EPL Weekend Viewing Guide, Gameweek 24

13 EPL matches this week, plus we find out who will meet at Wembley for the League Cup, before the league breaks for the FA Cup Round-of-32.  If you get any deja vu, all of these reverse fixtures were played just 3 weeks ago on the 28th/29th of December.  So last week I wrote that I was permanently removing one star from every City match this year, due to Mancini’s negative tactics.  So what happens?  8 goals from two matches, plenty of goals conceded too, extraordinary play from the unleashed Tevez, and a front line that may be the envy of all save Barcelona in the world!  Now can we just make sure that Mancini doesn’t play 3 holding midfielders with 10 men behind the ball?  City face a tricky road fixture at Villa that is the featured match Saturday afternoon (though City destroyed them 4-nil at the Eastlands in December).  An alternate view is that all Wolves matches, notwithstanding their current league position, should be enhanced by one star.  Therefore Wolves v Liverpool will get more stars this week than their league positions would ordinarily deserve.  Plus ESPN is finally back with a live match on ESPN2; hey ESPN:  welcome to 2011!  Keep reading for my surprise 4-star match of the week.

Note:  my next article will be Monday, January 31, for the 20 matches the first week of February!

****:  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 22 (all times EST)

*** Wolverhampton v Liverpool, 7:45 am ESPN2/ESPND & espn3.com
Wolves won 1-nil at Anfield and Mick’s men will play til the end so keep watching.  [Atkinson]

** Man Utd v Birmingham, 10 am, FSC
Birmingham earned a draw in December.  United should do better at home.  [Jones]

** Arsenal v Wigan, 10 am FS+ & foxsoccer.tv
The previous match finished 2-2 at the DW.  The fixtures are coming fast and furious for the Gunners, and they survived their visit to Elland Road and largely kept many of their key players rested.  With Wigan, you might get 2-2 and you might get 7-nil.  [Friend]

*** Newcastle v Tottenham, 10 am, foxsoccer.tv & 5 pm (delayed) FSC
Spurs won the last one easily, 2-nil at the Lane.  ‘Arry keeps improving his squad.  Pardew couldn’t quite complete the double over their archrivals.  [Halsey]

* Everton v West Ham, 10 am foxsoccer.tv & 6 pm (delayed) FS+
This was a terrible game at Upton Park a few weeks ago so I’m giving it 1 star.  How Grant is still in charge is beyond me; worse days ahead for the East End boys.  [Walton]

* Fulham v Stoke, 10 am foxsoccer.tv & Sunday 10:30 am (delayed) FS+
If you must.  If I were Fox this is probably the one I wouldn’t have televised, as I think Blackpool v Sunderland is a better game.  [Attwell]

** Blackpool v Sunderland, 10 am, foxsoccer.tv only
More on Gyan’s shoulders for the Black Cats with Bent gone.  Blackpool won the reverse fixture nil-2.  Let’s hope Blackpool can keep Charlie Adam.  You’ll need your internet subscription to watch this one. [Mason]

*** Aston Villa v Man City, 12:30 pm FSC/FD
Darren Bent should rush straight into this side that definitely needs better finishing after they dominated their crosstown rivals but could not put the ball in the net.  Did they hit the crossbar 4 times?  City destroyed Villa 4-nil a few weeks ago and simply must keep winning.  A point is not good enough if they want to content for the title.  Will James Milner get a start and how will he be treated when he returns?  This would have gotten 4 stars if not for Villa’s form and City’s Mancini set-up for road matches.   [Webb]

Sunday, January 23

** Blackburn v West Brom, 11 am FSC/FD
Bit of a strange match for the Sunday television featured match.  Sky controls these things in London, and they only can show each team a certain # of times, so I guess they didn’t want to waste a slot to see United play Birmingham or Chelsea play Bolton or Arsenal play Wigan!  Blackburn won at the Hawthorns 1-3. [Clattenburg]

Monday, January 24

*** Bolton v Chelsea, 3 pm espn3.com
I see ESPN2 showing the Australian Open tennis on their web site.  I presume they’ll add ESPN Deportes for a match as good as this one.  Bolton’s fallen back a bit, but this should still be a good match.  [Foy]

Tuesday, January 25

**** Blackpool v Man Utd, 2:30 pm, FSC
Perhaps stretching it a bit, but this is the match I want to see this week.  I really enjoy the way Blackpool play, and Sir Alex has choices to make about where to play his top 11 over the Sat-Tues matches.  They meet again in May at Old Trafford.  [Walton]

** Wigan v Aston Villa, 2:45 pm, foxsoccer.tv & 4:30 pm (delayed) FSC
No, I don’t really know who the referee is either.  Apparently Jon Moss did get one prior EPL match this season, but he’s mostly handled League 2 and League 1 matches!  [Moss]

** Carling Cup semifinal 2nd leg:  Arsenal (0) v Ipswich Town (1), 2:45 pm, FS+ & foxsoccer.tv
Sticking with the referee theme, I don’t quite understand why Mark Halsey, Peter Walton and Howard Webb each get two games this week, while top referees Phil Dowd and Mike Dean get two 4th official assignments but no matches in the center.  I think Arsenal will win this one easily; it’ll be all over at halftime.  [Halsey]

Wednesday, January 26

*** Carling Cup semifinal 2nd leg:  Birmingham (1) v West Ham (2), 2:45 pm, FS+ & foxsoccer.tv
The “cup specialist” somehow may have survived to see if he can get the Hammers to Wembley after all.  West Ham not too good at keeping clean sheets (understatement!) so they’re going to have to play.  There will be goals in this match. [Webb]

** Liverpool v Fulham, 3 pm, FSC
A bit of the glamor lost as the postponement means no Hodgson vs. his old side.  Strange, tight table this year means Liverpool is both 4 points from safety and 4 points from a possible return to Europe!  Fulham seem a bit lost.  [Probert]

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