Blog by: Souvik
THE BIG GAME
The biggest game of the weekend takes us to North London where Tottenham; still reeling from their six goal drubbing at the hands of Manchester City play host to their cross town rivals Manchester United on Sunday. With both teams riddled with inconsistent performances, this has become a match which sees both sides sitting outside top four. This game this provides perfect incentives to both managers kick-start their campaign with a positive result. With the way this season has so far unfolded for either of the team, all three results remain a distinct possibility.
Spurs will be desperate to bounce back and reclaim their “big boy” status after coming unstuck in two consecutive games. The pressure on Spurs boss Andres Villas-Boas seems to be growing with disappointing result, but he is certainly not flinching in front of the media. The biggest problem for Spurs so far has been in front of goals. The North-Londoners have only managed to bag 9 goals in 12 league games so far with Roberto Soldado looking a pale version of his former self. The last time Spurs failed to score in 3 consecutive Premier League games was back in January 2009.
Manchester United on the other hand is coming off their biggest win in European football in nearly 50 years. The Red Devils offensive game seems to coming to tune at the right moment and that should spell more trouble for a Spurs side that is coming of six goal drubbing. With both Nani and Valencia putting in terrific performances in midweek and Kagawa finally finding his niche, the team selection shouldn’t be much of a problem for David Moyes with Robin Van Persie likely to start on the bench after missing the game in midweek.
City on the rampage
Manchester City has been ruthless in front of goal in recent games, hitting 22 goals in their last 5 which includes a surprising loss at bottom dwelling Sunderland where they drew a blank. The Citizens welcome Swansea to The Etihad, where they have scored 41 goals this season in 10 games. Sergio Aguero has so far been in sublime form (16 goals in all competition so far) and now with Navas and Negredo coming to the fore, the goals have been flowing for Pellegrini’s men.
Swansea’s resources on the hand are being stretched to fullest with their involvement in the Europa League this season. The Welsh were dealt a further blow when both Wilfried Bony and Angel Rangel picked up knocks midweek in their loss to Valencia. The swans will have to grind it out and put in a real shift if they want to get anything out of this contest.
Arsenal looks to stretch lead
The season has been going straight north so far for the North Londoners ever since the ugly defeat at the hands of Aston Villa in the first week of the campaign. The arrival of Mesut Ozil seems to have rejuvenated the side and they sit pretty at the top now with a 4 point gap.
The Gunners travel to Cardiff where the bluebirds lie in the wait. Cardiff City will be buoyed by their 2-2 draw against Manchester United last weekend and certainly be looking to play spoilsport once again. The two teams will be meeting in a league fixture for the first time in fifty one years and the last time that Cardiff managed to overhaul the Gunners was in 1961. Toppling the Gunners will again be no mean task for the Welsh side with Arsenal possessing arguably the most lethal midfield in the country.
A top of the table clash
None would have billed this weekends’ Chelsea vs. Southampton game to be a top of the table clash at the beginning of the season. As it stands, Stamford Bridge will play host to a game between the third and fifth placed sides in the league. In 12 games so far Mauricio Pochettino’s side have than staked their claim at the top of the table with the Saints garnering a reputation for being one of the toughest sides to beat this season.
It has not been all plain sailing for Mourinho on his return to Stanford Bridge. Flamboyant performance against West Ham has been followed by despondent ones; like at Basel in mid-week. For the second time in the past few weeks Mourinho has suggested that his selection of the playing 11 has been main cause of mishaps rather than blaming it on the players. The “special one” certainly has to quickly figure his 11 out soon if they are to challenge for the title this season in all seriousness. With Samuel Eto’o out for the foreseeable future with a groin injury, Chelsea will be stretched for options upfront with Torres coming back from an injury himself.
Southampton on the other hand has been consistently doling out results with a miserly defence forming the base for their endeavours. With the victory over Liverpool at Anfield as the only big scalp for the Saints so far, this might be a perfect opportunity for Southampton to set the records straight and set a few cats amongst the pigeons at the top of the table.
Liverpool travel to Hull where anything but a win would be a disappointing result for the Kop. With Daniel Sturridge expected to come back into the line-up, one would expect the SAS to strike again at the KC Stadium. Hull on the other hand possesses a mean defensive record at home. Steve Bruce’s men have conceded only twice at home in the EPL all season. The Tigers would certainly be looking to make home advantage count against to see off the dangerous Liverpool.
Newcastle meet West Brom at St. James’ Park on Saturday looking for a fourth straight win in the league for the first time since April 2012. Loic Remy has been on fire for Newcastle so far this season having already scored 8 of Newcastle’s 17 goals this campaign. West Brom on the other hand, comes into the game on the back of 3 game unbeaten streak of which two games ending in 2-2 draw.
Six games without a win have resulted in the pressure mounting on Sam Allardyce to deliver at West Ham. “Big Sam” as he is known lost Andy Carroll in the summer just after the English forward had put pen to paper on a permanent move to Upton Park. Allardyce has found mightily hard to find a suitable replacement and was been forced to re-signing Carlton Cole in a desperate measure after releasing him at the end of the last campaign. The Hammers welcome fellow strugglers Fulham in another all-London affair. Like Allardyce, Martin Jol’s team is looking for some form inspiration to drive the Cottagers away from the bottom of the table. Losing 6 of their last 8 league games has seen Berbatov and co. plunge to the bottom of the table and are currently occupying the last of the relegation places.
Norwich’s clash against Crystal Palace sees two teams who have collectively won only 2 of their last 12 games in all competition. While Crystal Palace looked rejuvenated in Tony Pulis’ first game at Selhurst Park, Chris Hughton would be looking to find the form that took his team 10 games unbeaten last season around this time of the year.
Bottom of the league Sunderland travel 13th placed Aston Villa trying to stay in touch with the others above them. The Black Cats have struggled mightily on the road losing all 5 of its last 5 away games. Villa on the other hand has had a season filled with inconsistency. Paul Lambert’s men have lacked the ability to eke out the results although their fast flowing football have so far deserved.
Everton and Roberto Martinez should be more than pleased with the early returns at Goodison Park. The Spaniard has continued to build on the good work of David Moyes as the squad looks even stronger. Martinez’s good work in the transfer business has seen Everton bolster their ranks with arrivals of James McCarthy, Gareth Barry and Romelo Lukaku; all of whom have played vital roles towards Everton’s strong start to the campaign. Three draws on the trot however, has seen the Tofees fall to seventh in the table, though only a single point off Champions League places. Mark Hughes and his Stoke team pay a visit to the Merseyside for this week’s fixture. Long associated with the long ball tactics under Tony Pulis, the team is still soul searching in terms of footballing philosophy under Hughes. They however still remain dull as ever in terms of entertainment value and look cosy in 14th spot.