Updated: Jan 10
There is just no other news in the football world bigger or sadder than this.
For all his flaws, Diego Armando Maradona was a troubled genius who made the beautiful game all the more beautiful while transcending generations.
The Argentinian maestro labeled ‘The Golden Kid’ lived an exciting yet troubled life off the pitch and then traveled across the globe in his avatar as a manager.
It is safe to say, football is a lot poorer today and we will try to leave you with the magic of the man that will hopefully leave you with a smile before we get onto the usual business and dive into Bawa’s predictions.
Crystal Palace vs Newcastle
Palace was getting along absolutely fine even with Zaha being their sole creative outlet. But like the rest of the world, COVID-19 struck, and Zaha is unfortunately down with the deadly virus. Palace fans would desperately be hoping that between Eze, Batshuayi, and Ayew the team can produce something going forward for their resolute defense to hang on to.
What we have witnessed so far this season is that one can never predict which Newcastle will turn up! For the sake of the Geordies, Bawa can only hope Steve Bruce knows what’s going on. It’s probably the best time for the Toon Army to focus on the football, while Mike Ashley focuses on legal recourse to salvage something of the Saudi takeover.
Bawa’s Verdict: Crystal Palace might just take this one.
Brighton vs Liverpool
Brighton finally managed to put together a performance and beat the in-form Villa. Their second-best attacking player, Lamptey, is going to be absent, and with a Liverpool side looking to avenge a mid-week defeat, Brighton should be scared!
Statistics say Mo Salah absolutely kills it with the winter ball in the Premier League and his participation in the starting XI against Atalanta means that the Egyptian is ready to punish the Brighton defense along with FPL players who shipped him out.
Bawa’s Verdict: Liverpool all the way.
Man City vs Burnley
And the much-awaited easing up of fixtures has arrived for Man City. It can only be ominous that it coincides with the return of KDB, Jesus, and Co. While Mou Mama offered Reguilon a full leg of jamón (~£500) to keep Riyad Mahrez at bay, the Ginger Mourinho will have to pull a magic trick or two to stop the Cityzens if we are to go by the last few results (5-0 win to City).
The Burnley defense was dealt a huge blow when the news broke that Nick Pope will miss the game as he sustained a head injury against Palace. While the defense was shaping up well with two clean sheets, playing away at the Etihad is a whole different story and they will need J-Rod and C-Wood to take any chances that come their way if they are to get anything from this game.
Bawa’s Verdict: Not quite the free flowing City win but still a win.
Everton vs Leeds
Richarlison returned to much pomp and fanfare last weekend, and Everton looked like the team that started the season on fire. Everything seemed to be in place with Hameez assisting the assister and DCL finishing well, but with a serious injury to Digne, Everton will miss the presence that makes their left-hand side extremely dangerous.
Leeds were extremely unlucky not to come away with the three points against a hapless Arsenal after hitting the post and the bar a few times. Raphinha looks like an extremely tricky player who fits in perfectly with Bielsa’s system. Despite them having gone off the boil a little, the suspect Everton defense will do well to keep the buzzing Leeds bodies at bay for this one.
Bawa’s Verdict: A score draw.
West Brom vs Sheffield
Bawa feels that since this game is scheduled to start at 1:30 am IST, it only makes sense that one gets their beauty sleep and is well rested for Sunday’s action. Both these teams have been playing extremely underwhelming football and its no surprise that they lag at the bottom of the table. Sheffield have been hit by the second season syndrome and West Brom always lacked the quality to trouble teams in the PL. This is probably one of the very few games that West Brom might be considered favorites and that’s saying a lot.
Bawa’s Verdict: A first West Brom win.
Southampton vs Man Utd
Image Credits: Who Got The Assist? (Twitter)
Ralph Hasenhüttl must be a really happy man with his Saints team this season so far. Theo Walcott’s first goal since returning to his boyhood club helped them to an away point against Wolves but the man of the moment was Alex McCarthy who put in a Spiderman-like performance.
