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EPL Preview: Manchester United vs. Tottenham, Liverpool vs. Everton

Unlike the West Ham defense, we here at World Soccer Reader are trying to organize ourselves into a more productive unit, which should mean more consistent analysis, which – along with some good signings – we hope will move up the soccer news table.

This is the first weekly English Premier League preview, a quick but informative look of what’s to come this weekend. As always, we’ll throw in some opinion, make some predictions, and try not to take ourselves too seriously. This week’s action features three of England’s best local derbies. The Tyne-Wear Derby between Newcastle United and Sunderland, the Merseyside Derby between Liverpool and Everton, and the Second City Derby between Aston Villa and Birmingham City.

Without further ado, your EPL weekend preview (all times EST):


10 a.m.

Chelsea vs. Blackburn

On Air:

Pts (Games, Place): Chelsea 35 (21, 5th); Blackburn 28 (22, 10th)

When we last met: Blackburn 1:2 Chelsea – Oct. 30: The good old days for Chelsea. Streaking at the time, they were fortunate to escape Ewood Park with three points. But, it’s just a blip, right?

Current form:

Chelsea LTWLT; Blackburn WLWLT

Random fact:

Blackburn has scored 3 goals three times in their last seven league games. Chelsea has done it once in its last 15 games (and that was a draw to Aston Villa).

Player to watch:

Christopher Samba – It seems like he’s back on board, at least for now. I think Blackburn understands how important he is to what they want to be, and how underrated he is.

What to watch for:

It’s a new era at Blackburn. I guess. What Steve Kean has done is put Junior Hoilett and Martin Olsson on the team sheet and they’ve responded with solid performances. Who knew? What that being said, if Chelsea can get rolling, this has the potential to be ugly. But Chelsea and rolling haven’t gone together in a long time.

Prediction: Chelsea 2-1

Manchester City vs. Wolverhampton

On Air: FSC

Pts (Games, Place): Man City 42 (22, 2nd); Wolves 21 (21, 17th)

When last we met: Wolves 2:1 Man City – Oct. 30: David Edwards’ goal completed a comeback after Emmanuel Adebayor (remember him) had put City ahead from the spot.

Current form:

Manchester City TWWWL; Wolverhampton WLWLW

Random fact:

Wolves actually have a winning record at home (including wins over City, Chelsea, and Sunderland), but only have 4 points all season away from home.

Player to watch:

Kevin Doyle – Finally healthy, if he doesn’t find a way to score, any chance of Wolves getting any points probably go out the window.

What to watch for:

Wolves always battle, and Manchester City looks like their goals might be drying up just a little bit in recent games. Edin Dzeko makes his debut, and that’s probably enough to get the points, though.

Prediction: Manchester City 2-0

Stoke City vs. Bolton Wanderers

On Air: Fox Soccer Plus

Pts (Games, Place): Stoke 27 (21, 11th); Bolton 30 (22, 7th)

When last we met: Bolton 2:1 Stoke – Oct. 16: Ivan Klasnic won the game in stoppage time off a long throw, which led many people to say Stoke got a taste of its own medicine.

Current form:

Stoke LWLWL; Bolton TLLWL

Random fact:

Bolton has two road wins this season, over West Ham and Wolverhampton.

Player to watch:

Gary Cahill – How long will he still be playing at the Reebok? Arsenal says they’re looking at him, Chelsea has been rumored to want him, and Bolton is not completely averse to selling him. That has to mess with your head a little on gameday.

What to watch for:

Owen Coyle is a great manager, but you can argue (and I will) that these are the two most direct teams in the league right now. Bolton will pump the ball forward just as much as Stoke. You could call it ugly, call it what you will, but I really don’t mind too much, as long as it’s not ridiculously physical. To each his own, I guess.

Prediction: Stoke City 2-0

West Bromwich Albion vs. Blackpool

On Air: FSC (tape delay, 5 p.m.)

Pts (Games, Place): West Brom 22 (21, 16th); Blackpool 28 (20, 9th)

When last we met: Blackpool 2:1 West Brom – Nov. 1: West Brom somehow got reduced to nine men just 29 minutes into the match and nearly came back to get a point in a wild encounter at Bloomfield Road. Pablo Ibanez and Gonzalo Jara were those sent off.

Current form: West Brom LLLLL; Blackpool WLLWW

Random fact:

West Brom won both times they met last year in the Championship, both by 3-2 scores. Think there might be a goal or two?

Player to watch:

Youssuf Mulumbu – West Brom’s season is spiraling out of control, and they need some kind of stability in the middle of the park. Mulumbu may not be the most skillful, but he can keep Blackpool from running West Brom ragged.

What to watch for:

It may not be Barcelona-Arsenal or anything, but for pure entertainment value, this one is sure not to disappoint. Both teams will attack, and both teams will likely score. Defense? We don’t need no stinking defense.

Prediction: West Brom 4-2

Wigan Athletic vs. Fulham

On Air: Fox Soccer Plus (tape delay, 6 p.m.)

Pts (Games, Place): Wigan 21 (21, 19th); Fulham 22 (21, 14th)

When last we met: Fulham 2:0 Wigan – Oct. 30: Clint Dempsey scored twice in the first half as Wigan had one of its Wigan moments, not really bothering to make much of an effort.

Current form: Wigan TLTWT; Fulham WLWLT

Random fact:

Wigan drew 15,277 fans to their last home game against Newcastle. I’m taking the under for Saturday’s game.

