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What to watch for: Week Four

10 September 2010

Rooney may pay for it after not doing much scoring -- on the pitch at least.

Fridays are typically a day of anticipation for the Premier League fan, but the Friday following an international break always carries a little extra excitement. You’ve missed seeing your club in action the previous weekend, perhaps you followed your country and your club’s players in their international fixtures, and now you’re hoping they all come back healthy. Here are five questions I can’t wait to have answered in this week’s W2W4:

1. Will Wayne Rooney play this weekend at Goodison Park and, if so, how well?

He’s already been a huge villain for Everton fans ever since he left the club he had supported all his life for United back in 2004. But with the recent prostitute scandal, he would be an even bigger hate figure at Goodison Park this weekend. Now come reports that Sir Alex Ferguson is thinking about dropping his talismanic striker for the match, to spare him the abuse.

The timing of all of this couldn’t be worse for Rooney, as he just now seems to be recapturing his excellent pre-April form. He had a hand in all four England goals on Friday, then scored his first goal in the run of play since March 30 in Switzerland on Tuesday. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out.

2. How will new-look Spurs fare on the road?

Harry Redknapp pulled off two great pieces of business by landing William Gallas on a free and Rafael van der Vaart at the remarkably discounted rate of just £8m. Both players are expected to make their debuts for their new club this weekend, and midfield maestro Luka Modrić is fit once again. Unfortunately, it was a brutal international break for the club, as defensive lynchpin Michael Dawson and star striker Jermain Defoe both suffered serious, longterm injuries while playing for their country.

Spurs were exceedingly lucky to win in their only previous league fixture away from White Hart Lane and are coming off the humiliation of being beaten and outplayed at home by previously hapless Wigan. Meanwhile, West Brom have looked pretty solid after their humbling at the hands of hands of the defending champions in their season opener, and they’re always tough at home.

3. What will be City’s response to the gut-punch at Sunderland?

Like life, football isn’t always fair, and City got a lesson in that two weeks ago at the Stadium of Light. Having had two weeks to lick their wounds and think about where it went wrong for them, Roberto Mancini’s men are handed their most winnable fixture so far this season in the form of Blackburn at home. With concerns about the fitness of Carlos Tévez and Mario Balotelli sidelined, Mancini will be without his full attacking compliment.

City dominated Liverpool at home, but suffered through prolonged stretches in both away matches where they couldn’t get any time on the ball.  They’ll be looking for another assured home performance to ease the pressure they put on themselves with the shock defeat two weeks ago that put an early dent in their title hopes.

4. What do we make of Fulham?

Three league games in, we don’t know a whole lot about the Cottagers. A point against United is always a good point, but the other two results can be viewed different ways. Fulham have been poor away from home in recent seasons and both Bolton and Blackpool have impressive wins already this season, so you could argue that two points from the two away fixtures is a fine return. On the flip side, Bolton have been significantly below Fulham in the table the past two seasons and Blackpool are universally expected to be relegated this season, while the Cottagers were in a European final three months earlier, so they should be disappointed at dropping those points.

This weekend’s result should go a long way to coloring those two road draws. On the surface, Wolves at home should be three points for a club with European ambitions like Fulham, but Mick McCarthy’s side has been impressive early on and isn’t going to be a picnic for anyone to play this season, home or away. Still, if Mark Hughes’s men drop points this weekend, it’s going to be tough to take them seriously as a challenger for a Top Seven finish.

5. Can West Ham or Stoke City get their first points of the season?

Avram Grant has performed remarkably well at his last two Premier League stops, taking Chelsea to the Champions League final and Portsmouth to the FA Cup final last season, but results have been very disappointing so far at West Ham. Things improved slightly after the shambolic showing in the opener, but they still lost at home to Bolton. They turned in a credible performance at Old Trafford, but the loss still left them without a point. Now the  pressure is on Grant, whose former club, Chelsea, visit Upton Park a very inopportune time.

Tony Pulis’s job isn’t under any real threat after two impressive mid-table finishes for Stoke, but his side also is without a point this season. They deserved at least a point against Spurs and a 2-0 loss at Stamford Bridge is about as much as anyone could hope for these days, but everyone’s least favorite Premier League side is going to need to start winning some games to avoid a relegation battle. Perhaps a visit from an up-and-down Villa side is just what the Potters need to get off the mark?

Here’s the full viewing schedule for Prem fans in the States:

Saturday, September 11
Everton v. Manchester United – 7:45 am ET (FOX Soccer Plus/FOXSoccer.TV)
West Ham v. Chelsea – 10:00 am ET (ESPN2/
Arsenal v. Bolton – 10:00 am ET (FOX Soccer Channel)
Manchester City v. Blackburn – 10:00 am ET (FOX Soccer Plus/FOXSoccer.TV)
Fulham v. Wolverhampton – 10:00 am ET (FOXSoccer.TV)
Newcastle v. Blackpool – 10:00 am ET (FOXSoccer.TV)
West Brom v. Tottenham – 10:00 am ET (FOXSoccer.TV)
Wigan v. Sunderland – 10:00 am ET (FOXSoccer.TV)
West Brom v. Tottenham – 12:00 pm ET (FOX Soccer Channel) – DELAYED
Fulham v. Wolverhampton – 11:30 pm ET
(FOX Soccer Channel) – DELAYED

Sunday, September 12
Newcastle v. Blackpool – 8:30 am ET (FOX Soccer Plus) – DELAYED
Birmingham City v. Liverpool – 11:00 am ET (FOX Soccer Channel)
Wigan v. Sunderland – 12:30 pm (FOX Soccer Plus) – DELAYED

Monday, September 13
Stoke City v. Aston Villa – 3:00 pm ET (

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