Well, Happy New Year everyone. The festive fixtures came fast and furious, I was traveling, and while I posted the viewing times throughout, I had no time for comments. So I’m back with both for Gameweek 23, which are the 10 reverse fixtures from Halloween weekend. Only 15 more of these to go! By now, we have a handle on the pattern for Fox’s choices. On Saturday, after ESPN chose the Chelsea home match, Fox went with Man City live on the channel, and Stoke on FS+, with the two relegation-zone matches delayed until the early evening on the East Coast. Sunday, due to no desire to pre-empt the wonderful infomercials, they had to choose 3 out of 4 of the amazing Sunday fixture list to show live. So at 7 am we get the Toon-Tyne rematch on FS+, with the 2nd city derby delayed until 11 am on the same channel. We also get a double-header on the channel, with the Liverpool derby followed by the pick of the weekend, with Spurs furious to get a result against Sir Alex and his boys after what happened last time to Gomes et al at Old Trafford.
Alas, I’ll be skiing all weekend, so will have to pick a few to watch on my DVR when I get back Monday night! Also, please note that after watching the 90 minutes of what City did at the Emirates, along with getting myself geared up for what ended up being a horrendous derby they played against United a few months’ back, I have permanently removed one-star from all Man City matches. I love watching Tevez, but what Mancini is doing makes their games so unwatchable…
I’ve added the referees assigned in brackets. It’s interesting how the ‘name’ referees line up with my stars.
****: 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, January 15 (all times EST)
*** Chelsea v Blackburn, 10 am, ESPND & espn3.com
Chelsea need to concentrate on finishing in the top 4; this season would be an utter disaster if they don’t qualify. Simply a must-win game for this aging side. [Atkinson]
** Man City v Wolverhampton, 10 am, FSC/FD
Hopefully we’ll see the attacking version of City at some point. The topsy-turvy Wolves beat City 2-1 in October. [Mason]
** Stoke v Bolton, 10 am, FS+ & foxsoccer.tv
Bolton won 2-1 at the Reebok. [Oliver]
* West Brom v Blackpool, 10 am, foxsoccer.tv & 5 pm (delayed) FSC/FD
Another great win in the midweek battle of the ‘pools. They’re certainly not safe yet, so any points away from Bloomfield Road would go a long way for the Tangerines. Blackpool also won 2-1 in October. [Attwell]
* Wigan v Fulham, 10 am, foxsoccer.tv & 6 pm (delayed) FS+
*** West Ham v Arsenal, 12:30 pm, FSC
What a confounding season for Wenger and the Gunners. After deciding they had to lift a trophy this year, with 4 options, this past week, they had huge difficulties with Championship sides, almost crashing out to Leeds on Saturday, and succumbing 1-nil at Portman Road Wednesday night in the League Cup first leg semifinal. Now they face an unneeded further midweek fixture Wednesday in a tricky visit to Elland Road for the 3rd round replay (DVR alert: 3 pm EST on FSC). And in the first version of Saturday’s derby they barely beat the Hammers 1-nil. I suppose they’ll probably play a strong side and thrash Ipswich Town 7-nil to get to Wembley next month, but they sure have made the journey a more difficult one. Meanwhile, Grant survives due to his being as good in Cups as he is awful in the league. And Wayne Bridge arrives in the nick of time as the Hammers have no left back who can mark Theo Walcott. They’ve used center halves in the full back spot repeatedly this season, including in their midweek league cup semifinal win at home over Birmingham. [Marriner]
Sunday, January 16
*** Sunderland v Newcastle, 7 am, FS+ & foxsoccer.tv
I suppose I could give 4 stars to all 4 matches Sunday, and I know if I were home, I’d be up early watching this one. The Black Cats will be looking for some serious revenge after the thrashing they took against their arch-rivals at St. James’. I think Sunderland will win this by a couple of goals. [Clattenburg]
*** Birmingham v Aston Villa, 7 am, foxsoccer.tv & 11 am (delayed) FS+
I thought the final May derby they played last year was an amazing match, but I have been less impressed by these teams this season. And the first derby in October saw no goals at all. And you’re certainly not going to switch away from Spurs-United to watch this one, unless you support one of these sides. But worth recording and if it’s a good match, watching the last half hour or so straight through. [Webb]
**** Liverpool v Everton, 9:05 am, FSC/FD
Dalglish’s home debut, and what a way to start! He’s learned quickly this isn’t your father’s Liverpool. Rafa inherited a great side and pretty much decimated it, with Hodgson making no improvements. And how many times in the last 5 years have Liverpool played poorly but been saved by a solitary play by their skipper (see FA Cup 2006 and many others)? Well, a missed penalty and a sending off against their other arch-rivals and there appear to be fewer heroics from Stevie. Everton was dominant at Goodison and Dalglish will need the sublime Torres who opened the midweek scoring against Blackpool and not the petulant one we saw the rest of the match. The tackles will be flying! [Dowd]
**** Tottenham v Man Utd, 11:10 am, FSC/FD
Let’s presume this will not be a Mark Clattenburg match! (No surprise, it’s actually the dean of England Referees: Mike Dean.) This is an important one, for the title race, for Spurs’ desire to return to Champions League. If Spurs win at home, City could take another (temporary) lead in the title race.