Player to watch:

Ronnie Stam – Stam has been a pleasant surprise for Roberto Martinez at right back, and with injuries and suspensions, is forced to be a lot of Wigan’s offense these days, too.

What to watch for:

Banged up and never quite sure where their next goal is coming from, Wigan seems ripe for the taking. But then again, this is Wigan, the impossible team in the EPL to predict.

Prediction: Fulham 0-1

12:30 p.m.

West Ham vs. Arsenal

On Air: FSC

Pts (Games, Place): West Ham 20 (22, 20th); Arsenal 40 (21, 3rd)

When last we met: Arsenal 1:0 West Ham – Oct. 30: Alex Song scored in the 88th minute to finally break through West Ham’s stiff resistance at the Emirates. Maybe their stiffest resistance of the season.

Current form: West Ham LWTWT; Arsenal TWTWL

Random fact:

Fixture congestion. Arsenal has an FA Cup replay at mid-week, the second leg of a Carling Cup semifinal against Ipswich (which they now trail 1-0), as well as Champions League next week. They’re deep, but how deep? On the plus side, they have four shots to get an elusive trophy.

Player to watch:

Freddie Sears – How he’s become of the most effective attackers in the EPL over the last month is anyone’s guess, but can he continue that kind of form? He can’t, can he?

What to watch for:

I hate to say it, but this may be Avram Grant’s swan song (next up: Martin O’Neill). West Ham’s defense is just dreadful right now, and Arsenal will come in with a little chip on their shoulder.

Prediction: Arsenal 1-3


7 a.m.

Birmingham vs. Aston Villa

On Air: Fox Soccer Plus (delay, 11 a.m.)

Pts (Games, Place): Birmingham 22 (20, 15th); Aston Villa 21 (21, 18th)

When we last met: Aston Villa 0:0 Birmingham – Oct. 31: Birmingham ended a run of six straight losses to Villa, but thought they could have had three points with more shots, and a good penalty appeal waved away by Howard Webb.

Current form: Birmingham WLTLT; Aston Villa LTLLW

Random fact:

There have been only 19 goals in 10 games at St. Andrews this season (9 by Birmingham), fewest in the league (Stadium of Light and City of Manchester Stadium each have 21).

Player to watch:

Richard Dunne – He has looked downright disinterested at times this season. Does he play? And if he does, does he finally show us some of the form he had last season?

What to watch for:

Well, unlike the Blackpool-West Brom game, one goal will probably be the difference. And it just seems like the breaks aren’t going Aston Villa’s way this season, does it?

Prediction: 1-1

Sunderland vs. Newcastle

On Air: Fox Soccer Plus

Pts (Games, Place): Sunderland 33 (22, 6th); Newcastle 28 (21, 8th)

When last we met: Newcastle 5:1 Sunderland – Oct. 31: In a world far, far away, Chris Hughton appeared to be safe and Andy Carroll was rampant against a Black Cats squad that really didn’t bother to get off the bus and appeared to be heading into a slide.

Current form: Sunderland WWLLW; Newcastle WWLLW

Random fact: The “Current Form” is the exact same for both teams. And Newcastle does have four wins away from St. James Park this season.

Player to watch:

Fabricio Coloccini – His form has been almost as bad as it was two years ago of late, and with Cheik Tiote suspended, it could be a green light for Darren Bent, Asamoah Gyan, and Danny Welbeck.

What to watch for:

Revenge is a dish best served …. Both teams lost in the FA Cup last weekend, but it’s hard to see the energy at the Stadium of Light not giving them three points.

Prediction: Sunderland 3-1

9:05 a.m.

Liverpool vs. Everton

On Air: FSC

Pts (Games, Place): Liverpool 25 (21, 13th); Everton 25 (21, 12th)

When last we met: Everton 2:0 Liverpool – Oct. 17: The beginning of the end for Roy Hodgson, as Liverpool had no answers at Goodison Park, a scene we’ve seen in plenty of Liverpool games this season.

Current form: Liverpool LLWLL; Everton WLTWT

Random fact: Liverpool has still only dropped 8 points at Anfield this season, while Everton only has 2 road wins. Facts are facts.

Player to watch:

Raul Meireles – Meireles looked to be settling into the English soccer, but then got hurt and came back with a hideous giveaway that led to Blackpool’s tying goal on Wednesday, and the rest is history. Again.

What to watch for:

You know what the worst thing was Wednesday for Liverpool? Down a goal against Blackpool of all people, Liverpool couldn’t touch the ball and basically gave up the chase with 10 minutes left in a new manager’s first league game. This may get worse before it gets better.

Prediction: 1-1

11:10 a.m.

Tottenham vs. Manchester United

On Air: FSC

Pts (Games, Place): Tottenham 36 (21, 4th); Man Utd. 44 (20, 1st)

When last we met: Manchester United 2:0 Tottenham – Oct. 30: Nani’s goal, allowed by Mark Clattenburg, finished things off, but people forget Spurs were beaten before that ever happened.

Current form: Tottenham LWWWW; Manchester United WWTWW

Random fact: Manchester United is unbeaten in 20 Premier League games. In their last 10 meetings, United has won 8 and the other 2 were draws. Time for a change?

Player to watch:

Luka Modric – He’s been good, very good this season, but it might be time for a performance that puts him on everyone’s A list this season.

What to watch for:

Manchester United isn’t going to go through the entire regular season undefeated, are they? This just seems like one of those games that it might be Tottenham’s time.

Prediction: Tottenham 2-1


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