Premier League Preview – Jan. 9-11
So, will he or won’t he?
Will Landon Donovan, now on loan at Everton, get on the field at the Emirates this weekend?
He’s easily the most polarizing figure in American soccer and the debate on whether he’s the best player ever to pull on a national team shirt or a spoiled kid that doesn’t care about the game enough to reach his full potential can be saved for another post.
But will he play?
Hard to say.
Tune in to Setanta, assuming it’s still on the air Saturday, to find out.
Hull City vs. Chelsea
Assuming they can work around the artic weather, the Tigers will entertain front-running Chelsea in the first match of the weekend.
Table watch: Chelsea is in first place on 45 points while Hull is down in 19th on 18 points.
Striking options: With Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou away at the African Cup of Nations, the return of French International Nicolas Anelka from a hamstring injury couldn’t be more welcome for the Blues.
Trimming the bill: Mired in relegation territory, you wouldn’t think that the Tigers would be worried about cutting player salaries. But they are. Chairman Adam Pearson has told manager Phil Brown to the wage bill, accorinding to Sky Sports.
“I can’t do anything else but accept it. He is the man in charge and if that is the deal I will try and get on with it. We have got some good players here. Every manager wants a big squad that can compete at this level and cope with two or three games in a week. You need a big squad but there has been interest in a number of players at our football club and we are considering each interest on its merits.” – Brown, to Sky Sports
Arsenal vs. Everton
The Gunners will look to keep pace with Chelsea and Manchester United when the Toffees roll into London.
Table watch: Arsenal is in third place on 41 points while Everton is in 12th place on 22 points.
So, will he?: David Moyes isn’t in the habit of revealing his team sheet 48 hours before a match, so no one’s quite sure if Donovan will play any sort of role. For what it’s worth, he sounds ready.
“This is the middle of the season, they have a few injuries and need immediate help so I have to be ready and that helped me prepare,” he told the team’s Web site. “The reality is I’m here to do a job and help the team win. I’m not just here to have fun for a few months. What I’m good at is creating chances and that is what I’ll try to do here.
“I just like to be a danger to the other team and I think most sides can use a player like that – now I have to prove I belong and help score some goals.”
Staying tough: Arsenal has stuck in the title race, thanks to a recent run of good form.
“The biggest test was the mental strength and solidarity of the players. That has been tested. We have a great hunger — it doesn’t mean Chelsea and Man United don’t — and great team spirit,” manager Arsene Wegner told Reuters.
“We are a team who have grown up together, we want to achieve things. We haven’t won anything yet together and that makes us hungry for success.”
Burnley vs. Stoke City
The Owen Coyle saga provides the backdrop – and a potential distraction – as the Clarets host Stoke City.
Table watch: Burnley is in 14th place on 20 points while Stoke City is in 10th place on 24 points.
Who’s in charge?: While Coyle is in paperwork limbo between Turf Moor and Bolton, Steve Davis is the caretaker for the Clarets and chairman Barry Kilby hopes to have a new boss in place before the Jan. 16 game with Manchester United.
Looking ahead: Stoke City manager Tony Pulis isn’t expecting a disinterested effort from Burnley this weekend. ”
“The most important thing is you should always try and affect things you can affect,” he told the team’s Web site. I can’t affect what Burnley or Steve are going to do, or what the players are going to be like. The only thing I can affect is how we will be and our attitude and approach to the game.”
Fulham vs. Portsmouth
After letting in three goals against Stoke City, Fulham will try to return to its stingy ways at home against Pompey.
Table watch: Fulham is in ninth place on 27 points while Portsmouth is in 20th place on 14 points.
Money talks: Between being late paying its players’ wages, having its TV money garnished to pay off debts to other clubs or still facing a transfer ban because of past transfer squabbles with other clubs – all the financial news on the south coast has been poor of late.
Picking up the slack: Bobby Zamora with his 11 goals on the season is out with a broken collarbone, but Andy Johnson is looking to pick up the flag for Fulham.
“That was a massive blow for the team,” said Johnson. “He’s been fantastic and in the form of his life. His confidence was flying so it’s up to me, Erik (Nevland) and Diomansy Kamara to carry on what Bobby’s been doing. He’s been fantastic and he’s going to be missed. The boys have got to step in now.”
