Sports

EPL Weekend Breakdown: Manchester United, Chelsea, Bolton, Arsenal and More

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Saturday:

* Bolton v. Aston Villa -- Want a reason for Bolton sitting in 19th place in the Premier League? Home form. Bolton has one win and seven losses at the Reebok Stadium. Want another? Kevin Davies has only two goals scored. Is that all because Stuart Holden isn't playing? Maybe ... if you work for the U.S. Soccer Federation press office. However you slice it, Bolton is bad and barring some movement next month, there's minimal reason for optimism. All that said, expect Alex McLeish to field a timid, defensive lineup as if he's traveling to the Camp Nou. Feel like I've written far too much about this game, but considering Bolton can't play defense -- even with Gary Cahill's red card rescinded -- there could be a lot of action here. ... Bolton 1, Aston Villa 2

* Arsenal v. Everton -- (Live, FSC, 10 a.m.) Maybe in this space we should discuss Mikel Arteta? Seems like a prudent decision. According to the all-knowing EA Sports Player Performance Index, the Spanish midfielder is statistically the 26th best player by the numbers this season, which seems about right. Is he Cesc Fabregas? No, not really, but he's a steady, week-in, week-out presence stabilizing the Arsenal midfield with the young Aaron Ramsey and widely herky-jerky Alex Song. In tying this I realize every Everton fan is basically looking like this. ... Arsenal 3, Everton 0

* West Brom v. Wigan Athletic -- West Brom is 19th in the League in goals scored at 13. Wigan is dead last at 12. Peter Odemwingie, we hardly knew ye. ... West Brom 1, Wign 0

* Norwich City v. Newcastle United -- Is this where the Newcastle United freefall begins? The Magpies early-season success was based in part on a consistent, regular starting XI. Now with injuries across the defense and midfield, the Magpies depth is going to be tested. If there's a reason for optimism, Tim Krul looks like, ahem, a keeper in goal, while Demba Ba is still productive up front and causes defenses trouble with his long, gangly legs. Norwich? The good news for Craig Levein's club is that there are a couple real stinkers in the League this year, which might be enough for a very average team to survive the drop. ... Norwich City 1, Newcastle United 1

* Manchester United v. Wolves -- (Live, ESPN2, 10 a.m.) United in a crisis. Ian Darke and Steve McManaman on the call ... and I have to cover a high school football game that kicks off right at the same time? Good grief. Enjoy Jonny Evans, Mancs. ... Manchester United 2, Wolves 0

* Liverpool v. QPR -- (Live, FSC+, 10 a.m.) Hey, if you were Luis Suarez and hadn't scored a League goal since Oct. 1, you might be angry enough to flip off the fans at Craven Cottage, too. Suarez's goal drought probably isn't a laughing matter if you're a Liverpool fan still smarting from the hole left by Lucas in the middle of the field. ... Liverpool 1, QPR 0

* Swansea City v. Fulham -- THERE'S ONLY ONE CLINT DEMPSEY. (Duh, we all already knew that, didn't we.) Swansea City 1, Fulham 1

Sunday:

* Sunderland v. Blackburn Rovers -- Is playing striker for Sunderland the new playing drums for Spinal Tap? Darren Bent, Kenwyne Jones, Asamoah Gyan are all gone. Danny Welbeck went back to Manchcester United after a loan (and getting hurt). Frazier Campbell might as well have spontaneously combusted. Even youngster Connor Wickham got hurt badly. Have fun with all that Martin O'Neill. ... Sunderland 2, Blackburn 1

* Stoke City v. Tottenham -- (Live, FSC, 11 a.m.) Stoke for Europa League! If Middlesbrough can make a UEFA Cup final a couple years ago, why not the Potters? The irony is Tottenham should want to win the Europa League, considering it's not like the club is flush with silverware, yet there's more prestige qualifying for the Champions and getting knocked out than going deep in the Europa League. Again, European soccer is weird. And the minds of fans are insane. ... Stoke City 1, Tottenham 2

Monday:

* Chelsea v. Manchester City -- (Live, ESPN2, 3 p.m.) It really must be a lot of fun managing a pro soccer club in England, where if you lose one or two games the press makes it their meaning in life to question if you're getting fired. By the same token of sarcasm, the stories of Chelsea being "back" are highly exaggerated, especially if counting on a reborn Didier Drogba to lead the way is a big component. On the other side of this game, nobody is calling for Roberto Mancini's head following City's exit from the Champions League group stage. (Don't overreact to City's exit since the group, as predicted at the time of the draw, was very difficult with Bayern and Napoli.) Expect this to be a fiercer test than Valencia to Chelsea's suddenly new-found commitment to defense, or at least dropping its defensive line to a reasonable spot on the field. If you invite City to attack, eventually one of its high-priced guns is going to make them pay. Expect this game to be more exciting than ESPN's Seahawks/Rams game later on the same day. ... Chelsea 1, Man City 2

Last round: 5-5
Season: 67-