Premier League preview
England’s top flight is back with a bang
The Premier League returns in style as long-standing rivals Liverpool and Manchester United go into battle on Saturday lunchtime.
As the two most successful clubs in English football, the old foes have exchanged blows for decades and there is now the added spice of Kenny Dalglish’s return to Anfield.
The Scot has never seen eye-to-eye with fellow Glaswegian, Sir Alex Ferguson, and will be determined to secure a repeat of March’s 3-1 win over the United boss at Anfield.
Ferguson’s defending Premier League champions have yet to lose this season, but all eyes will be onWayne Rooney when he returns to action after his indiscretion for England.
Manchester City are the closest league rivals to derby foes United and the Etihad Stadium club have spent the international break fighting the fires of the Carlos Tevez saga. The striker has served a two-week suspension, but his future remains uncertain following his alleged Munich mutiny. Aston Villa will therefore arrive in the North West hoping to take advantage.
Chelsea trail the leaders by three points and Andre Villas-Boas will not want to lose any further ground when taking on Everton at Stamford Bridge in Saturday’s evening kick-off. Villas-Boas would probably rather not have the off-field distraction of the ongoing debate regarding his club’s stadium, while Everton will be aiming to bounce back from defeat in the Merseyside derby.
Steve Kean could not even avoid critics during Blackburn’s trip to India in the international break. The manager had already been the subject of a protest from fans during the 4-0 defeat to Manchester City in their last fixture and he has since been told results need to improve if he is to keep his job. QPR boss Neil Warnock will also want a better performance from his players after the thumping by Fulham and he will be demanding three points at Loftus Road.
Fresh from the comprehensive win over QPR, Fulham boss Martin Jol will want more of the same in order to keep quiet the rumours of discontent among his squad. Andy Johnson’s hat-trick helped in the victory, but a trip to Stoke will pose a far more significant test. Tony Pulis’ side have struggled to balance their Europa League commitments with their away form, but they remain unbeaten this season at the Britannia Stadium.
Bottom-of-the-league Bolton suffered a 5-1 defeat to Chelsea in their last fixture and boss Owen Coyle will have used the past two weeks to think of a strategy to get his club away from danger at the foot of the table. The Bolton boss is not helped by a lengthy injury list, but, having lost five successive matches in all competitions,Wigan are unlikely to be sympathetic at the DW Stadium.
Norwich and Swansea were separated by just four points as they gained promotion from the Championship, both automatic and via the play-offs, and Paul Lambert will hope for a repeat of last season. The Carrow Road club won 2-0 at home in August 2010, but Brendan Rodgers’ visitors will be boosted by the memory of a 3-0 success in Wales in April.
On Sunday, Arsenal host Sunderland and rival managers Arsene Wenger and Steve Bruce are both feeling the pressure. Arsenal lost the North London derby to Tottenham as the most-recent instalment in what has been a season to forget to date, while Sunderland sit 16th after a busy summer of signings.
Victory over Wolves extended Newcastle’s quiet unbeaten form. But the visit of Tottenham provides arguably the biggest test so far this season for Alan Pardew’s men. An opening day stalemate with struggling Arsenal was on paper a tricky match, but in-form Spurs will visit Tyneside in far more confident mood.
West Brom have failed to win at The Hawthorns in the league this season and that is one of the main reasons why Roy Hodgson’s team sit just one place above the relegation zone. Wolves will consequently arrive for the Black Country derby optimistic they can end a run of four successive league defeats.