Two awesome matches this week in the English Premier League – The first one actually happening on the weekend, during a Sunday afternoon – The once hot once cold Tottenham play at home to the depressed Chelsea side, in another match that IF Tottenham win, it will be more proof for this side’s maturity and readiness for a title run. A Chelsea win will not only shake off, at least temporarily, the rumors and pressure around the champions and their manager, Carlo Ancelotti.
Chelsea haven’t won in four consecutive league matches and have only one win in the last six. The injuries, the turmoil with the whole Abramovich – Ancelotti drama, the firing of Ray Wilkins, all proving to be too much on the West London side, looking flat in every outing this last month or so.
Spurs are undefeated at home since August (0-1 against Wigan) but despite the impressive results and flood of goals (on both ends) aren’t playing that well of late. Gareth Bale isn’t superman and Van der Vaart has cooled off. The win at the Emirates was more about Arsenal hitting self destruct that Spurs dominating the game. But luck goes with the good so they say, and no one at White Hart Lane would mind a lucky victory over Chelsea. A 2-1 win like last year? Not unlikely.
The next day the (current) league leaders arrive at Old Trafford, with or without Cesc Fabregas. Manchester United, do remember, still haven’t lost this season. They aren’t exactly shredding the league, with 8 wins and 7 draws, but Rooney’s slowly finding his place again and Ferguson’s side have won their last two home games. The psych war before the game began, with Evra dissing the whole Arsenal training system, while Ferguson has asked United fans to refrain from chants against Arsene Wenger.
Arsenal are a better side, with more quality, but they’re very fragile, physically and mentally. Arsenal haven’t won at Old Trafford since September 2006, with the Gunners grabbing a 1-0 victory through Adebayor.
Key men – If Fabregas plays, it’s naturally him, but Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie might be even more crucial. Fabregas is a constant. The other two not so much. Nasri is in brilliant form, and has days in which he looks like one of the best midfielders in Europe. Van Persie, who is having a rough 2010, a healthy one, was what Arsenal needed to win a title last year in my opinion. He has a meanness to him, unlike most Arsenal players.
A quick return from his injury, with a goal on Monday might make Wenger look like a genius again. United? It won’t be another Blackburn again, and Berbatov looks like a one good match per month kind of player these days. An aggressive start, putting a lot of pressure on Clichy and Song/Denilson could decide the game early for the Red Devils.
More interesting game to watch? Manchester City, finding their groove again (meaning Tevez is back on form) travel to East London, where Avram Grant is still clutching to his job while praying for some patch up work in January (if he survives that long). I’ve said it a couple o’times before – West Ham are better off without him.
A game that would have been one of the top ones a few years back but now is pretty much a mid-table clash will take place at St. James’ park, where Newcastle with new manager Alan Pardew will host Liverpool and their awful away record (1 win, 2 draws, 5 losses). St. James’ has been good to them over the years, and in 2008-2009 crushed a relegation-bound Magpie side 5-1. Gerrard won’t be playing, but Torres will be. A win here might actually mean some people will thing Roy Hodgson is doing a good job.
The La Liga, which is pretty much Real and Barca and those who enjoy to see the amazing deterioration of Sevilla (two time UEFA Cup winners just three years ago) goes on, with Madrid visiting Zaragoza while Barcelona host Sociedad. Boring.
In Italy (the best league to watch this season) the league leaders visit Bologna (13th) as Zlatan continues to flourish back in Italy. Its amazing how this guy just plays at his best when there’s no system at all, just long balls towards the strikers and let him do the rest. He has amazing instincts, shooting and finishing ability. Don’t bother him with ball movement. No wonder he didn’t last more than a season with Barca.
The biggest match though will be in Torino, where Lazio (2nd, 30 points), after a convincing 3-1 win over the very poor Inter, visit Juventus, who actually play better on the road. A draw seems like a safe bet, but watching Zarate and Krasic duel will be a delight.
And last but not least, the German Bundesliga, what usually is the tightest league in Europe has become a one team show this season. Don’t miss the Dortmund-Kagawa-Barrios sensation against Werder Bremen. Bremen are after a 3-0 win over Inter, but Dortmund are a much better team, hotter than fire right now and have backbone, unlike Bentiez’ Inter Milan.