A re-taken Bruno Fernandes penalty was enough to beat West Brom but it was his mid-week UCL performance that has every United fan purring. This game won’t be easy but with the team clicking into gear on the back of a few important wins, expect Ole’s men to come up trumps in this game.
Bawa’s Verdict: A fighting win for the Red Devils.
Chelsea vs Spurs (Match of the Week)
Frank Lampard would love to get one over his “mentor” in Mou Mama and displace the surprise leaders from the top of the table. With four clean sheets since his debut, Mendy has been an inspired signing.
If Werner and Tammy are less profligate in front of goal, expect at least a few goals for this attack-minded team.
Harry Winks scoring a 56-yard screamer in the Europa League bears testament to Mou Mama and his stupendous work at Spurs.
This confidence transcends into the PL and could be seen when Spurs out thought Pep’s men by playing some scintillating counter-attacking football. Kane according to some football pundits is playing like Zidane.
Image Credits: official.footy.bible (Twitter)
Bawa’s Verdict: A pulsating match, culminating in a draw.
Arsenal vs Wolves
After Pepe’s red card, Arsenal did well to hold on to a point against Leeds last weekend. The team is clearly lacking some creative spark and haven’t scored from open play since October 4th against the Blades. This is an extremely worrying stat if you are an Arsenal fan and the fact that their most creative player can’t play and is taking his creative talents to social media adds to the hilarity of the whole situation.
Wolves have lost some steam after a good start to their PL campaign. Unlike the previous seasons, Nuno hasn’t been able to find the correct balance to his side and the constant chopping and changing of his personnel haven’t helped.
Bawa’s Verdict: A boring draw.
Leicester vs Fulham
A lot was expected from Vardy & Co. against a depleted Liverpool side but the Champions showed their class and neutralized the Foxes.
If only Fulham hadn’t missed their last three spot-kicks, their points tally would have been a lot better and taken them clear of the relegation zone. Scott Parker seems like a decent bloke but Bawa believes that he is out of his depth in the PL.
Bawa’s Verdict: An easy Leicester win.
West Ham vs Aston Villa
As predicted, Fabianski had a stormer last weekend. With Antonio back and Haller regaining some confidence, West Ham have become a tricky opponent. A back five suits the way the team is set up and in Soucek and Rice they have a high quality midfield that plays well on the counter.
Losing Ross Barkley early was a big loss to the way Villa plays. For all his silky skills and locks, Grealish had his iffy moments defensively. Watkins is a willing runner but needs the support if he has to score like he did against Liverpool and Arsenal.
The FPL Corner:
From the Leagues of Yonder…
The Indian Super League has gotten off to a fairly interesting start, with no one team pulling clear off the blocks. FC Goa and North East United have done well to pull back to level terms after being 2-0 down early in the 90′.
Half of the PL’s clubs will be able to welcome back 2,000 fans to the stadiums once the lock down ends in England next week. While this decision seems pretty random, Bawa is happy to see fans being allowed back to the stadiums even though Old Trafford will have to wait.
A few strong teams plying their trade in Europe have already qualified for the knockout stages. The biggest relief though for teams hoping to win the Europa League is that Sevilla has qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League and won’t be able to win the Europa for the millionth time.
Image Credits: SkySports (Instagram)
Image Credits: ODDSbible (Twitter)
Manchester United recently reported a cybersecurity breach to their systems and reported it immediately to the Information Commissioner’s Office. The club insists that no fan data was compromised but believe that the hackers were looking for Ole’s game plan and were left highly disappointed when they didn’t find any.
Bawa wishes that there comes a week where Zlatan is not in the news but that seems as unlikely as going on a date with Emily Ratajkowski. Not only did Zlatan win the Swedish player of the year for a record 12th time but thanks to his reliable super-agent Mino Raiola, Zlatan is ready to lead nearly 300 footballers against FIFPro and EA Sports for using player names and image likeness to make money in the popular FIFA video game without their consent.
Image Credits: SkySports (Instagram)
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* All views and opinions mentioned in the above article are solely of the author.