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What to watch for this weekend

20 August 2010

A petulant Wayne Rooney gets aggro two seasons ago at Craven Cottage.

City don’t play until Monday, which means a weekend of flipping around between ESPN2, FOX Soccer Channel, and FOX Soccer Plus to catch the other action in the Premier League. These are the questions I have entering the second match day:

1. What to make of Spurs?

They looked sensational for that 30-minute period of dominance in the first half against City, but ultimately had nothing to show for it and got outplayed at home the rest of the match. Midweek in Switzerland, they were victims of a similar explosion by the home side Young Boys, who raced out to a shock 3-0 lead 30 minutes into the first leg of their Europa League qualifier. Ultimately Spurs put themselves in a relatively fine position to advance, thanks to a late Roman Pavlyuchenko goal and some real wastefulness by their Swiss opponents, who easily could have won 5-1.

This weekend they’ll head to the Britannia for the trip to the dentist that is a meeting with Stoke City. Notoriously tough at home, the Tony Pulis’s Anti-Footballers figure to be up for this one after a really flat performance in their season-opening loss at Wolves. If the Potters need any additional motivation, they watched as Harry Redknapp’s men grabbed all three points in this fixture last season. If Spurs want to contend for a top four finish again this season, they’ll need to improve on last season’s lackluster away performances that saw them go 7-5-7 away from White Hart Lane.

2. Can Fulham keep it going at home against United?

United have dropped their last two at Craven Cottage by a combined 5-0 margin. Two seasons ago, Fulham embarrassed the suburbanites, leading to an epic Wayne Rooney meltdown:

Last season, it was an even more emphatic 3-0 victory for the home side, as their fans gleefully chanted “We want four!”:

Can Fulham make it three in a row over Subprime United? Earlier today Glockner was feeling confident as he looked at United’s potential starting lineup and announced that only a handful of them would be surefire starters for his Cottagers. Hubris? Perhaps. But make no mistake that Sir Alex Ferguson’s talent level isn’t what it was a couple of seasons ago. The good news for United fans is that they’ll have a short trip home on the Tube no matter how this London derby turns out.

3. How many will Chelsea put past Wigan on Saturday?

Normally opening the season at home means an away game will follow, but Wigan will be at the DW Stadium again this weekend. The good news is this will provide them a chance to make it up to the home crowd after suffering the ultimate embarrassment at the hands of lowly Blackpool. The bad news? They get to face title holders Chelsea, who ominously put up a half-dozen on West Brom at Stamford Bridge last weekend. Possibly the only ray of light for Roberto Martinez’s men is the fact they did manage to win this very fixture last season.

4. Are Aston Villa for real?

They certainly looked great while destroying sad-sack West Ham at Villa Park last weekend. A trip to Tyneside seems like a gentle enough foray into life on the road in the Premier League, but you can bet the Toon Army will be geared up for their first Premier League home game in nearly 16 months. For their part, the Magpies looked pretty composed in the crucible of Old Trafford on Monday, and I expect them to come out fired up and put in a shift in front of their energized supporters. Also, it will be our first look at Post-James Milner Villa, with his replacement, Stephen Ireland, expected to make his Villa debut on his 24th birthday.

5. Just how harsh will Blackpool’s comedown be?

It was a dream start to life in the Premier League for the Tangerines, but they’re almost certain to get a rude wake-up call in the form of a mauling at the Emirates. Arsenal are a very different animal from the shambolic Wigan side they faced last weekend. Two causes for optimism for Ian Holloway? 1) Arsenal can have difficulty breaking down defenses that park the proverbial bus in front of goal; and 2) Upstarts of two seasons ago Hull City went into this fixture and left jaws agape when they won 2-1.

Here’s the television schedule here in the States:

Saturday, August 21
10:00 am EDT – Arsenal v. Blackpool (ESPN2)
10:00 am EDT – Everton v. Wolves (FOX Soccer Channel)
10:00 am EDT – Stoke City v. Tottenham (FOX Soccer Plus)
12:30 pm EDT – Wigan v. Chelsea (FOX Soccer Channel)
2:30 pm EDT – West Ham v. Bolton (FOX Soccer Channel) – DELAYED
4:00 pm EDT – Birmingham City v. Blackburn (FOX Soccer Plus) – DELAYED

Sunday, August 22
8:30 am EDT – Newcastle v. Aston Villa (FOX Soccer Plus)
10:30 am EDT – West Brom v. Sunderland (FOX Soccer Plus) – DELAYED
11:00 am EDT – Fulham v. Manchester United (FOX Soccer Channel)

Monday, August 23
2:45 pm EDT – Manchester City v. Liverpool (ESPN2)

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