By Lewis Williamson, Stoke City writer
After a midweek cup routing of Premier League side Watford, Stoke City will be looking to continue their winning ways with a home visit from Hull City. A win would see Stoke remain in the top five and keep their promotion hopes alive.
Stoke have been in mixed form throughout the league campaign this season, with only two wins and two losses out of their last five games. On the other hand, Hull has failed to register a single win since the opening day of the season. This form will give Stoke fans hope that they can maintain their promotion push.
In terms of team selection, Nick Powell is tipped to feature again for Stoke after proving his fitness, and prowess, against Watford midweek. Joe Allen on the other hand has yet to be cleared from his toe injury, meaning a substitution appearance is the only likely way the Welshman will make an appearance.
Jaden Brown looks likely to replace Abdallah Sima in attack after Brown impressed in his start against Watford. Tommy Smith will serve his final match ban of three picked up from his red card against Huddersfield. Joe Bursik is likely to return in the nets along with key centre backs OStigard and Souttar.
Hull City look unlikely to make many changes from the side that lost 3-1 to Sheffield United last weekend, but Tyler Smith could make a case to start in attack after providing an assist last week. Tom Huddlestone remains out of action with his hamstring injury.
As for predictions, picking the in form, at home Stoke City to win will net you 6 points, predicting a draw will net you 30, and an away upset prediction with Hull City will net you 45 points.
By Finley Chung, Sutton United writer
Sutton return to Gander Green Lane on Saturday for the visit of Carlisle United in League Two, yet another side Sutton have never played against before this upcoming encounter.
The two sides head into this in indifferent form, the visitors have one win in their last six games, and their record on the road is played 4, 1 win and draw apiece and 2 defeats, as opposed to being unbeaten at Brunton Park. Sutton are looking for a fourth consecutive home win and in doing so, they would climb above their visitors on Saturday. The hosts will be looking to bounce back from the defeat in Devon last week and get back to winning ways, against a side from the opposite side of the country to their last opponents.
Sutton will potentially be without Tobi Sho-Silva and Jon Barden as they recover from respective injures. Isaac Olafoe could be in line for his first start of the season, since returning on loan from Millwall at the end of August. Two former Carlisle players are currently in the Sutton ranks, Richie Bennett who scored 10 times in a 59 appearance, two-year spell with the Cumbrians, and goalkeeper, Dean Bouzanis, who was at Brunton Park seven years ago, but made no appearances for Carlisle. Tristan Abrahams will be the one to watch for the Sutton defenders, bagging three goals so far for United, making him their top scorer so far this season.
As always, Footrace points are on offer for this fixture on Saturday! Banking on a Sutton home win would earn you ten points towards your total, 25 points will be available if you go for the draw and 30 points are up for grabs if you think Carlisle will take 3 points back up North!
By Louis Pantziarka, Chelsea writer
Focusing entirely on results, Chelsea’s start to the season has been excellent - thirteen points from five Premier League games, including tough trips to Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal, a winning start to the Champions League and through to the next round of the Carabao Cup. Since the international break though, the Blues’ performances have clearly dropped off and they’ve had to ride their luck at times.
Thomas Tuchel has acknowledged this, with the Chelsea manager admitting that his side are yet to hit top gear. They needed a penalty shootout to scrape past Aston Villa in the Cup, but the Blues know they won’t have that saving grace against Manchester City this weekend.
Chelsea have come away with wins from their previous three encounters with the current Premier League champions, but are unlikely to get a positive result this time unless they lift their performance level. City will be out for revenge after the Champions League Final and will hope for a Pep tactical masterclass to spur them on.
These two are arguably the favourites for the title and a win for either would be a huge statement this early in the campaign. As the home side Chelsea might be expected to aim for all three points, but don’t be surprised to see the visitors dominating possession and the Blues looking to hit on the break.
Christian Pulisic’s counter attacking abilities will be missed, as the American international remains out with an ankle problem, but Tuchel has hinted that first-choice goalkeeper Edouard Mendy could return after missing the last two games with a hip injury.
This’ll be a tight-run game and the points available for Round 15 reflect that. You’ll get 18 for picking either side as the winner, but the safer choice might be the 20 on offer for a draw.
By Jude Hall, Sheffield Wednesday writer
Darren Moore’s side look to end their draught of three league games without a win as they take the trip down South to face fellow promotion hopefuls Ipswich Town at Portman Road.
The Tractor Boys’ boss Paul Cook is a face many Wednesday fans had hoped to see in the Hillsborough dugout before Darren Moore was appointed, but the former Wigan Athletic manager hasn’t had the greatest of starts to the season with his latest club. Ipswich finally recorded their first victory of the campaign at the seventh attempt when they beat Lincoln City 1-0 last Saturday. It was a much needed win for Ipswich who have reported spent over two million pounds last transfer window but only managed three points from their first six league fixtures.
