester United to win 9/4 Draw 12/5 Tottenham to win 5/4 What's our prediction? Both managers need a trophy for very different reasons. Mauricio Pochettino is looking for his first piece of silverware, while Jose Mourinho could do with something to quieten his critics. The fact Spurs will be at their temporary Wembley home should give them a slight advantage and this feels like the time for Pochettino's young team to step up. Prediction: Tottenham 2 Manchester United 1
Man Utd vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final preview: Team news, kick-off time, TV channel and prediction
What is it? With the Premier League title race now over, the FA Cup represents the last opportunity for Manchester United and Tottenham to lift a trophy this season. Today's referee is Anthony Taylor from Cheshire. When is it? Today! Saturday, April 21. What time is kick-off? It's a late afternoon start - 5.15pm What TV channel is it on? BBC 1 from 4.55pm. You can also watch highlights on BBC 1 at 11pm. Or you can follow all the action with us with our live blog. Man Utd vs Tottenham: tactical preview What is the team news? Manchester United United have their first-choice line-up available. Striker Romelu Lukaku and midfielder Nemanja Matic are among those likely to return to the starting XI after playing substitute roles at Bournemouth. Back-up goalkeeper Sergio Romero has been out since sustaining a back problem on international duty with Argentina and is the only injury absentee, with Daley Blind returning against the Cherries. Provisional squad: De Gea, Pereira, O'Hara, Valencia, Darmian, Shaw, Young, Blind, Lindelof, Smalling, Jones, Rojo, Bailly, Matic, Carrick, Pogba, Fellaini, McTominay, Herrera, Mata, Lingard, Martial, Sanchez, Rashford, Lukaku. Pick your Man Utd team to face Tottenham Tottenham Spurs are set to recall Dele Alli. The England midfielder was rested for the midweek draw at Brighton as one of six changes made by boss Mauricio Pochettino, who must decide whether to pick regular FA Cup goalkeeper Michel Vorm or stick with Hugo Lloris. Danny Rose (calf) is still missing while Harry Winks (ankle) is a long-term injury victim. Provisional squad: Lloris, Vorm, Gazzaniga, Trippier, Aurier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Foyth, Sanchez, Davies, Dier, Wanyama, Dembele, Eriksen, Sissoko, Alli, Son, Moura, Lamela, Llorente, Kane. Pick your Tottenham team to face Man Utd What are they saying? Jose Mourinho says Manchester United are not at a disadvantage at Wembley, Spurs' temporary home this season. "I don't think it's an advantage at all. I played one cup final in Roma's stadium against Roma and I won. I played a cup final in my stadium and I lost. "So I think when you go to these big moments with these big decisions, semi-finals, finals, I don't think it's an advantage. "In some countries even the cup semi-final is played home and away, not (in a) neutral ground, like in England. That's just football. "I look at this, Tottenham-Manchester United, the same way I look at Huddersfield-Manchester United or Manchester United-Brighton at Old Trafford. "Sometimes it's at home, sometimes it's away. This time it's away, but I don't see any advantage. For me it's the same as playing at Old Trafford." ----- Tottenham will not get to the next level by winning the FA Cup, boss Mauricio Pochettino has reiterated. "I promise you the club is not going to change if you win or don't win the FA Cup or the League Cup. "It would be fantastic to add that trophy to the club but what would put us to a different level would be to win the Premier League or Champions League. "That is going to put you in a different level. Here, people love to talk about perception and changing perceptions. "Good Champions League group stage - you beat Dortmund, Real Madrid and you compete very well against Juventus and the dimension of the club around the world changes completely. "But in the end, we still need to improve and improve." Best-priced accumulators | New customer offers What are the odds? Manchester United to win 9/4 Draw 12/5 Tottenham to win 5/4 What's our prediction? Both managers need a trophy for very different reasons. Mauricio Pochettino is looking for his first piece of silverware, while Jose Mourinho could do with something to quieten his critics. The fact Spurs will be at their temporary Wembley home should give them a slight advantage and this feels like the time for Pochettino's young team to step up. Prediction: Tottenham 2 Manchester United 1
The FA Cup would not have featured highly on the wish-list of either Jose Mourinho or Mauricio Pochettino this season, but their meeting in Saturday's semi-final now feels like a game neither can afford to lose. Mourinho needs it to preserve his reputation and prevent the season being labelled a massive disappointment; Pochettino wants to kill off that lingering concern that, for all his fantastic work, without a trophy he is not yet in the elite. So, where will the game be won and lost? Whoever makes the first mistake loses United's inconsistency is maddening. For that reason, Jose Mourinho will almost certainly treat this match as though United are the underdogs, get them in a compact, rigid defensive shape and look to press at half-way, and in their own half, in order to hit Spurs on the counter-attack. West Brom beat United 1-0 doing exactly this, with a game-plan straight out of the Mourinho manual. In a 4-4-1-1 shape on paper and 4-5-1 in defensive phases, West Brom denied United space in the attacking third of the pitch and forced Mourinho's team to aimlessly move the ball sideways without ever really being tested. The deep defensive line meant that any pace United had couldn't be utilised in behind, which is why Mourinho opted to play Juan Mata on the right, in the hope the Spaniard could create with the ball at his feet as he faced the walls of defenders in his way. As it was, every single United player - except for perhaps Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Valencia - had a nightmare, playing with all the conviction of a particularly bad Hollyoaks actor. Without momentum, drive and purpose to United's passing, West Brom were able to easily absorb their attacks and ping long balls into the channels for Jay Rodriguez and Salomon Rondon to chase. For these two, read Lukaku and Marcus Rashford against Spurs. The possession stats will read similarly, too. This was Spurs (away) against Brighton (home) in their 1-1 draw on Tuesday: Brighton vs Spurs And this was Spurs against United from their match at Wembley in January: Spurs vs Man Utd Spurs will not sit as deep as Brighton did on Tuesday but will be wary of the threat United's counter-attacking play poses. United will essentially resemble a much more expensive (and therefore better?) version of West Brom: the (new) United Way. The fact that neither team can afford a defensive mistake is underlined by the fact that these two teams are the best when it comes to defending leads: they have both dropped just four points from winning positions, the joint-best record in the top flight. Points dropped from winning positions Avoid falling into traps Pochettino likes his team to win the ball higher up the pitch than Mourinho by setting traps at halfway and pouncing on a loose pass or slack control. If the attacking team gets past, or near, the halfway line, they tend to be fouled immediately. Mousa Dembele is particularly devious. Fouls conceded per game Both teams will be tentative and acutely aware that one mistake either side of the halfway line can be ruthlessly punished. Spurs' safety net is stopping the counter-attack at source, United's is having bodies between the mistake and the penalty area. Free up Christian Eriksen Most of the chances Spurs create come from Christian Eriksen, and Pochettino has a tendency to mix things up in his forward line during a game in order to get the most out of him. The Dane turns up on the left and right of attack on occasion, though he excels when played just off Harry Kane. The problem is that from an advanced position, defending teams - or good ones, at least - are able to crowd him out and force a quick pass to a teammate. That's why we often see Eriksen dropping deeper into midfield, where he can exert influence on the game and see the picture develop in front of him. From further back he has time to think and his delivery is consistently brilliant. Watch his average position change in this (number 23): Average touch positions (0 min) He's all over the place - an absolute nightmare for a defending team. Mourinho often deploys one player purely to negate the creative influence of an opposition player - the most anti-football thing he does on a regular basis - and could well stick Herrera or Scott McTominay in a midfield three specifically to keep Eriksen out of the game. Attack the full-backs Spurs' width usually comes from the full-backs, as it did in Spurs' 2-0 win in January. This is how the two teams lined up: Spurs (left) Man Utd (right) in Spurs vs Man Utd, January 31st 2018 Erik Lamela was rested against Brighton, suggesting he may start the semi-final in place of Heung-min Son (number seven), but Spurs will most likely do the same thing and look to congest the centre of the pitch in front of United's defence. This is how it looked in practise: The three attacking midfielders congregated in central areas and, helped by Pogba's lack of defensive cover, were able to isolate Matic. This meant they were able to have a bit of fun in the space between United's attacking players and defenders. Eriksen's average position (circled red) is a result of him wandering all over the midfield, sometimes left wing, sometimes right, but he cannot move into these areas without the overlapping run of Kieran Trippier to his right, just like Son needed Ben Davies on the left wing to facilitate his moving inside the pitch. United will very likely look far more sturdy and defensive in this semi-final than they did in the 2-0 defeat, with the intention of drawing Spurs into their attacking shape before winning the ball and hitting passes into space behind the advanced full-backs. Mourinho will set traps and hope Spurs fall into them. A defensive midfield three with Rashford/Sanchez/Martial on the left and Lingard/Rashford on the right would give United the ability to hurt Spurs on the counter-attack. Lukaku will also look for the ball in the channels. The joys of Marouane Fellaini Maroune Fellaini vs Liverpool Credit: REUTERS In that defeat against West Brom, Paul Pogba had a defensive midfielder behind him for cover (Nemanja Matic) and another doing the dogsbody work alongside (Ander Herrera). It is precisely the setup he has said he wants to play in but with a big chance to prove he's worth the effort, he approached the game as though it were a friendly, laughing as he tried to punch the ball into the West Brom net. Pogba was better in the 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Wednesday, and may have earned himself a reprieve for the semi-final. If he is dropped, however, Mourinho has the choice of returning to the 4-2-3-1 he loves so much or getting three utility players in the centre of the pitch in a 4-3-3/4-5-1 to win the midfield battle. Has Jose Mourinho changed tactically since his early managerial days? Scott McTominay could return and be joined by Marouane Fellaini, whose determination and physical presence suits Mourinho's style of play. Furthermore, Fellaini offers the option for United to go long from defence, with the Belgian flicking headers on to Lukaku and the wingers or chesting the ball down and linking play, bypassing the Spurs midfield press. There's another reason this is likely. The centre-backs, particularly Chris Smalling, do not appear to have the ability or confidence to reliably pass out from the back (the main reason Smalling has been dropped from Gareth Southgate's England squad) and against a Spurs team who know how to win the ball, hitting the ball higher up the pitch minimises the risk that United are caught out in their own half. This might not be the prettiest game we ever see but both managers know what's at stake. Like a high pressure game of poker, the outcome of this match will depend much on who gets the better cards during the game. The victor will be whoever plays them at the right time.
Manchester United vs Tottenham: tactical preview - why whoever makes the first mistake loses
The FA Cup would not have featured highly on the wish-list of either Jose Mourinho or Mauricio Pochettino this season, but their meeting in Saturday's semi-final now feels like a game neither can afford to lose. Mourinho needs it to preserve his reputation and prevent the season being labelled a massive disappointment; Pochettino wants to kill off that lingering concern that, for all his fantastic work, without a trophy he is not yet in the elite. So, where will the game be won and lost? Whoever makes the first mistake loses United's inconsistency is maddening. For that reason, Jose Mourinho will almost certainly treat this match as though United are the underdogs, get them in a compact, rigid defensive shape and look to press at half-way, and in their own half, in order to hit Spurs on the counter-attack. West Brom beat United 1-0 doing exactly this, with a game-plan straight out of the Mourinho manual. In a 4-4-1-1 shape on paper and 4-5-1 in defensive phases, West Brom denied United space in the attacking third of the pitch and forced Mourinho's team to aimlessly move the ball sideways without ever really being tested. The deep defensive line meant that any pace United had couldn't be utilised in behind, which is why Mourinho opted to play Juan Mata on the right, in the hope the Spaniard could create with the ball at his feet as he faced the walls of defenders in his way. As it was, every single United player - except for perhaps Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Valencia - had a nightmare, playing with all the conviction of a particularly bad Hollyoaks actor. Without momentum, drive and purpose to United's passing, West Brom were able to easily absorb their attacks and ping long balls into the channels for Jay Rodriguez and Salomon Rondon to chase. For these two, read Lukaku and Marcus Rashford against Spurs. The possession stats will read similarly, too. This was Spurs (away) against Brighton (home) in their 1-1 draw on Tuesday: Brighton vs Spurs And this was Spurs against United from their match at Wembley in January: Spurs vs Man Utd Spurs will not sit as deep as Brighton did on Tuesday but will be wary of the threat United's counter-attacking play poses. United will essentially resemble a much more expensive (and therefore better?) version of West Brom: the (new) United Way. The fact that neither team can afford a defensive mistake is underlined by the fact that these two teams are the best when it comes to defending leads: they have both dropped just four points from winning positions, the joint-best record in the top flight. Points dropped from winning positions Avoid falling into traps Pochettino likes his team to win the ball higher up the pitch than Mourinho by setting traps at halfway and pouncing on a loose pass or slack control. If the attacking team gets past, or near, the halfway line, they tend to be fouled immediately. Mousa Dembele is particularly devious. Fouls conceded per game Both teams will be tentative and acutely aware that one mistake either side of the halfway line can be ruthlessly punished. Spurs' safety net is stopping the counter-attack at source, United's is having bodies between the mistake and the penalty area. Free up Christian Eriksen Most of the chances Spurs create come from Christian Eriksen, and Pochettino has a tendency to mix things up in his forward line during a game in order to get the most out of him. The Dane turns up on the left and right of attack on occasion, though he excels when played just off Harry Kane. The problem is that from an advanced position, defending teams - or good ones, at least - are able to crowd him out and force a quick pass to a teammate. That's why we often see Eriksen dropping deeper into midfield, where he can exert influence on the game and see the picture develop in front of him. From further back he has time to think and his delivery is consistently brilliant. Watch his average position change in this (number 23): Average touch positions (0 min) He's all over the place - an absolute nightmare for a defending team. Mourinho often deploys one player purely to negate the creative influence of an opposition player - the most anti-football thing he does on a regular basis - and could well stick Herrera or Scott McTominay in a midfield three specifically to keep Eriksen out of the game. Attack the full-backs Spurs' width usually comes from the full-backs, as it did in Spurs' 2-0 win in January. This is how the two teams lined up: Spurs (left) Man Utd (right) in Spurs vs Man Utd, January 31st 2018 Erik Lamela was rested against Brighton, suggesting he may start the semi-final in place of Heung-min Son (number seven), but Spurs will most likely do the same thing and look to congest the centre of the pitch in front of United's defence. This is how it looked in practise: The three attacking midfielders congregated in central areas and, helped by Pogba's lack of defensive cover, were able to isolate Matic. This meant they were able to have a bit of fun in the space between United's attacking players and defenders. Eriksen's average position (circled red) is a result of him wandering all over the midfield, sometimes left wing, sometimes right, but he cannot move into these areas without the overlapping run of Kieran Trippier to his right, just like Son needed Ben Davies on the left wing to facilitate his moving inside the pitch. United will very likely look far more sturdy and defensive in this semi-final than they did in the 2-0 defeat, with the intention of drawing Spurs into their attacking shape before winning the ball and hitting passes into space behind the advanced full-backs. Mourinho will set traps and hope Spurs fall into them. A defensive midfield three with Rashford/Sanchez/Martial on the left and Lingard/Rashford on the right would give United the ability to hurt Spurs on the counter-attack. Lukaku will also look for the ball in the channels. The joys of Marouane Fellaini Maroune Fellaini vs Liverpool Credit: REUTERS In that defeat against West Brom, Paul Pogba had a defensive midfielder behind him for cover (Nemanja Matic) and another doing the dogsbody work alongside (Ander Herrera). It is precisely the setup he has said he wants to play in but with a big chance to prove he's worth the effort, he approached the game as though it were a friendly, laughing as he tried to punch the ball into the West Brom net. Pogba was better in the 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Wednesday, and may have earned himself a reprieve for the semi-final. If he is dropped, however, Mourinho has the choice of returning to the 4-2-3-1 he loves so much or getting three utility players in the centre of the pitch in a 4-3-3/4-5-1 to win the midfield battle. Has Jose Mourinho changed tactically since his early managerial days? Scott McTominay could return and be joined by Marouane Fellaini, whose determination and physical presence suits Mourinho's style of play. Furthermore, Fellaini offers the option for United to go long from defence, with the Belgian flicking headers on to Lukaku and the wingers or chesting the ball down and linking play, bypassing the Spurs midfield press. There's another reason this is likely. The centre-backs, particularly Chris Smalling, do not appear to have the ability or confidence to reliably pass out from the back (the main reason Smalling has been dropped from Gareth Southgate's England squad) and against a Spurs team who know how to win the ball, hitting the ball higher up the pitch minimises the risk that United are caught out in their own half. This might not be the prettiest game we ever see but both managers know what's at stake. Like a high pressure game of poker, the outcome of this match will depend much on who gets the better cards during the game. The victor will be whoever plays them at the right time.
