Sports

EPL Weekend Preview: Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and More

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Let's dust off the tried-and-true sportswriting trope(*) of taking a few "swings" through the world of soccer on a Friday. As we all know, everyone with an Internet connection has been waiting with baited breath for my assessment of Jozy Altidore in AZ's Europa League match against Metalist Kharkiv.

Right.

Item No. 1, L'Affair Tevez -- Did you hear Carlos Tevez refused to play for Manchester City in their loss at Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday? Maybe. Perhaps. Think it was on the teletypes.

Plaudits to Roberto Mancini for laying the verbal smackdown after the match basically telling the malcontent Argentine, to get lost. That he's done at the club.

Right now Tevez is sitting on a two-week suspension -- one during the international break next week.

This could be overstating things to a degree, but how this plays out is crucial in the development of City if it's ever to take that next step from being a club with endless pockets, to a club with endless pockets that wins trophies.

Mark Hughes' time with the club was defined by repeated rows with Robinho and Elano. Both eventually left the club for a lot less than they were brought in for.

Tevez, who apparently makes more money per week than everyone short of Bill Gates, won't be easy to move since nobody on Earth will be able to afford his wages unless City foots a portion of the bill. Let's not even get into the whole, "I hate living in Manchester" thing or the fact Tevez's contract is owned, in part, by Kia Joorabchian.

If City's brass sides with Tevez, it sends a message that the club is powerless to the egos of players and agents, while winning is secondary.

Too bad on the field, at least, City don't have any strikers ready to step in and replace Tevez.

Oh right.

Item No. 2, Home Sweet, Home -- This is an offshoot of the first item and might be a bigger deal is somehow Tevez ends up back playing for Corinthians in Brazil.

Notice, quietly, a decent amount of Brazil national team players have moved back home to the domestic league? Sure, the nation still exports guys to all corners of the globe, but in the last year look who's gone back without much fanfare: Elano and Luis Fabiano. Fred left Lyon in 2009. Robinho went back to Santos on loan from City before heading to AC Milan. On the other end of the spectrum, guys like Ronaldinho (still only 31) and Adriano (nevermind) went back to Brazil instead of seeking out more European paydays.

File this after for a rainy day.

Item No. 3, Adios World -- "FIFA 12" came out Tuesday so the rest of the world can conveniently get the eff out of the way. Not kidding.

I'll say it again, since the first game came out around the time of the 1994 World Cup on Sega Genesis, what else has helped increase the (ahem) brand awareness of players and clubs from across the globe than FIFA?

More remarkable, how FIFA has replaced "Madden" in casual conversation between 30-ish somethings. Put it this way, you're coming home from the bar at 2 a.m. What are you playing? The choice is pretty obvious.

My only advice, stay away from playing the "Ultimate Team" game variant. It will quickly take over your life.

Item No. 4, Jonny Evans Die in a Grease Fire -- Title of this item says it all. Stuart Holden is now out another six months with cartilidge damage following his initial knee operation stemming from that horror tackle inflicted by the Northern Irishmen earlier this year.

Item No. 5, Bad Omen? -- If you're not a fan of stretches in credibility, skip ahead. Seriously. Skip ahead. Pretend its a "Chose Your Own Adventure" book.

Just throwing this out there. The Boston Red Sox spent $142 million dollars to sign Carl Crawford over seven years. Boston also inked Adrian Gonzalez $154 million for seven years.

Boston's owner? John Henry ... the same man who is now in charge at Anfield.

Now, admittedly, there is no connection between Major League Baseball and Premier League soccer -- none. Just think to the amount of cashed spilled out on Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam (not that much) and Stewart Downing.

Just felt like throwing that out there.

(*) See ... made you dig for this one. It's always easier to write a few sentences (with dick jokes) on a myriad of subjects that trying to piece together a long, though-out essay/story on one coherent topic. Always.

Saturday:

* Everton v. Liverpool -- (Live, ESPN2, 7:45 a.m.) Love this derby. No frills. No ESPN "Ultimate Rivalry Ratings brought to you by Taco Bell." No unnecessary hype needed. This is just good ol' fashioned inner-city hatred. ... No Ray Hudson screaming. (Sorry.)