The League One highest summer spenders have brought in an influx of talent from the level above with notable names such as Rakeem Harper, Tom Carroll, Sam Morsy, Macauley Bonne and Conor Chaplin amongst others making them the promotion favourites in the division. On that long list of new recruits in Suffolk is Owls academy product Matt Penney who joined Ipswich on a free following his release from S6. The left-back has made five appearances for Paul Cook’s side, also grabbing a goal and will be keen to prove a point against the club that let him go just a few months prior.
Along with their wealth of Championship experience, Ipswich have also brought in some of last season’s most eye-catching talents in the third tier. Joe Pigott joined The Tractor Boys on a free transfer from AFC Wimbledon where he netted 20 league goals last term. Scott Fraser is another notable performer last year, notching 14 goals and 6 assists in MK Dons’ midfield.
Despite the start they have made, Ipswich Town certainly have one of the most threatening teams in the division along with a manager who has three promotions to his name already in the EFL.
Alike Ipswich, it’s fair to say The Owls are taking some time to properly gel following a lot of summer additions. Despite a frustrating point at home to Shrewsbury last weekend, Wednesday can take positives from a game which on another day may have been a different story. Saido Berahino is officially off the mark on his English Football return and could give The Owls a boost to help them turn their fortunes around. Olamide Shodipo looked another dangerous player with the winger causing The Shrews a number of problems throughout the afternoon. With it now five weeks since the Yorkshire club’s last league victory, Darren Moore’s side will be itching to get what would be a big win on the road this weekend.
With Ipswich Town sat in 20th position, 5 points behind The Owls in the League One table, the hosts come into this fixtures as slight underdogs with 20 points available for correctly guessing a win for Paul Cook’s men. However, 15 points are up for grabs should the away side take the spoils. A draw may well be a wise decision for this one, bagging 21 points if Saturday’s game ends level. Head over to the play section to have your say.
By Archie Burkinshaw, Tottenham Hotspur writer
A wonderful opening 30 minutes in which Tottenham took a commanding 2-0 lead were undone by a poor second half performance, allowing Wolves to score two goals. Following the draw a penalty shootout ensued. When the scores were level at 2-2 in the shootout, Neves blasted over. Pierluigi Gollini, saved from Dendoncker after Gil had converted and Wolves' fate was finally sealed when Coady hit the bar, meaning Tottenham won on penalties 3-2.
As a Tottenham fan I will always be pleased to see my side win, albeit on penalties. However, for a couple of seasons now there has been particular frustration on my part at the fact Spurs can not win without their key men in the side. We have a huge game on Sunday against Arsenal, Kane played 90 minutes, whilst Son and Højbjerg came off the bench in the second-half to steady the ship, thankfully all without injuries but still a huge risk to take by manager Nuno Espírito Santo.
If you look at Tottenhams record with fringe players making up the side it is not a pretty read. A dismal performance against Royal Antwerp last season, resulted in Mourinho making a quadruple substitution at half-time, the following Thursday Spurs drew 3-3 with LASK with Kane absent. Even this season against Pacos de Ferreira a heavily changed side put in a torrid performance and were beaten 1-0, this led to Kane, Son and Højbjerg all starting the return leg to dig Spurs and see them qualify for the Europa Conference League.
Tottenham will depend on Kane and Sons goals even more this season after the departures of Carlos Vinícius and Gareth Bale, if either of them pick up long term injuries I fear for the team's results. Tottenhams fringe players will have to step up in Europe and domestic cups this season, to give much needed rest to key members of the side.
There were still plenty of positives to take from this game, Skipp put in a MOM performance in midfield and Ndombele, Alli and Gil all had eye-catching moments. It is also Tottenhams first win of September which will bring some much needed confidence before the North London derby on Sunday.
By Ben Brown, Leeds United writer
Leeds United and their debuting youngsters held their nerve at Craven Cottage to squeeze past Fulham into the Carabao Cup fourth round 6-5 on penalties. Rodrigo Muniz missed the decisive kick in the shootout for the hosts after Stuart McKinstry had slotted his into the bottom corner to give Leeds the ultimately telling advantage.
The shootout came after an absorbing 90 minutes where both sides failed to capitalise on numerous opportunities to win it in normal time. For the hosts Neeskens Kebano had a free kick well saved by Illan Meslier towards the end of the first half whilst the aforementioned Muniz missed two headed chances when well placed, one in the early stages and the latter with only minutes to play. Josh Onomah was also denied by the visiting keeper when his thunderous drive from range was tipped over the bar by the Frenchman.
