Premier League – Preview: Tasty Midweek Derbies On The Menu..


MANCHESTER CITY
v
MANCHESTER UNITED

City of Manchester Stadium, Manchester
November 11, 2010; 1:30 AM IST – Live on ESPN

The big one in Manchester is upon us; a rivalry that has taken a completely different dimension since Manchester City were taken over. The two teams served us some unforgettable moments last season in their four encounters. Both City and United know the derby day is a special occasion for each and every Mancunian, and thus, there is no inch to spare.

Liverpool’s defeat of Chelsea has somewhat reignited the title hopes of both, City and United, and both will look to grab the three points on offer along with the City’s bragging rights.
Tevez’s departure has increased the hatred

City’s form has been patchy off late. Defeats to Arsenal and Wolves have somewhat derailed their league campaign but a hard fought win against high-flying West Brom must have restored some confidence. Mario Balotelli, the hero of their recent victory, is suspended following his notorious sending off. The Manchester villain cum hero, Carlos Tevez, is back and was the chief architect of City’s win. The little Argentine has always reserved his best for games against the Old Trafford outfit, since his West Ham days.
Further good news for Mancini is the recent good form of new signing David Silva. The presence of Silva adds much needed guile and creativity that City need in order to unlock astute defences. City have no major injury worries to content with and will come out blazing on their home turf.
United, on the other hand, have plenty of problems owing to injuries and virus outbreak. The core of the side’s attacking talent are in doubt with Rooney almost certain to miss the short trip to The Eastlands. Ferguson will be hoping to recall Dimitar berbatov, Michael Carrick and atleast one of Nani or Giggs to his travelling party. However, despite those hurdles, United are yet to lose a competitive game since April and sit just two points off leaders Chelsea.
Ferguson’s men have time and again displayed their well-known resolve and determination to grind out results over the course of the season, despite not being at their best. Sir Alex usually prefers experience and a local flavor in his team selection for such occasions. Paul Scholes could once again prove to be the key if United are to stamp their authority over their hated rivals. Fergie could be tempted to go with a five man midfield comprising Carrick, Fletcher and Scholes.
The occasion is momentous. Michael Owen greabbed the headlines with his late winner at Old Trafford last season, who will be the hero this time? Legends are born on Derby day, and it will be interesting to see who answers the call this time around.


CHELSEA
v
FULHAM

Stamford Bridge, London
November 11, 2010; 1:15 AM IST – Live on Star Sports

Chelsea host Fulham at Fortress Bridge, in a bid to put their title surge back on track after dropping points in what was one of their weakest performances thus far this season, at Anfield. With a derby in Manchester as well, the Blues would be hoping to take maximum points and increase their lead at the top of the table.

The Blues have been well and truly on a rampage at home this season, having scored goals for fun and most importantly conceding none. The away teams have been outplayed and outclassed at the Bridge and the fans must be hoping for much the same from their players again, especially after their disappointing loss to Liverpool last weekend.

Carlo Ancelotti has several injury problems going into the game with in-form striker Nicolas Anelka set to miss the game along with defender Alex. Didier Drogba was also diagnosed with malaria but has recovered and is likely to take part in the game. Michael Essien has also recovered from a toe injury which kept him out against Liverool but Lampard and Benayoun are still out for the home side.

Stamford Bridge Chelsea v Manchester City Premier League 15/03/2009 Manchester City Manager Mark Hughes watches his team fail to win away again. Photo Roger Parker Fotosports International

Can his team achieve the improbable?

Fulham, on the other hand, come in to the game after securing a fortunate injury time draw against Villa at home. Mark Hughes would be hoping for a better performance from the players against his former club, but the chances of taking anything out of the game for Fulham are very bleak considering their woeful away record for the past fifteen months.

Carlos Salcido is ruled out of the game for the Cottagers after suffering an ankle ligament damage against Villa. Chris Baird is also missing with a thigh tear, which puts him on the sidelines for ten days. Senderos and Zamora continue to remain as long term casualties.

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WIGAN ATHLETIC
v
LIVERPOOL

DW Stadium, Greater Manchester
November 11, 2010; 1:15 AM IST

Liverpool travel to Wigan after securing three consecutive victories in the league which not only lifted them out of the relegation zone but has now put them back in the reckoning for a Champions league spot. However, they would be hoping for a much improved performance from the last time they visited the DW stadium when they failed to hit the target even once in the game and suffered a 1-0 loss in the process.

Wigan has once again suffered a dreadful start to the campaign and find themselves firmly in the relegation zone, with only Wolves and West Ham below them. Having lost the last couple of games, manager Roberto Martinez would be hoping for a similar turnaround to the one at the start of the seaon when they stunned Spurs at White Hart Lane after being hammered in the opening two games. However, with Liverpool gaining confidence and momentum, it would not be an easy task for the Latics.

Defender Steve Gohouri is suspended for the game after being booked for a fifth time this season in the last game against Blackburn. There are no fresh injury worries for Roberto Matinez as Boyce, Pollitt and James McCarthy will miss the game having missed the last game as well.

Fernando Torres Celebrates Scoring 1st goal with team mates Steven Gerrard and Dirk Kuyt Liverpool 2009/10 Liverpool V Sunderland (3-0) 28/03/10 The Premier League Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

They are back in form!

Liverpool, though, have had a more than eventful beginning to this season’s campaign. With the ownership issues not looking like getting resolved and the team in the relegation zone, manager Roy Hodgson was staring down the barrell and the season looked already over as far as a top four finish was concerned. However, with three wins in as many games and the deadly pair of Gerrard-Torres back in form, the supporters have started to believe again. A win against Chelsea did no harm to the confidence of the players.

Liverpool have no fresh injury worries after the last game against the champions. Agger, Aurelio and Cole continue to remain on the sidelines while Johnson and Kyrgiakos are still doubtful for the game with Kelly again set to take a place at right back.

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WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS
v
ARSENAL

Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton
November 11, 2010; 1:15 AM IST

Wolves host Arsenal after suffering a heartbreaking, undeserving defeat at Old Trafford. Arsenal, too, would be keen to reverse a disappointing 1-0 loss to Newcastle at home.

Mick McCarthy would consider his team to be unlucky to be sitting in the relegation zone despite playing good football so far, including at Stamford bridge and at Old Trafford. With only two wins so far, Wolves have to convert performances into results if they have to stand any chance of survival this season. It would be interesting to see what kind of side does McCarthy put out considering thier game against Bolton coming up at the weekend having infamously put out a second string line-up against Manchester United in similar circumstances last season.

The manager has no new injuries to deal with as Craddock (thigh), Kightly (knee), Guedioura (leg) and Zubar (ankle) continue to be the only players missing for the game.

Emirates Stadium, Arsenal v Braga , Uefa Champions League 15/09/2010  Arsenal Manager, Arsene Wenger Photo Marc Atkins Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Left frustrated against Newcastle

Arsenal, on the other hand, have had a roller coaster of a ride so far this season. Altough they are in a respectable third position in the league, Arsene Wenger would be ruing the losses at home to newly-promoted sides – West Brom and Newcastle. With their title rivals involved in local derbies, Wenger and his players must see this as a golden chance to gain ground on others.

Koscielny is suspended for the game after collecting a straight red card in the dying moments of the loss against Newcastle. Denilson and Diaby have not recovered from their injuries, while Vermaelen has suffered a set back in his road to recovery. Almunia’s injury means that Fabianski would keep his place in goal despite his error that proved so costly against the Magpies.

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