If you're betting on something, bet on a red card being flashed. I'd envision Maroune Fellaini and Charlie Adam sliding, well, stomping into each other at the same time in a dual knocked like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed.

On the field, the issue here is Everton's sometimes shaky ability to score goals vs. Liverpool's inability to keep a clean sheet. Figure on a semi-goal bonanza. ... Everton 2, Liverpool 1

* Manchester United v. Norwich City -- (Live, FSC, 10 a.m.) Has any stat been as immediately irrelevant as Dmitar Berbatov winning the EPL Golden Boot last season? A year ago the (insert word laconic here) Bulgarian feasted on the dregs of the league like Norwich. Okay, that's not fair to the Canaries who are actually in eighth place at the moment. With Wayne Rooney probably sidelined, can he dust off his headband and pretend its October 2010? ... Manchester United 3, Norwich City 1

* Sunderland v. West Bromwich Albion -- Let's stay on the "if this was last season" theme. And if it was, West Brom would find a way to win on the road against a dicey Sunderland wheezing to the finish line. This year? Who knows. Neither team has gotten much of anything rolling. It wouldn't be a shock if one of these two are in the Championship next fall. Over time, I've probably said more good things about Steve Bruce than bad, despite his face looking like a sack of potatoes. However, his team rarely shows much guts in important games at the Stadium of Light. Oh, and Titus Bramble is out of the mix after a sexual assault/drug charge. Fun times. ... Sunderland 1, West Brom 1

* Aston Villa v. Wigan Athletic -- This game should be a true thriller. Maybe the sight of Roberto Martinez sparks Charles N'Zogbia to do something for Aston Villa. ... Aston Villa 2, Wigan 0

* Wolves v. Newcastle United -- I still find it difficult to live in a world where Newcastle is making smart decisions and have allowed the fewest goals in the Premier League. It's only six games, but I'm buying in on the Mapgies. I'll say this for Wolves, they'll be a much better team if they can ever upgrade from Karl Henry as a starting midfielder. ... Wolves 1, Newcastle United 1

* Blackburn Rovers v. Manchester City -- (Live, Fox Soccer Plus, 10 a.m.) Hey, maybe City can offload Tevez to Blackburn. Venky's would love to make a splash. Carlito loves to eat when he's sad, so they could supplement his payments every week with fried chicken. It's a win-win. ... Blackburn 1, City 2

Sunday

* Bolton v. Chelsea -- (Live, FSC+, 8:30 a.m.) Frank Lampard is back!!! One goal in the Champions League group stage proves it!!! He's back!!! (Well, not really.) Poor Bolton. The schedule isn't doing much favors. So far the Trotters have played both Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Arsenal and now Chelsea. That said, they lost at home to Norwich, too. Better circle the wagons early. Good thing the English media seems to like Owen Coyle. Must be the short-shorts. ... Bolton 0, Chelsea 1

* Swansea City v. Stoke City -- Correct me if you've heard this before, but if you're Stoke City and want to be taken seriously, go to Swansea and get a result. Should be a good contrast of styles, the passing of the Swans vs. the physicality of the Potters. Also, who kidnapped Mathew Etherington this year? ... Swansea City 0, Stoke City 1

* Fulham v. QPR -- Maybe Fulham just need to pretend that that QPR is some random team from Romania or Hungary, since they're doing quite all right in the Europa League. Then again, Fulham has been playing in the Europa League since June 20, needing six games in qualifying just to get into the competition. Don't discount this, most teams got a break after the end of last season, while Martin Jol's squad has almost been going non-stop for a year. Factor in the age of some of the players and it's not too crazy their Premier League campaign has been a false start. QPR? With Adel Taarabt and Joey Barton, they'll be feisty week-in, week-out. ... Fulham 1, QPR 1

* Tottenham v. Arsenal -- (Live, FSC, 11 a.m.) There's only one issue here? How many water bottles will Arsene Wenger be slamming to the ground at White Hart Lane when this is over with? Pencil in a brace for Emmanuel Adebayor, triggering said reaction. ... Tottenham 3, Arsenal 1

Last week: 9-1
Season: 35-24