Sports

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

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So ... since it was a topic rife for parody let's just dig in and have a big, fat, life-affirming laugh at LeBron James first trip to Anfield, err, Anfield Stadium. For whatever the reason LeBron, the master of the McNugget, getting the proper name of the home ground to a club he allegedly owns a percentage of made me laugh to no end.

Maybe we should be nice in Internets land and strive for a higher standard. Why tarnish LeBron? Let's be the proverbial "bigger man."

Eh, screw that. When I saw that he doesn't even bother to put a case on his iPhone -- meaning he can basically shit a new one whenever he feels like it -- I decided to embrace the digital hate.

LeBron clearly doesn't know much about soccer or the ins-and-outs of the Premier League, however he could certainly relate to his Liverpool boys blowing a lead in the final 10 minutes against Manchester United. Am I right people? See I just flew in from the coast and boy are my arms tired. And what's the deal with airplane food? Get the joke? It's a really, really easy one to make, about LeBron and choking in crunch time. (Ooh, nice hipster glasses, what's next proclaiming "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" to be your favorite album of all time?)

Probably more foreign to LeBron was the fact the home fans were cheering, singing and chanting all on their own. They didn't need piped in music to prompt them. Nor did they need to wear white t-shirts to create "atmosphere."

Long story short, could there be a more disparate set of fans than those of the Miami Heat and Liverpool?

Put it this way, doubt too many shaved head, red-faced English geezers were wearing Uggs inside Anfield (Stadium).

This probably explains LeBron's confusion over the name and everything else.

Three horse race?:

This will be brief, but it's hard to envision a scenario where Manchester City (now 1st on 22 points), Manchester United (second after dropping points to Liverpool) and Chelsea (third) don't duke it out all the way to May fighting for the title. City can assert itself next weekend when it plays United in a game the breathless, non-stop promos on Fox Soccer billed as, "a working class town is about to erupt."

Ugh. Did Warren Barton write that copy?

Throw in quality sides from Liverpool, Tottenham and a Newcastle United team that doesn't appear to be going away and this ought to be a thrilling season the rest of the way.

Oh, Arsenal, didn't forget about you guys. So nice to see you in the top half of the table, albeit it in 10th.

No marbles:

Half-surprised nobody at Anfield (Stadium) held of a circa 2001 WWF sign that read, "SAF Fears King Kenny," because Sir Alex Ferguson played as limp a United lineup as possible in massive fear of the threat posed by the Scousers, and their returning king -- Steven Gerrard.

Let's get this out of the way, Gerrard looked great -- regardless of Ryan Giggs(*) jumping out of the way on his free-kick goal -- and if that means Jordan Henderson goes back to the bench for more seasoning, so be it. It's always possible all that time on the sideline worked in favor by relieving some of the wear-and-tear on his legs.

(*) Suppose that was some random foreign player jumping out of the way of Gerrard's kick. That would have been blood in the water for the English media, eh?

Nobody would have expected Ferguson to rest Wayne Rooney, Nani and Chicharito for almost all the game, weary of the Liverpool threat and playing Phil Jones in the midfield. Is a 1-1 result at Anfield tolerable for United? Probably in the big picture, yes, especially with David de Gea posting by far his best and most assured performance for the club to date. Still, if this is the best club in England, how do you come out and play from a scared position, even at fortress Anfield (Stadium)? Puzzling.

If you're Liverpool you likely wish the team did a little more -- aside from getting Rio Ferdinand's first yellow card since Soulja Boy was popular. The Reds have a lot of brilliant players -- Luis Suarez first and foremost -- but sometimes the attack ends up less than the sum of its parts, which doesn't make a lot of sense.

From a neutral perspective it's too bad this game didn't get cracking until the final 20 minutes, especially when you're setting your alarm to get up early on a Saturday morning for it. Doubt it will be a problem this coming weekend with the ESPN2 game being Wolves v. Swansea City. Even a Ian Darke obsessive like myself will likely enjoy a few extra fall zzzzzs.

Save Da Princess:

Mario Balotelli (wait for it) scored a 'Super' goal to put Manchester City ahead 1-0 early in the first half vs. Aston Villa. (Scale of 1-to-10, this was a seven, let's not kid ourselves.) Naturally, Balotelli a player who could challenge LeBron or anyone else in the NBA for playing with that qasi-metric, "swagger," didn't really celebrate the goal and stared at the crowd. Makes sense for him. He'll probably celebrate in his own fashion -- meaning a new mohawk style haircut pattern.

