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Who will get his money's worth?


The billionaires' playground that is the English Premier League will see two of its richest clubs, Chelsea and Manchester City, meet each other Saturday

Manchester City manager Mark Hughes has been put under pressure after his team recorded seven straight draws. AFP

THE Premiership is the ultimate global enterprise. It’s watched every week by millions of adoring fans from all corners of the world. It has players representing a huge variety of nations, as do the teams’ extravagantly wealthy owners, who continually swoop in for a slice of the action.

With Chelsea backed by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, and Manchester City backed by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a billionaire from the UAE, we can see that money really does talk. Man City host Chelsea this Saturday, and which billionaire will be thinking he’s gotten good value for his money?

Chelsea have been splashing the cash for six years now and have some silverware to show for it. Their resounding 3-0 victory away at Arsenal last Sunday emphasised why they are favourites for the title, laying down a marker that Mark Hughes must aspire to.

Ancelotti had the Blues in perfect harmony as they denied Arsenal any real chances and looked to hit them hard on the counterattack. Man City should pose a greater threat going forward, as they have the option to play it more direct and use the muscle of Teves and Adebayor. With Hughes’ side drawing their last seven matches, the pressure and weight of expectation is already looking a huge burden to carry. The City manager needs to find the right balance for his side quickly, or he might find himself looking for a new job.

Chelsea’s spending started way before City’s, and it shows, as they may not boast the youngest side, but have the character and experience that money can’t buy. Robinho and Wright-Philips will look to expose Chelsea’s narrow midfield, but Drogba is probably in the form of his life, and he seems almost unstoppable at present. It seems to me he will once again be the match winner in a tight encounter.

Chelsea have lost at the likes of Wigan, but a trip to Eastlands is not the kind of fixture that they’ll take likely, and Ancelotti will have his side focused and ready for battle.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, West Ham – who lost half of their side due to a lack of cash and could be forced to sell again in January – have the daunting challenge of hosting the champions. The Hammers have hauled themselves out of the relegation zone, and what an early Christmas present it would be if Zola could get one over Sir Alex.

I don’t think it matters how the Hammers play: It all depends on which United side shows up. Last week, the Red Devils were out played by Portsmouth in the first half and looked very ordinary.

After an ear-lashing from the manager at half time, a different United side took to the field and tore Portsmouth to shreds. I’m not sure what magic potion Ryan Giggs is on, but the 36-year-old is in sparkling form. Rooney might have scored a hat trick, but Giggs was the catalyst. He should yet again captain the side and lead by example to show that Chelsea are going to have a tough time wresting the title away from Old Trafford.

Liverpool may have won the Merseyside derby against Everton, but for most of the game they were outplayed and lucky to come away with the three points. With Torres battling for fitness and Gerrard seemingly uninterested, it will be another backs-against-the-wall job as they travel to Blackburn.

Benitez has regularly criticised Sam Allardyce’s tactics, and he knows what to expect from this fixture. Big Sam will demand balls launched into the box to test a Liverpool side that look fragile at times. Pepe Reina was their man of the match last week, and he will yet again have to bring his A game. This game might not be one for the football purists, but drama can sometimes eclipse true beauty. Benitez won’t care if his side wins ugly, as long as they win.

On Sunday, Spurs travel to Everton to test out their big four credentials. Everton played well against Liverpool but seem short on confidence, and still can’t get anywhere near close to putting out their strongest side.

Spurs, especially second half, looked classy against Villa last week and Harry Redknapp should stick to the same starting eleven, keeping Keane on the bench. The side is well balanced, and the Everton players are going to have to put in a solid shift to prevent Tottenham from dominating possession with their fine passing game. Spurs has a good record at Goodison Park, and will be expecting at least a point. David Moyes will rally his troops in a game too close to call.



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