The FA Cup would not have featured highly on the wish-list of either Jose Mourinho or Mauricio Pochettino this season, but their meeting in Saturday's semi-final now feels like a game neither can afford to lose. Mourinho needs it to preserve his reputation and prevent the season being labelled a massive disappointment; Pochettino wants to kill off that lingering concern that, for all his fantastic work, without a trophy he is not yet in the elite. So, where will the game be won and lost? Whoever makes the first mistake loses United's inconsistency is maddening. For that reason, Jose Mourinho will almost certainly treat this match as though United are the underdogs, get them in a compact, rigid defensive shape and look to press at half-way, and in their own half, in order to hit Spurs on the counter-attack. West Brom beat United 1-0 doing exactly this, with a game-plan straight out of the Mourinho manual. In a 4-4-1-1 shape on paper and 4-5-1 in defensive phases, West Brom denied United space in the attacking third of the pitch and forced Mourinho's team to aimlessly move the ball sideways without ever really being tested. The deep defensive line meant that any pace United had couldn't be utilised in behind, which is why Mourinho opted to play Juan Mata on the right, in the hope the Spaniard could create with the ball at his feet as he faced the walls of defenders in his way. As it was, every single United player - except for perhaps Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Valencia - had a nightmare, playing with all the conviction of a particularly bad Hollyoaks actor. Without momentum, drive and purpose to United's passing, West Brom were able to easily absorb their attacks and ping long balls into the channels for Jay Rodriguez and Salomon Rondon to chase. For these two, read Lukaku and Marcus Rashford against Spurs. The possession stats will read similarly, too. This was Spurs (away) against Brighton (home) in their 1-1 draw on Tuesday: Brighton vs Spurs And this was Spurs against United from their match at Wembley in January: Spurs vs Man Utd Spurs will not sit as deep as Brighton did on Tuesday but will be wary of the threat United's counter-attacking play poses. United will essentially resemble a much more expensive (and therefore better?) version of West Brom: the (new) United Way. The fact that neither team can afford a defensive mistake is underlined by the fact that these two teams are the best when it comes to defending leads: they have both dropped just four points from winning positions, the joint-best record in the top flight. Points dropped from winning positions Avoid falling into traps Pochettino likes his team to win the ball higher up the pitch than Mourinho by setting traps at halfway and pouncing on a loose pass or slack control. If the attacking team gets past, or near, the halfway line, they tend to be fouled immediately. Mousa Dembele is particularly devious. Fouls conceded per game Both teams will be tentative and acutely aware that one mistake either side of the halfway line can be ruthlessly punished. Spurs' safety net is stopping the counter-attack at source, United's is having bodies between the mistake and the penalty area. Free up Christian Eriksen Most of the chances Spurs create come from Christian Eriksen, and Pochettino has a tendency to mix things up in his forward line during a game in order to get the most out of him. The Dane turns up on the left and right of attack on occasion, though he excels when played just off Harry Kane. The problem is that from an advanced position, defending teams - or good ones, at least - are able to crowd him out and force a quick pass to a teammate. That's why we often see Eriksen dropping deeper into midfield, where he can exert influence on the game and see the picture develop in front of him. From further back he has time to think and his delivery is consistently brilliant. Watch his average position change in this (number 23): Average touch positions (0 min) He's all over the place - an absolute nightmare for a defending team. Mourinho often deploys one player purely to negate the creative influence of an opposition player - the most anti-football thing he does on a regular basis - and could well stick Herrera or Scott McTominay in a midfield three specifically to keep Eriksen out of the game. Attack the full-backs Spurs' width usually comes from the full-backs, as it did in Spurs' 2-0 win in January. This is how the two teams lined up: Spurs (left) Man Utd (right) in Spurs vs Man Utd, January 31st 2018 Erik Lamela was rested against Brighton, suggesting he may start the semi-final in place of Heung-min Son (number seven), but Spurs will most likely do the same thing and look to congest the centre of the pitch in front of United's defence. This is how it looked in practise: The three attacking midfielders congregated in central areas and, helped by Pogba's lack of defensive cover, were able to isolate Matic. This meant they were able to have a bit of fun in the space between United's attacking players and defenders. Eriksen's average position (circled red) is a result of him wandering all over the midfield, sometimes left wing, sometimes right, but he cannot move into these areas without the overlapping run of Kieran Trippier to his right, just like Son needed Ben Davies on the left wing to facilitate his moving inside the pitch. United will very likely look far more sturdy and defensive in this semi-final than they did in the 2-0 defeat, with the intention of drawing Spurs into their attacking shape before winning the ball and hitting passes into space behind the advanced full-backs. Mourinho will set traps and hope Spurs fall into them. A defensive midfield three with Rashford/Sanchez/Martial on the left and Lingard/Rashford on the right would give United the ability to hurt Spurs on the counter-attack. Lukaku will also look for the ball in the channels. The joys of Marouane Fellaini Maroune Fellaini vs Liverpool Credit: REUTERS In that defeat against West Brom, Paul Pogba had a defensive midfielder behind him for cover (Nemanja Matic) and another doing the dogsbody work alongside (Ander Herrera). It is precisely the setup he has said he wants to play in but with a big chance to prove he's worth the effort, he approached the game as though it were a friendly, laughing as he tried to punch the ball into the West Brom net. Pogba was better in the 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Wednesday, and may have earned himself a reprieve for the semi-final. If he is dropped, however, Mourinho has the choice of returning to the 4-2-3-1 he loves so much or getting three utility players in the centre of the pitch in a 4-3-3/4-5-1 to win the midfield battle. Has Jose Mourinho changed tactically since his early managerial days? Scott McTominay could return and be joined by Marouane Fellaini, whose determination and physical presence suits Mourinho's style of play. Furthermore, Fellaini offers the option for United to go long from defence, with the Belgian flicking headers on to Lukaku and the wingers or chesting the ball down and linking play, bypassing the Spurs midfield press. There's another reason this is likely. The centre-backs, particularly Chris Smalling, do not appear to have the ability or confidence to reliably pass out from the back (the main reason Smalling has been dropped from Gareth Southgate's England squad) and against a Spurs team who know how to win the ball, hitting the ball higher up the pitch minimises the risk that United are caught out in their own half. This might not be the prettiest game we ever see but both managers know what's at stake. Like a high pressure game of poker, the outcome of this match will depend much on who gets the better cards during the game. The victor will be whoever plays them at the right time.
Manchester United vs Tottenham: tactical preview - why whoever makes the first mistake loses
The FA Cup would not have featured highly on the wish-list of either Jose Mourinho or Mauricio Pochettino this season, but their meeting in Saturday's semi-final now feels like a game neither can afford to lose. Mourinho needs it to preserve his reputation and prevent the season being labelled a massive disappointment; Pochettino wants to kill off that lingering concern that, for all his fantastic work, without a trophy he is not yet in the elite. So, where will the game be won and lost? Whoever makes the first mistake loses United's inconsistency is maddening. For that reason, Jose Mourinho will almost certainly treat this match as though United are the underdogs, get them in a compact, rigid defensive shape and look to press at half-way, and in their own half, in order to hit Spurs on the counter-attack. West Brom beat United 1-0 doing exactly this, with a game-plan straight out of the Mourinho manual. In a 4-4-1-1 shape on paper and 4-5-1 in defensive phases, West Brom denied United space in the attacking third of the pitch and forced Mourinho's team to aimlessly move the ball sideways without ever really being tested. The deep defensive line meant that any pace United had couldn't be utilised in behind, which is why Mourinho opted to play Juan Mata on the right, in the hope the Spaniard could create with the ball at his feet as he faced the walls of defenders in his way. As it was, every single United player - except for perhaps Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Valencia - had a nightmare, playing with all the conviction of a particularly bad Hollyoaks actor. Without momentum, drive and purpose to United's passing, West Brom were able to easily absorb their attacks and ping long balls into the channels for Jay Rodriguez and Salomon Rondon to chase. For these two, read Lukaku and Marcus Rashford against Spurs. The possession stats will read similarly, too. This was Spurs (away) against Brighton (home) in their 1-1 draw on Tuesday: Brighton vs Spurs And this was Spurs against United from their match at Wembley in January: Spurs vs Man Utd Spurs will not sit as deep as Brighton did on Tuesday but will be wary of the threat United's counter-attacking play poses. United will essentially resemble a much more expensive (and therefore better?) version of West Brom: the (new) United Way. The fact that neither team can afford a defensive mistake is underlined by the fact that these two teams are the best when it comes to defending leads: they have both dropped just four points from winning positions, the joint-best record in the top flight. Points dropped from winning positions Avoid falling into traps Pochettino likes his team to win the ball higher up the pitch than Mourinho by setting traps at halfway and pouncing on a loose pass or slack control. If the attacking team gets past, or near, the halfway line, they tend to be fouled immediately. Mousa Dembele is particularly devious. Fouls conceded per game Both teams will be tentative and acutely aware that one mistake either side of the halfway line can be ruthlessly punished. Spurs' safety net is stopping the counter-attack at source, United's is having bodies between the mistake and the penalty area. Free up Christian Eriksen Most of the chances Spurs create come from Christian Eriksen, and Pochettino has a tendency to mix things up in his forward line during a game in order to get the most out of him. The Dane turns up on the left and right of attack on occasion, though he excels when played just off Harry Kane. The problem is that from an advanced position, defending teams - or good ones, at least - are able to crowd him out and force a quick pass to a teammate. That's why we often see Eriksen dropping deeper into midfield, where he can exert influence on the game and see the picture develop in front of him. From further back he has time to think and his delivery is consistently brilliant. Watch his average position change in this (number 23): Average touch positions (0 min) He's all over the place - an absolute nightmare for a defending team. Mourinho often deploys one player purely to negate the creative influence of an opposition player - the most anti-football thing he does on a regular basis - and could well stick Herrera or Scott McTominay in a midfield three specifically to keep Eriksen out of the game. Attack the full-backs Spurs' width usually comes from the full-backs, as it did in Spurs' 2-0 win in January. This is how the two teams lined up: Spurs (left) Man Utd (right) in Spurs vs Man Utd, January 31st 2018 Erik Lamela was rested against Brighton, suggesting he may start the semi-final in place of Heung-min Son (number seven), but Spurs will most likely do the same thing and look to congest the centre of the pitch in front of United's defence. This is how it looked in practise: The three attacking midfielders congregated in central areas and, helped by Pogba's lack of defensive cover, were able to isolate Matic. This meant they were able to have a bit of fun in the space between United's attacking players and defenders. Eriksen's average position (circled red) is a result of him wandering all over the midfield, sometimes left wing, sometimes right, but he cannot move into these areas without the overlapping run of Kieran Trippier to his right, just like Son needed Ben Davies on the left wing to facilitate his moving inside the pitch. United will very likely look far more sturdy and defensive in this semi-final than they did in the 2-0 defeat, with the intention of drawing Spurs into their attacking shape before winning the ball and hitting passes into space behind the advanced full-backs. Mourinho will set traps and hope Spurs fall into them. A defensive midfield three with Rashford/Sanchez/Martial on the left and Lingard/Rashford on the right would give United the ability to hurt Spurs on the counter-attack. Lukaku will also look for the ball in the channels. The joys of Marouane Fellaini Maroune Fellaini vs Liverpool Credit: REUTERS In that defeat against West Brom, Paul Pogba had a defensive midfielder behind him for cover (Nemanja Matic) and another doing the dogsbody work alongside (Ander Herrera). It is precisely the setup he has said he wants to play in but with a big chance to prove he's worth the effort, he approached the game as though it were a friendly, laughing as he tried to punch the ball into the West Brom net. Pogba was better in the 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Wednesday, and may have earned himself a reprieve for the semi-final. If he is dropped, however, Mourinho has the choice of returning to the 4-2-3-1 he loves so much or getting three utility players in the centre of the pitch in a 4-3-3/4-5-1 to win the midfield battle. Has Jose Mourinho changed tactically since his early managerial days? Scott McTominay could return and be joined by Marouane Fellaini, whose determination and physical presence suits Mourinho's style of play. Furthermore, Fellaini offers the option for United to go long from defence, with the Belgian flicking headers on to Lukaku and the wingers or chesting the ball down and linking play, bypassing the Spurs midfield press. There's another reason this is likely. The centre-backs, particularly Chris Smalling, do not appear to have the ability or confidence to reliably pass out from the back (the main reason Smalling has been dropped from Gareth Southgate's England squad) and against a Spurs team who know how to win the ball, hitting the ball higher up the pitch minimises the risk that United are caught out in their own half. This might not be the prettiest game we ever see but both managers know what's at stake. Like a high pressure game of poker, the outcome of this match will depend much on who gets the better cards during the game. The victor will be whoever plays them at the right time.
