Sacking on cards for Conte
Antonio Conte is the odds-on favourite with British bookmakers to be the next Premier League manager to lose his job after Chelsea’s embarrassing 4-1 defeat by Watford on Monday.
It is a rapid fall from grace for last season’s title-winning manager, so where has it all gone wrong?
Conte has been openly critical of the club’s transfer policy, which is now overseen by Marina Granovskaia, the Chelsea director and Roman Abramovich’s former personal assistant.
It’s difficult to argue against Conte on that, given that the club have spent £235 million (about $326.5 million) in the past two transfer windows on Antonio Rüdiger, Tiémoué Bakayoko, Álvaro Morata, Davide Zappacosta, Danny Drinkwater, Ross Barkley, Emerson Palmieri and Olivier Giroud.
However, the former Italy coach must take some responsibility for the acrimonious departure of Diego Costa, arguably Chelsea’s best player last season. Conte’s fractured relationship with the Spain striker ended when the manager sent the player a text message saying he was no longer welcome at the club.
Senior players are also rumoured to be unhappy with Conte’s training regime, which has remained the same despite the increasing number of games his team have played.
With no European matches to contest in his first season, Conte’s methods of high-intensity training and workouts on matchdays got the best out of his team, but an inability to adapt to a congested fixture list, especially over Christmas, has increased tensions at Stamford Bridge.
A top-four finish this season is now far from certain and it is inevitable Conte will leave Chelsea, the only question is when?
11am kick-offs unless stated
Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal, 8.30am
With superb attackers on show, this game could turn into a shoot-out. Arsenal have won just three of their 13 Premier League away games this season and their back line is woeful on the road, mostly due to a lack of midfield protection. Petr Cech could miss this game with a foot injury. If he does, David Ospina will have to pick the ball out of the net a few times. Prediction: 3-1
Everton v Crystal Palace
Everton were destroyed by Arsenal last week and their initial upturn under Sam Allardyce has not lasted — they have won just one of their past eight matches. However, they should get three points against a Palace side missing the talismanic Wilfried Zaha for six weeks with a knee injury. Prediction: 2-0
Stoke City v Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton picked up an important win against West Ham United last week, but could struggle to follow that with another success. Stoke have started showing good form at home with Xherdan Shaqiri pulling the strings. Prediction: 1-0
Swansea City v Burnley
Swansea are out of the relegation zone after a fine run of form since Carlos Carvalhal took the reins. Their good run looks set to continue despite the losses of Wilfried Bony and Leroy Fer to season-ending injuries. André Ayew, who will play up front, has signed for the club again but is listed as a midfielder in Fantasy League and could be a shrewd addition for £6.8 million. Prediction: 2-0
West Ham United v Watford
Watford will be full of confidence after thrashing Chelsea on Monday and will be hoping for another good performance against a struggling West Ham team. David Moyes may choose to give new signing Jordan Hugill his first start up front. Prediction: 1-1
Manchester City v Leicester City, 1.30pm
Pep Guardiola’s men were held to a 1-1 draw by Burnley last week but should get back to winning ways against a team likely to be without Riyad Mahrez, who has refused to train after a potential transfer to today’s rivals fell through last week. Prediction: 2-0
Huddersfield Town v Bournemouth, 8am
Huddersfield have failed to win in nine league matches and now sit one place off the bottom. Things are unlikely to improve for the Terriers this weekend against a team unbeaten in seven games and up to ninth in the table. Prediction: 1-2
Newcastle United v Manchester United, 10.15am
Rafa Benítez will try to keep things tight as he attempts to get one over on José Mourinho, but United have enough quality to take the three points. Prediction: 0-1
Southampton v Liverpool, 12.30pm
Liverpool had three points taken away from them thanks to some bizarre refereeing decisions in their game against Tottenham last week. They should comfortably get back to winning ways. Prediction: 1-3
Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion, 4pm
Given the turmoil at Stamford Bridge, it’s difficult to know what to predict for this game. Eden Hazard could make the difference. Prediction: 1-0
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