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Liverpool to march on, Manchester City’s capital gains and a United draw? – Opta predicts Premier League fixtures

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The Premier League remains suspended, but the Opta Predictor has crunched the numbers for the games originally scheduled for March 20-22.

As the world continues to battle against the coronavirus pandemic, football fans across the globe face another weekend scratching around for something to fill the void.

The domestic calendar in England was halted last week in a bid to reduce social gatherings and the Football Association confirmed its leagues would not return until at least the end of April.

While we cannot say for sure how this weekend’s Premier League fixtures would have gone, our friends at Opta have come up with a system to predict the outcomes.

What chance would your team have had? Take a look below.

Predictor explainer:

The Opta Predictor estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) given each team’s attacking and defensive quality. The team’s attacking and defensive qualities are based on four years of historic results, with more weighting given to their most recent results. The model will take into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes against and reward them accordingly.

 

BURNLEY v WATFORD

Home win: 49 per cent
Draw: 26 per cent
Away win: 25 per cent

Watford may have handed Liverpool their first defeat of the Premier League season, but with just one victory in their past three visits to Turf Moor it is Burnley who are expected to win by the predictor. Sean Dyche’s side have gone unbeaten in seven top-flight matches to move into a more comfortable position in the middle of the table.

CHELSEA v MANCHESTER CITY

Home win: 30 per cent
Draw: 24 per cent
Away win: 46 per cent

Manchester City are the pick to prevail at Stamford Bridge, a ground where Pep Guardiola has lost on two of his three Premier League visits. Kevin De Bruyne’s winner in September 2017 fired City’s charge to a 100-point title romp but goals from N’Golo Kante and David Luiz saw the Blues hand Guardiola’s men the first league defeat of their triumphant 2018-19 campaign. Kante and De Bruyne were both on target when the sides met at the Etihad Stadium back in November, before Riyad Mahrez sealed a 2-1 comeback win for the hosts.

LEICESTER CITY v BRIGHTON

Home win: 62 per cent
Draw: 22 per cent
Away win: 16 per cent

Brighton won at Arsenal back in December, but that was just one of two away victories for the Seagulls so far in the Premier League this season, so their prospects at Leicester were inevitably looking bleak. After a worrying slump, Leicester looked to have rediscovered their mojo by the time the league ground to a halt, with Jamie Vardy back on the goal trail following a drought. Leicester’s nine wins at the King Power Stadium this term looked highly likely to become 10.

LIVERPOOL v CRYSTAL PALACE

Home win: 76 per cent win
Draw: 16 per cent
Away win: 8 per cent

A predicted triumph for Liverpool at Anfield is by no means a surprise given they are on a top-flight record of 22 straight home wins. With just an eight per cent chance of winning, Palace had the lowest chance of victory in this round of fixtures. However, with City predicted to come out on top against Chelsea, the Reds’ wait to clinch the Premier League title would have continued.

MANCHESTER UNITED v SHEFFIELD UNITED

Home win: 48 per cent
Draw: 30 per cent
Away win: 22 per cent

The halt in football action came at a bad time for Manchester United, who were on a magnificent roll – 11 matches unbeaten with eight victories. The Opta predictor backed the hosts to continue that run, but at 48 per cent, a home win was seen as far from a certainty. Amid an amazing season, Sheffield United are just two points behind Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men and at 30 per cent, it is the most likely contest on the matchday to end in a draw. That was also the outcome in a thrilling 3-3 draw at Bramall Lane in November.

NEWCASTLE UNITED v ASTON VILLA

Home win: 54 per cent
Draw: 24 per cent
Away win: 22 per cent

The predicted win for Newcastle is something Aston Villa – second from bottom and 10 points shy of Steve Bruce’s men – could ill afford in reality. Newcastle are unbeaten in five matches at St James’ Park, although that run includes three consecutive 0-0 draws. Villa have lost four in succession in the Premier League and only won three times in the top flight since beating the Magpies 2-0 in the corresponding fixture on November 25.

NORWICH CITY v EVERTON

Home win: 28 per cent
Draw: 26 per cent
Away win: 46 per cent

Norwich prop up the Premier League table and the predictor reflects as such, with Everton having a greater chance of victory on the road. The Toffees’ last win at Carrow Road came in 2004, though, and Everton were beaten 2-0 at home by Daniel Farke’s side back in November, Todd Cantwell and Dennis Srbeny with the goals at Goodison Park.

SOUTHAMPTON v ARSENAL

Home win: 28 per cent
Draw: 24 per cent
Away win: 48 per cent

Southampton’s resurgence during December and January had given way to a worrying patch of form over February and early March. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men did beat Aston Villa at home, but this Arsenal side under Mikel Arteta’s leadership are a different prospect to the team Saints held 2-2 in north London back in November. The Gunners are unbeaten in the Premier League in 2020, and they would have fancied claiming all three points on offer at St Mary’s.

TOTTENHAM v WEST HAM

Home win: 70 per cent
Draw: 17 per cent
Away win: 13 per cent

The Hammers were not predicted to fare particularly well at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but they did defy the odds with a 1-0 win at the same venue in April 2019, Michail Antonio scoring the winner. Tottenham were the victors in the reverse fixture this season, a 3-2 triumph in Jose Mourinho’s first match in charge.

WOLVES V BOURNEMOUTH

Home win: 58 per cent
Draw: 23 per cent
Away win: 19 per cent

Wolves are unbeaten in all three of their Premier League matches against Bournemouth, including a 2-1 win in the reverse fixture, and the predictor has them as the more likely winners on this matchday. That would come as a welcome relief to Wolves, who have won just one of their last five home top-flight matches, while Eddie Howe’s men would be primed for a seventh consecutive away loss.

