Premier League Preview, Nov. 21-22
After an International break that completed the 32-team field for the World Cup next summer in South Africa, the EPL surges back to action this weekend with an important fixture at Anfield.
That game is on ESPN in glorious high definition. Here’s the entire TV schedule.
Now, on to the previews:
Liverpool vs. Manchester City
Two teams with designs on playing in the 2010-2011 Champions League meet Saturday morning at Anfield.
Table watch: The Reds are in seventh place on 19 points, just one point south of sixth-place City.
Paging El Niño:Fernando Torres seems in line to make the start up front for embattled gaffer Rafa Benitez, and he may also have Steven Gerrard and a match-fit Alberto Aquilani from which to pick.
The Barry watch: City manager Mark Hughes may have Gareth Barry back in the lineup, assuming he shrugs off a groin strain.
Craig Bellamy also has a similar injury.
Birmingham vs. Fulham
Call this an elevator match as Fulham tries to continue its rise to the top 10 while Birmingham tries to steer clear of the relegation zone Saturday morning at St. Andrews.
Table watch: Birmingham is in 15th place on 12 points while the Whites are in 11th spot with 15 points.
Drawing conclusions: City finds itself only two points above the relegation fray despite posting back-to-back draws against Manchester City and Liverpool.
Injury watch: Birmingham will be without Garry O’Connor (hip), Martin Taylor (ankle) and David Murphy (knee), while Fulham’s Diomansy Kamara (ankle) is likely to miss out while Danny Murphy (knee) and Andrew Johnson (groin) are question marks.
Burnley vs. Aston Villa
A pair of top 10 sides meet at Turf Moor on Saturday as the Villans come calling.
Table watch:Burnley is in 10th place on 16 points while Aston Villa is in fifth place on 21 points.
Options, options:Villa boss Martin O’Neill might have Emile Heskey and James Collins back in the fold for the trip to Turf Moor.
Second anniversary:Burnley manager Owen Coyle is celebrating his second year on the job. “I’ve said before that he’s been terrific for all of us,” Burnley’s Wade Elliott told the Lancashire Telegraph. “When he came, the first thing he said was he wanted us to go out and express ourselves, be positive, that there would be no comeback if we made mistakes trying to do the right thing.
“That probably sums up his ethos, aside from what’s come with him getting us promoted.”
Chelsea vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Front-running Chelsea welcome Wolves to Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Table watch: Chelsea is in first place on 30 points while Wolves is in 19th position on 10 points.
They said it: “We’ll be the underdogs and have got nothing to lose, so we might as well go there and go for it. This is the reason why we wanted to play in the Premier League to play against teams like this. Of course it’s difficult but it’s another good experience and we’ll be going there ready to give it everything we’ve got.” – Wolves captain Joey Craddock, to Sky Sports
Yeah, but it’s not broken: Apparently, a fractured tibia may not keep Chelsea’s Ashley Cole off the pitch this weekend, according to a report on ESPN International.
Hull City vs. West Ham United
Two of the league’s biggest underachievers to date tangle at the KC Stadium this weekend.
Table watch: Hull has 11 points, good for 17th place. West Ham is in 18th place on 10 points.
Last time: West Ham won 2-0 when these teams last met back in January.
Looking ahead: Despite their win before the International break, Hull City has been struggling a bit. West Ham has as well. So it’s tough not to see this one as a relegation six-pointer.
Sunderland vs. Arsenal
The Stadium of Light is the venue as Arsenal meets the Black Cats.
Table watch:Sunderland is in eighth place on 17 points while the Gunners are in second place on 25 points.
Injury report:Arsenal’s injury list grows as Robin van Persie picked up a knock during the break. Add him to a list that includes Nicklas Bendtner (hernia), Gael Clichy (back), Denilson (back) and Johan Djourou (knee). But Theo Walcott (knee) and Jack Wilshere (ankle) might see time for Arsenal.
Sunderland has a couple of long-term injuries and will also be without Michael Turner and Kenwyne Jones through suspension.
Manchester United vs. Everton
The Red Devils suddenly find themselves five points off the pace and in third place in the league standings as the Toffees visit Old Trafford for the Saturday finale.
Table watch:United is on 25 points, good for third, while Everton is in 12th place on 15 points.
In the dugout:Even though he was hit with a two-match ban this week, Sir Alex Ferguson will be in the dugout for this match. The ban won’t start until next week against Portsmouth.
Match facts:From Eurosport - 33 percent of the goals Manchester United have conceded have come from shots from outside the box, the highest percentage in the top flight. … Everton are yet to score a goal in the opening 15 minutes of any Premier League match this season. … 35 percent of Manchester United’s goals have been netted in the final 15 minutes of games – a league high. … United are the only team in the Premier League who have not dropped any points from a winning position in the league this season. … Everton have only won one of their last 28 Premier League meetings with United.
Bolton Wanderers vs. Blackburn Rovers
Two teams hoping to avoid the drop zone tangle at the Reebok Sunday morning.
Table watch: Bolton is on 11 points in 16th place while Blackburn is in 14th place on 13 points.
A repeat performace:Blackburn’s results through 11 games under Sam Allardyce are identical to the 2008-2009 team’s efforts under since-fired coach Paul Ince.
Streaking – the wrong way:Bolton has just won win in tis six home matches while Rovers have dropped five straight league matches, allowing 18 goals and scoring just three in that span.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Wigan Athletic
Spurs will be hoping to hang on to their place in the top four as the Latics visit White Hart Lane.
Table watch:Spurs are in fourth place on 22 points while Wigan is in 13th spot on 14 points.
Modric still out:Tottenham’s Luka Modric won’t feature this weekend, but is nearing a return from his fractured fibula.
Don’t bet the draw:It has been 12 matches since Spurs had a draw at home and it has also been a dozen matches since Wigan forged a draw on the road.
Stoke City vs. Portsmouth
The Potters will try to keep Pompey in the basement when the two sides meet in the late game on Sunday.
Table watch: Stoke is in ninth place on 16 points while Portsmouth is in 20th place on seven points.
Injury report: The Potters will be without Mamady Sidibe (hamstring), Salif Diao (calf) and Amdy Faye (back), while Portsmouth may be without John Utaka and Steve Finnan (both groin). Linvoy Primus and Hermann Hreidarsson (both ankle) will be out for sure.
Don’t go down: Stoke City and Portsmouth are the only teams yet to recoup any points after falling behind in a Premier League game this season.