At least of the two crazy City forwards, Balotelli is producing unlike Carlos Tevez.

What's scary to realize is City -- playing without David Silva (for 65 minutes), Edin Dzeko, Samir Nasri and Kun Aguero -- slipped five goals past a team which had allowed just five total in the previous seven games. It's nice that the English trio of Adam Johnson, Gareth Barry and James Milner felt needed for a change.

Pollyanna scenario:

Best to pretend Tim Howard wasn't at fault for Chelsea's second goal Saturday, coming off his line, missing the ball and allowing John Terry to nod it in and put the Blues up 2-0 on Everton right before the half. Since he's the USMNT No. 1, let's give him a pass like everybody else will, even if it was a mistake. Nothing to see here, right?

Chelsea, it was a taking care of business game, though it almost looked weird to see Didier Drogba running around out there. The sun is setting for the big guy. (Oddly enough, for all the slags against him, Frank Lampard's four goals are the best for a midfielder in the EPL.)

Also, where does Flourent Malouda end up. I'd make a sneaky play for him in January and try to catch Chelsea with its guard down.

The only honest (insane) man?:

Just read this stuff from Joey Barton. He might be insane, akin to his spirit animal, Morrisey, but whatever. I'm on board the Barton train. Speak your mind. Wish more guys didn't have a filter like him. He was at it again, blasting the England rugby team.

If I ever buy another expensive soccer shirt (unlikely) it's a Barton QPR replica. Fact.

Barton's comments are certainly more interesting than QPR's 1-1 draw with Blackburn, though Heidar Helguson's chip was sweet.

Around the League:

Due to a never-ending Sunday morning fall softball schedule, missed all the Sunday action. Don't hold it against me. ... Good to see Robin van Persie scoring twice vs. Sunderland (the winner in the 82nd), making my prediction he'd finish with the EPL Golden Boot look a little less insane. Guess he's trying to impress his future employers in Russia or Manchester or wherever. Sorry Arsene. ... Gunners can get themselves back into the top five or six contention in the next month. Aside from a Oct. 29 game at Stamford Bridge the fixture list includes home dates with Stoke City (body armor required), Bolton (meh), West Brom (2010, again?) Fulham (next) and a trip to Norwich City. Now is the time for Arsenal. ... Really upset I missed Newcastle's 2-2 draw with Tottenham. Sounded like a lively affair. You have to wonder why Jermain Defoe can't be this nasty on a weekly basis. Shola Ambeobi is a bit of a joke, but that was a quality late equalizer.

Newcastle has some fight, which is good to see. Less good to see? Ledley King hurt again. To say the Tottenham captain has glass bones would be an insult to guys like van Perise. ... John Walters looks like a greasy porn star, but he came on and cleaned up a deflection to propel Stoke (at home) to a 2-0 win over Fulham. ... You know it's a good week for Bolton when it scores three goals to beat Wigan 3-1, including one from Nigel Reo-Coker. ... West Brom beat Wolves early Sunday with Peter Odemwingie (remember him) getting on the scoresheet. Wolves are slumping. Same with Sunderland. ... Anthony Pilkington scored twice for Norwich in a 3-1 win over Swansea. I'll save you from the bad Karl Pilkington jokes. ... So yeah, guys like John (W) Henry want to end promotion and relegation. This would be terrible and if you're an Englishman reading this, I apologize for my fellow ugly Americans. If this ever happened, following soccer abroad would become about 72 percent less interesting.

Fantasy Team O' the Week:

Vinod Bhaskaran's team, LIVERPOOL, put up 70 points thanks mainly to captaining van Persie and a 13-point week from Bolton's Chris Eagles.

One Other Thing:

Keep this part brief, since it's been written about in this space before. "The Walking Dead" is a fine, pulpy, television show on AMC ... but it pales in comparison to the source material -- Robert Kirkman's unrelentingly grim series of graphic novels/comics. (Which word is the preferred/proper nomenclature?) The compendium puts together the first eight books in one volume. You'll go through it in less than a week, it's that good.

The adaptation for television isn't bad, but it's more of a standard action-y type thing with a lot of terrible acting and exposition. Amazingly enough the one character that capture well on the page and screen is Rick's wife Lori -- a massive wet blanket. The less said about the actor, Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick, the better.

So read the books, because they're a) awesome and b) won't spoil the show at all since Kirkman basically said the television entity will be something different because there's no way -- not even if Uli Kunkel was involed -- could you have that much pure nihilism on American cable television.