What a weekend we have ahead! Three big derbies, plus two Champions League sides facing off in the Saturday tea-time match at Old Trafford.
First, please note that in Europe they move their clocks back this Sunday morning, whereas we in America wait an extra week. So the matches this Sunday, Monday, and then the following Saturday will all start an hour later here than we are used to. So west coasters can sleep an extra hour if you want to watch matches live.
Our 4-star match will be United hosting Spurs Saturday afternoon. No Rooney, but the little pea is on fire, and you know a United game is likely going to come down to injury time. The pick of the derbies might be Villa-Brum, but the tackles will be flying in at Newcastle you can be sure. I can’t find live television for the derby at Villa, but FS+ will have it tape-delayed at 11:30 am ET.
Here’s the viewing guide:
****: 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, October 30 (all times EDT)
** Arsenal v West Ham, 10 am, FSC/FD
Not the most exciting derby of the week. The Hammers started brightly home to Newcastle, then faded and were truly awful in the 2nd half. They did advance mid-week, however, to the Carling Cup quarterfinal, along with the Gunners. Terrific win for Wenger’s crew at the Eastlands Sunday.
** Blackburn v Chelsea, 10 am, ESPN2/ESPND & espn3.com
ESPN had first pick and went for this match over the London derby. This fixture finished 1-1 last year.
** Wolverhampton v Man City, 10 am, FS+ & foxsoccer.tv
City came and thumped Wolves nil-3 last year. Mancini still needs more consistency if he wants to contend. Tevez has gone home to Argentina again, and there’s even talk the star may miss the mid-week Manchester derby in 2 weeks.
** Everton v Stoke, 10 am, foxsoccer.tv & 5 pm (delayed) FSC
* Fulham v Wigan, 10 am, foxsoccer.tv & 8 pm (delayed) FS+
**** Man Utd v Tottenham, 12:30 pm, FSC/FD
United won each fixture last year by identical 3-1 margins. While there’s been recent talk of the aging stars Giggs, Scholes and Van der Sar at United, this game will still feature some of the best young players in the game: Hernandez, Bale, Nani, Lennon. + Berbatov and Van der Vaart. If Spurs get a penalty, I imagine it will be the mellifluous combination of Van der Vaart facing Van der Sar. My dictionary says Vaart means speed whereas Sar means tease or nag, so perhaps the Spurs should be favored in that matchup.
Sunday, October 31
*** Aston Villa v Birmingham, 8 am, foxsoccer.tv & 11:30 am (delayed) FS+
This is still the Second City derby, and it’s always one of the most intense matches of the season. Villa have won 6 of these in a row, and in many of those 6 they’ve won with a very late goal. The penalty that decided the last one in April was hotly contested, and I have to say I agree with Birmingham fans that Martin Atkinson erred.
*** Newcastle v Sunderland, 9:30 am, FS+ & foxsoccer.tv
This terrific rivalry is also back in the EPL. I give 50% odds Joey Barton sees red.
* Bolton v Liverpool, 12 noon, FSC
Note the noon kickoff.
Monday, November 1
** Blackpool v West Brom, 4 pm, ESPND & espn3.com
Their league standings don’t reflect this, but it might be an early 6-pointer for two newly promoted sides. No ESPN2 again.