CHAPMAN: Rangnick’s choice of Man U hailed as smart

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Barely 12 games in the season, Manchester United became the sixth Premier League team to sack their manager last week. After embarrassing home defeats to main rivals Liverpool and Manchester City, United’s board have agreed not to make a change before the international break to give them two weeks to reset.



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They stayed with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but a 4-1 loss to 16th-place Watford was the last straw. They have appointed Solskjaer’s assistant Michael Carrick as ‘interim manager’ for their Champions League win over Villareal and this weekend’s intimidating game at Chelsea, but next week Ralf Rangnick will become interim manager for the rest of the season. After that, the Red Devils are expected to have a tough race against Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino. Rangnick, who has been Germany’s football director and manager, is in the process of talking about staying in a role similar to that if he gets Pochettino.

While United have been a reactionary, rudderless mess since Sir Alex Ferguson left, Rangnick’s appointment is welcomed by all. Organized, determined and following a cohesive plan, he is considered a mentor to two of the Premier League’s top managers, Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel. If the board backs off and lets him make the decisions, he could finally see United progress.

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The other game to watch is West Ham’s visit to Manchester City. With United and Leicester faltering, West Ham appeared to be the surprise team to enter the top four, especially after inflicting Liverpool their first loss of the season just before the international break to move up to third place. But they lost a place with a disappointing 1-0 loss to Wolves last week. Can they stop City’s momentum or are they eyeing a second straight loss. West Ham don’t play the possession game like the top teams do, they’re only 11th in assists, but they generate chances even if they do it more directly, and are fourth in shots taken.

This is also the part of the season where midweek games join the schedule and the games are dense and fast. After the weekend you have a menu that gives us the normally intense Merseyside Derby between Everton and Liverpool, Manchester United taking on Arsenal and Manchester City taking on Aston Villa. Depth, injury and luck all play a big part at this time of year and around this time next week the storylines could change drastically.

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SATURDAY: Arsenal v. Newcastle; Crystal Palace v Aston Villa; Liverpool v Southampton; Norwich Vs Wolves; Brighton versus Leeds.
SUNDAY: Brentford v Everton; Burnley versus Tottenham; Leicester v. Watford; Manchester City v West Ham; Chelsea v Manchester United.
TUESDAY: Newcastle v Norwich; Leeds versus Crystal Palace.
WEDNESDAY: Southampton v Leicester; Watford versus Chelsea; West Ham v. Brighton; Wolves vs. Burnley; Aston Villa versus Manchester City; Everton versus Liverpool.
THURSDAY: Tottenham v. Brentford; Manchester United v Arsenal.

THE SPANISH LIGA

If you accept that Barcelona are in rebuild mode after such a dire offseason as you can imagine, then the big story in Spain has to be the indifferent form of reigning champions Atletico Madrid. They lost in the Champions League to AC Milan this week only to see them lose three in a row in this competition for the first time in their history. They have two wins and three draws in their last five league games and are four points behind leaders Real Madrid. But they have scored 10 fewer goals than their city rivals.

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While manager Diego Simeone is known for his boring and tight defensive style, the list of attackers they have is staggering. Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann, Joao Felix, Angel Correa, this team should score more goals.

Cadiz could be the perfect tonic this weekend, as they sit in 16th place, only Levante, last, has allowed more goals this season.

The other game to watch is Real Madrid hosting third-placed Sevilla who have the second-best defensive record in La Liga allowing just nine goals in 12 appearances. A win would allow them to jump Madrid, but second-placed Real Sociedad could stay ahead of them with a win over Espanyol.

FRIDAY: Athletic Bilbao against Granada.
SATURDAY: Alavés v. Celta Vigo; Valencia versus Rayo Vallecano; Mallorca against Getafe; Villarreal v. Barcelona.
SUNDAY: Real Betis v Levante; Espanyol v. Real Sociedad; Cadiz c. Atlético Madrid; Real Madrid versus Sevilla.
MONDAY: Osasuna vs. Elche
WEDNESDAY: Real Madrid v Athletic Bilbao.

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ITALIAN A SERIES

What a week last week was. Napoli lost their unbeaten record allowing Internazionale to return to the title race, but AC Milan were unable to take advantage as they also lost their debut against Fiorentina.

Napoli and MIlan could have really moved away in the lead, but now Inter are just four points away from the pair.

Juventus really doubted they would be forgotten, but their victory last week took them four points from Champions League places. They followed that up with an appalling 4-0 beating at Chelsea in the Champions League which caused the Italian press to frenzy. They have a huge pair of matches over the next seven days against Atalanta, fourth, and then Salenitana.

You would expect them to win that last game, but if they lose to Atalanta they’ll be seven points off the last Champions League spot and that just won’t be acceptable to their board. or their fans.

FRIDAY: Cagliari c. Salerno.
SATURDAY: Empoli v. Fiorentina; Sampdoria v. Hellas Verona; Juventus v. Atalanta; Venice c. Inter Milan.
SUNDAY: Udinese v. Genoa; AC Milan versus Sassuolo; Spezia v. Bologna; Roma v. Turin; Naples v. Lazio.
TUESDAY: Atalanta v. Venezia; Fiorentina v. Sampdoria; Salerno c. Juventus; Hellas Verona v. Cagliari.
WEDNESDAY: Bologna c. Rome; Inter Milan against Spezia; Genoa against AC Milan; Sassuolo v. Naples.
THURSDAY: Turin v. Empoli; Lazio c. Udinese.

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