The FA Cup would not have featured highly on the wish-list of either Jose Mourinho or Mauricio Pochettino this season, but their meeting in Saturday's semi-final now feels like a game neither can afford to lose. Mourinho needs it to preserve his reputation and prevent the season being labelled a massive disappointment; Pochettino wants to kill off that lingering concern that, for all his fantastic work, without a trophy he is not yet in the elite. So, where will the game be won and lost? Whoever makes the first mistake loses United's inconsistency is maddening. For that reason, Jose Mourinho will almost certainly treat this match as though United are the underdogs, get them in a compact, rigid defensive shape and look to press at half-way, and in their own half, in order to hit Spurs on the counter-attack. West Brom beat United 1-0 doing exactly this, with a game-plan straight out of the Mourinho manual. In a 4-4-1-1 shape on paper and 4-5-1 in defensive phases, West Brom denied United space in the attacking third of the pitch and forced Mourinho's team to aimlessly move the ball sideways without ever really being tested. The deep defensive line meant that any pace United had couldn't be utilised in behind, which is why Mourinho opted to play Juan Mata on the right, in the hope the Spaniard could create with the ball at his feet as he faced the walls of defenders in his way. As it was, every single United player - except for perhaps Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Valencia - had a nightmare, playing with all the conviction of a particularly bad Hollyoaks actor. Without momentum, drive and purpose to United's passing, West Brom were able to easily absorb their attacks and ping long balls into the channels for Jay Rodriguez and Salomon Rondon to chase. For these two, read Lukaku and Marcus Rashford against Spurs. The possession stats will read similarly, too. This was Spurs (away) against Brighton (home) in their 1-1 draw on Tuesday: Brighton vs Spurs And this was Spurs against United from their match at Wembley in January: Spurs vs Man Utd Spurs will not sit as deep as Brighton did on Tuesday but will be wary of the threat United's counter-attacking play poses. United will essentially resemble a much more expensive (and therefore better?) version of West Brom: the (new) United Way. The fact that neither team can afford a defensive mistake is underlined by the fact that these two teams are the best when it comes to defending leads: they have both dropped just four points from winning positions, the joint-best record in the top flight. Points dropped from winning positions Avoid falling into traps Pochettino likes his team to win the ball higher up the pitch than Mourinho by setting traps at halfway and pouncing on a loose pass or slack control. If the attacking team gets past, or near, the halfway line, they tend to be fouled immediately. Mousa Dembele is particularly devious. Fouls conceded per game Both teams will be tentative and acutely aware that one mistake either side of the halfway line can be ruthlessly punished. Spurs' safety net is stopping the counter-attack at source, United's is having bodies between the mistake and the penalty area. Free up Christian Eriksen Most of the chances Spurs create come from Christian Eriksen, and Pochettino has a tendency to mix things up in his forward line during a game in order to get the most out of him. The Dane turns up on the left and right of attack on occasion, though he excels when played just off Harry Kane. The problem is that from an advanced position, defending teams - or good ones, at least - are able to crowd him out and force a quick pass to a teammate. That's why we often see Eriksen dropping deeper into midfield, where he can exert influence on the game and see the picture develop in front of him. From further back he has time to think and his delivery is consistently brilliant. Watch his average position change in this (number 23): Average touch positions (0 min) He's all over the place - an absolute nightmare for a defending team. Mourinho often deploys one player purely to negate the creative influence of an opposition player - the most anti-football thing he does on a regular basis - and could well stick Herrera or Scott McTominay in a midfield three specifically to keep Eriksen out of the game. Attack the full-backs Spurs' width usually comes from the full-backs, as it did in Spurs' 2-0 win in January. This is how the two teams lined up: Spurs (left) Man Utd (right) in Spurs vs Man Utd, January 31st 2018 Erik Lamela was rested against Brighton, suggesting he may start the semi-final in place of Heung-min Son (number seven), but Spurs will most likely do the same thing and look to congest the centre of the pitch in front of United's defence. This is how it looked in practise: The three attacking midfielders congregated in central areas and, helped by Pogba's lack of defensive cover, were able to isolate Matic. This meant they were able to have a bit of fun in the space between United's attacking players and defenders. Eriksen's average position (circled red) is a result of him wandering all over the midfield, sometimes left wing, sometimes right, but he cannot move into these areas without the overlapping run of Kieran Trippier to his right, just like Son needed Ben Davies on the left wing to facilitate his moving inside the pitch. United will very likely look far more sturdy and defensive in this semi-final than they did in the 2-0 defeat, with the intention of drawing Spurs into their attacking shape before winning the ball and hitting passes into space behind the advanced full-backs. Mourinho will set traps and hope Spurs fall into them. A defensive midfield three with Rashford/Sanchez/Martial on the left and Lingard/Rashford on the right would give United the ability to hurt Spurs on the counter-attack. Lukaku will also look for the ball in the channels. The joys of Marouane Fellaini Maroune Fellaini vs Liverpool Credit: REUTERS In that defeat against West Brom, Paul Pogba had a defensive midfielder behind him for cover (Nemanja Matic) and another doing the dogsbody work alongside (Ander Herrera). It is precisely the setup he has said he wants to play in but with a big chance to prove he's worth the effort, he approached the game as though it were a friendly, laughing as he tried to punch the ball into the West Brom net. Pogba was better in the 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Wednesday, and may have earned himself a reprieve for the semi-final. If he is dropped, however, Mourinho has the choice of returning to the 4-2-3-1 he loves so much or getting three utility players in the centre of the pitch in a 4-3-3/4-5-1 to win the midfield battle. Has Jose Mourinho changed tactically since his early managerial days? Scott McTominay could return and be joined by Marouane Fellaini, whose determination and physical presence suits Mourinho's style of play. Furthermore, Fellaini offers the option for United to go long from defence, with the Belgian flicking headers on to Lukaku and the wingers or chesting the ball down and linking play, bypassing the Spurs midfield press. There's another reason this is likely. The centre-backs, particularly Chris Smalling, do not appear to have the ability or confidence to reliably pass out from the back (the main reason Smalling has been dropped from Gareth Southgate's England squad) and against a Spurs team who know how to win the ball, hitting the ball higher up the pitch minimises the risk that United are caught out in their own half. This might not be the prettiest game we ever see but both managers know what's at stake. Like a high pressure game of poker, the outcome of this match will depend much on who gets the better cards during the game. The victor will be whoever plays them at the right time.
Manchester United vs Tottenham: tactical preview - why whoever makes the first mistake loses
The FA Cup would not have featured highly on the wish-list of either Jose Mourinho or Mauricio Pochettino this season, but their meeting in Saturday's semi-final now feels like a game neither can afford to lose. Mourinho needs it to preserve his reputation and prevent the season being labelled a massive disappointment; Pochettino wants to kill off that lingering concern that, for all his fantastic work, without a trophy he is not yet in the elite. So, where will the game be won and lost? Whoever makes the first mistake loses United's inconsistency is maddening. For that reason, Jose Mourinho will almost certainly treat this match as though United are the underdogs, get them in a compact, rigid defensive shape and look to press at half-way, and in their own half, in order to hit Spurs on the counter-attack. West Brom beat United 1-0 doing exactly this, with a game-plan straight out of the Mourinho manual. In a 4-4-1-1 shape on paper and 4-5-1 in defensive phases, West Brom denied United space in the attacking third of the pitch and forced Mourinho's team to aimlessly move the ball sideways without ever really being tested. The deep defensive line meant that any pace United had couldn't be utilised in behind, which is why Mourinho opted to play Juan Mata on the right, in the hope the Spaniard could create with the ball at his feet as he faced the walls of defenders in his way. As it was, every single United player - except for perhaps Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Valencia - had a nightmare, playing with all the conviction of a particularly bad Hollyoaks actor. Without momentum, drive and purpose to United's passing, West Brom were able to easily absorb their attacks and ping long balls into the channels for Jay Rodriguez and Salomon Rondon to chase. For these two, read Lukaku and Marcus Rashford against Spurs. The possession stats will read similarly, too. This was Spurs (away) against Brighton (home) in their 1-1 draw on Tuesday: Brighton vs Spurs And this was Spurs against United from their match at Wembley in January: Spurs vs Man Utd Spurs will not sit as deep as Brighton did on Tuesday but will be wary of the threat United's counter-attacking play poses. United will essentially resemble a much more expensive (and therefore better?) version of West Brom: the (new) United Way. The fact that neither team can afford a defensive mistake is underlined by the fact that these two teams are the best when it comes to defending leads: they have both dropped just four points from winning positions, the joint-best record in the top flight. Points dropped from winning positions Avoid falling into traps Pochettino likes his team to win the ball higher up the pitch than Mourinho by setting traps at halfway and pouncing on a loose pass or slack control. If the attacking team gets past, or near, the halfway line, they tend to be fouled immediately. Mousa Dembele is particularly devious. Fouls conceded per game Both teams will be tentative and acutely aware that one mistake either side of the halfway line can be ruthlessly punished. Spurs' safety net is stopping the counter-attack at source, United's is having bodies between the mistake and the penalty area. Free up Christian Eriksen Most of the chances Spurs create come from Christian Eriksen, and Pochettino has a tendency to mix things up in his forward line during a game in order to get the most out of him. The Dane turns up on the left and right of attack on occasion, though he excels when played just off Harry Kane. The problem is that from an advanced position, defending teams - or good ones, at least - are able to crowd him out and force a quick pass to a teammate. That's why we often see Eriksen dropping deeper into midfield, where he can exert influence on the game and see the picture develop in front of him. From further back he has time to think and his delivery is consistently brilliant. Watch his average position change in this (number 23): Average touch positions (0 min) He's all over the place - an absolute nightmare for a defending team. Mourinho often deploys one player purely to negate the creative influence of an opposition player - the most anti-football thing he does on a regular basis - and could well stick Herrera or Scott McTominay in a midfield three specifically to keep Eriksen out of the game. Attack the full-backs Spurs' width usually comes from the full-backs, as it did in Spurs' 2-0 win in January. This is how the two teams lined up: Spurs (left) Man Utd (right) in Spurs vs Man Utd, January 31st 2018 Erik Lamela was rested against Brighton, suggesting he may start the semi-final in place of Heung-min Son (number seven), but Spurs will most likely do the same thing and look to congest the centre of the pitch in front of United's defence. This is how it looked in practise: The three attacking midfielders congregated in central areas and, helped by Pogba's lack of defensive cover, were able to isolate Matic. This meant they were able to have a bit of fun in the space between United's attacking players and defenders. Eriksen's average position (circled red) is a result of him wandering all over the midfield, sometimes left wing, sometimes right, but he cannot move into these areas without the overlapping run of Kieran Trippier to his right, just like Son needed Ben Davies on the left wing to facilitate his moving inside the pitch. United will very likely look far more sturdy and defensive in this semi-final than they did in the 2-0 defeat, with the intention of drawing Spurs into their attacking shape before winning the ball and hitting passes into space behind the advanced full-backs. Mourinho will set traps and hope Spurs fall into them. A defensive midfield three with Rashford/Sanchez/Martial on the left and Lingard/Rashford on the right would give United the ability to hurt Spurs on the counter-attack. Lukaku will also look for the ball in the channels. The joys of Marouane Fellaini Maroune Fellaini vs Liverpool Credit: REUTERS In that defeat against West Brom, Paul Pogba had a defensive midfielder behind him for cover (Nemanja Matic) and another doing the dogsbody work alongside (Ander Herrera). It is precisely the setup he has said he wants to play in but with a big chance to prove he's worth the effort, he approached the game as though it were a friendly, laughing as he tried to punch the ball into the West Brom net. Pogba was better in the 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Wednesday, and may have earned himself a reprieve for the semi-final. If he is dropped, however, Mourinho has the choice of returning to the 4-2-3-1 he loves so much or getting three utility players in the centre of the pitch in a 4-3-3/4-5-1 to win the midfield battle. Has Jose Mourinho changed tactically since his early managerial days? Scott McTominay could return and be joined by Marouane Fellaini, whose determination and physical presence suits Mourinho's style of play. Furthermore, Fellaini offers the option for United to go long from defence, with the Belgian flicking headers on to Lukaku and the wingers or chesting the ball down and linking play, bypassing the Spurs midfield press. There's another reason this is likely. The centre-backs, particularly Chris Smalling, do not appear to have the ability or confidence to reliably pass out from the back (the main reason Smalling has been dropped from Gareth Southgate's England squad) and against a Spurs team who know how to win the ball, hitting the ball higher up the pitch minimises the risk that United are caught out in their own half. This might not be the prettiest game we ever see but both managers know what's at stake. Like a high pressure game of poker, the outcome of this match will depend much on who gets the better cards during the game. The victor will be whoever plays them at the right time.
