If you’re a neutral observer like me, this weekend’s slate of games really doesn’t have any compelling storylines or reasons to get excited, at least from the outside. None of the big teams are playing each other and there are no rivalry games. The closest thing to a true derby is the Fulham-Arsenal affair at Craven Cottage tomorrow but I don’t think anyone expects that game to be pleasing to the eye.
Look a little bit deeper though. You’ll find what could be a pretty good game between Reading and Manchester United as Reading went to Old Trafford early in the season and escaped with a point. Now the Royals get a chance to knock off the defending champions at the Madejski Stadium tomorrow in front of what should be a capacity crowd in Reading. United have lost three times away from home this season already. Can Reading make it a fourth? I’m not so sure, but I think that’s still a game to keep an eye on.
Kevin Keegan will make his Premiership return with Newcastle as his side welcomes Bolton to St. James Park tomorrow afternoon. With Nicolas Anelka gone to Chelsea and with the incredible amount of emotion one would expect to see from Newcastle, you wouldn’t think Bolton has much of a chance but emotion can only carry Newcastle so far. Bolton will have to commit men forward if they want to win, which is more than possible. Newcastle are a bad team; Bolton have no punch without Anelka. You say boring, I say one of the most exciting draws you’ll see all season simply because no one is expecting much out of this game. Hey, if Newcastle lose, maybe we’ll see Kevin Keegan cry again, you never know. That possibility alone makes this game worth watching.
West Ham and Manchester City will square off for the second time in four days on Sunday as the two sides will get together again at Eastlands after City beat the Hammers 1-0 there in a FA Cup 3rd Round replay on Wednesday. Nothing says emotion and passion like renewed acquaintances and I’d expect to see most of the same players on Sunday that we saw in midweek because both teams sent out full-strength sides. I think there’s a good chance we’ll see our share of yellow cards and possibly a sending off or two in this game. Remember, both teams are within striking distance of a place in Europe next season, so that just makes Sunday’s match even more meaningful.