I don’t mind international breaks (though I know a lot of people that do) but I have to say the fixture list when the Premier League returns this coming Saturday looks very exciting.
The early 12:45 live kickoff is an intriguing clash between Everton and Chelsea, a match made even more spicy with the fact that John Stones will be facing the team that had been aggressively trying to sign him – apparently he even handed in a transfer request to try and get it over the line. And lets not forget its a match Chelsea really need to win as they have made an awful start to the defence of their Premier League Crown. Everton have had a steady start, with five points gained, only one defeat to Manchester City, though defensively they look porous at times with Tim Howard the hero against Tottenham otherwise certain defeat was on the cards. As for Chelsea, well its anybody’s guess what happened to them from last seasons (in the end) comfortable title winners. Their defence has literally gone AWOL, the midfield provides little cover now, Matic, Fabregas, Willian and Hazard are a shadow of last term and the current four point haul is not good enough for a team of their standing. Manager Jose Mourinho has already been trying to deflect (Doctorgate especially – you were wrong Mou and you know it) but for me it just comes down to a short pre-season, players not being properly prepared and ready for the start of the season. They are already playing catch up and Goodison after the international break is not a place you would like to go to in an attempt to get back on track. I’m sure the reception they will get from the home fans (especially for trying to take their best defender) will make them fully aware of the task ahead of them.
TOP OF THE TREE
Come 3pm (a non-tv game unfortunately) is a top of the table clash and by that I literally mean 2nd v 1st. Crystal Palace take on Manchester City at Selhurst Park in what will be a humdinger surely. Palace under Pardew have been superb this season and have not missed a step since their encouraging end to the previous season. Yohan Cabaye was an inspired purchase and he has knitted together a team that was always strong going forward with the pace of Wilfried Zaha, Yannick Bolaise and the very much underrated Jason Puncheon – their well deserved defeat of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge was proof this. Manchester City (who according to some experts have already won the title) have been outstanding – ten goals, but for me they could always score the problem they had last season was keeping it out at the back and the fact they have not let any in is much more impressive. We know what Sergio Aguero and David Silva can do, Raheem Sterling has settled very well (and some bloke called Kevin De Bruyne is joining that party!!!!!!!), but the re-emergence of the Toure-Fernandinho midfield axis which went AWOL on far too many occasions last season allied with the return to form of captain Vincent Kompany and the now (after a season) battle hardened Eliaquim Mangala showing his capabilities this is where the difference is. Last season poor officiating contributed to a 2-1 Palace win – lets hope this time its a case of the best team wins in what the TV companies will be thinking – if only.
To end the day this Saturday the 5:30pm live TV kick off pits together the two biggest and most successful clubs in England with Liverpool making the short journey down the East Lancs Road to Old Trafford to face Manchester United. The Red Devils are a shambles, a laughing stock and seen as a soft touch at the moment – a clueless chief exec (in regards to transfers), a manager who seems to be losing the plot and a massive run of games to come, because after a 250m+ outlay on players the produce being seen on the pitch is not good enough especially when you are not winning. To be fair there is still time and LVG is a proven winner but that was in the past as we stand and football moves very quickly. As for Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers survived the owners meeting in the summer and backed him with 70+ million pounds and despite the loss of Raheem Sterling did some good business in the summer and early too – Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino being the big hitters, though James Milner (on a free) in the long run for me will their key signing. After a good start with narrow wins over Stoke and Bournemouth, followed up with a creditable draw against Arsenal all looked rosey. However an Anfield battering by West Ham in their last outing brought back the memories of last season. The kick in the teeth was the sending off of Philippe Coutinho who now misses this match. Weirdly a draw is no good for either side really, so if a positive result is achieved by one of the teams, whoever loses will be under severe pressure and jobs could be on the line sooner rather than later.
DREAMING OF FIVE
Just a little bit on the International football just gone – ENGLAND QUALIFIED, WALES JUST ONE WIN AWAY (and still have a home match against Andorra), NORTHERN IRELAND ALSO JUST ONE WIN AWAY hence Euro 2016 is looking like a little bit of a home nations party. Now all we need is Scotland and the Republic of Ireland to find a way through. Unfortunately it does look like only one will have a chance of making it (and that is likely to be via the playoffs) looking at the state of play in Group D, but we can dare to dream. The real possibility of three is fantastic already, four would be awesome but imagine all five through – I know what my wish is – fingers VERY crossed hey.
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