With the big teams all playing less-favoured opposition in the Premier League this weekend, fans will hope for some giant killing to make things interesting
Stoke manager Tony Pulis will hope a home advantage over Man United helps to overcome the league champions Saturday. AFP
Liverpool’s Fernando Torres will look to add to his season’s tally at home against struggling Hull City on Saturday. AFP
AFTER seven goals last Sunday in a thrilling Manchester derby, is there any hope for a repeat in drama and excitement this weekend? With no standout fixtures to drool over, we can only hope for a few giant killings to continue the Premiership’s highly entertaining start to the season.
Man United might have been fortunate to receive so much added on time against City, but their second half display was of such calibre that even Sir Alex’s biggest detractors must admit that they still set the bench mark in English football.
United travel south to the Britannia Stadium Saturday, in what promises to be an entirely different encounter. Everyone knows Stoke City’s simplistic but effective approach. Second season syndrome isn’t a factor for Stoke boss Tony Pulis, and with the ever vibrant home support backing their side with a chorus of noise, could United slip up as they did away at Burnley?
Vidic and Ferdinand very rarely come up short in a physical match up, and with a midfield that has just steamrolled Spurs and Man City, you’d fancy them to continue their impressive form. Ferguson’s only concern should be Ben Foster in goal, who has looked anything but convincing. Every time Stoke gets a set play, Sir Alex will inevitably look anxious but the Red Devils have scored seven goals in their last two outings. With Rooney yet again set to lead the line, this is unlikely to be the humbling so many neutrals might wish for.
By his own admission, Torres has had a slow start to this campaign. Against West Ham we finally saw why he is rated so highly. Last term, Liverpool came unstuck at home to the likes of Hull, but the new attacking Red’s should sink the Tigers with ease, as the pressure mounts on Phil Brown.
Torres, Kuyt and Gerrard must be licking their lips with anticipation, for Hull is a poor side at best. For all their goals this season, Benitez will expect a clean sheet and the Kop will expect nothing but a resounding victory. As far as your fantasy team is concerned, any Liverpool player is a perfect choice in the most obvious fixture this weekend.
Arsenal face stern test at Fulham
If an upset is to occur this Saturday, then the late game at Craven Cottage is probably the most likely place. Fulham at home is a real hard nut to crack. Hodgson is normally spot-on tactically, and if Arsenal are to get their away form back on track, they’ll have to be more clinical.
We know Fulham will line up 4-4-2, and with Arsene Wenger moving away from the most traditional of formations, there should be enough space to create an open, entertaining affair. Every week we witness how talented Arsenal are, but the difference between them and the likes of Chelsea or United happens in the final third. More often than not, the Gunners fail to take their chances when it counts, despite dominating games.
Hodgson will have his troops well drilled, and will look to play on the counter attack, rarely venturing forward. If Arsenal want to be serious title contenders, then this is the kind of game they must win. Schwarzer in goal for Fulham will have to be at his best, and Johnson is always likely to nick a goal on the break. It’s worrying that the Gunners top scorer is a defender (Vermaelen), and you feel it’s time they found a true fox in the box. Van Persie and Fabregas will be the key creative influences, but who will find the back of the net for Wenger is anyone’s guess.
Wigan have the daunting task of stopping the Ancelloti express train. Martinez’s players only glimmer of hope is that Drogba is doubtful to recover from injury in time. Chelsea are a different proposition without the Ivory Coast hotshot, but man-for-man, the Blues are still superior in every aspect. The newly named DW Stadium has perhaps the least intimidating atmosphere in the Premiership, and you’d have to be a true optimist to believe Wigan can get anything from this game. Lampard is due a goal, and with Anelka in form, this should be Chelsea’s seventh straight win.
Turning away from the big four, Tottenham should bounce back after two defeats to beat Burnley, who may be extraordinary at home but appear shambolic on their travels. Villa have to look forward to a robust trip up north to Blackburn, where they will hope to continue their excellent run. It won’t be pretty, but Villa are a giant side and should cope will the aerial onslaught Allardyce will demand.
Portsmouth finally won mid-week in the League Cup, but despite home advantage they come up against an Everton side starting to find their feet. For the Pompey faithful three points is a must, but I fear they will end up settling for one.
A battle of the bank managers
The Monday night game pits two teams at different spectrums of the financial ladder. City seems to have bottomless pockets, were as Icelandic creditors seem to be slowly diminishing Zola’s assets. Despite their derby day defeat, Man City should stroll past a West Ham side unable to find the killer instinct that brings regular victories. Bellamy and Tevez should be too much for the Hammers back line to handle and unless the expectancy overwhelms Mark Hughes’ team, this should be another step towards City breaking into the top four.