Leeds had their moments as well throughout the contest, with Tyler Roberts firing straight at Marek Rodak early on and Rodrigo fluffing his lines with the rebounded effort, whilst the Spaniard was also unable to convert when snatching at a chance created after a clever one-two with Mateusz Klich. The visitors nearly snatched victory right at the very end but the lively Rodrigo was inches away from connecting to a knockdown from an impressive academy graduate Charlie Cresswell.
In the shootout it was advantage Leeds after 3 taken for each side with Onomah hitting the bar from Fulham’s first kick. Composure went out of the window after however as first captain for the night Stuart Dallas blasted straight at Rodak before Joe Bryan and Adam Forshaw took turns trying to clear the Craven Cottage roof as they both ballooned over. Michael Hector sent it to sudden death before Fulham blinked first with Muniz’ miss sending the 5,500 Leeds fans at the opposite end of the ground into raptures.
The win sees Leeds into the fourth round for the first time since the 2017/18 season, and the draw has sent them on another London away trip to visit Arsenal. As for their next game they host another London outfit West Ham at Elland Road this weekend looking for their Premier League win of the season, whilst Fulham will look to bounce back in the Championship when they visit Bristol City on the same day.
By Samuel Ketch, Editor-in-Chief
Do you know the name Paul Rusesabagina? Have you seen the film 'Hotel Rwanda'? If I'm still not getting through to you, then let me explain what I'm talking about.
In Rwanda, during the 1994 genocide, a hotel manager - that's Paul Rusesabagina - saved the lives of upwards of 1200 people by giving them shelter. A Hollywood film - that's Hotel Rwanda - is based on this event.
This week Rusesabagina has been given a 25-year sentence on charges of being part of a group responsible for "terrorist" attacks. Except... Well, it's clearly a "sham" (as Rusesabagina put it). Since that 2004 film, when Don Cheadle portrayed him, the former hotelier has been a prominent critic of the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame.
His daughter, Carine Kanimba, told Al Jazeera the following: “This verdict means nothing for us. Our father was kidnapped.
“He was dragged across international borders in violation of international law.
“My father knows that his rights were violated … that’s why he decided to step out of the trial, and this is all political,” she said, adding that her father was “a political prisoner” and that “the charges are completely invented”.
So, very clearly, something dodgy has happened. A prominent critic of the Rwandan regime has been arrested - well, the claim is kidnapped while in Dubai (Rusesabagina is a Belgian citizen and US resident, who was actually given the US Presidential Medal of Freedom) - on trumped up charges and then found guilty in a show trial; it's hardly a glowing reputation that I have built for the Rwandan government, is it?
Well let me now apply this story back to football. Arsenal - you've all heard of them, and you all know where this is going - have a sleeve sponsor currently: Visit Rwanda.
Back to Paul Rusesabagina's daughter for a second, and this time her comments to ITV News: "Arsenal should turn down Rwandan money and ask for my father's immediate release".
That's a strong, powerful message. But it gets better: she goes as far as to say Arsenal should never have signed the deal in the first place.
"Out of respect for human rights, out of respect for justice, out of respect for the future of humanity, then a sports club like Arsenal should not take money from a dictator like Paul Kagame," she said.
Well. Let's just put this on the record - I, and I think I can speak for Footrace too, agree. Arsenal should never have taken this money. A $39 million sponsorship deal with one of the poorest countries in the world? That's a shameful deal, especially when you look at Rwanda and see human rights violations and the poverty rate (estimated at 39% in 2020 by The Borgen Project).
Now, let me bring this into Footrace's scope - gambling. The Coalition Against Gambling Ads are one example, there are so many more, of a group campaigning against gambling adverts in football.
One point, prominent on a recent bus tour, was that 450,000 11- to 16-year-olds gamble - and that 55,000 are already addicted. That's underage gambling. Where might these kids be learning about gambling?
I'd say that if football is going to start, correctly, thinking harder about the governments they support - such as Arsenal and Rwanda - then it should also think about the business and industries which it supports too.
Gambling's relationship with football (other sports too, of course) is incredibly dangerous. Football has normalised gambling - in a way that it refuses to normalise, for example, fast foods, alcohol, and smoking - and allowed generations of young people to recognise at least a dozen gambling companies, as well as advertising the deals that you can get with these companies.
Sky and BT take money from these companies to run gambling advertisements, football clubs take money to emblazon their shirts with these companies logos, and football players are used to advertise these companies - despite the fact that if they were to place a bet, they would be out of the game. It's a scandal, to me, that these companies are not brought in to the question in the mainstream by football fans; even when lived experience campaigners tell society just how damaging these companies can be to lives, little changes.
