Can Everton Break Into the Premier League Top Four Next Season?

Source: Everton Football Club via Facebook

Everton have been quite busy in the summer transfer window so far. The Merseyside outfit are on a spending spree like never before and have recruited a number of players in order to reinforce their squad for the 2017-18 Premier League campaign. Among the players that the Toffees have signed are attacking midfielder Davy Klaassen from Ajax, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford from Sunderland, defender Michael Keane from Burnley, and forward Sandro Ramirez from Malaga.

England international forward Wayne Rooney has also returned to Everton after leaving Manchester United, while right-back Cuco Martina has switched to Goodison Park following his release from Southampton at the end of the 2016-17 season. There are talks that Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud could make a move to the Merseyside outfit before the summer transfer window shuts.

It seems that Everton are determined to have a very successful 2017-18 campaign. During the 2015-16 season, Koeman’s side ended up seventh, as many as 15 points clear of seventh-placed Southampton. The Toffees are better than the rest of the teams in the Premier League, but are they good enough to merit a place in the top six or even the top four? Given the amount of money the Blues have spent so far this summer and the ambition of the club’s majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, it would not be far-fetched to suggest that they have their eyes on the Champions League places.

Bookmakers, though, do not seem to be giving Everton too much of a chance of finishing in the top four. According to many bookies, the Toffees are only 10/1 to end up in the Champions League places. One can understand why the odds are so high. The Premier League top six is one of the most competitive in the world, with Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arenal and Tottenham Hotspur all expected to fight for the Premier League title next season. Given the signings that Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs have already made this summer, it is only going to be more competitive next season than it was in 2016-17.

However, bookmakers do not always get things right. After all, they had Leicester City at 5000/1 to win the Premier League title back in the 2015-16 season. A cheeky wager on Everton to sneak into the top four of the Premier League next season ahead of Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur may not be a bad idea, especially with free bets for 2017-2018 already available. Everton ended up only eight points behind sixth-placed Manchester United last season; this time they have a stronger squad, which will enhance their chances of a top-four finish.


Goodison Park walls” (CC BY 2.0) by Ben Sutherland

Arsenal slipped out of the Champions League places last season for the first time in 20 years, while Liverpool just about managed to sneak into the top four. Both the Gunners and the Reds should be in the sights of Everton, who should also be aiming to leapfrog Tottenham next season. True, the North London outfit ended up second in 2016-17 and third in 2015-16, but they do not have a good record at Wembley and could struggle next season.

With players such as Rooney, Morgan Schneiderlin, Barkley and Klaassen in the team, Everton fans should be optimistic about a hugely successful 2017-18 campaign. Big things are happening at Goodison Park at the moment, and one should not be surprised if the Toffees break into the top four next season.

NASH’S PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW WEEK 11

The opening half of the Premier League season has thrown a ton of tight match-ups and week 11 assures to be no different. BLOCKBUSTER ALERT: Table topper Arsenal would be facing current champions and an old time foe Manchester United on Sunday evening, before that match takes place, there are plenty of tricky contests to look forward to. Here is the full round ups of all the games taking place.

ASTON VILLA V CARDIFF CITY @ Villa Park

Cardiff are siting one point clear of Villa in the league table. Cardiff would be high on confidence after last week’s derby win against Swansea. For Villa, they have had a disappointing start to the season, when Benteke scores, they look a whole different team. Agbonlahor and Delph should be available for Villa to play on Saturday. I predict Villa to win it, but only so narrowly.

PREDICTION 1-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Cristian Benteke: Without him scoring Villa just look like an ordinary side, it is about time he scores and Cardiff should provide him an easier match-up, to get up and running.

CHELSEA V WEST BROM @ Stamford Bridge

The Apprentice V the Master, this could be an exciting encounter especially with Chelsea’s wobbling start to the season, West Brom themselves have made a poor start compared to last season. Chelsea would love to take the momentum from midweek’s 3-0 over Schalke and many would expect them to win, BUT Steve Clarke is a clever manager, West Brom can get a result here.

PREDICTION  2-2

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Eden Hazard: currently looks out of sorts with all the rotation going around him, but is an impressive player and should be the to keep an eye out on all season

Sessegnon: He has had an impressive start to his West Brom career and for West Brom to have any chance in getting a result, he would be the key.

