The North London Derby highlights this week’s slate of games as Arsenal prepares to entertain Tottenham Hotspur this weekend.
Somebody in Bristol is smiling today, as the early match on ESPN figures to be the most-watched game yet on the network.
It’s on at 8:45 a.m. on ESPN2, if you’re wondering.
Let’s get right into the derby.
The series: Arsenal has 67 wins in all competition, compared to 50 for Spurs. There have also been 46 draws.
Table watch: Arsenal is in third place on 19 points, ahead of fourth-place Spurs on goal difference.
They said it: “You look at the two squads and we’re definitely on a par,” he said. ”In the last four or five years Arsenal always managed to get ahead of us but if you look now it is even. It will be judged at the end of the season but if you look at the bench we have, it is probably a bit stronger than their bench.” – Spurs’ striker Robbie Keane, to ESPN
In and out:Arsenal’s first-choice keeper Manuel Almunia could return to the lineup Saturday. Meanwhile, Tottenham’s Aaron Lennon will miss the tie with an ankle injury.
And now, the rest of the games:
Bolton Wanderers vs. Chelsea
The Blues will likely need a result to maintain their grip on the top spot in the standings when they visit Bolton on Saturday.
Table watch: Bolton is in 12th place on 11 points while Chelsea is in first with 24.
Deja vu?: Chelsea whipped Bolton, 4-0, in Carling Cup playon Wednesday at Stamford Bridge. And that Chelsea team didn’t feature Petr ?ech, Frank Lampard or John Terry.
Turning the tide: “If we don’t approach it in the right manner, the same thing will happen again,” Bolton manager Gary Megson told Sky Sports. “We have got to find a way to upset Chelsea, and I don’t mean physically. We have got to play at a tempo that suits us because last night, Chelsea dictated the tempo – they dictated absolutely everything, from minute one to 90.”
Burnley vs. Hull City
The Clarets will look to take advantage of a Tigers’ team in turmoil at Turf Moor this weekend.
Table watch: Burnley is in 11th position on 12 points while Hull City is in 18th place on eight points.
Road weary: Hull have one point in five away matches this season and have been outscored 15-4 in those contests.
Everton vs. Aston Villa
The Toffees hope to right a recent drop in form as Aston Villa comes calling.
Table watch: Everton has 11 points, good for 14th spot while Villa in in seventh place on 17 points.
Same ol’ Everton, always hurting: Saturday’s match will be the fourth in 10 days for the Toffees, and the injury list is piling up.
Leon Osman (ankle), Joseph Yobo (concussion) and Steven Pienaar (knee) might play, but Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (thigh), Leighton Baines (calf), James Vaughan (knee), Phil Neville (knee), Victor Anichebe (knee), Phil Jagielka (knee) and Mikel Arteta (knee) will likely miss out on the match.
Recent history: Aston Villa has two wins and a draw in its last three visits to Goodison Park.
Fulham vs. Liverpool
The Reds stayed in the title race with a 2-0 win over United last week, but a trip to Craven Cottage awaits this time out.
Table watch: Fulham are on 11 points in 13th place while Liverpoolhave 18 points and sit in fifth place.
Last year’s fixture: Yossi Benayoun scored an injury time winner as the Reds took a 1-0 win at Fulham in April.
They said it: Despite crashing out of the Carling Cup to Arsenal in mid-week, Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt is feeling confident:
“We still go with a lot of confidence to Fulham because everyone knows this is a big week for the club and a few big games are coming up,” Kuyt told the Sporting Life. “If we can win this game hopefully we will be back in it.”
Portsmouth vs. Wigan Athletic
Money problems and a transfer ban are the latest Pompey troubles as they gear up to host Wigan this weekend.
Table watch: Portsmouth is in 20th spot on four points while Wigan is in 10th position on 13 points.
Did I mention the table?
Taking on nobility: Meanwhile, Wiganboss Roberto Martinez took a few shots at Sir Alex Ferguson and a few other Premier League managers in an interview with the Spanish paper, AS.
Now, he’s backing off a bit.
“It was an unfortunate article, I looked at the article and I found it really disrespectful and full of bad taste. It doesn’t represent myself or any of my views.” Martinez told Sky Sports News.
“I have spoken witheveryone, with Sir Alex Ferguson, Sam Allardyce, Steve Bruce and Rafa Benitez.
“Obviously, I want to have things very, very clear. I’ve got the utmost respect for all of them and their achievements in management and as colleagues in the best league in world football.”
Stoke City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
The Potters will try to stay in the top 10 when Wolves arrive at the Britannia on Saturday.
Table watch: Stoke City is in ninth place on 15 points while Wolverhampton has nine points, good for 17th spot.
Match facts: From our friends at Eurosport – Stoke have won only once in their last seven meetings with Wolves. … Wolves have suffered only one defeat in their last five away trips against Stoke. … Stoke have shipped a league-high 45 per cent of their goals against) in the final 15 minutes of their games (five conceded in this period). … A victory over Stoke would move Wolves into double figures in terms of Premier League wins, giving them their 10th. … Only one of the last seven meetings between these two sides (all Championship games) has ended in a victory for the home side.
Sunderland vs. West Ham United
The Black Cats will look to keep the Hammers mired in the drop zone when the two meet at the Stadium of Light.
Table watch: Sunderland is in eighth place on 16 points while West Ham resides in 18th position, eight points back.
Getting Bent back?: Darren Bent could feature this weekend, according to reports. ”
“He should be alright for the weekend,” manager Steve Bruce told the SunderlandEcho. “We didn’t take any risks with him during the week and it’s mainly been rest and recuperation for him because he jarred his knee badly in the game. But he’s responded well and I expect him to be available for what is an important game to us.”
Something to build on?: Fighting back for a 2-2 draw against Arsenal last week was an important result for manager Gianfranco Zola’s side. The Hammers have won only one match so far this term, but it was a road victory…
Manchester United vs. Blackburn Rovers
The Red Devils head back to Old Traffordfor a date with Blackburn this weekend.
Table watch: Manchester United are in second place on 22 points while Blackburn is in 16th place on 10.
Bad omen: Blackburn won at Old Trafford in 2005. It is the only win at the Theatre of Dreams for Rovers in 15 Premier League tries. Of course, Phil Dowdis the referee. And he’s shown five red cards to United players, including two of them in the match with Fulham last March.
Birmingham City vs. Manchester City
The lone Sunday match is a clash at St. Andrews Stadium between Birmingham and Man City.
Table watch: Birmingham is on 10 points in 15th place while City has 18 points and sits in sixth.
A trend both ways: Birmingham has dropped four of its last five Premmeetings with City, but have beaten them three of the last four times they’ve met at St. Andrews.