The Barclays English Premier League enters its 9th leg this weekend and the story has pretty much remained the same; Arsenal and Liverpool leading the charts, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham in thereabouts, and team X (read Manchester United), improving, one point a game or so. Will so much change at the end of gameweek 9? Can Arsenal fans start their own ‘Giniwasekao’ vibe already? Here’s my take:
Crystal Palace Arsenal
You could argue that Arsenal have had a fairly easy run of fixtures during the early parts of the season. The only tough test they have encountered in the league was the North London derby against Tottenham, a match that ended on a 1-1 stalemate. But things are set to get much tougher now as Arsene Wenger’s men go into a make or break run of games that will show just how good, or otherwise, they are. After the Crystal Palace encounter this weekend, the Gunners face Chelsea in League Cup, welcome Liverpool for a Premier League date, travel to Germany to clash with Borussia Dortmund, return home for an EPL game away to Manchester United before hosting high-flying Southampton and Ligue one outfit Marseille in the League and Champions League respectively. You got to hate that if you are an Arsenal fan. But like the always say, you take one game at a time. And so onto Arsenal’s most immediate problem; Crystal Palace. This early kickoff will give Arsenal a chance to open a 5-point gap at the summit of the league, at least until Liverpool take on West Brom at 5pm. You have to go back to April 1994 when Ian Holloway’s Palace last beat Arsenal in the league. The last five encounters since then have ended in 3 wins for Arsenal and 2 draws. Having said that, this should be an easy win for the Gunners against the struggling Eagles who are second from bottom.
Liverpool West Brom
Liverpool failed to collect maximum points against 10-man Newcastle on Saturday last week, a result that saw them drop two crucial points as they continue to mount an onslaught on next season’s Champions League football. The Reds are the only team among the top 5 who have the little pleasure of not being distracted by Champions League or Europa League football. They always look almost invincible in the first half but fade a bit after the interval. Their opponents on Saturday evening, West Brom, who are managed by former Liverpool assistant coach Steve Clarke, have won all the previous three encounters between the two sides. Liverpool will have to be at their best to prevent that from being four straight defeats against the Baggies. They have the quality, they have the momentum, they’ll have the home support and they sure know any other slip up will prove costly. The SAS (Sturridge and Suarez) partnership should be in full swing at Anfield should they want to bag the three points. This will be a tough test for Liverpool but they will overcome. A 2-1 win for Liverpool sounds generous for West Brom, donge?
Manchester United Stoke City
Am I the only one missing Tony Pulis’ Stoke City? The Potters are currently just one point off the relegation spot and have failed to win in their last five matches. Mark Hughes has somewhat changed their hardcore direct style of playing but it’s hard to see which style he’s adopted. They are neither playing dirty, nor clean. To put it simple, they are struggling, just like their Saturday opponents, Manchester United. Trust me this will be a dull match, a very dull one. Le sigh.
The Tyneside derby is finally here! This derby draws its origin to the English Civil War, a series of armed conflicts and political problems that occurred between 1642- 1651. Hundreds of years later, Sunderland versus Newcastle still remains one of the most thrilling encounters in the English game. The duo clash again for the 115th Tyne and Wear derby in what should be a mouthwatering encounter especially given that Sunderland are still looking for their first three points of the season. And what better place to get them than from your bitterest of rivals? The Black Cats got the better of the Magpies in last season’s encounter, a match that will fondly be remembered due to Paulo Di Canio’s wild celebrations. Sunderland are struggling and based on their recent record that doesn’t make for a good read, you’d tip Allan Pardew’s Newcastle to run the rule over them come Sunday. But with a new manager in Gustavo Augusto “Gus” Poyet, and this being not just your normal Premier League match, Sunderland will be keen to turn around their season. With the Stadium of Light expected to be at its vociferous best, I see Sunderland winning this. Come on boys!
Chelsea Manchester City
You get the feeling that Chelsea and Man City are beginning to put their act together. Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea have won all but one of their last five matches while City are on a 3-game winning streak both at home and in Europe. Both clubs won their Champions League matches, Chelsea beating Schalke 04 3-0 away in Germany while City beat CSKA Moskva 2-1 in Russia. The English money behemoths clash on Sunday at the Stamford Bridge with City knowing nothing less than a victory will move them up the table. The Citizens have won all the previous four clashes between the duo and you have to go back to December 2011 when Chelsea last beat Manuel Pellegrini’s men. However, the Blues have beaten the Sheikh Mansoor owned club many times, 20, than any other club bar Arsenal with 21 wins in the league. Sergio Aguero looks like Man City’s topdog right now with 6 goals sweetened by 2 assists while Chelsea have relied on Oscar for the goals, the skillful Brazilian finding the back of the net 4 times just as much as Yaya Toure. There’s little really to separate these two teams going into the Sunday clash but I expect Aguero to lead the Citizens to victory.
And That’s thesteifmastertake!!