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Is Philippe Coutinho the key to Liverpool’s title hopes?

Liverpool have exceeded all expectations in the opening stages of the 2016/17 season and it would take a brave man to back against Jurgen Klopp’s men on current form. The Reds have earned impressive victories away at Arsenal and Chelsea, as well as thrashing defending champions Leicester City 4-1 at Anfield.

And while their surge up the Premier League table is down to a collective effort since the German arrived at the helm, Philippe Coutinho’s impact deserves special recognition.

On his day, Coutinho is different class. The Brazilian has plenty of potential and at just 24 years old, he could yet mature into a consistent elite talent. The Liverpool star has been linked with moves to the likes of Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid in recent times – and this shows just how incredibly gifted he is.

So far this season, he has been at the top of his game, showing the nous and skill to unlock even the sternest defences in the top flight; and Klopp knows just how integral he is to the club’s chances of winning a maiden Premier League title.

With the likes of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge also attracting plenty of attention, Coutinho has managed to find that extra half-yard of space and that is all the little Brazilian needs to create a clear-cut opportunity for one of Liverpool’s talented forwards. In seven league fixtures, Coutinho has scored three goals and assisted two for his team-mates; essentially, he is usually at the centre of Liverpool’s positive work in attack.

Next up for Liverpool is a difficult fixture against arch-rivals Manchester United. At the time of writing, Klopp’s side are 23/20 to come out on top in that clash and there will be odds available on all of Liverpool’s Premier League matches at Betway.com. If Coutinho is on top form, he could tear United’s suspect defence apart – just as he did in their Europa League triumph at Old Trafford last season.

Since arriving at Anfield, Coutinho has matured into one of the most skilful and reliable stars in the famous Liverpool red – and Klopp has built around the attacking midfielder.

While the 24-year-old is capable of performing the spectacular and scoring 30-yard screamers, the former Borussia Dortmund boss recognises how effective and dangerous he is in attack in terms of possession and creativity. As of October 11th, Coutinho is one of Liverpool’s most potent offensive threats; recording 4.1 shots, 2.3 key passes and 2.4 successful dribbles on a weekly basis.coutinho

If they continue in this vein, Liverpool are capable of winning the title this season. The Reds have literally slipped up at the vital moment in the past but Klopp’s relentless, energetic approach will keep his players sharp and focused for the entire campaign.

Liverpool aren’t over-reliant on the little Brazilian but a long-term injury to Coutinho could be detrimental to their title hopes. In fact, many fans have actually called for the German to bench the player for “lesser” fixtures – risking an injury when 4-0 up against 10-man Hull City is just unnecessary.

Would Liverpool miss out on the title if Coutinho was ruled out for a prolonged spell? Not necessarily. However, it would certainly damage their Premier League aspirations. The Reds are on the verge of something special at Anfield and Klopp will continue to build around the little Brazilian for as long as he remains at the club.

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Coutinho is a unique talent and Liverpool fans should prepare themselves for plenty of success; the Klopp-Coutinho partnership has all the makings of a title-winning combination.

 

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Will Manchester United move for La Liga’s top talent?

Manchester United smashed their transfer record to secure the signature of Paul Pogba from Juventus in their bid to end Premier League title drought. The Red Devils have failed to win the top-flight crown since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, with two of his successors David Moyes and Louis van Gaal paying the price for being unable to put the club in contention.

United have spent heavily over the past three years, but have been forced to watch their rivals Manchester City, Chelsea and even Leicester City lift the trophy. Their struggles in Europe have been even worse, failing to reach the Champions League in two out of the three seasons, while they were knocked out of the competition at the group stage last term.

As a result they moved to replace Van Gaal with Jose Mourinho even after the Portuguese was sacked for his disastrous campaign with Chelsea. He and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward acted over the summer to bolster their squad with players from around the top leagues in Europe. Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived from Paris Saint-Germain, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was signed from Borussia Dortmund, while the club paid in the region of £90m for Paul Pogba. Eric Bailly was signed from Villarreal, but United were unable to lure any of the superstars from the leading La Liga outfits.

The Red Devils have been linked with a move for Gareth Bale before, although no bid has come to fruition. However, the Welshman could be tempted to return to the Premier League should Real Madrid win the Spanish title this season.

Zinedine Zidane’s men are backed in the latest Bet365 La Liga betting odds at 5/4 to win the crown for the first time in four years, and success may convince Bale to move on, having already clinched two Champions League trophies with the club. United would have to part with a huge sum of cash to secure his signature, but if success eludes them again this season they may be willing to pay over £100m to sign Bale. Whether Madrid would be willing to part company with the 26-year-old’s services would be another matter, and that could make life difficult for Mourinho’s men. However, there is another star in the Spanish capital, who appears to be on his way out.