Sunderland vs. Bolton Wanderers
Another caretaker, Chris Evans, will lead Bolton to the Stadium of Light on Saturday. The compensation deal for Coyle, according to The Daily Mail, isn’t quite worked out yet.
Table watch: Sunderland is in 11th place on 23 points while Bolton is in 18th place on 18 points.
Put out: If Bolton didn’t have enough going on, the supporters association is angry at Arsenal for what it believes was a late decision to call off the mid-week match due to the wintry weather.
On the other hand: Things aren’t exactly perfect for Sunderland, either. The Black Cats are rumored to be selling Kenwyne Jones to Birmingham City and manager Steve Bruce is up on an improper conduct charge after his post-match comments after last month’s 4-3 loss to Manchester City.
Wigan Athletic vs. Aston Villa
The Latics will try to put some distance between themselves and the trap door when Villa visits on Saturday.
Table watch: Wigan is in 16th place on 19 points while the Villans are in sixth place on 35 points.
Rolling downhill: A recent FA Cup win over struggling Hull City is little tonic for a Wigan club that’s winless in its last five league games. But Wigan did clip Aston Villa, 2-0, at Villa Park on the opening weekend.
Birmingham City vs. Manchester United
Fresh off a shock home loss to Leeds United, the Red Devils hit the road to take on surprising Birmingham City in the last game on Saturday.
Table watch: Birmingham City is in eighth place on 32 points while Manchester United is in second place on 43 points.
Match facts: From our friends at Eurosport – The last three Premier League meetings between Man Utd and Birmingham have all ended as 1-0 wins for the Red Devils. … Wayne Rooney has scored four goals in five Premier League starts for Man Utd against Birmingham. … Birmingham have failed to score in nine of the 11 Premier League meetings with Man Utd. … United have won 16 and drawn six of the last 22 meetings in all competitions since Birmingham’s last win, a 5-1 triumph at St Andrews in November 1978.
West Ham United vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Two teams looking to climb away from the bottom three square off at Upton Park on Sunday.
Table watch: West Ham is in 17th place on 18 points, two spots and one point back of Wolves.
They said it, part one: “The weather has made things a little difficult this week and it has snowed a lot but it hasn’t changed anything in terms of our focus. The players have been positive and up for it and I’m expecting a lot from them on Sunday. We can take heart from last weekend against Arsenal. If we maintain the attitude we showed we will see the benefit in the next few games. We will have important players and the luck will change.” – West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola, to The Guardian
They said it, part two: “Everyone makes a lot of my team selection but I pick a team to win the games. If we have got a game Saturday, Tuesday in a cup replay and a big game the following Saturday I might change my view on that. I might think about the (league) game like all these big-name managers do who never seem to be disrespecting any competition – only me… what a load of tosh that is, eh?” – Wolves’ boss Mick McCarthy, to Sky Sports
Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur
If the Reds are serious about maintaining their Champions League status, then a Sunday home win over a Spurs side that’s currently occupying the fourth and final slot would be a fine start.
Table watch: Liverpool is in seventh spot on 33 points while Tottenham is in fourth place on 37 points.
Not mincing words: Liverpool striker Fernando Torres knows how important this match is for his side. “It’s similar to Aston Villa. We need to win and we have got to win,” he told the Liverpool Echo. “A draw would be a bad result for us because we need to win to get close to the top four again. But I am sure we can do it. The performance of the team is always much better against the top sides in England and I’m sure that we can get three points. We have confidence, even though we know it will be a really difficult game.”
Not so fast, my friend: Spurs’ defender Michael Dawson has other ideas, telling Sky Sports that “hopefully we can keep this run going. We’re four points clear of Liverpool at the moment and hopefully we’ll make it seven by Sunday. We’re striving for the top four, Liverpool as well.”
Manchester City vs. Blackburn Rovers
The Roberto Mancini era rolls on as Man City welcomes Blackburn to Eastlands for a Monday clash.
Table watch: Manchester City is in fifth place on 35 points while Blackburn is in 13th place on 21 points.
New blood: City is expected to welcome midfielder Patrick Vieira into the fold from Inter Milan soon, according to multiple reports.
Three’s a magic number: In his three matches since taking the reins from Mark Hughes, Mancini has guided the Sky Blues to three wins and three clean sheets. Those nine points helped re-ignite the squad’s Champions League dreams.