CRYSTAL PALACE V EVERTON @ Selhurst Park

Everton have been consistently good this season and they are playing against Palace, a side who is literally struggling in the Premier League. It would be an easy day out for Everton and another clean sheet to add to the tally. I don’t see a better fortune for Palace in the near future, if they lose against Everton, it would be their seventh consecutive loss.

PREDICTION 0-2

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Lukaku: He is a power forward, already scored 5 goals and this couldn’t be an easier match-up for him to increase his tally. Watch out Palace defence.

LIVERPOOL V FULHAM @ Anfield

Liverpool just didn’t start their engines against Arsenal last week, they would be raring to go and get that set back off their backs against Fulham. A loss for Fulham potentially means the last game for Martin Jol. Fulham have just haven’t clicked as a team. Liverpool are too strong a team. Expect another drubbing at Anfield.

PREDICTION: 4-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Suarez/Sturridge: They can disregard the Arsenal game, for them to be a Champion team, they need to score against tough opponents, but against Arsenal, Liverpool were not working it out as a team. But now Fulham awaits and should be a tough competition in who will score more goals? Suarez? Or Sturridge?

SOUTHAMPTON V HULL CITY @ St. Mary’s Stadium

It is no fluke for both the teams, in where they sit in the Premier league table. Both teams look promising and play compact football. Southampton have the best defensive record in the premier league, allowing only four goals and the second best in Europe. Hull would find it difficult to crack the Saints defence. It would be a tough midfield battle between both teams but the Saints would eventually come out winning.

PREDICTION: 1-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Jay Rodriguez: He is still the player to watch out for this Premier League season, as the season progresses, he will do wonders. Look out for him.

NORWICH V WEST HAM UNITED @ Carrow Road

Norwich have always struggled defensively and very look bleak. The play West Ham a team who struggles to score (they don’t play a striker, you see). This equals the odds, but Norwich would wish to bounce back after last week’s 0-7 drubbing by City. Expect to be a dull game, with plenty of long balls and defensive errors and Norwich might sneak in a goal.

PREDICTION: 1-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Van Wolfswinkel: He is hopeful to make a return, if he plays Norwich chances of winning skyrockets. Norwich need his services up front.

TOTTENHAM V NEWCASTLE UNITED @ White Hart Lane

Spurs have had a decent start to the season, with all the new signings, it’s difficult to gel as a team so soon, still they are sitting 4th in the table. They can only get better. Newcastle had an impressive win over Chelsea last weekend and would be hoping to capitalise on that against the Spurs as well. Spurs are not a scoring team, so they would hold down the Magpies offensively as well as defensively. It would be a well fought encounter, ending in a draw.

PREDICTION: 1-1

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Loic Remy: he has been the signing of the season for Newcastle, without him the Magpies season would have been disaster, expect him to bother the Spurs defence all day.

SUNDERLAND V MANCHESTER CITY @ Stadium of Light

Well history suggests, City have always struggled at the Stadium of Light losing 1-0 for the last 3 years. Will this time be different? Well the Black Cats have found some resurgence, and winning against the Saints midweek in the Capital One Cup would have helped. City on the other hand, have been in prolific scoring form. And Negredo and Aguero are proving to be a deadly combo. This is to me is going to be an upset of the week, going with the history.

PREDICTION: 2-1

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Steven Fletcher: for Sunderland to do well, Fletcher needs to be scoring, he is the most experienced and a stable personality that can guide the whole team together.

Sergio Aguero: he has scored eight goals in the season and is looking in ominous form, any defensive lapse by the Black Cats and he’ll pounce upon it.

MANCHESTER UNITED V ARSENAL @ Old Trafford

Arsenal looking like The Invincibles, for which they were known for before. They are one of the best teams in form around the world. Playing world class football and on Sunday they travel to Old Trafford, the home of the current league champions; Manchester United. United have had a horrendous start to their season, Januzaj being the only saving grace. A win here for United and it can lift their whole season and David Moyes would be know that. But for United to beat Arsenal, they have to play like a Champion team that they are. Going for a United win, just to make the premier league and the league table more interesting.

PREDICTION: 3-2

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

RVP: Do I even have to mention him. He would be the focal point for both sides.

