Dec 21, 2007

Weekend Premiership Preview (From An Actual Brit)

The Carling Cup saw us hurtle depressingly toward another Chelsea vs Arsenal B-team final. Chelsea saw off a Liverpool team that was neither second string nor entirely first team. As a result the Scousers lost easily and also had Peter Crouch sent off, which means he’s suspended for three Prem games, a potentially big loss for a struggling team.

Arsenal B edged Blackburn Rovers in a 3-2 thriller. Credit to the kids, but all that result does is support last week’s column about the chasm between the top four and the rest. Imagine if the Patriots’ or Colts’ second string beat the Jacksonville Jaguars starters and you get the idea of what’s going on in England. If Blackburn, as one of the best-of-the-rest teams, can’t beat a collection of Arsenal squad players, what hope is there? Now the baton passes to Tottenham Hotspur after their impressive win away against Manchester City. Then again, maybe another tightly fought, lairy contest is preferable to the inevitable curb-stomping that we’d see if only one of the big four makes the final.

On to the weekend’s games:

Saturday, 22 December 2007
Arsenal v Tottenham, 12:45
This is a what is known as a statement game. And the statement is likely to be: “Arsenal are way better than Tottenham.” Spurs have been slowly turning things around under Ramos, but after seeing off Chelsea quite handily last weekend, anything other than a home win would be a shock.

Aston Villa v Man City, 15:00
City proved last week that they have the stomach for a fight; Villa proved that they should never ask fans to pay to watch them play Sunderland. Villa, though, do have a good record at home, having beaten both Chelsea and Liverpool, and this is the sort of game they need to win if they want to crack the top six and make a play for Europe.

Bolton v Birmingham, 15:00
This week’s lock for most boring game and possibly a preview of a top of the table clash in the Championship next season. Be warned: only four teams have scored fewer Prem goals than these two.

Fulham v Wigan, 15:00
One of those teams is Wigan. And when you know that 5 of their 17 goals came in last week’s game against Blackburn, you realize just how crap they are. If Steve Bruce wants to justify his hiring he’ll need to beat the other crap teams around Wigan, which Fulham most certainly are. As for Fulham, any sympathies the neutral had for the small west London club surely evaporated after last week’s putrid affair against Newcastle.

Liverpool v Portsmouth, 15:00
Pompey have won seven away games on the bounce while Liverpool have lost three of their last four games. The Rafa job watch will begin in earnest if the team loses another game before the New Year and seeing as Derby are the opponents on Wednesday, this is the game Liverpool fans should be worried about.

Middlesbrough v West Ham, 15:00
At first glance this looks like it’ll be shockingly dull. However, a cold, dark (and likely wet) evening in Middlesbrough are conditions not seen elsewhere in the big European leagues and could help make for an entertaining game. All those clich├ęs about the pace and thunder of Premiership football may come true in this one.

Reading v Sunderland, 15:00
Like West Ham fans making the opposite journey, Sunderland’s followers face trips of up to 8 hours just to watch a 90 minute game between two not very good football teams. One hopes that they have something to be mildly pleased about on the long journey home, though one doubts it.

Sunday, 23 December 2007
Blackburn v Chelsea, 16:10
Blackburn are becoming seriously annoying. In their last four Prem games they’ve been hammered 4-0 at home by Aston Villa, lost at home to West Ham and conceded 5 goals to team from a crappy town that’s more interested in watching rugby. And let’s not forget that they lost to residents of the Arsene Wenger school for non-English children. Thank God for the perpetual calamity that is Newcastle United, otherwise Rovers would have gone all of November and December without a Prem win. Meanwhile, Avram Grant continues his Jose-lite impression, sending out a team that seems to play just like Mourinho’s Chelsea only not quite as steely. They’ll miss Drogba and Terry, but not enough to be bothered by Rovers.

Man Utd v Everton, 12:00
Aka the Return of Phil Neville. Will he get one over on his old team? Uh, no, he won’t. Everton have been playing excellently of late, so a draw is not out of the question. There’s also no telling whether Man Utd’s players will still be suffering from what seems to have been either the greatest or worst Christmas party ever depending on your viewpoint. One alleged rape, one near rape and Wayne Rooney apparently confusing Justin Timberlake with Jay-Z. It’s what Christmas was invented for.

Newcastle v Derby, 14:00
Food for thought: in 2003 Sunderland set the standard for failure, scoring just 21 goals, conceding 65 and amassing 19 points in 38 games. In the first 17 games this year, Derby have scored 6 goals, conceded 39 and have a grand total of 6 points. Their one win of the season? Against Newcastle. Hopefully, whoever chose this game for a live TV broadcast is sitting at home browsing Monster.co.uk.

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