The FA Cup would not have featured highly on the wish-list of either Jose Mourinho or Mauricio Pochettino this season, but their meeting in Saturday's semi-final now feels like a game neither can afford to lose. Mourinho needs it to preserve his reputation and prevent the season being labelled a massive disappointment; Pochettino wants to kill off that lingering concern that, for all his fantastic work, without a trophy he is not yet in the elite. So, where will the game be won and lost? Whoever makes the first mistake loses United's inconsistency is maddening. For that reason, Jose Mourinho will almost certainly treat this match as though United are the underdogs, get them in a compact, rigid defensive shape and look to press at half-way, and in their own half, in order to hit Spurs on the counter-attack. West Brom beat United 1-0 doing exactly this, with a game-plan straight out of the Mourinho manual. In a 4-4-1-1 shape on paper and 4-5-1 in defensive phases, West Brom denied United space in the attacking third of the pitch and forced Mourinho's team to aimlessly move the ball sideways without ever really being tested. The deep defensive line meant that any pace United had couldn't be utilised in behind, which is why Mourinho opted to play Juan Mata on the right, in the hope the Spaniard could create with the ball at his feet as he faced the walls of defenders in his way. As it was, every single United player - except for perhaps Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Valencia - had a nightmare, playing with all the conviction of a particularly bad Hollyoaks actor. Without momentum, drive and purpose to United's passing, West Brom were able to easily absorb their attacks and ping long balls into the channels for Jay Rodriguez and Salomon Rondon to chase. For these two, read Lukaku and Marcus Rashford against Spurs. The possession stats will read similarly, too. This was Spurs (away) against Brighton (home) in their 1-1 draw on Tuesday: Brighton vs Spurs And this was Spurs against United from their match at Wembley in January: Spurs vs Man Utd Spurs will not sit as deep as Brighton did on Tuesday but will be wary of the threat United's counter-attacking play poses. United will essentially resemble a much more expensive (and therefore better?) version of West Brom: the (new) United Way. The fact that neither team can afford a defensive mistake is underlined by the fact that these two teams are the best when it comes to defending leads: they have both dropped just four points from winning positions, the joint-best record in the top flight. Points dropped from winning positions Avoid falling into traps Pochettino likes his team to win the ball higher up the pitch than Mourinho by setting traps at halfway and pouncing on a loose pass or slack control. If the attacking team gets past, or near, the halfway line, they tend to be fouled immediately. Mousa Dembele is particularly devious. Fouls conceded per game Both teams will be tentative and acutely aware that one mistake either side of the halfway line can be ruthlessly punished. Spurs' safety net is stopping the counter-attack at source, United's is having bodies between the mistake and the penalty area. Free up Christian Eriksen Most of the chances Spurs create come from Christian Eriksen, and Pochettino has a tendency to mix things up in his forward line during a game in order to get the most out of him. The Dane turns up on the left and right of attack on occasion, though he excels when played just off Harry Kane. The problem is that from an advanced position, defending teams - or good ones, at least - are able to crowd him out and force a quick pass to a teammate. That's why we often see Eriksen dropping deeper into midfield, where he can exert influence on the game and see the picture develop in front of him. From further back he has time to think and his delivery is consistently brilliant. Watch his average position change in this (number 23): Average touch positions (0 min) He's all over the place - an absolute nightmare for a defending team. Mourinho often deploys one player purely to negate the creative influence of an opposition player - the most anti-football thing he does on a regular basis - and could well stick Herrera or Scott McTominay in a midfield three specifically to keep Eriksen out of the game. Attack the full-backs Spurs' width usually comes from the full-backs, as it did in Spurs' 2-0 win in January. This is how the two teams lined up: Spurs (left) Man Utd (right) in Spurs vs Man Utd, January 31st 2018 Erik Lamela was rested against Brighton, suggesting he may start the semi-final in place of Heung-min Son (number seven), but Spurs will most likely do the same thing and look to congest the centre of the pitch in front of United's defence. This is how it looked in practise: The three attacking midfielders congregated in central areas and, helped by Pogba's lack of defensive cover, were able to isolate Matic. This meant they were able to have a bit of fun in the space between United's attacking players and defenders. Eriksen's average position (circled red) is a result of him wandering all over the midfield, sometimes left wing, sometimes right, but he cannot move into these areas without the overlapping run of Kieran Trippier to his right, just like Son needed Ben Davies on the left wing to facilitate his moving inside the pitch. United will very likely look far more sturdy and defensive in this semi-final than they did in the 2-0 defeat, with the intention of drawing Spurs into their attacking shape before winning the ball and hitting passes into space behind the advanced full-backs. Mourinho will set traps and hope Spurs fall into them. A defensive midfield three with Rashford/Sanchez/Martial on the left and Lingard/Rashford on the right would give United the ability to hurt Spurs on the counter-attack. Lukaku will also look for the ball in the channels. The joys of Marouane Fellaini Maroune Fellaini vs Liverpool Credit: REUTERS In that defeat against West Brom, Paul Pogba had a defensive midfielder behind him for cover (Nemanja Matic) and another doing the dogsbody work alongside (Ander Herrera). It is precisely the setup he has said he wants to play in but with a big chance to prove he's worth the effort, he approached the game as though it were a friendly, laughing as he tried to punch the ball into the West Brom net. Pogba was better in the 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Wednesday, and may have earned himself a reprieve for the semi-final. If he is dropped, however, Mourinho has the choice of returning to the 4-2-3-1 he loves so much or getting three utility players in the centre of the pitch in a 4-3-3/4-5-1 to win the midfield battle. Has Jose Mourinho changed tactically since his early managerial days? Scott McTominay could return and be joined by Marouane Fellaini, whose determination and physical presence suits Mourinho's style of play. Furthermore, Fellaini offers the option for United to go long from defence, with the Belgian flicking headers on to Lukaku and the wingers or chesting the ball down and linking play, bypassing the Spurs midfield press. There's another reason this is likely. The centre-backs, particularly Chris Smalling, do not appear to have the ability or confidence to reliably pass out from the back (the main reason Smalling has been dropped from Gareth Southgate's England squad) and against a Spurs team who know how to win the ball, hitting the ball higher up the pitch minimises the risk that United are caught out in their own half. This might not be the prettiest game we ever see but both managers know what's at stake. Like a high pressure game of poker, the outcome of this match will depend much on who gets the better cards during the game. The victor will be whoever plays them at the right time.
Manchester United vs Tottenham: tactical preview - why whoever makes the first mistake loses
The FA Cup would not have featured highly on the wish-list of either Jose Mourinho or Mauricio Pochettino this season, but their meeting in Saturday's semi-final now feels like a game neither can afford to lose. Mourinho needs it to preserve his reputation and prevent the season being labelled a massive disappointment; Pochettino wants to kill off that lingering concern that, for all his fantastic work, without a trophy he is not yet in the elite. So, where will the game be won and lost? Whoever makes the first mistake loses United's inconsistency is maddening. For that reason, Jose Mourinho will almost certainly treat this match as though United are the underdogs, get them in a compact, rigid defensive shape and look to press at half-way, and in their own half, in order to hit Spurs on the counter-attack. West Brom beat United 1-0 doing exactly this, with a game-plan straight out of the Mourinho manual. In a 4-4-1-1 shape on paper and 4-5-1 in defensive phases, West Brom denied United space in the attacking third of the pitch and forced Mourinho's team to aimlessly move the ball sideways without ever really being tested. The deep defensive line meant that any pace United had couldn't be utilised in behind, which is why Mourinho opted to play Juan Mata on the right, in the hope the Spaniard could create with the ball at his feet as he faced the walls of defenders in his way. As it was, every single United player - except for perhaps Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Valencia - had a nightmare, playing with all the conviction of a particularly bad Hollyoaks actor. Without momentum, drive and purpose to United's passing, West Brom were able to easily absorb their attacks and ping long balls into the channels for Jay Rodriguez and Salomon Rondon to chase. For these two, read Lukaku and Marcus Rashford against Spurs. The possession stats will read similarly, too. This was Spurs (away) against Brighton (home) in their 1-1 draw on Tuesday: Brighton vs Spurs And this was Spurs against United from their match at Wembley in January: Spurs vs Man Utd Spurs will not sit as deep as Brighton did on Tuesday but will be wary of the threat United's counter-attacking play poses. United will essentially resemble a much more expensive (and therefore better?) version of West Brom: the (new) United Way. The fact that neither team can afford a defensive mistake is underlined by the fact that these two teams are the best when it comes to defending leads: they have both dropped just four points from winning positions, the joint-best record in the top flight. Points dropped from winning positions Avoid falling into traps Pochettino likes his team to win the ball higher up the pitch than Mourinho by setting traps at halfway and pouncing on a loose pass or slack control. If the attacking team gets past, or near, the halfway line, they tend to be fouled immediately. Mousa Dembele is particularly devious. Fouls conceded per game Both teams will be tentative and acutely aware that one mistake either side of the halfway line can be ruthlessly punished. Spurs' safety net is stopping the counter-attack at source, United's is having bodies between the mistake and the penalty area. Free up Christian Eriksen Most of the chances Spurs create come from Christian Eriksen, and Pochettino has a tendency to mix things up in his forward line during a game in order to get the most out of him. The Dane turns up on the left and right of attack on occasion, though he excels when played just off Harry Kane. The problem is that from an advanced position, defending teams - or good ones, at least - are able to crowd him out and force a quick pass to a teammate. That's why we often see Eriksen dropping deeper into midfield, where he can exert influence on the game and see the picture develop in front of him. From further back he has time to think and his delivery is consistently brilliant. Watch his average position change in this (number 23): Average touch positions (0 min) He's all over the place - an absolute nightmare for a defending team. Mourinho often deploys one player purely to negate the creative influence of an opposition player - the most anti-football thing he does on a regular basis - and could well stick Herrera or Scott McTominay in a midfield three specifically to keep Eriksen out of the game. Attack the full-backs Spurs' width usually comes from the full-backs, as it did in Spurs' 2-0 win in January. This is how the two teams lined up: Spurs (left) Man Utd (right) in Spurs vs Man Utd, January 31st 2018 Erik Lamela was rested against Brighton, suggesting he may start the semi-final in place of Heung-min Son (number seven), but Spurs will most likely do the same thing and look to congest the centre of the pitch in front of United's defence. This is how it looked in practise: The three attacking midfielders congregated in central areas and, helped by Pogba's lack of defensive cover, were able to isolate Matic. This meant they were able to have a bit of fun in the space between United's attacking players and defenders. Eriksen's average position (circled red) is a result of him wandering all over the midfield, sometimes left wing, sometimes right, but he cannot move into these areas without the overlapping run of Kieran Trippier to his right, just like Son needed Ben Davies on the left wing to facilitate his moving inside the pitch. United will very likely look far more sturdy and defensive in this semi-final than they did in the 2-0 defeat, with the intention of drawing Spurs into their attacking shape before winning the ball and hitting passes into space behind the advanced full-backs. Mourinho will set traps and hope Spurs fall into them. A defensive midfield three with Rashford/Sanchez/Martial on the left and Lingard/Rashford on the right would give United the ability to hurt Spurs on the counter-attack. Lukaku will also look for the ball in the channels. The joys of Marouane Fellaini Maroune Fellaini vs Liverpool Credit: REUTERS In that defeat against West Brom, Paul Pogba had a defensive midfielder behind him for cover (Nemanja Matic) and another doing the dogsbody work alongside (Ander Herrera). It is precisely the setup he has said he wants to play in but with a big chance to prove he's worth the effort, he approached the game as though it were a friendly, laughing as he tried to punch the ball into the West Brom net. Pogba was better in the 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Wednesday, and may have earned himself a reprieve for the semi-final. If he is dropped, however, Mourinho has the choice of returning to the 4-2-3-1 he loves so much or getting three utility players in the centre of the pitch in a 4-3-3/4-5-1 to win the midfield battle. Has Jose Mourinho changed tactically since his early managerial days? Scott McTominay could return and be joined by Marouane Fellaini, whose determination and physical presence suits Mourinho's style of play. Furthermore, Fellaini offers the option for United to go long from defence, with the Belgian flicking headers on to Lukaku and the wingers or chesting the ball down and linking play, bypassing the Spurs midfield press. There's another reason this is likely. The centre-backs, particularly Chris Smalling, do not appear to have the ability or confidence to reliably pass out from the back (the main reason Smalling has been dropped from Gareth Southgate's England squad) and against a Spurs team who know how to win the ball, hitting the ball higher up the pitch minimises the risk that United are caught out in their own half. This might not be the prettiest game we ever see but both managers know what's at stake. Like a high pressure game of poker, the outcome of this match will depend much on who gets the better cards during the game. The victor will be whoever plays them at the right time.
