This week in: English Football – Manchester vs North London

Sunday August 28th, 2011

Tottenham Hotspur 1 – 5 Manchester City

Manchester United 8 – 2 Arsenal

This Sunday, Spurs and their fiercest rivals, Arsenal, once again turn their attention north to Manchester, as the two teams try to gain revenge for the 13-3 aggregate thrashing they suffered nearly 5 months ago. While those defeats came early enough in the season for the points to be recovered, the pressure is increased now as all four teams are in closely fought contests: City and United are fighting it out for the title; Spurs would like to be involved in that conversation too, but realistically want to finish as London’s top club in third place; Arsenal need to climb back into the Champions League places, as they currently lie four points behind 4th placed Chelsea.

Manchester City still have their 100% home record in the league, having won all 10 of their fixtures at the City of Manchester I mean massively overpriced sponsorship with financial shenanigans definitely going on Etihad Stadium – but their last two games there have ended in defeat – against United in the FA Cup, and Liverpool in the Carling Cup. The absence of Yaya Toure, who is representing the Cote D’Ivoire at the Africa Cup of Nations, has weakened the City midfield, giving Tottenham an opportunity to dominate in the middle of the park. However, Spurs will be without Emanuel Adebayor up front – he is on loan from Manchester City and thus is ineligible to play against his parent club. Harry Redknapp, who tax evasion case goes to trial the day after the match, will be hoping that Rafael Van der Vaart and Jermain Defoe will be able to join forces and lead the line, having been competing with each other for a single place in the starting lineup all season. If Bale on the left and Lennon on the right-wing can get behind the City full backs – Micah Richards and Gael Clichy – then Tottenham will have a great chance at putting the home team under pressure – but they will need to be less wasteful with their chances than they were in the draw with Wolves last week. The Lilywhites have a good record away to City since they moved out of Maine Road – last season’s defeat is the only time they have lost in that stadium. Nevertheless, much as Spurs are much improved from the team that was thrashed 5-1 at the Lane back in August, they still cannot compete with City’s strength in depth, and Mancini’s men will be heavy favourites to stretch their home league winning streak.

Arsenal have lost consecutive league games, falling at Fulham and Swansea in their most recent outings, but they have been a much better team at

United fans put down their prawn sandwiches long enough to celebrate thrashing Arsenal. Don't worry...they 8 2

home than on their travels this season. Their only Premiership loss of the season at the Emirates was against Liverpool back in August and they will be hoping to exploit the weaknesses in the United defence that Blackburn and Newcastle have exposed in recent weeks. Ferguson was concerned enough about those two defeats that he brought back Paul Scholes, 56 37, out of retirement and back into his starting lineup for their win over Bolton last Saturday – and it was a goalscoring reincarnation for the diminutive midfielder, who netted the first of 3 United goals. With Thierry Henry also back in the fold at Arsenal, both sides have tacitly admitted that their current squads need some of the magic from yesteryear. The Frenchman, on loan from New York Red Bulls until the end of February, scored one of the best goals in Premiership history in this fixture back in September, 2000 – back when Highbury still put the “home” in: “Wow, Arsenal fans don’t make much noise at home…”. With Henry and Van Persie in attack, coupled with a strong midfield that will dominate a United team without Darren Fletcher, (the Scotsman has performed particularly well against Arsenal in the past) Wenger’s men should be confident in avenging the 8-2 loss from earlier in the season.

Elsewhere this weekend: two of the bottom three meet, as QPR host Wigan; Liverpool, who last weekend were held to another home draw (their 7th) against Stoke, travel to 19th placed Bolton; Blackburn, who moved out of the relegation zone with a win over Fulham in their most recent game, travel to Everton; Martin Jol’s side will try to recover from that loss to Rovers, when they host 6th placed Newcastle; Norwich and Chelsea square off in Norfolk; and there is a Midlands derby between Wolves and Aston Villa. Swansea are on a high from two straight wins – composed of their first away success of the season, and a 3-2 defeat of Arsenal in South Wales last week – but face a tough trip to the North-East to take on a Sunderland team who have been rejuvenated since Martin O’Neill became manager – the Black Cats were unlucky to lose away to Chelsea in their most recent game.

Predictions

Last week, 5-6; Season 81-99

Norwich vs Chelsea – Home win

Everton vs Blackburn – Home win

Fulham vs Newcastle – Away win

QPR vs Wigan – Draw

Stoke vs West Brom – Home win

Sunderland vs Swansea – Home win

Wolves vs Aston Villa – Draw

Bolton vs Liverpool – Away win

Manchester City vs Tottenham – Draw

Arsenal vs Manchester United – Home win

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