Granted I haven’t been writing this column for years, but for the first time in my tenure, there simply isn’t a 4-star drop-everything match. So enjoy the late summer fine weather, hang out at the beach or lake or your local soccer field. Queue up the DVR as there are some interesting early-season games, though, and once again, all 10 are available on television: 6 live, and 4 delayed.
**** Must-see. Cancel all other activities. Do not even DVR as even in America you might hear the score!
*** Strong match; worth watching live; DVR a must if you can’t see live
** Flip through quickly to see the goals, red cards, injuries, and perhaps watch the last 5 minutes + injury time if close
* Only if you’re a die-hard
Matches shown in chronological order:
Saturday, August 28 (all times EDT)
** Blackburn v Arsenal, 7:45 am, ESPN2 & espn3.com
Arsenal will want to start securing 3 points away from home.
*** Chelsea v Stoke, 10:00 am, Fox Soccer Plus & foxsoccer.tv & again 8pm Fox Soccer Plus
Chelsea are just scintillating to watch, even if this game is likely to be another blow-out. Drogba’s unselfishness may play dividends down the road. There are going to be some awful teams at the bottom again this year, so Tony Pulis need not hit the panic button yet.
** Tottenham v Wigan, 10:00 am, Fox Soccer Channel & Fox Deportes
This game perhaps should have been 1-star, but Defoe was so incredible in this fixture last year, it’s worth a look at the goals, etc. I am not sure if there is an adjective in the English language that can adequately define Wigan’s defending. WHL will be in full voice after Spurs advanced to the Champions League group stage Wednesday night.
** Wolverhampton v Newcastle, 10:00 am, foxsoccer.tv & 6 pm (delayed) Fox Soccer Plus
These two sides are in the top half of the table, so does this match deserve an upgrade to 3 stars? Naaaah; at least one will likely be in the relegation battle as we progress.
** Blackpool v Fulham, 10:00 am, foxsoccer.tv, & Sunday 9am (delayed) Fox Soccer Channel
I thought Fulham was absolutely terrific at times against Man United. Yes, this one is away from Craven Cottage where they have traditionally struggled. And we finally get to see Bloomfield Road as a Premier League venue, upgraded from 12,555 to 16,220 seats.
** Man Utd v West Ham, 12:30 pm, Fox Soccer Channel
West Ham continue to have trouble defending, and they simply cannot put the ball in the net. (They needed an injury-time goal from Parker to advance past Oxford United in the Carling Cup this week.) Meanwhile, Scholes and Berbatov have started strong for the Red Devils; Rooney & Nani not so much.
Sunday, August 29
*** Bolton v Birmingham, 8:30 am, Fox Soccer Plus & foxsoccer.tv
These two are fighting for a Champions League spot at the moment. Will that continue past, say, Week 5? Probably not, but a terrific start for each side. Worth watching.
** Liverpool v West Brom, 10:00 am, foxsoccer.tv; 5pm (delayed) Fox Deportes; 7pm (delayed) Fox Soccer Plus
Presumably the Baggies visting Anfield finally gives the Reds a seriously winnable match.
** Sunderland v Man City, 10:00 am, foxsoccer.tv; 5 pm (delayed) Fox Soccer Plus
City will need all 3 points to justify their expenditures and title hopes. They looked strong enough on Monday night to do so.
*** Aston Villa v Everton, 11:00 am, Fox Soccer Channel
This is the match the schedule-makers singled out as best-of-the-week, with national television in both the UK & the USA. But Villa went from sublime to sub-standard in their visit to St James Park last week. And Everton is off to another slow start.