The FA Cup would not have featured highly on the wish-list of either Jose Mourinho or Mauricio Pochettino this season, but their meeting in Saturday's semi-final now feels like a game neither can afford to lose. Mourinho needs it to preserve his reputation and prevent the season being labelled a massive disappointment; Pochettino wants to kill off that lingering concern that, for all his fantastic work, without a trophy he is not yet in the elite. So, where will the game be won and lost? Whoever makes the first mistake loses United's inconsistency is maddening. For that reason, Jose Mourinho will almost certainly treat this match as though United are the underdogs, get them in a compact, rigid defensive shape and look to press at half-way, and in their own half, in order to hit Spurs on the counter-attack. West Brom beat United 1-0 doing exactly this, with a game-plan straight out of the Mourinho manual. In a 4-4-1-1 shape on paper and 4-5-1 in defensive phases, West Brom denied United space in the attacking third of the pitch and forced Mourinho's team to aimlessly move the ball sideways without ever really being tested. The deep defensive line meant that any pace United had couldn't be utilised in behind, which is why Mourinho opted to play Juan Mata on the right, in the hope the Spaniard could create with the ball at his feet as he faced the walls of defenders in his way. As it was, every single United player - except for perhaps Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Valencia - had a nightmare, playing with all the conviction of a particularly bad Hollyoaks actor. Without momentum, drive and purpose to United's passing, West Brom were able to easily absorb their attacks and ping long balls into the channels for Jay Rodriguez and Salomon Rondon to chase. For these two, read Lukaku and Marcus Rashford against Spurs. The possession stats will read similarly, too. This was Spurs (away) against Brighton (home) in their 1-1 draw on Tuesday: Brighton vs Spurs And this was Spurs against United from their match at Wembley in January: Spurs vs Man Utd Spurs will not sit as deep as Brighton did on Tuesday but will be wary of the threat United's counter-attacking play poses. United will essentially resemble a much more expensive (and therefore better?) version of West Brom: the (new) United Way. The fact that neither team can afford a defensive mistake is underlined by the fact that these two teams are the best when it comes to defending leads: they have both dropped just four points from winning positions, the joint-best record in the top flight. Points dropped from winning positions Avoid falling into traps Pochettino likes his team to win the ball higher up the pitch than Mourinho by setting traps at halfway and pouncing on a loose pass or slack control. If the attacking team gets past, or near, the halfway line, they tend to be fouled immediately. Mousa Dembele is particularly devious. Fouls conceded per game Both teams will be tentative and acutely aware that one mistake either side of the halfway line can be ruthlessly punished. Spurs' safety net is stopping the counter-attack at source, United's is having bodies between the mistake and the penalty area. Free up Christian Eriksen Most of the chances Spurs create come from Christian Eriksen, and Pochettino has a tendency to mix things up in his forward line during a game in order to get the most out of him. The Dane turns up on the left and right of attack on occasion, though he excels when played just off Harry Kane. The problem is that from an advanced position, defending teams - or good ones, at least - are able to crowd him out and force a quick pass to a teammate. That's why we often see Eriksen dropping deeper into midfield, where he can exert influence on the game and see the picture develop in front of him. From further back he has time to think and his delivery is consistently brilliant. Watch his average position change in this (number 23): Average touch positions (0 min) He's all over the place - an absolute nightmare for a defending team. Mourinho often deploys one player purely to negate the creative influence of an opposition player - the most anti-football thing he does on a regular basis - and could well stick Herrera or Scott McTominay in a midfield three specifically to keep Eriksen out of the game. Attack the full-backs Spurs' width usually comes from the full-backs, as it did in Spurs' 2-0 win in January. This is how the two teams lined up: Spurs (left) Man Utd (right) in Spurs vs Man Utd, January 31st 2018 Erik Lamela was rested against Brighton, suggesting he may start the semi-final in place of Heung-min Son (number seven), but Spurs will most likely do the same thing and look to congest the centre of the pitch in front of United's defence. This is how it looked in practise: The three attacking midfielders congregated in central areas and, helped by Pogba's lack of defensive cover, were able to isolate Matic. This meant they were able to have a bit of fun in the space between United's attacking players and defenders. Eriksen's average position (circled red) is a result of him wandering all over the midfield, sometimes left wing, sometimes right, but he cannot move into these areas without the overlapping run of Kieran Trippier to his right, just like Son needed Ben Davies on the left wing to facilitate his moving inside the pitch. United will very likely look far more sturdy and defensive in this semi-final than they did in the 2-0 defeat, with the intention of drawing Spurs into their attacking shape before winning the ball and hitting passes into space behind the advanced full-backs. Mourinho will set traps and hope Spurs fall into them. A defensive midfield three with Rashford/Sanchez/Martial on the left and Lingard/Rashford on the right would give United the ability to hurt Spurs on the counter-attack. Lukaku will also look for the ball in the channels. The joys of Marouane Fellaini Maroune Fellaini vs Liverpool Credit: REUTERS In that defeat against West Brom, Paul Pogba had a defensive midfielder behind him for cover (Nemanja Matic) and another doing the dogsbody work alongside (Ander Herrera). It is precisely the setup he has said he wants to play in but with a big chance to prove he's worth the effort, he approached the game as though it were a friendly, laughing as he tried to punch the ball into the West Brom net. Pogba was better in the 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Wednesday, and may have earned himself a reprieve for the semi-final. If he is dropped, however, Mourinho has the choice of returning to the 4-2-3-1 he loves so much or getting three utility players in the centre of the pitch in a 4-3-3/4-5-1 to win the midfield battle. Has Jose Mourinho changed tactically since his early managerial days? Scott McTominay could return and be joined by Marouane Fellaini, whose determination and physical presence suits Mourinho's style of play. Furthermore, Fellaini offers the option for United to go long from defence, with the Belgian flicking headers on to Lukaku and the wingers or chesting the ball down and linking play, bypassing the Spurs midfield press. There's another reason this is likely. The centre-backs, particularly Chris Smalling, do not appear to have the ability or confidence to reliably pass out from the back (the main reason Smalling has been dropped from Gareth Southgate's England squad) and against a Spurs team who know how to win the ball, hitting the ball higher up the pitch minimises the risk that United are caught out in their own half. This might not be the prettiest game we ever see but both managers know what's at stake. Like a high pressure game of poker, the outcome of this match will depend much on who gets the better cards during the game. The victor will be whoever plays them at the right time.
Manchester United vs Tottenham: tactical preview - why whoever makes the first mistake loses
The FA Cup would not have featured highly on the wish-list of either Jose Mourinho or Mauricio Pochettino this season, but their meeting in Saturday's semi-final now feels like a game neither can afford to lose. Mourinho needs it to preserve his reputation and prevent the season being labelled a massive disappointment; Pochettino wants to kill off that lingering concern that, for all his fantastic work, without a trophy he is not yet in the elite. So, where will the game be won and lost? Whoever makes the first mistake loses United's inconsistency is maddening. For that reason, Jose Mourinho will almost certainly treat this match as though United are the underdogs, get them in a compact, rigid defensive shape and look to press at half-way, and in their own half, in order to hit Spurs on the counter-attack. West Brom beat United 1-0 doing exactly this, with a game-plan straight out of the Mourinho manual. In a 4-4-1-1 shape on paper and 4-5-1 in defensive phases, West Brom denied United space in the attacking third of the pitch and forced Mourinho's team to aimlessly move the ball sideways without ever really being tested. The deep defensive line meant that any pace United had couldn't be utilised in behind, which is why Mourinho opted to play Juan Mata on the right, in the hope the Spaniard could create with the ball at his feet as he faced the walls of defenders in his way. As it was, every single United player - except for perhaps Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Valencia - had a nightmare, playing with all the conviction of a particularly bad Hollyoaks actor. Without momentum, drive and purpose to United's passing, West Brom were able to easily absorb their attacks and ping long balls into the channels for Jay Rodriguez and Salomon Rondon to chase. For these two, read Lukaku and Marcus Rashford against Spurs. The possession stats will read similarly, too. This was Spurs (away) against Brighton (home) in their 1-1 draw on Tuesday: Brighton vs Spurs And this was Spurs against United from their match at Wembley in January: Spurs vs Man Utd Spurs will not sit as deep as Brighton did on Tuesday but will be wary of the threat United's counter-attacking play poses. United will essentially resemble a much more expensive (and therefore better?) version of West Brom: the (new) United Way. The fact that neither team can afford a defensive mistake is underlined by the fact that these two teams are the best when it comes to defending leads: they have both dropped just four points from winning positions, the joint-best record in the top flight. Points dropped from winning positions Avoid falling into traps Pochettino likes his team to win the ball higher up the pitch than Mourinho by setting traps at halfway and pouncing on a loose pass or slack control. If the attacking team gets past, or near, the halfway line, they tend to be fouled immediately. Mousa Dembele is particularly devious. Fouls conceded per game Both teams will be tentative and acutely aware that one mistake either side of the halfway line can be ruthlessly punished. Spurs' safety net is stopping the counter-attack at source, United's is having bodies between the mistake and the penalty area. Free up Christian Eriksen Most of the chances Spurs create come from Christian Eriksen, and Pochettino has a tendency to mix things up in his forward line during a game in order to get the most out of him. The Dane turns up on the left and right of attack on occasion, though he excels when played just off Harry Kane. The problem is that from an advanced position, defending teams - or good ones, at least - are able to crowd him out and force a quick pass to a teammate. That's why we often see Eriksen dropping deeper into midfield, where he can exert influence on the game and see the picture develop in front of him. From further back he has time to think and his delivery is consistently brilliant. Watch his average position change in this (number 23): Average touch positions (0 min) He's all over the place - an absolute nightmare for a defending team. Mourinho often deploys one player purely to negate the creative influence of an opposition player - the most anti-football thing he does on a regular basis - and could well stick Herrera or Scott McTominay in a midfield three specifically to keep Eriksen out of the game. Attack the full-backs Spurs' width usually comes from the full-backs, as it did in Spurs' 2-0 win in January. This is how the two teams lined up: Spurs (left) Man Utd (right) in Spurs vs Man Utd, January 31st 2018 Erik Lamela was rested against Brighton, suggesting he may start the semi-final in place of Heung-min Son (number seven), but Spurs will most likely do the same thing and look to congest the centre of the pitch in front of United's defence. This is how it looked in practise: The three attacking midfielders congregated in central areas and, helped by Pogba's lack of defensive cover, were able to isolate Matic. This meant they were able to have a bit of fun in the space between United's attacking players and defenders. Eriksen's average position (circled red) is a result of him wandering all over the midfield, sometimes left wing, sometimes right, but he cannot move into these areas without the overlapping run of Kieran Trippier to his right, just like Son needed Ben Davies on the left wing to facilitate his moving inside the pitch. United will very likely look far more sturdy and defensive in this semi-final than they did in the 2-0 defeat, with the intention of drawing Spurs into their attacking shape before winning the ball and hitting passes into space behind the advanced full-backs. Mourinho will set traps and hope Spurs fall into them. A defensive midfield three with Rashford/Sanchez/Martial on the left and Lingard/Rashford on the right would give United the ability to hurt Spurs on the counter-attack. Lukaku will also look for the ball in the channels. The joys of Marouane Fellaini Maroune Fellaini vs Liverpool Credit: REUTERS In that defeat against West Brom, Paul Pogba had a defensive midfielder behind him for cover (Nemanja Matic) and another doing the dogsbody work alongside (Ander Herrera). It is precisely the setup he has said he wants to play in but with a big chance to prove he's worth the effort, he approached the game as though it were a friendly, laughing as he tried to punch the ball into the West Brom net. Pogba was better in the 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Wednesday, and may have earned himself a reprieve for the semi-final. If he is dropped, however, Mourinho has the choice of returning to the 4-2-3-1 he loves so much or getting three utility players in the centre of the pitch in a 4-3-3/4-5-1 to win the midfield battle. Has Jose Mourinho changed tactically since his early managerial days? Scott McTominay could return and be joined by Marouane Fellaini, whose determination and physical presence suits Mourinho's style of play. Furthermore, Fellaini offers the option for United to go long from defence, with the Belgian flicking headers on to Lukaku and the wingers or chesting the ball down and linking play, bypassing the Spurs midfield press. There's another reason this is likely. The centre-backs, particularly Chris Smalling, do not appear to have the ability or confidence to reliably pass out from the back (the main reason Smalling has been dropped from Gareth Southgate's England squad) and against a Spurs team who know how to win the ball, hitting the ball higher up the pitch minimises the risk that United are caught out in their own half. This might not be the prettiest game we ever see but both managers know what's at stake. Like a high pressure game of poker, the outcome of this match will depend much on who gets the better cards during the game. The victor will be whoever plays them at the right time.
