Premier League Preview – Jan. 30-Feb. 1
Two of the top three teams in the Premier League table will clash on Sunday when Manchester United come to London to face Arsenal.
You won’t want to miss it, and if you check out the EPL Talk TV schedule, you won’t.
It’s a huge match for both clubs, but hardly the only one as the Premier League’s 2009-2010 marches towards its conclusion.
We should start at the Emirates, though.
Table watch: Arsenal is in third place on 49 points while United is in second with 50 points. It’s worth pointing out that Chelsea is leading the way with 51 – in addition to having a game in hand.
Ferdinand out: The FA slapped United defender Rio Ferdinand with a four-match ban Thursday for his elbow on Hull’s Craig Fagan last weekend. He’ll miss this match, and ones against Portsmouth, Aston Villa and Everton.
A new dimension: Apparently, while those of us here in the States dream of seeing this match in HD, some folks in Britain will be seeing it in 3D.
Mash unit: Is it me, or do I read a sentence like the following on a regular basis: Thomas Vermaelen, Eduardo, Robin van Persie, Johan Djourou, Kieran Gibbs, Fran Merida and Abou Diaby all reside on the Arsenal injury list. Arsene Wegner’s likely center backs for this critical match will likely be Sol Campbell and William Gallas.
Birmingham City vs. Tottenham Hotspur
An unlikely challenger for a Europa League spot hosts an unlikely challenger for a Champions League slot on Saturday.
Table watch: Birmingham City is in eighth place on 33 points while Spurs are in fourth place with 41 points.
Giving respect: Birmingham’s strong form this season hasn’t escaped the attention of Spurs’ defender Sebastien Bassong. “I think they’re having a really good season. They were only promoted in the summer and now so they’re seventh or eighth in the table. They’re doing great and it’s very good for them,” he told the team’s Web site.
Back and forth: Apparently, Birmingham has an eye on Tottenham’s fourth-choice striker Roman Pavlyuchenko.
Fulham vs. Aston Villa
A four-game road trip is finally over as Fulham returns home to face surging Aston Villa.
Table watch: Fulham is in 10th place on 27 points while Villa sit in seventh on 37 points.
Home sweet home: Craven Cottage has been good to Fulham, as they haven’t lost there since a 1-0 defeat to Arsenal on Sept. 26 – a streak of 11 games.
Gaining ground?: Aston Villa’s quest for top-four glory ran out of steam late last season, but with this match, a road date at Spurs and a home game with Manchester United to follow – Villa has its destiny in its own hands.
Hull City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
The Tigers welcome Wolves into the KC Stadium for a relegation six-pointer.
Table watch: Hull City is in 19th place on as many points while Wolves are in 17th spot, two points north.
Hunting Hunt: Hull winger Stephen Hunt is being hotly pursued by Wolves’ manager Mick McCarthy, according to the Daily Mail.
In and out: Oft-injured Hull midfielder Jimmy Bullard probably won’t feature, but new signee Amir Zaki might make his Tigers’ debut, according to the Hull Daily Mail.
Liverpool vs. Bolton
The Reds will try to shake off a disappointing draw at Wolves when Bolton visits Anfield on Saturday.
Table watch: Liverpool is in fifth place on 38 points while Bolton is in 15th place on 21 points.
They said it, part one: “I believe that confidence is always about the result. If you don’t get the result, your confidence will go down and if you do it increases. One goes hand-in-hand with the other. We need to look at the positive things and try to be positive as we look forward.
“Whether you are winning or losing, it is no good thinking too much about it because you have to look forward and you have to live in the present. The present for us is Bolton and we have to win the game on Saturday.” – Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano, to Sky Sports
They said it, part two: “Liverpool have quality players and a fantastic manager. “They have been a bit stop-start this season through injury or loss of form. But when they are firing on all cylinders they are a top team. We will have to be at our very best.
“Managers get stick in football; it is commonplace, I can assure you of that. Nothing surprises you, it is such a passionate game. But it is more than football, it is a social problem now that you can give out stick and get away with it.” – Bolton manager Owen Coyle, to The Guardian
West Ham United vs. Blackburn Rovers
Blackburn will look to continue its quiet climb up the table when it visits Upton Park.
Table watch: West Ham is in 16th position on 20 points while Blackburn resides in 11th place on 27 points.
On the move: Blackburn have lost only once in the league in the last five games and have been easing up towards the middle of the standings. Speaking of movement, want-away striker Benni McCarthy looks to be headed to the home locker room in this matchup, as multiple reports have linked the South African to West Ham.
On the other hand: McCarthy may be a consolation prize for West Ham co-owner David Sullivan, who’s seemed a bit peeved at missing out on another transfer target – Eidur Gudjohnsen.
“All is fair in love and war but I am a firm believer in karma and what goes around, comes around,” Sullivan said about Tottenham’s push to sign Gudjohnsen.
Wigan Athletic vs. Everton
The Toffees have reached the top 10 and will now set their sights even higher when they visit the DW Stadium on Saturday.
Table watch: Wigan is in 14th place on 22 points while Everton is in ninth place on 29 points.
Donovan’s first goal: U.S. International Landon Donovan notched his first goal for Everton in mid-week, netting in the side’s 2-0 win over Sunderland.
“It is a great feeling to get my first goal here especially because the team has won,” Donovan told Everton’s Web site. “They have made feel at home here. It was a lot different last year when I went to Germany. It took me a while there to get going but I feel better here.
Looking for options: Wigan could be about to make a deal for Argentine striker Marco Ruben, assuming it can agree with Villarreal on the price.
Burnley vs. Chelsea
Things aren’t getting any easier for new Burnley manager Brian Laws as front running Chelsea visits Turf Moor.
Table watch: Burnley is in 18th place on 20 points while Chelsea, as mentioned, is in first on 51 points.
A captain’s wish: Chelsea skipper John Terry is looking at this match as a chance to gain ground on its chief rivals for the Premier League crown. “At Burnley on Saturday we have to win where Manchester United have lost and Arsenal have drawn,” said Terry, according to Press Association Sport.
“When we play Arsenal at home in February wins against Burnley and Hull, if we can achieve them, would have opened a healthy gap for us. But to achieve that, it’s got to be champion form.”
Manchester City vs. Portsmouth
Table watch: Manchester City is in sixth place on 38 points while Pompey is in 20th place on 15 points.
Passing the hat: Perhaps one day, we can discuss Pompey’s tactics in this space. But not until its financial woes are cleared up. It’s Web site was down for a short time Thursday because or a missed payment to the Web host and there are rumors that the team may be in administration as soon as next week.
Where’s an oil billionaire when you need one?
Don’t look for any sympathy from City, who will still be plenty angry after dropping a Manchester Derby match with the Red Devils.
Sunderland vs. Stoke City
Table watch: Sunderland is in 13th place on 23 points while the Potters are 12th place on 25 points.
Drawing a line in the sand: Sunderland manager Steve Bruce knows that his club needs a spark, telling the Daily Star, “We had a wonderful start and now we have had a horrible two months. It’s reached a point where we must, simply must, gain good results out of these two home games.”