Weekend Preview

There are some big big games this weekend. Ives has the rundown. In England the Manchester derby is the highlight, with another London derby, Chelsea v. Spurs also enticing.

Manchester Derby
Oh its on. And the pissing fest between Hughes and Ferguson has become highly entertaining. The genius who put up the Carlos Tevez billboard clearly deserves a raise, since it clearly got under Sir Alex’s skin.

I think this is a game where we will learn a lot about both teams. A win by United would mean three straight wins against good sides (Arsenal, Spurs the other two) and would seem to put them in solid position to contend for another title. Conversely, beating Arsenal and United in back to back games would put some more wind in City’s sails after their perfect start to the season. So there is much to play for.

I think there are significant flaws in both sides. City has looked a bit soft at times throughout the season. However, in this game they may actually be better off with Robinho injured, as the Dutch defensive midfielder Nigel De Jong will likely take his place and make the side a lot more solid defensively. But with Adebayor suspended and Tevez and Robinho injured, City’s attack is definitely not going to be as sharp. For United their unremarkable central midfield has been frequently written about on this site and I have still yet to be convinced that the quality of their wingers and attacking players can make up for it as they did last year. While the British press is intent on making Wayne Rooney the next world player of the year, I have my doubts. But United’s attack really seems to rest on his shoulders, as Berbatov has looked a shell of former Spurs-self.

Prediction. In the end, I think city will outplay United for long stretches, with Gareth Barry putting in Man of the Match performance. But United will nick a draw.

Chelsea vs. Spurs
Chelsea are the clear favorites and have looked the strongest side in the league thus far. However, despite dominating possession for large stretches, Chelsea have gone behind frequently so far this season, only to come back and win games in the closing minutes. That being said the now hailed diamond formation in the midfield has not been put to the test against the toughest competition – Hull, Sunderland, Burnley, Fulham, and Stoke. Spurs should finally give the diamond formation a real test.

Chelsea’s diamond midfield -anchored by Essien or Mikel – is very narrow and depends on their fullbacks – Cole on the left, Bosingwa on the right – to provide width. This puts the opposition under intense defensive pressure, as Chelsea can suddenly thrust seven players into the attack and enables Chelsea to dominate long stretches of the game. But this also leaves them vulnerable to counterattacks on the flanks, as Chelsea’s fullbacks can get caught forward. Spurs with Aaron Lennon could cause Chelsea problems, making the key match up Lennon vs. Cole. It will also be interesting who Rednapp chooses on the left to replace Modric. Keane was ineffective against Man U and I think it would make sense to put in Krancjar (the ballsiest move would be Dos Santos).

Prediction: Chelsea has the class to score from nothing and you got to think Chelsea will win at home, especially if Spurs play the way they did last week. But Spurs have the ability to make it exciting.

A few other games of note:

Hull City vs. Birmingham – Does Jozy get his first start?
MLS action – Will the playoff picture clear up with a slew of action this weekend? Toronto will likely debut Julian DeGuzman against the Galaxy and Chivas vs. Seattle has huge playoff implications. But Columbus vs. Chicago is probably the best game, with Columbus coming off a huge win at Saprissa stadium in Costa Rica mid-week.
Athletico vs. Barca – Hopefully there will be more goals than Barca’s snoozer with Inter over the weekend.


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