For most clubs, reaching the FA Cup semi final is a delicious interruption from the day-to-day necessities of a league campaign. At Southampton this year, however, it is not like that. Four points adrift of safety with games running out, their six-year stay in the Premier League is in jeopardy. And their league position has cast a dark cloud over tomorrow’s semi-final against Chelsea. “It is a strange sort of feeling,” admits James Ward-Prowse, their long-serving midfielder. “But as players we see it as a great opportunity to get to another final and it might be a nice distraction from the league. We played Chelsea the other day and got cruelly beaten, so a sort of revenge factor might be there for us. Regardless of the situation, we want to win this game.” For Ward-Prowse, Southampton matters. He has been at St Mary’s for 15 years, joining the academy as an eight-year-old in 2003, the year the club last reached the FA Cup final. As he sits in the magnificent new training facility in Marchwood, considering what might happen in his 202nd first-team game this weekend, he constantly refers to Southampton as “a Premier League club”. Given their current condition, that might seem a little optimistic. “No,” he says. “It’s because we are a Premier League club, one that wants to be pushing on to European football.” Yet, whatever the infrastructure might imply, this season results have suggested otherwise. Speaking before the team’s latest goalless setback at Leicester on Thursday, he admits he is as bemused as anyone about what has gone wrong. “I think the club has been on a massive journey over the past few years. I’ve seen it from the dark times of League One and the club nearly going out of business. That progression has been so vast and so impressive that, year on year, it’s difficult to keep replicating. The target at the beginning of this season was to get back in Europe. Ward-Prowse has been with Southampton for 15 years since joining as an eight-year-old Credit: SOUTHAMPTON FC “Halfway through we had to re-evaluate, choose our goals wisely and that’s clearly to remain a Premier League club. It’s difficult to pinpoint a reason, but we are in a situation we are in and it’s down to ourselves to get us out of it.” There has been much written about how a club who prided themselves on stable long-term planning have found themselves suddenly in peril. The most common assumption has been that too much of the talent has been sold – mostly to Liverpool – with the replacements not up to the job. It is a critique Ward-Prowse does not accept. “I’ve seen a lot of players go, that is their decision, which we all respect. But the club has always been good at recruiting replacements. Not just as players but as people as well. That’s what the club has always been about, getting good people, getting that togetherness as a family unit. “It might not appear to have worked this season, but the players they’ve brought in have been very good. It’s a team game, it’s how the team replicates on the pitch what we’ve worked on during the week. Collectively, we haven’t done that consistently well this season. That’s the reason we are where we are now.” He refutes the idea complacency took hold in the club’s hierarchy, a belief that they had found a way – the much-vaunted Southampton Way – which somehow of itself elevated them above the scramble. “I wouldn’t say that at all. I think it’s a club that is very grounded, a family club, the people around the place, the new players included, have all bought into that as well. I wouldn’t say it’s a case of complacency. The club has wanted to develop year on year. It might not have done this year. But we have to finish the season strong, make sure we remain a Premier League club and then re-assess from there.” Though it could be said re-assessment has already started, largely in the dugout. The departure of the ultra-cautious Mauricio Pellegrino was hardly mourned in the St Mary’s stands. And judging by Ward-Prowse’s upbeat assessment of the new man in charge, Mark Hughes, the Argentine has not been much missed in the home dressing room, either. Ward-Prowse says the new manager has urged the team to be more positive and take more risks Credit: SOUTHAMPTON FC “I think he [Hughes] has brought a positive feel to the group, encouraged risks a lot more. He wants us to be more positive. It’s felt like we’ve stepped up in recent weeks, especially against Arsenal and Chelsea. If we can defend right, the basics are there. So we’re all excited for the remainder of the season because we built that strong base with him.” Which brings us to the semi-final and the possibility of an inglorious season’s double, achieved previously only by Manchester City, Leicester, Brighton, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and Wigan, of reaching the FA Cup final and being relegated from the top flight. “It’s a difficult situation,” admits Ward-Prowse. “We all want to be playing in the Premier League next season but, equally, if we can lift an FA Cup, it’s a great choice as well. We want to win every game. We want to have both.” If the worst was to happen, if relegation becomes inevitable, the assumptions will grow that he will join old academy mates like Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in seeking employment away from St Mary’s. It is not a possibility he is prepared to contemplate. “I have always loved being here,” he says. “It has been a great journey up until now and it is one that hopefully will continue. We are not looking at the worst happening. As a squad we are looking at being a Premier League club next year. We are all looking forward to getting out of this challenge together.”
Southampton's James Ward-Prowse looks to 'revenge factor' for FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea
For most clubs, reaching the FA Cup semi final is a delicious interruption from the day-to-day necessities of a league campaign. At Southampton this year, however, it is not like that. Four points adrift of safety with games running out, their six-year stay in the Premier League is in jeopardy. And their league position has cast a dark cloud over tomorrow’s semi-final against Chelsea. “It is a strange sort of feeling,” admits James Ward-Prowse, their long-serving midfielder. “But as players we see it as a great opportunity to get to another final and it might be a nice distraction from the league. We played Chelsea the other day and got cruelly beaten, so a sort of revenge factor might be there for us. Regardless of the situation, we want to win this game.” For Ward-Prowse, Southampton matters. He has been at St Mary’s for 15 years, joining the academy as an eight-year-old in 2003, the year the club last reached the FA Cup final. As he sits in the magnificent new training facility in Marchwood, considering what might happen in his 202nd first-team game this weekend, he constantly refers to Southampton as “a Premier League club”. Given their current condition, that might seem a little optimistic. “No,” he says. “It’s because we are a Premier League club, one that wants to be pushing on to European football.” Yet, whatever the infrastructure might imply, this season results have suggested otherwise. Speaking before the team’s latest goalless setback at Leicester on Thursday, he admits he is as bemused as anyone about what has gone wrong. “I think the club has been on a massive journey over the past few years. I’ve seen it from the dark times of League One and the club nearly going out of business. That progression has been so vast and so impressive that, year on year, it’s difficult to keep replicating. The target at the beginning of this season was to get back in Europe. Ward-Prowse has been with Southampton for 15 years since joining as an eight-year-old Credit: SOUTHAMPTON FC “Halfway through we had to re-evaluate, choose our goals wisely and that’s clearly to remain a Premier League club. It’s difficult to pinpoint a reason, but we are in a situation we are in and it’s down to ourselves to get us out of it.” There has been much written about how a club who prided themselves on stable long-term planning have found themselves suddenly in peril. The most common assumption has been that too much of the talent has been sold – mostly to Liverpool – with the replacements not up to the job. It is a critique Ward-Prowse does not accept. “I’ve seen a lot of players go, that is their decision, which we all respect. But the club has always been good at recruiting replacements. Not just as players but as people as well. That’s what the club has always been about, getting good people, getting that togetherness as a family unit. “It might not appear to have worked this season, but the players they’ve brought in have been very good. It’s a team game, it’s how the team replicates on the pitch what we’ve worked on during the week. Collectively, we haven’t done that consistently well this season. That’s the reason we are where we are now.” He refutes the idea complacency took hold in the club’s hierarchy, a belief that they had found a way – the much-vaunted Southampton Way – which somehow of itself elevated them above the scramble. “I wouldn’t say that at all. I think it’s a club that is very grounded, a family club, the people around the place, the new players included, have all bought into that as well. I wouldn’t say it’s a case of complacency. The club has wanted to develop year on year. It might not have done this year. But we have to finish the season strong, make sure we remain a Premier League club and then re-assess from there.” Though it could be said re-assessment has already started, largely in the dugout. The departure of the ultra-cautious Mauricio Pellegrino was hardly mourned in the St Mary’s stands. And judging by Ward-Prowse’s upbeat assessment of the new man in charge, Mark Hughes, the Argentine has not been much missed in the home dressing room, either. Ward-Prowse says the new manager has urged the team to be more positive and take more risks Credit: SOUTHAMPTON FC “I think he [Hughes] has brought a positive feel to the group, encouraged risks a lot more. He wants us to be more positive. It’s felt like we’ve stepped up in recent weeks, especially against Arsenal and Chelsea. If we can defend right, the basics are there. So we’re all excited for the remainder of the season because we built that strong base with him.” Which brings us to the semi-final and the possibility of an inglorious season’s double, achieved previously only by Manchester City, Leicester, Brighton, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and Wigan, of reaching the FA Cup final and being relegated from the top flight. “It’s a difficult situation,” admits Ward-Prowse. “We all want to be playing in the Premier League next season but, equally, if we can lift an FA Cup, it’s a great choice as well. We want to win every game. We want to have both.” If the worst was to happen, if relegation becomes inevitable, the assumptions will grow that he will join old academy mates like Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in seeking employment away from St Mary’s. It is not a possibility he is prepared to contemplate. “I have always loved being here,” he says. “It has been a great journey up until now and it is one that hopefully will continue. We are not looking at the worst happening. As a squad we are looking at being a Premier League club next year. We are all looking forward to getting out of this challenge together.”
For most clubs, reaching the FA Cup semi final is a delicious interruption from the day-to-day necessities of a league campaign. At Southampton this year, however, it is not like that. Four points adrift of safety with games running out, their six-year stay in the Premier League is in jeopardy. And their league position has cast a dark cloud over tomorrow’s semi-final against Chelsea. “It is a strange sort of feeling,” admits James Ward-Prowse, their long-serving midfielder. “But as players we see it as a great opportunity to get to another final and it might be a nice distraction from the league. We played Chelsea the other day and got cruelly beaten, so a sort of revenge factor might be there for us. Regardless of the situation, we want to win this game.” For Ward-Prowse, Southampton matters. He has been at St Mary’s for 15 years, joining the academy as an eight-year-old in 2003, the year the club last reached the FA Cup final. As he sits in the magnificent new training facility in Marchwood, considering what might happen in his 202nd first-team game this weekend, he constantly refers to Southampton as “a Premier League club”. Given their current condition, that might seem a little optimistic. “No,” he says. “It’s because we are a Premier League club, one that wants to be pushing on to European football.” Yet, whatever the infrastructure might imply, this season results have suggested otherwise. Speaking before the team’s latest goalless setback at Leicester on Thursday, he admits he is as bemused as anyone about what has gone wrong. “I think the club has been on a massive journey over the past few years. I’ve seen it from the dark times of League One and the club nearly going out of business. That progression has been so vast and so impressive that, year on year, it’s difficult to keep replicating. The target at the beginning of this season was to get back in Europe. Ward-Prowse has been with Southampton for 15 years since joining as an eight-year-old Credit: SOUTHAMPTON FC “Halfway through we had to re-evaluate, choose our goals wisely and that’s clearly to remain a Premier League club. It’s difficult to pinpoint a reason, but we are in a situation we are in and it’s down to ourselves to get us out of it.” There has been much written about how a club who prided themselves on stable long-term planning have found themselves suddenly in peril. The most common assumption has been that too much of the talent has been sold – mostly to Liverpool – with the replacements not up to the job. It is a critique Ward-Prowse does not accept. “I’ve seen a lot of players go, that is their decision, which we all respect. But the club has always been good at recruiting replacements. Not just as players but as people as well. That’s what the club has always been about, getting good people, getting that togetherness as a family unit. “It might not appear to have worked this season, but the players they’ve brought in have been very good. It’s a team game, it’s how the team replicates on the pitch what we’ve worked on during the week. Collectively, we haven’t done that consistently well this season. That’s the reason we are where we are now.” He refutes the idea complacency took hold in the club’s hierarchy, a belief that they had found a way – the much-vaunted Southampton Way – which somehow of itself elevated them above the scramble. “I wouldn’t say that at all. I think it’s a club that is very grounded, a family club, the people around the place, the new players included, have all bought into that as well. I wouldn’t say it’s a case of complacency. The club has wanted to develop year on year. It might not have done this year. But we have to finish the season strong, make sure we remain a Premier League club and then re-assess from there.” Though it could be said re-assessment has already started, largely in the dugout. The departure of the ultra-cautious Mauricio Pellegrino was hardly mourned in the St Mary’s stands. And judging by Ward-Prowse’s upbeat assessment of the new man in charge, Mark Hughes, the Argentine has not been much missed in the home dressing room, either. Ward-Prowse says the new manager has urged the team to be more positive and take more risks Credit: SOUTHAMPTON FC “I think he [Hughes] has brought a positive feel to the group, encouraged risks a lot more. He wants us to be more positive. It’s felt like we’ve stepped up in recent weeks, especially against Arsenal and Chelsea. If we can defend right, the basics are there. So we’re all excited for the remainder of the season because we built that strong base with him.” Which brings us to the semi-final and the possibility of an inglorious season’s double, achieved previously only by Manchester City, Leicester, Brighton, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and Wigan, of reaching the FA Cup final and being relegated from the top flight. “It’s a difficult situation,” admits Ward-Prowse. “We all want to be playing in the Premier League next season but, equally, if we can lift an FA Cup, it’s a great choice as well. We want to win every game. We want to have both.” If the worst was to happen, if relegation becomes inevitable, the assumptions will grow that he will join old academy mates like Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in seeking employment away from St Mary’s. It is not a possibility he is prepared to contemplate. “I have always loved being here,” he says. “It has been a great journey up until now and it is one that hopefully will continue. We are not looking at the worst happening. As a squad we are looking at being a Premier League club next year. We are all looking forward to getting out of this challenge together.”
