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What to watch for this weekend

28 August 2010

Arsène Wenger and Sam Allardyce renew their rivalry in Saturday's early game.

On the surface, this looks likes a weekend without any great matchups, but a closer look reveals some compelling storylines. Here what I’m looking to find out in Match Day 3.

1. Can either Everton or Villa get their seasons pointed in the right direction with a win on Sunday?

Everton are off to another rough start after dropping points at home against Wolves last week. Villa looked great in their opener, but this week has been awful for Kevin MacDonald’s men, who suffered embarrassment over the weekend with the 6-0 annihilation at Newcastle, then crashed out of Europe for the second straight season against Rapid Wien. One of the clubs can feel much better about themselves with a win tomorrow, while a loss would be bad news for either club’s European ambitions.

2. Are Arsenal going to improve on last season’s loss at Ewood Park?

Blackburn quietly transformed their home ground into a fortress last season, going 10-6-3 at Ewood Park. Arsenal were one of those 10 victories, with the Gunners succumbing 2-1 in the penultimate match day. This one is a great study in contrasts, with Arsène Wenger’s aesthetically pleasing pass-the-ball-into-the-back-of-the-net approach up against Sam Allardyce’s men’s attempts to physically intimidate the Gunners while seeking out every opportunity to serve the ball directly into the box in hopes of finding a free header. Allardyce added fuel to the fire of his running feud with Wenger with his comments this week. Crazy stat courtesy of my crack research staff (a.k.a. Glockner): Allardyce is 4-3-0 in his last seven home matches against the Frenchman.

3. Will slumping Sunderland get it together and give City a game?

Steve Bruce’s side have been a major disappointment so far this season, squandering a two-goal advantage at home to drop points against Birmingham in the opener and then losing last week at West Brom. They’ll face a stern test this week in the form of City, who looked great on Monday night against Liverpool and have yet to concede a goal in four matches in all competitions this season. Bruce may find himself on the hot seat if his Black Cats aren’t able to get a result at home against the Premier League’s big spenders and find themselves stuck on one point going into the international break.

4. How will Blackpool do in their Premier League home opener?

The Seasiders switched around their fixtures with Wigan, opting to open away from home to allow more time to finish improvements to Bloomfield Road. As a result, Fulham get the honor of visiting Blackpool for the first-ever Premier League match there. The Cottagers have been one of the poorer away sides in the Prem the last few seasons, so it might seem like a decent matchup for Blackpool. However, Mark Hughes’s side defend well and are fairly dangerous on the counter, so Blackpool’s all-out attack could play right into their hands.

5. Can Stoke become to the first Premier League club this season to avoid losing 6-0 to Chelsea?

One would think so, as the Potters typically are a decent defensive side. However, they did manage to lose 7-0 at Stamford Bridge late last season, and they’ve yet to record a point this season. That first point isn’t likely to come on Saturday, as Chelsea should have no problem grabbing their third win in three league matches. The most interesting thing about this one may be seeing how many goals Chelsea can put past a Stoke defense that allowed two to an anemic Wolves attack two weeks ago.

Here’s this weekend’s television schedule in the States:

Saturday, August 28
7:45 am ET – Blackburn v. Arsenal (ESPN2/ESPN3.com)
10:00 am ET – Tottenham v. Wigan (FOX Soccer Channel)
10:00 am ET – Chelsea v. Stoke City (FOX Soccer Plus/FOXSoccer.TV)
10:00 am ET – Blackpool v. Fulham (FOXSoccer.TV)
10:00 am ET – Wolverhampton v. Newcastle (FOXSoccer.TV)
12:30 pm ET – Manchester United v. West Ham (FOX Soccer Channel)
6:00 pm – Wolverhampton v. Newcastle (FOX Soccer Plus) – DELAYED

Sunday, August 29
8:30 am ET – Bolton v. Birmingham City (FOX Soccer Plus/FOXSoccer.TV)
9:00 am ET – Blackpool v. Fulham (FOX Soccer Chanel) – DELAYED
10:00 am ET – Sunderland v. Manchester City (FOXSoccer.TV)
10:00 am ET – Liverpool v. West Bromwich (FOXSoccer.TV)
11:00 am ET – Aston Villa v. Everton (FOX Soccer Channel)
5:00 pm ET – Sunderland v. Manchester City (FOX Soccer Plus) – DELAYED
7:00 pm ET – Liverpool v. West Bromwich (FOX Soccer Plus) – DELAYED

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