Ramsey: He is in brilliant form, is running high on confidence and he tends to find gold in whatever he does nowadays.

SWANSEA V STOKE CITY @ the Liberty Stadium

Swansea usually don’t play well on premier league weekends when they are playing in the Europa League midweek. They have been very inconsistent and the form of MICHU has had so much to do with it. Stoke on the other hand are just finding it tough to play a certain type of football, which they could stick to it. Scoring goals has been tough for Stoke, they have just scored seven times this season, out of which one goal came from the goalkeeper. Going by Swansea’s inconsistencies after playing the Europa league game midweek. A draw is on the cards.

PREDICTION: 0-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Michu: He plays a vital role in how his team performs as a whole, his current drought of goals, has affected Swansea as well. He is too important a player for Swansea.

 

 

Dodgers Stadium Set to Host First-Ever Soccer Game, Proves Sport Growing in U.S.

Even 10 years ago, this type of game would never have been played. First off, teams like Real Madrid and Juventus weren’t making stops in the United States. And second, one of baseball’s classic venues would have turned its nose up at the idea of hosting a silly little soccer game.

But it’s 2013 and soccer (yes, football) is growing in America. The popularity of the MLS — and strong ratings for international games (especially the women’s team) — shows the United States is slowly, sometimes painfully, seeing that soccer is truly a compelling game.

American soccer fans are in for a treat this summer when the International Champions Cup invades six different cities across the nation between July 27 and August 7. The tournament features eight of the world’s biggest clubs, who will face off in elimination games. While many exhibitions have a ho-hum atmosphere to them, this series packs some must-see clubs – and an historic angle.

The event will also be hosted in one European city (Valencia, Spain) – with the championship game scheduled at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida on Aug 7.

Besides Miami, the other American host cities are New York, San Francisco, Phoenix, Indianapolis and a particularly interesting location in Los Angeles. No Rose Bowl this time – we’re talking venerable Dodgers Stadium and its first-ever soccer match. (More on that in a minute.)

The high-profile teams playing in the tournament are AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus of Italy’s Serie A; Chelsea and Everton of the English Premier League; and Real Madrid and Valencia of Spain’s La Liga. The Los Angeles Galaxy are the lone representative from Major League Soccer (MLS).

The first round of the event includes AC Milan vs Valencia in Spain, while Juventus takes on Everton in San Francisco. The Los Angeles Galaxy meet Real Madrid in Phoenix for a particularly juicy match, and Inter Milan squares off against Chelsea in Indianapolis. The winners will play each other in a semifinal round, while the losers continue to play each other in a consolation series.

The L.A. games are perhaps the most interesting, simply due to the unique location. Those who buy International Champions Cup tickets in Los Angeles will be a part of history when they see the first-ever soccer match at Dodgers Stadium since it opened in 1962.

The 56,000-seat venue will be converted into a soccer pitch on August 3. The game will showcase the winner of the Juventus vs Everton showdown against the winner of Real Madrid and the Los Angeles Galaxy at 7:30 p.m. – with an earlier game at 5 p.m. between the losers of those two contests.

So how will Dodgers Stadium – which is now the third-oldest ballpark in all of Major League Baseball – make way for soccer?

As this map shows, the soccer field will be constructed at an odd angle to make sure a decent-sized pitch fits into the playing surface. One net will be placed down the third base line in front of the visitors’ dugout, while the other net will face it from its location in right field.

There isn’t a specific regulation size for soccer pitches, but there is a minimum and maximum size for FIFA-regulated games. The minimum length is 100 yards with the maximum being 120 yards, while the minimum width is 50 yards and the maximum set at 100 yards. However, there is some leeway for exhibition games.

Typically, when a baseball stadium is converted into a soccer pitch the infield dirt needs to be dug out as well as the pitcher’s mound.

Sod is then laid and the field markings are painted on when everything’s ready. The hard part of the job is removing the dirt and making sure everything will be level with the existing turf.

The dirt and clay is usually removed with a backhoe, small bulldozer and some type of conveyor belt system. But since soccer is a relatively low impact sport (except for the goalie boxes), the outfield grass isn’t expected to suffer any significant damage.

The complete list of venues include the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia, Spain, the University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix, AT&T Park in San Francisco, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Met Life Stadium in New York, Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles and Miami’s Sun Life Stadium.