We’re back for another weekend of premier league football and we’re kicking it off with the early kick off as Manchester City host Sunderland. The Blues’ form has not been great this season, and whilst Roberto Mancini has put this down to the new signings bedding in, they still need to convince critics that they have made the right moves in the market. Sunderland, meanwhile, have made a brilliant one with the capture of Steven Fletcher. The 25-year old has hit the ground running for the Black Cats, with all of their goals in the league (5), and they will need him to continue that form if they are to take anything off the champions.
Next up we have a game which is quite intriguing in many aspects as Swansea take on Reading. The Swans enjoyed a blistering start to the season before a rude awakening at Everton. Despite this and a 2-0 defeat to Stoke, you get the feeling they are happy with their start to the season. Reading have not had the best start by comparison, and they have been dealt a few harsh lessons, but they showed what they bring to the table in recent good results against QPR and Newcastle. This match could be close.
In the second 3 o’clock kickoff, Chelsea entertain Norwich. Chelsea appear to have the lot: a rock solid defence and a delightful attack. Their wins over Arsenal, and then in midweek against Nordjaessland, showed us their full range of qualities; an ability to grind out results against fellow big teams and the ability to make their superiority count against ‘smaller’ teams. On the other hand, the only real boost for Norwich in their last outing against Liverpool is that Grant Holt looked like returning to the form that had fans calling for an England call up. Quite an interesting game, but one I expect Chelsea to win.
Up at the DW, Wigan play an Everton team full of confidence. David Moyes has instilled a creative edge in them with the re-signing of Pienaar, as well as Kevin Mirallas. If they can get the ball down the flanks to Baines/Pienaar or Mirallas, Wigan are in trouble. The bright spot for them comes in the shape of Arouna Kone, who looks every bit a Premier League player. The only thing that Ben Watson and co need to do is win the ball and get it in the box. Jordi Gomez’s red card has also been rescinded. Everton should win this one.
The surprise package so far, West Brom go into the clash with QPR off of a good point at Villa. They have a good refreshing style of play, with the wingers bombing forward off of balls from Mulumbu and Yacob, who have formed a valuable partnership in the middle. It has yielded two tap ins for Shane Long. Peter Odemwingie has finished his suspension. QPR are the opposites. They sit bottom, coming into this game off a dispiriting 2-1 loss at home to West Ham. The only real positive is the fantastic goal from Adel Taarabt. He should start.
West Ham have a considerably tougher game at home to Arsenal. As far as West Ham are concerned, Andy Carroll is fit again and should start. Expect Jarvis to hug the touch line, looking to put in dangerous crosses for Carroll. As for Arsenal, a 3-1 victory over Olympiakos will assure Wenger that his team can win without playing nearly as well as they can. If he can get an ‘ugly’ win or draw here, expect him to take it. I can see West Ham winning this one.
Now to Sunday’s games and a Liverpool side with patchy form face an in-form Stoke and an in-form Peter Crouch. The England international was exceptional against Swansea, scoring two, and comfortably winning most duels. However, Suarez is hitting form just at the right time, with a hat trick against Norwich taking his tally to 5, one off the top. They need to give him the ball in and around the area because he will create chances out of nothing. A draw would be a decent result for both managers.
But before that, Southampton will be content about their start to the season. Gaston Ramirez will be a mainstay for the Saints this year and Lambert is turning in good performances. Fulham may be without Berbatov and Petric after Jol claimed the former was ‘less than 10%’ likely to play. They may be forced into a 4-5-1, with Rodallega the lone striker. Southampton have a chance here.
Tottenham play Aston Villa with some striker issues for both teams. Tottenham can hardly ignore a player of Adebayor’s quality but the trick for Villas-Boas is to keep Defoe happy at the same time. Lloris should be given another chance as well, he is a very good goalkeeper. And for Villa, Bent should start after his precise finish rescued Villa a point. Despite what Benteke brings to the side, Bent is born to score goals and has a point to prove to Tottenham. If they can stay solid though, the home side should be backed.
And the final game before the international break is arguably the best, as Newcastle host Manchester United. You can never write off Newcastle at home, and this game has come at the right time with Ba, Cisse and Ameobi all bang in form after both the draw at Reading where Ba bagged two and in midweek against Bordeaux where Ameobi and Cisse netted. Manchester United have the quality to stay in touch with the league’s finest and Sir Alex Ferguson has always got the best out of them. They face a real crisis at the back, however, with a call up likely to be given to Ryan Wootton, and for this reason I’m expecting a narrow home win.