Southampton's James Ward-Prowse looks to 'revenge factor' for FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea
For most clubs, reaching the FA Cup semi final is a delicious interruption from the day-to-day necessities of a league campaign. At Southampton this year, however, it is not like that. Four points adrift of safety with games running out, their six-year stay in the Premier League is in jeopardy. And their league position has cast a dark cloud over tomorrow’s semi-final against Chelsea. “It is a strange sort of feeling,” admits James Ward-Prowse, their long-serving midfielder. “But as players we see it as a great opportunity to get to another final and it might be a nice distraction from the league. We played Chelsea the other day and got cruelly beaten, so a sort of revenge factor might be there for us. Regardless of the situation, we want to win this game.” For Ward-Prowse, Southampton matters. He has been at St Mary’s for 15 years, joining the academy as an eight-year-old in 2003, the year the club last reached the FA Cup final. As he sits in the magnificent new training facility in Marchwood, considering what might happen in his 202nd first-team game this weekend, he constantly refers to Southampton as “a Premier League club”. Given their current condition, that might seem a little optimistic. “No,” he says. “It’s because we are a Premier League club, one that wants to be pushing on to European football.” Yet, whatever the infrastructure might imply, this season results have suggested otherwise. Speaking before the team’s latest goalless setback at Leicester on Thursday, he admits he is as bemused as anyone about what has gone wrong. “I think the club has been on a massive journey over the past few years. I’ve seen it from the dark times of League One and the club nearly going out of business. That progression has been so vast and so impressive that, year on year, it’s difficult to keep replicating. The target at the beginning of this season was to get back in Europe. Ward-Prowse has been with Southampton for 15 years since joining as an eight-year-old Credit: SOUTHAMPTON FC “Halfway through we had to re-evaluate, choose our goals wisely and that’s clearly to remain a Premier League club. It’s difficult to pinpoint a reason, but we are in a situation we are in and it’s down to ourselves to get us out of it.” There has been much written about how a club who prided themselves on stable long-term planning have found themselves suddenly in peril. The most common assumption has been that too much of the talent has been sold – mostly to Liverpool – with the replacements not up to the job. It is a critique Ward-Prowse does not accept. “I’ve seen a lot of players go, that is their decision, which we all respect. But the club has always been good at recruiting replacements. Not just as players but as people as well. That’s what the club has always been about, getting good people, getting that togetherness as a family unit. “It might not appear to have worked this season, but the players they’ve brought in have been very good. It’s a team game, it’s how the team replicates on the pitch what we’ve worked on during the week. Collectively, we haven’t done that consistently well this season. That’s the reason we are where we are now.” He refutes the idea complacency took hold in the club’s hierarchy, a belief that they had found a way – the much-vaunted Southampton Way – which somehow of itself elevated them above the scramble. “I wouldn’t say that at all. I think it’s a club that is very grounded, a family club, the people around the place, the new players included, have all bought into that as well. I wouldn’t say it’s a case of complacency. The club has wanted to develop year on year. It might not have done this year. But we have to finish the season strong, make sure we remain a Premier League club and then re-assess from there.” Though it could be said re-assessment has already started, largely in the dugout. The departure of the ultra-cautious Mauricio Pellegrino was hardly mourned in the St Mary’s stands. And judging by Ward-Prowse’s upbeat assessment of the new man in charge, Mark Hughes, the Argentine has not been much missed in the home dressing room, either. Ward-Prowse says the new manager has urged the team to be more positive and take more risks Credit: SOUTHAMPTON FC “I think he [Hughes] has brought a positive feel to the group, encouraged risks a lot more. He wants us to be more positive. It’s felt like we’ve stepped up in recent weeks, especially against Arsenal and Chelsea. If we can defend right, the basics are there. So we’re all excited for the remainder of the season because we built that strong base with him.” Which brings us to the semi-final and the possibility of an inglorious season’s double, achieved previously only by Manchester City, Leicester, Brighton, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and Wigan, of reaching the FA Cup final and being relegated from the top flight. “It’s a difficult situation,” admits Ward-Prowse. “We all want to be playing in the Premier League next season but, equally, if we can lift an FA Cup, it’s a great choice as well. We want to win every game. We want to have both.” If the worst was to happen, if relegation becomes inevitable, the assumptions will grow that he will join old academy mates like Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in seeking employment away from St Mary’s. It is not a possibility he is prepared to contemplate. “I have always loved being here,” he says. “It has been a great journey up until now and it is one that hopefully will continue. We are not looking at the worst happening. As a squad we are looking at being a Premier League club next year. We are all looking forward to getting out of this challenge together.”
For most clubs, reaching the FA Cup semi final is a delicious interruption from the day-to-day necessities of a league campaign. At Southampton this year, however, it is not like that. Four points adrift of safety with games running out, their six-year stay in the Premier League is in jeopardy. And their league position has cast a dark cloud over tomorrow’s semi-final against Chelsea. “It is a strange sort of feeling,” admits James Ward-Prowse, their long-serving midfielder. “But as players we see it as a great opportunity to get to another final and it might be a nice distraction from the league. We played Chelsea the other day and got cruelly beaten, so a sort of revenge factor might be there for us. Regardless of the situation, we want to win this game.” For Ward-Prowse, Southampton matters. He has been at St Mary’s for 15 years, joining the academy as an eight-year-old in 2003, the year the club last reached the FA Cup final. As he sits in the magnificent new training facility in Marchwood, considering what might happen in his 202nd first-team game this weekend, he constantly refers to Southampton as “a Premier League club”. Given their current condition, that might seem a little optimistic. “No,” he says. “It’s because we are a Premier League club, one that wants to be pushing on to European football.” Yet, whatever the infrastructure might imply, this season results have suggested otherwise. Speaking before the team’s latest goalless setback at Leicester on Thursday, he admits he is as bemused as anyone about what has gone wrong. “I think the club has been on a massive journey over the past few years. I’ve seen it from the dark times of League One and the club nearly going out of business. That progression has been so vast and so impressive that, year on year, it’s difficult to keep replicating. The target at the beginning of this season was to get back in Europe. Ward-Prowse has been with Southampton for 15 years since joining as an eight-year-old Credit: SOUTHAMPTON FC “Halfway through we had to re-evaluate, choose our goals wisely and that’s clearly to remain a Premier League club. It’s difficult to pinpoint a reason, but we are in a situation we are in and it’s down to ourselves to get us out of it.” There has been much written about how a club who prided themselves on stable long-term planning have found themselves suddenly in peril. The most common assumption has been that too much of the talent has been sold – mostly to Liverpool – with the replacements not up to the job. It is a critique Ward-Prowse does not accept. “I’ve seen a lot of players go, that is their decision, which we all respect. But the club has always been good at recruiting replacements. Not just as players but as people as well. That’s what the club has always been about, getting good people, getting that togetherness as a family unit. “It might not appear to have worked this season, but the players they’ve brought in have been very good. It’s a team game, it’s how the team replicates on the pitch what we’ve worked on during the week. Collectively, we haven’t done that consistently well this season. That’s the reason we are where we are now.” He refutes the idea complacency took hold in the club’s hierarchy, a belief that they had found a way – the much-vaunted Southampton Way – which somehow of itself elevated them above the scramble. “I wouldn’t say that at all. I think it’s a club that is very grounded, a family club, the people around the place, the new players included, have all bought into that as well. I wouldn’t say it’s a case of complacency. The club has wanted to develop year on year. It might not have done this year. But we have to finish the season strong, make sure we remain a Premier League club and then re-assess from there.” Though it could be said re-assessment has already started, largely in the dugout. The departure of the ultra-cautious Mauricio Pellegrino was hardly mourned in the St Mary’s stands. And judging by Ward-Prowse’s upbeat assessment of the new man in charge, Mark Hughes, the Argentine has not been much missed in the home dressing room, either. Ward-Prowse says the new manager has urged the team to be more positive and take more risks Credit: SOUTHAMPTON FC “I think he [Hughes] has brought a positive feel to the group, encouraged risks a lot more. He wants us to be more positive. It’s felt like we’ve stepped up in recent weeks, especially against Arsenal and Chelsea. If we can defend right, the basics are there. So we’re all excited for the remainder of the season because we built that strong base with him.” Which brings us to the semi-final and the possibility of an inglorious season’s double, achieved previously only by Manchester City, Leicester, Brighton, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and Wigan, of reaching the FA Cup final and being relegated from the top flight. “It’s a difficult situation,” admits Ward-Prowse. “We all want to be playing in the Premier League next season but, equally, if we can lift an FA Cup, it’s a great choice as well. We want to win every game. We want to have both.” If the worst was to happen, if relegation becomes inevitable, the assumptions will grow that he will join old academy mates like Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in seeking employment away from St Mary’s. It is not a possibility he is prepared to contemplate. “I have always loved being here,” he says. “It has been a great journey up until now and it is one that hopefully will continue. We are not looking at the worst happening. As a squad we are looking at being a Premier League club next year. We are all looking forward to getting out of this challenge together.”
Southampton's James Ward-Prowse looks to 'revenge factor' for FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea
For most clubs, reaching the FA Cup semi final is a delicious interruption from the day-to-day necessities of a league campaign. At Southampton this year, however, it is not like that. Four points adrift of safety with games running out, their six-year stay in the Premier League is in jeopardy. And their league position has cast a dark cloud over tomorrow’s semi-final against Chelsea. “It is a strange sort of feeling,” admits James Ward-Prowse, their long-serving midfielder. “But as players we see it as a great opportunity to get to another final and it might be a nice distraction from the league. We played Chelsea the other day and got cruelly beaten, so a sort of revenge factor might be there for us. Regardless of the situation, we want to win this game.” For Ward-Prowse, Southampton matters. He has been at St Mary’s for 15 years, joining the academy as an eight-year-old in 2003, the year the club last reached the FA Cup final. As he sits in the magnificent new training facility in Marchwood, considering what might happen in his 202nd first-team game this weekend, he constantly refers to Southampton as “a Premier League club”. Given their current condition, that might seem a little optimistic. “No,” he says. “It’s because we are a Premier League club, one that wants to be pushing on to European football.” Yet, whatever the infrastructure might imply, this season results have suggested otherwise. Speaking before the team’s latest goalless setback at Leicester on Thursday, he admits he is as bemused as anyone about what has gone wrong. “I think the club has been on a massive journey over the past few years. I’ve seen it from the dark times of League One and the club nearly going out of business. That progression has been so vast and so impressive that, year on year, it’s difficult to keep replicating. The target at the beginning of this season was to get back in Europe. Ward-Prowse has been with Southampton for 15 years since joining as an eight-year-old Credit: SOUTHAMPTON FC “Halfway through we had to re-evaluate, choose our goals wisely and that’s clearly to remain a Premier League club. It’s difficult to pinpoint a reason, but we are in a situation we are in and it’s down to ourselves to get us out of it.” There has been much written about how a club who prided themselves on stable long-term planning have found themselves suddenly in peril. The most common assumption has been that too much of the talent has been sold – mostly to Liverpool – with the replacements not up to the job. It is a critique Ward-Prowse does not accept. “I’ve seen a lot of players go, that is their decision, which we all respect. But the club has always been good at recruiting replacements. Not just as players but as people as well. That’s what the club has always been about, getting good people, getting that togetherness as a family unit. “It might not appear to have worked this season, but the players they’ve brought in have been very good. It’s a team game, it’s how the team replicates on the pitch what we’ve worked on during the week. Collectively, we haven’t done that consistently well this season. That’s the reason we are where we are now.” He refutes the idea complacency took hold in the club’s hierarchy, a belief that they had found a way – the much-vaunted Southampton Way – which somehow of itself elevated them above the scramble. “I wouldn’t say that at all. I think it’s a club that is very grounded, a family club, the people around the place, the new players included, have all bought into that as well. I wouldn’t say it’s a case of complacency. The club has wanted to develop year on year. It might not have done this year. But we have to finish the season strong, make sure we remain a Premier League club and then re-assess from there.” Though it could be said re-assessment has already started, largely in the dugout. The departure of the ultra-cautious Mauricio Pellegrino was hardly mourned in the St Mary’s stands. And judging by Ward-Prowse’s upbeat assessment of the new man in charge, Mark Hughes, the Argentine has not been much missed in the home dressing room, either. Ward-Prowse says the new manager has urged the team to be more positive and take more risks Credit: SOUTHAMPTON FC “I think he [Hughes] has brought a positive feel to the group, encouraged risks a lot more. He wants us to be more positive. It’s felt like we’ve stepped up in recent weeks, especially against Arsenal and Chelsea. If we can defend right, the basics are there. So we’re all excited for the remainder of the season because we built that strong base with him.” Which brings us to the semi-final and the possibility of an inglorious season’s double, achieved previously only by Manchester City, Leicester, Brighton, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and Wigan, of reaching the FA Cup final and being relegated from the top flight. “It’s a difficult situation,” admits Ward-Prowse. “We all want to be playing in the Premier League next season but, equally, if we can lift an FA Cup, it’s a great choice as well. We want to win every game. We want to have both.” If the worst was to happen, if relegation becomes inevitable, the assumptions will grow that he will join old academy mates like Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in seeking employment away from St Mary’s. It is not a possibility he is prepared to contemplate. “I have always loved being here,” he says. “It has been a great journey up until now and it is one that hopefully will continue. We are not looking at the worst happening. As a squad we are looking at being a Premier League club next year. We are all looking forward to getting out of this challenge together.”
The Premier League title race is over. The battle for relegation may be too. And it will take an almighty collapse from Tottenham Hotspur for the top four to provide any intrigue. So thankfully Fantasy Football can keep you entertained for the final weeks of the season. And, as always, FW: Fantasy has three tips to give you an advantage over your mates in your respective mini-leagues. Our first choice is a man in form. Wilfried Zaha struck twice for Crystal Palace to secure a vital win against Brighton and Hove Albion last time out and we expect him to score well again when he faces a Watford team in free-fall. The winger also has history against the Hornets... Gabriel Jesus also gets the nod. With the title wrapped up Manchester City can play without any pressure and with Sergio Aguero ruled out with injury, the Brazilian star can take advantage. And finally we've plumped for a West Bromwich Albion defender. Yes, the Baggies have been poor this season but it might be the right time to take advantage of their upturn in form under Darren Moore.