There will be a white paper, hopefully later this year, to update the gambling laws here in the UK. This should, one hopes, bring football clubs to the mercy of new laws and remove - once and for all - the harmful gambling advertisements that these clubs don't rely on (but deliberately choose to pick for the money).
If Visit Rwanda makes you angry, as it should, then maybe all of the following (all partners of Premier League clubs) should too: Betway, Bet365, bitci.com, Coinjar, Dafabet, e-Toro, FBS, Fiserv, FUN88, GOMarkets, Hollywood Bets, HTH Bet, ManBetX, Marathon Bet, OB Sports, Parimatch, Rushbet, SBOTOP, Skrill, Socios, Sportsbet.io, Stake, William Hill, W88.
Football shirts, football social media, football marketing. All will show these companies, and more, so where is the real outcry over this? The campaign to get to the stage where the government looks at their gambling laws after 17 years has not taken the long road, because we have seen that they've tried to be given a voice in the mainstream. It has been forced a bad hand, fighting back against years of positive gambling advertisements where warnings are weak.
Now, in 2021, we may finally see football looking at its sponsors more wisely; not choosing to walk around with 'Visit a human rights violating country, where people, who are in serious poverty, could have been helped with the money we spent on this advert' or 'BetEverythingYouHaveGotBecauseWeAren'tProperlyRegulatedYetAndWon'tHelpPeopleWhoCan'tHelpThemselves'.
By Finley Chung, League Two Editor
The team currently ranked 72nd of all 72 EFL sides are Oldham Athletic. The side from Boundary Park are currently bottom of League Two, thanks in part to a first eight games that has yielded just one win, over EFL newcomers Sutton United, one draw and six defeats. That draw came on Saturday 18th September, a 0-0 stalemate against Hartlepool United. Off the pitch, is where the real problems lie. Peaceful protests have been going on pretty much all season, from the fans towards the owner, Abdallah Lemsagam who they believe should sell his stake in the club.
Before the Hartlepool game, Oldham fans were seen carrying a coffin with ‘RIP OAFC’ written on it through crowds of protesters, some of which were seen wearing clown and grim reaper costumes. When Lemsagam took over the club in 2018, he went on record with an announcement at the time saying he “promises to work hard for the club” but he admits that “mistakes have been made”, in an open letter he penned to the fans recently .The fans he addressed feel let down by the clubs ownership as they see the club start the season on a downward spiral, fearing the worst for the remainder of the campaign.
The protests have been and will continue to be lawful and peaceful, however the club had taken some precautions for the game v Hartlepool, prohibiting alcohol sales and reducing the ability to ‘pay on the day’ for tickets. These protests have been organised by Push the Boundary fan site, who say that they have been advised that Lemsagam wants to work with the fans and not against, but then contradicted his own words, by reducing the pay on the day facilities.
Since Lemsagam took controlling stake at Oldham in 2018, things haven’t at all been plain sailing for The Latics. Relegation and a place in the fourth tier in 2018 for the first time since 1971 didn’t exactly spell the sign of good things to come. The former Moroccan football agent had only taken over the club in the January of 2018 but was soon overseeing his club in the fourth tier of the English Game.
After taking a 97% stake in the club, the takeover didn’t include the north stand of the club’s stadium at Boundary Park, the club has use of this on matchdays but doesn’t own the stand. A winding up order was put on the club by HMRC, two years prior to the 2018 takeover over unpaid tax bills, which also saw the club raided by HMRC in 2017.After the club were relegated in 2018, they faced more winding up orders in 2019 and 2020, with former owner, Simon Blitz seeking to put the club into administration for debts against his company, which owned the clubs Boundary Park stadium. This case was thankfully adjourned in April 2020 after a ‘significant sum of the debt’ had been paid off.
Lemsagam was the man who appointed former Manchester United midfielder, Paul Scholes, giving one of the greats of the game his first managerial job in February 2019, but it wasn’t long before Oldham were looking for another manager again. Scholes lasted just seven matches and just thirty-one days at the club, following an interference in first team affairs from Lemsagam. After Scholes came Pete Wilde, Laurent Banide, Dino Maamra and Harry Kewell, before current boss, Keith Curle stepped into the role in March 2021.