James Rodriguez lit up the 2014 World Cup for Colombia, ending as the tournament’s top scorer with six goals. His performances secured a lucrative move to the Bernabeu in the region of €80m and the midfielder continued his form in his debut season, notching 17 goals in 46 appearances. However, he has fallen out of favour since Zidane has taken the reins and will reportedly be available when the transfer window reopens in January. United lack a playmaking presence in their midfield, despite the arrival of Pogba who has started in a deep role alongside Marouane Felliani.

Rodriguez could play behind Ibrahimovic, Rooney or Rashford in attack, offering a threat through the middle of opposing defences. He could be the missing piece to the puzzle and would also chip with goals from midfield that the club have sorely lacked, in turn easing the pressure on the frontline.The likes of Neymar and Bale will be hard to attract for the Red Devils, considering their lack of Champions League football, although a player of Rodriguez’s calibre would be quite the coup for Mourinho’s men.

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How Will Chelsea Lineup against West Ham?

With a new boss at the helm, Chelsea will start their 2016/17 Premier League campaign at Stamford Bridge on Monday against a strong West Ham side.

Although the Blues have strengthened considerably in the transfer market this summer – with the likes of Kante and Batshuayi coming in, only the French midfielder is expected to start on Monday in the Chelsea starting lineup.

Here is how we think Chelsea will Lineup against West Ham:

Goalkeeper
Although he’s facing a competition for his place from Asmir Begovic, it would be a huge surprise if Thibaut Courtois isn’t named in the starting eleven on Monday.

Last season wasn’t the best one for the Belgian shot stopper – with injuries marring his campaign and no doubt he will be hoping to set things straight right from the start this time around.

Defenders
At a time when almost all of their rivals have brought in defenders to strengthen their defence, Chelsea will start this season with the same back four which featured last season.

With Azpilicueta and Ivanovic playing on the flanks, Terry and Cahill will be in the heart of Chelsea defence against West Ham.

Defensive Midfield
If there’s one player whose name is already cemented in the Chelsea starting eleven, it has to be the new arrival N’Golo Kante.

Alongside him, Fabregas is expected to start with Matic on the bench.

Attacking Midfield
While Conte might change many things in the long run at Chelsea, he’ll be going against West Ham with the same attacking midfield which featured for Chelsea on numerous occasions last season. Oscar will play in the role behind the striker, with Willian and Hazard providing the support from the wings.

Striker
There might be rumours of his exit from Chelsea, but Diego Costa is still the best option that Chelsea have in their strike department. However, if Costa wants to stake his claim for a spot in the long run, he will have to control his volatile temperament.

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Guus Hiddink Issues Warning to Alexandre Pato

For a striker who is yet to touch a ball in a Chelsea shirt, the problems of Alexandre Pato have been aggravated yet again by the recent comments of interim Chelsea Manager Guus Hiddink.

Hiddink has warned the Brazilian that he is not guaranteed a first team place – even if he fully recovers from the injury that has kept him away from the Chelsea team thus far.

The 69-year-old Dutch Manager was talking to the press ahead of his side’s fixture against Southampton at the weekend.

Southampton are coming into this game in fine form and the Blues have to be at their very best in order to get 3-points at the St. Mary’s Stadium.

Talking about the injury woes of striker Alexandre Pato, Hiddink said:

“Pato has now to get his sharpness to be competitive with the youngsters we have, because we have three strikers available, plus Falcao who is injured,” Hiddink said.

In addition to indicating the depth in the strike department of the club, Hiddink provided one more reason that could keep Pato away from the Chelsea Starting XI.

“Diego [Costa] is doing his job very well and I’m rather satisfied with Traore’s performances in the games when he’s come in, especially being a youngster with no big international name. They have to compete for the positions.”

Clearly, with his new manager not outwardly showing confidence in him, Pato will have to be at his very best if he wants to stay at Chelsea beyond the 2015/16 season.

Man United’s Rooney Out For 2 Months with Injury

Wayne Rooney has picked up a knee injury which will rule him out for up to 8 weeks.

This will come as a huge blow to Manchester United and Louis Van Gaal who were no doubt hoping Rooney could help steer them into European qualification come the end of the season.

He will still have a part to play, however United’s immediate results will now be out of his hands.

Rooney began 2016 with a bang, scoring with a deft backheel answering his critics in the process, many of whom had been putting even more pressure than usual on the striker due to his inconsistent form.

Since then, Rooney has been a solid part of United’s backbone as their form his ebbed and flowed without finding any real consistency.

United have fallen off the European qualification pace of late as they’ve struggled to beat sides they really should be picking points up from.

Meanwhile the teams around them have maintained a consistent pace which may mean United miss out altogether this season.

Rooney’s injury may be even more concerning for England fans who will naturally worry about his match fitness ahead of Euro 2016.

By the time he returns, which is expected to be in April, the season will be entering it’s final few weeks and Rooney will likely be facing a race against time to be fit to play for his country.