Hotter than the Zahara | FW Fantasy Gameweek 35
The Premier League title race is over. The battle for relegation may be too. And it will take an almighty collapse from Tottenham Hotspur for the top four to provide any intrigue. So thankfully Fantasy Football can keep you entertained for the final weeks of the season. And, as always, FW: Fantasy has three tips to give you an advantage over your mates in your respective mini-leagues. Our first choice is a man in form. Wilfried Zaha struck twice for Crystal Palace to secure a vital win against Brighton and Hove Albion last time out and we expect him to score well again when he faces a Watford team in free-fall. The winger also has history against the Hornets... Gabriel Jesus also gets the nod. With the title wrapped up Manchester City can play without any pressure and with Sergio Aguero ruled out with injury, the Brazilian star can take advantage. And finally we've plumped for a West Bromwich Albion defender. Yes, the Baggies have been poor this season but it might be the right time to take advantage of their upturn in form under Darren Moore.
The Premier League title race is over. The battle for relegation may be too. And it will take an almighty collapse from Tottenham Hotspur for the top four to provide any intrigue. So thankfully Fantasy Football can keep you entertained for the final weeks of the season. And, as always, FW: Fantasy has three tips to give you an advantage over your mates in your respective mini-leagues. Our first choice is a man in form. Wilfried Zaha struck twice for Crystal Palace to secure a vital win against Brighton and Hove Albion last time out and we expect him to score well again when he faces a Watford team in free-fall. The winger also has history against the Hornets... Gabriel Jesus also gets the nod. With the title wrapped up Manchester City can play without any pressure and with Sergio Aguero ruled out with injury, the Brazilian star can take advantage. And finally we've plumped for a West Bromwich Albion defender. Yes, the Baggies have been poor this season but it might be the right time to take advantage of their upturn in form under Darren Moore.
Hotter than the Zahara | FW Fantasy Gameweek 35
The Premier League title race is over. The battle for relegation may be too. And it will take an almighty collapse from Tottenham Hotspur for the top four to provide any intrigue. So thankfully Fantasy Football can keep you entertained for the final weeks of the season. And, as always, FW: Fantasy has three tips to give you an advantage over your mates in your respective mini-leagues. Our first choice is a man in form. Wilfried Zaha struck twice for Crystal Palace to secure a vital win against Brighton and Hove Albion last time out and we expect him to score well again when he faces a Watford team in free-fall. The winger also has history against the Hornets... Gabriel Jesus also gets the nod. With the title wrapped up Manchester City can play without any pressure and with Sergio Aguero ruled out with injury, the Brazilian star can take advantage. And finally we've plumped for a West Bromwich Albion defender. Yes, the Baggies have been poor this season but it might be the right time to take advantage of their upturn in form under Darren Moore.
The Premier League title race is over. The battle for relegation may be too. And it will take an almighty collapse from Tottenham Hotspur for the top four to provide any intrigue. So thankfully Fantasy Football can keep you entertained for the final weeks of the season. And, as always, FW: Fantasy has three tips to give you an advantage over your mates in your respective mini-leagues. Our first choice is a man in form. Wilfried Zaha struck twice for Crystal Palace to secure a vital win against Brighton and Hove Albion last time out and we expect him to score well again when he faces a Watford team in free-fall. The winger also has history against the Hornets... Gabriel Jesus also gets the nod. With the title wrapped up Manchester City can play without any pressure and with Sergio Aguero ruled out with injury, the Brazilian star can take advantage. And finally we've plumped for a West Bromwich Albion defender. Yes, the Baggies have been poor this season but it might be the right time to take advantage of their upturn in form under Darren Moore.
Hotter than the Zahara | FW Fantasy Gameweek 35
The Premier League title race is over. The battle for relegation may be too. And it will take an almighty collapse from Tottenham Hotspur for the top four to provide any intrigue. So thankfully Fantasy Football can keep you entertained for the final weeks of the season. And, as always, FW: Fantasy has three tips to give you an advantage over your mates in your respective mini-leagues. Our first choice is a man in form. Wilfried Zaha struck twice for Crystal Palace to secure a vital win against Brighton and Hove Albion last time out and we expect him to score well again when he faces a Watford team in free-fall. The winger also has history against the Hornets... Gabriel Jesus also gets the nod. With the title wrapped up Manchester City can play without any pressure and with Sergio Aguero ruled out with injury, the Brazilian star can take advantage. And finally we've plumped for a West Bromwich Albion defender. Yes, the Baggies have been poor this season but it might be the right time to take advantage of their upturn in form under Darren Moore.
The Premier League title race is over. The battle for relegation may be too. And it will take an almighty collapse from Tottenham Hotspur for the top four to provide any intrigue. So thankfully Fantasy Football can keep you entertained for the final weeks of the season. And, as always, FW: Fantasy has three tips to give you an advantage over your mates in your respective mini-leagues. Our first choice is a man in form. Wilfried Zaha struck twice for Crystal Palace to secure a vital win against Brighton and Hove Albion last time out and we expect him to score well again when he faces a Watford team in free-fall. The winger also has history against the Hornets... Gabriel Jesus also gets the nod. With the title wrapped up Manchester City can play without any pressure and with Sergio Aguero ruled out with injury, the Brazilian star can take advantage. And finally we've plumped for a West Bromwich Albion defender. Yes, the Baggies have been poor this season but it might be the right time to take advantage of their upturn in form under Darren Moore.
Hotter than the Zahara | FW Fantasy Gameweek 35
The Premier League title race is over. The battle for relegation may be too. And it will take an almighty collapse from Tottenham Hotspur for the top four to provide any intrigue. So thankfully Fantasy Football can keep you entertained for the final weeks of the season. And, as always, FW: Fantasy has three tips to give you an advantage over your mates in your respective mini-leagues. Our first choice is a man in form. Wilfried Zaha struck twice for Crystal Palace to secure a vital win against Brighton and Hove Albion last time out and we expect him to score well again when he faces a Watford team in free-fall. The winger also has history against the Hornets... Gabriel Jesus also gets the nod. With the title wrapped up Manchester City can play without any pressure and with Sergio Aguero ruled out with injury, the Brazilian star can take advantage. And finally we've plumped for a West Bromwich Albion defender. Yes, the Baggies have been poor this season but it might be the right time to take advantage of their upturn in form under Darren Moore.
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>
The pre-emptive Premier League (and FA Cup) team of the weekend
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>
The pre-emptive Premier League (and FA Cup) team of the weekend
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>
The pre-emptive Premier League (and FA Cup) team of the weekend
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>
The pre-emptive Premier League (and FA Cup) team of the weekend
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>
The pre-emptive Premier League (and FA Cup) team of the weekend
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>
The pre-emptive Premier League (and FA Cup) team of the weekend
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>
The pre-emptive Premier League (and FA Cup) team of the weekend
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>
The pre-emptive Premier League (and FA Cup) team of the weekend
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>
The pre-emptive Premier League (and FA Cup) team of the weekend
Welcome to our new Friday morning feature in which we preview the forthcoming Premier League weekend through the lens of 11 players. The idea is to pick a team of individuals likely to play a pivotal role in the outcome of their match, their club's fortunes or feature in the big stories come Monday morning. All Premier League matches will be covered in some way, and the aim is to predict the weekend's best players before a ball has been kicked. For reasons of simplicity and week-to-week consistency, the players will be arranged in a 4-4-2 'formation'. Apologies to those of you who were fond of Premier League Bingo, which has gone the same way as the dodo, Woolworth's and Harry Kane's popularity. GK: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Despite their fine work and Carlos Carvalhal's garrulous proverbs, Swansea are not out of the woods just yet. Southampton and Stoke will hold out hope of reeling them in, particularly with a trip to newly crowned champions Manchester City looming this Saturday. With City charging towards 100 points, Swansea might need their goalkeeper to save them at the Etihad and Lukas Fabianksi has quietly been one of the division's best stoppers. There is a dearth of outstanding goalkeepers across the Premier League, and one or two of the 'Big Six' might be keeping an eye of Fabianksi - at least as a highly-competent No.2. Goalkeepers do tend to catch the eye in teams who keep them busy, however. (Manchester City vs Swansea, Sunday 4.30pm) RB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The on-loan Chelsea defender is more than capable of playing out of position at right-back, but Stoke are diluting one of their best assets by doing so. Burnley's visit to the bet365 Stadium is Stoke and Paul Lambert's last chance to mount a great escape, and they cannot afford to keep leaking cheap goals. Switching to a back five and utilising Zouma as one of three centre-halves would surely get more out of him and offer Stoke more attacking threat on that flank. (Stoke vs Burnley, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pilloried for losing his man at the near-post in successive league games, Arsenal's £35 million centre back could probably do with a breather. However, with Laurent Koscielny kept on ice for their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mustafi is likely to get a chance to make amends on Sunday. We are running out of space on the German's charge sheet: he is rash, one-paced, struggles to defend crosses and prone to losing his head when the pressure is turned up. However, Mustafi has proven himself capable of some extremely impressive performances against top-level opponents. He stuck to Diego Costa like a cheap suit in a 3-0 win over Chelsea a few weeks into his Arsenal career, did the same to Alvaro Morata at Stamford Bridge this season and smothered Harry Kane (and scored) in a home north London derby. The jury is still out, but the foreman is getting impatient. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) CB: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur) Credit: REUTERS Sanchez's potential is the reason Spurs appear confident enough to cash-in on Toby Alderweireld this summer. The £42million they paid Ajax will look a sound long-term investment in a few years - Sanchez in confident in position, happy to defend high up the pitch and comfortable in one-vs-one situations. However, the 21-year-old does tend to make at least one mistake per game and that will give Manchester United hope going into their FA Cup semi-final. Spurs will put United under intense pressure in central midfield, but that does mean they leave acres of green grass in behind their centre backs. That proved their undoing against City last weekend, when a clipped long ball from Vincent Kompany set Gabriel Jesus clean through for the opening goal. Sanchez is sometimes guilty of not checking over his shoulder, and can get the offside trap wrong. Jose Mourinho will have little interest in controlling territory at Wembley, he will wait for that one lapse in concentration to free one of his pacy forwards. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) A week after a quite brilliant assist against Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand lines up against his former club in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Southampton left-back will receive Premier League offers if they do succumb to relegation, and he could even have an outside chance of a place in England's World Cup starting XI. Danny Rose has been an inconsistent presence this season, and Gareth Southgate's preference for a back three also opens up the possibility of Betrand starting as the left centre-back. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS RM: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggling to regain fitness, Alex Iwobi can stake a claim for a starting spot against Atletico Madrid if he excels on Sunday. Iwobi was one of Arsenal's better performers in their defeat at Newcastle but remains a polarising figure, mainly because there is confusion about what type of player he is. Those who view him as a potential forward tend to focus on his pitiful end product and awkward finishing, while those who see him as a future midfielder praise his ball retention and spacial awareness. Iwobi should model his game on Tottenham's Mousa Dembele - a player derided for providing few goals or assists, who reinvented himself in a more withdrawn role where he could control games. (Arsenal vs West Ham, Sunday 1.30pm) Credit: PA CM: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) Shelvey's long-range passing was the scourge of Arsenal's defence last Sunday, and he lines up against an Everton midfield on Monday who also afford opponents time to think in possession. More importantly, the former Liverpool player now seems able to keep a lid on his emotions for 90 minutes and keep himself of the pitch. There is growing support to 'get him on the plane' to Russia, but Gareth Southgate might consider him too much of a loose cannon. Has been instrumental in Newcastle's surge to safety. (Everton vs Newcastle, Monday 8pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CM: Giogio Wijanldum (Liverpool) James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were a formidable midfield trio against Man City, but Wijnaldum might have a chance to change Jurgen Klopp's thinking before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Roma. Adam Lallana remains injured, so Liverpool are light on midfield options but Wijnaldum does feel something of a forgotten man. He was a key part of their performances in big matches last season, with his late runs into the box leading to some crucial goals. (West Brom vs Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm) Credit: ACTION IMAGES LM: Jesse Lingard (Man Utd) Jose Mourinho is weighing up his attacking options, and a big name forward looks like missing out at Wembley. It would be surprising if it was Lingard however. In a team who too often look like a disparate collection of individuals, Lingard is the one player United have who can strike up partnerships easily. Like tonic, he is the perfect mixer. His willingness to run 'off the ball' is valuable in these big games and, Lingard likes to play with one or two touches. A week after Mourinho labelled his team 'masters of complication', Lingard's simplicity should assure his of a start. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) Credit: GETTY IMAGES CF: Shane Long (Southampton) Mark Hughes' striker of choice since he took over at Southampton, Long remains an invigorating, irritating and frustrating player to watch whether he plays for or against your team. Southampton will look to sit deep and hit Long in the channels against Chelsea at Wembley, a tactic to which he is ideally suited. Until the ball finally gets to him, that is, when a sight of goal goes straight to his head. Like a greyhound chasing after a plastic hare, Long enjoys the thrill of the chase without ever threatening a kill. (Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, 3pm) Credit: REUTERS CF: Harry Kane (Tottenham) Kane can deliver the perfect answer to those who argue he is in a slump and fire Spurs to their first FA Cup final since 1991. Still feeling his way back to full fitness after an ankle injury, Kane nevertheless scored at Brighton on Wednesday despite a below-par showing. Although he did not score in Spurs' 2-0 league win over United, Kane bullied their centre-backs and pulled Mourinho's side from pillar to post with his impressive hold-up play and immaculate passing - it was arguably his best performance of the season. Kane will look to target any United defender who isn't Eric Bailly. (Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm) FA Cup betting tips including a 4/1 treble for Manchester United v Tottenham at Betway >>

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