It's clear to see that the fans frustration is justified, Lemsagam’s tenure at the club has brought about 8 permanent managers, a relegation to the Fourth tier and a struggle to strengthen the playing squad under Curle, due to the COVID Pandemic, fan protests and an EFL transfer embargo. Curle hasn’t even met the owner yet, saying before the Hartlepool game that, “No, we haven’t met yet, but we have good dialogue”. The fans patience is wearing thinner every passing week, but Curle isn’t letting himself or the players get dragged into it, ‘Would it quieten down if we were top of the league, yeah massively. Negativity courts company, if you get involved in that negativity, it drags you down”. Oldham’s next assignment is a Carabao Cup third round tie to Premier League side Brentford. A cup run may be the last thing on the Oldham minds at the moment but it gives them a chance, as they did against Leyton Orient a few weeks back, to take their protests on the road and male more people aware, of the dire situation at Boundary Park.
We have seen clubs such as Bolton, Wigan, Rochdale (of more recent) and Blackpool all absorbed and nearly brought down by poor ownership, the Oldham fans are determined to peacefully make sure their club doesn’t go the same way and that it doesn’t fall out of the Football League, for the first time in their history.
By Lewis Williamson, Stoke City writer
Stoke broke out a fantastic performance to surprise Premier League side Watford in the Carabao Cup. Michael O’Neill lined up with changed tactics, going for four across the midfield and three strikers up top instead of the usual five across the middle and two in the front line.
There were three changes to the starting eleven that played against Derby County in the league at the weekend. Jacob Brown and Nick Powell joined Sam Surridge upfront, whilst Josh Tymon led a changed midfield from the middle of the park.
The back three had two fresh faces in Danny Batth and James Chester, as Ben Wilmot moved from left centre back to right centre back. Adam Davies featured in nets in place of Joe Bursik. Watford lined up with an entirely different starting side from their weekend win at Norwich, as manager Xisco Munoz looked to give chances to some fringe players.
Stoke went ahead in the game after 25 minutes, as Jeremy Ngakia was disposed near the corner flag by Alfie Doughty, who played a low ball into the box for Nick Powell to turn in past keeper Rob Elliot.
Watford were encouraged by the goal, pressing Stoke high, coming close with chances from Adam Masina and Dan Gosling in quick succession producing fine saves from Davies in nets.
Adam Masina came close again off the back of a looping ball into the box by Ngakia was headed down by centre back Christian Kabasele, but the shot cleared the keeper and the bar.
Watford pressed on after the break, finally drawing level through an Ashley Fletcher goal at the near post as Stoke and Davies scrambled to clear their lines after a Cucho Hernández shot was saved. The young Colombian came close moments later with a header that hit the post and Fletcher hitting a rebound sent out for a corner.
The Potter’s would march on, though, as substitute Sam Clucas fired from over twenty yards out into the bottom corner after a deflection from Moussa Sissoko guided the ball past Elliot.
Five minutes later, and with only five minutes left on the clock, Stoke put the game beyond the Premier League side with a worldie, or miss-hit cross, from midfield youngster Josh Tymon that looped over the head of Rob Elliot to give the visitors a two-goal cushion going into stoppage time.
Michael O’Neill’s side displayed quality and tenacity to show off Premier League opposition to reach the round of 16.
By Archie Burkinshaw, Tottenham Hotspur writer
Tottenham have a tough away trip on Wednesday in the EFL cup as they face a struggling Wolves side that have only won once in the league this season. This game will come down to managers Bruno Lage and Nuno Espírito Santo and the strength of the teams they chose to field, but with both managers desperate for a win, I strongly suspect both sides to be at full strength. This is a really important fixture for Spurs who could do with a massive confidence boost before they travel across North London to face Arsenal on Sunday.
To put it simply, Tottenham are having a terrible September, two 3-0 losses against London opponents, a 2-2 draw with an average Rennes side and the squad in chaos, with players returning from South America and injuries to key players all over the field. All though it feels like a lifetime ago, it has only been a month since Spurs just about came out 1-0 winners against Wolves where they were fortunate that Adama Traoré couldnt finish one of his many chances. Once again this will be a tough fixture and anything less than a positive performance will heap huge pressure onto Nuno, only a few months into his Tottenham reign.
Spurs will have a similar pool of players to choose from as they did against Chelsea on Sunday. However, Japhet Tanganga returns from suspension following his sending off against Palace, who could potentially replace Emerson Royal at right-back. Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn are carrying ankle knocks and are still unavailable so Nuno could turn to youth players such as Bryan Gil and Oliver Skipp to give his squad some much needed rotation, while Pierluigi Gollini ought to be handed the gloves as Hugo Lloris is rested.
Footrace cant choose a favourite for this game with both teams being offered 18 points for a win, whilst you can claim 20 points for predicting a draw. My personal prediction is a 2-1 win for Spurs which will get me a respectable 100 points. Hopefully Spurs can return to winning ways before the North London derby!