This weekend’s selection of Premier League fixtures sees one of the league’s highlights with the North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham, but a much less fashionable, though potentially crucial, fixture will take place at the Reebok Stadium between Bolton and Newcastle.
Both sides have so far surprised everyone with their impressive starts to the season that see both of them occupy top eight places in the table. Bolton have lost just one of their last nine league fixtures with in form strikers Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander playing an important role in their success so far. Two impressive away performances last week saw them pick up a respectable point at Everton and a 3-2 away at Wolves.
As for Newcastle, a brilliant 5-1 victory against local rivals Sunderland was followed by an unlikely win away at Arsenal thanks to the much talked about Andy Carroll. While disappointing home performances that followed against Blackburn and Fulham have halted their progress somewhat, an away record that is bettered only by Arsenal means they will travel to Bolton on Saturday full of confidence.
A win for either side this weekend in this game will reinforce their fantastic starts to the season and Bolton will spend Saturday night in joint fourth place if they pick up their third home win.
While the North London derby may boast the technically better football on Saturday, don’t be surprised to see a much more physical game played out between these two sides. Kevin Davies, Kevin Nolan and Paul Robinson have earned themselves reputations as some of the ‘hardest’ men in the EPL, although the absence of notorious bad boy Joey Barton for Newcastle through suspension may be crucial in this battle at the Reebok.
The last three meetings between these two sides has produced just two goals, with each side claiming narrow wins and a goalless draw also being played out in that time. They are very different sides from the ones that met two seasons ago though and with just 13 games played each, a combined total of 42 goals have been scored and 35 have been conceded, so an open and exciting game will be expected.
This game may not get the amount of publicity that some of the others will this weekend, but a look at the league table as it stands shows just how crucial it is for two of the EPL’s improving sides.