Sports

Sports: Premier League Week – Jose and Claudio and The Circle of Life

Jose Mourinho gets the sack, AFC Bournemouth continue their giant-killing run and Petr Cech’s wife bakes a wonderful cake in another week of wildly unpredictable Premier League action.

Former Chelsea managers Claudio Rainieri and Jose Mourinho.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Former Chelsea managers Claudio Rainieri and Jose Mourinho. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Chelsea have finally sacked manager Jose Mourinho after a 2-1 loss to Leicester City on Tuesday morning left last season’s champions just one point clear of the relegation zone.

The result completed a circle of football manager life for Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri, who was in charge of Chelsea the last time they lost to Leicester in the Premier League.

On that day – February 3, 2001 – the scoreline was the same, with Leicester’s goals coming through classic Premier League battlers Muzzy Izzet and Gary Rowett. Three years later Ranieri would be displaced at Chelsea manager when Roman Abramovich bought the club and hired… Jose Mourinho.

Now the tables have been turned once again. Leicester City sit two points clear at the top of the table. They beat Mourinho’s side with some liquid football which produced a pair of exquisite goals: first Jamie Vardy volleyed home a perfectly-timed ball from Riyad Mahrez, before Mahrez found the top corner with a solo goal which probably halved his marker Cesar Azpilicueta’s transfer value on the spot.

When do we start looking at Leicester as serious title contenders rather than merely a wonderful football fluke? The infinitely wise Jonathan Wilson suggests the busy Christmas schedule will provide the true test of Leicester’s champion credentials:

The next three games, away to Everton and Liverpool and then home to Manchester City, will give a far clearer indication of where Leicester stand — partly because they’re difficult matches, partly because it’s three games in the space of 10 days and partly because they go to Goodison without the injured Drinkwater and the suspended Robert Huth, which means a first real examination of the depth of their squad.

The Foxes’ stiffest competition for Premier League glory comes in the form of Manchester City and Arsenal, who play each other at the Emirates this weekend. City had a lucky escape at home to Swansea, who thought they had snatched a last-minute equaliser through Bafetimbi Gomis. In his excitement the striker ran straight to celebrate with Swansea’s away support, neglecting to do his usual prowling cat celebration. This oversight seemed to curse the Swans, who conceded just minutes later to a Yaya Toure strike which took a lucky deflection off his own teammate’s back and looped into the net.

Bafetimbi Gomis forgot to do the cat celebration. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Bafetimbi Gomis forgot to do the cat celebration. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Arsenal, meanwhile, had it easier go of it at bottom-placed Aston Villa, claiming a comfortable 2-0 win through first half goals to Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey to remain a point clear of City on the table.

Elsewhere, the surprises kept coming in this ludicrously unpredictable season. Norwich bungled home an equaliser to deny Everton three points, and West Brom were unlucky not to win outright at Anfield – that game ending in a 2-2 draw after Liverpool sub Divock Origi scored with another cruel deflection deep into injury time.

But even bigger surprises were to be found at White Hart Lane and Vitality Stadium. At the former, Newcastle erased a one-goal deficit to trip up a long-undefeated Spurs side 2-1, while at the latter a 2nd minute Junior Stanislas goal direct from a corner helped Bournemouth claim their second big Premier League scalp in as many weeks. Marouane Fellaini pegged a goal back for Louis Van Gaal’s side with the football equivalent of a rolling maul, but it wasn’t enough as the Cherries held on to win 2-1.


Match of the Week: Arsenal vs Manchester City (9am Tuesday NZT LIVE on Premier League Pass) (Schedule)

This is shaping as a potentially monumental 6-pointer between the two teams who are on top with the bookies if not quite on top of the table – the TAB have them both as clear favourites to win the league at $2.50 and $2.25 respectively. It looks like Sergio Aguero could return from injury to help Man City out for this one, while there’s a slim chance Alexis Sanchez could be back for Arsenal. It’s very much anyone’s game – definitely worth a discreet desk-watch if you’re at work on Tuesday morning.


Michu performing his signature goal celebration in 2013. (Photo: Getty Images)

Michu performing his signature goal celebration in 2013. (Photo: Getty Images)

Where Are Ü Now: Michu

If you didn’t have Michu in your 2012/13 Fantasy Premier League team you almost definitely lost to someone who did. The Spanish striker scored 18 goals in his debut Premier League season, but has been hampered by recurring ankle problems ever since. He only found the net twice the following season, then had an unsuccessful season-long loan at Napoli, where he only managed 3 appearances. In November the 29-year-old finally reached a settlement with Swansea allowing him to return to Spain to rehabilitate and restart his career with fourth-tier UP Langreo, a club coached by his brother.


Crouchwatch

Still injured, and unsighted throughout Stoke City’s scoreless but not unexciting draw with West Ham at Upton Park. Tweeted during the week thanking his hairdresser for his new haircut, showing that while hamstring fitness may be temporary, good manners are permanent.

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Back of the ‘net

Leicester City and Walker’s Crisps celebrated Jamie Vardy’s goalscoring exploits with a special edition ‘Vardy Salted’ chip, packets of which were given away to punters at Tuesday morning’s game against Chelsea. Keen entrepreneur Danny Simpson nabbed two packets – one to eat and one to flog on eBay most likely.

Hats (/ headgear) off to Mrs Cech for this superb likeness, celebrating her husband tying David James’ Premier League record of 169 clean sheets against Aston Villa at the weekend.

‘Do you fancy a curry with Danny Ings?’ is the Premier League version of ‘Do you want a bat like Grant Elliott’s?’ In both cases my answer is a firm yes.


Men in Blazers – Episode 17


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