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Premier league

Rashford edging closer to full fitness: I feel 10 times better now

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He has been out since mid-January but Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford says he is edging closer to a return to training.

Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford is in a “much better place” than a month ago as he nears a return to full fitness.

Rashford has been out since mid-January due to a back injury, with United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saying earlier this month the club would not rush his comeback.

The England international is making good progress, though, and suggests he will be ready to resume training once the squad are cleared to go back to work after the coronavirus pandemic.

“I feel much better,” Rashford told Sky Sports News. “I have a scan in another couple of days and that should solidify it, but I feel much better compared to two or three weeks ago.

“I feel 10 times better now. For me, now it’s just about getting ready to build back up to training and then playing games for the team.

“I’m in a much better place. I’m much happier than I was about a month ago, so things are looking positive.”

 

Rashford says his recent rehabilitation has been carried out at home due to the restrictions put in place to control the impact of COVID-19.

“Everyone is just dealing with the circumstances as well as they can,” he added.

“I’ve just been in my house doing my gym work and recovery, reading books, watching Netflix and just doing what I can do to make the time pass further.

“There’s not really anything you can do that comes close to being in the changing room and being in the team, so I’m not trying to chase that high.

“I had to have time off anyway because of my injury, but I’m fortunate enough to have a bike in the gym downstairs. Not much in that sense has actually changed for me because I can still do my daily routine that I was doing.”

Rashford is also heading up a campaign for the FareShare charity, which aims to raise £100,000 to help supply food to children who usually have free school meals but are currently unable to access them.

“I didn’t know how high the numbers were of kids not eating at home other than school meals. That number kind of shocked me,” Rashford said.

“And then I remember speaking to a friend who was saying there was an opportunity where we can help these people and FareShare allowed us to make it work.

“I don’t think I’ve actually ever done something at such short notice before. I thought let’s try and get to £100,000 and right now we’re on £97,000.”

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Coronavirus: Brady admits Liverpool all but own title, reveals West Ham have eight in isolation

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Karren Brady has revealed West Ham have eight players showing mild symptoms of COVID-19 – and has made a U-turn over the 2019-20 season.

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady has gone back on her previous claim that the season should be voided, saying the title is “all but owned by Liverpool” as the the Premier League aims to return to action.

Brady was criticised earlier this month for suggesting in a newspaper column that the top-flight campaign in England should be declared null and void due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

She was accused of putting her own club’s interests first, with the Hammers only outside the Premier League relegation zone by virtue of goal difference.

Her suggestion riled Liverpool supporters in particular, given the expectation they will claim their first league title in 30 years should the season be completed.

She defended her initial comments, saying she was merely thinking of players and fans amid the coronavirus pandemic, but has now said the Premier League plan to “get going as soon as possible” still stands.

“It is a paradox that at a time football would be a great comfort to millions, it must not be played because, rightly, people’s health is our priority,” Brady wrote in The Sun.

 

“What is going on in our country and the world is unprecedented and the game is not a necessity – like food or healthcare.

“But to millions upon millions of us, football’s disappearance from life is very relevant indeed. So, we all want it back in a hurry.

“There’s the Premier League to be decided although, obviously, not the title – which is all but owned by Liverpool.

“But neither the Premier League nor the EFL have finished this season’s games. Plus, there is the FA Cup, continental leagues, European competitions, European Championship and almost everything in between.

“The next Premier League meeting is on Friday and the main topic of conversation will be when games can restart. When we – all Premier League clubs – last spoke, we agreed to get going again as soon as possible. And that games will run into July, if req­uired, to get this campaign finished.

“This is the plan. This is what we want to deliver.”

Brady also revealed eight West Ham players went into self-isolation after showing mild symptoms of the virus.

“Players are currently not in training and housebound to comply with social distancing rules currently in place until April 13, when we expect training to restart,” she added.

“And following further Government guidelines, we have eight West Ham players in isolation. Although I am relieved to say they are all showing mild symptoms and, along with their families, seem to be well.”

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Liverpool v Atletico going ahead was a ‘criminal act’

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Carlo Ancelotti has revealed Jurgen Klopp had concerns over the decision for Liverpool v Atletico Madrid to go ahead at a full Anfield.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp felt staging the Champions League match against Atletico Madrid at Anfield without restrictions earlier this month was a “criminal act”, according to Carlo Ancelotti.

Everton head coach Ancelotti has spoken with Klopp amid the coronavirus pandemic and said the German had concerns over his side’s continental fixture going ahead in front of a full stadium on March 11.

Liverpool went out of the Champions League after the second leg of their last-16 tie ended in a 4-2 aggregate defeat, their last match before top-level football was widely halted due to the outbreak.

Ancelotti told Corriere dello Sport: “I heard from Klopp the other day, he told me that going ahead with the game in those conditions was a criminal act. I think he was right.”

Former Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Milan boss Ancelotti predicts there will be an economic “downsizing” after the virus has passed, with football feeling the effects of that.

“We are all living a life that we were not used to and that will change us profoundly,” he said. “I’m sure we will all have to downsize, starting with football.

“Today, the priority is health, limiting the contagion. When you start again, when you finish, the dates – believe me, I don’t care. At the moment, that’s the last thing on my mind.

“I hear talk about cutting salaries, suspension of payments. They seem like inopportune solutions.

“Soon the economy will change, and that’s at all levels: The TV rights will be less, players and coaches will earn less, tickets will cost less because people will have less money.

“I repeat, what matters now is to fight the virus effectively. Then, of course, if it will be possible to continue the season… otherwise, amen.”

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