This week in: English Football – Chelsea Held and Spurs Have No Reading Difficulties

Anton Ferdinand follows Wayne Bridge’s example of refusing Terry’s hand

Queens Park Rangers earned just their second point of the season last Saturday, and also ended the 100% record of their local rivals, Chelsea, as both teams failed to find the net in their match at Loftus Road.  Last year’s game ended with racial abuse charges against John Terry  – which he later beat – and the pre-match formalities ended with no handshakes between Terry and Anton Ferdinand.  Arsenal and Manchester United both recorded big home wins – 6-1 against Southampton and 4-0 versus Wigan respectively – and are close on the heels of Chelsea at the top of the early Premier League table.  Reigning champions, Manchester City, currently sit in fourth place, after they were held 1-1 at the Britannia, maintaining Mancini’s run of never having beaten Stoke since he took over at City.

On Sunday, Tottenham earned their first win under new boss, Andre Villas-Boas, in their match at Reading – two goals from Jermain Defoe and a mis-hit right footed shot from Gareth Bale gave Spurs a comfortable 3-1 victory.  Other fixtures last weekend saw West Brom suffer their first defeat of the season, falling 3-0 away at Fulham; Liverpool remain winless in the league under Brendan Rodgers, after a draw 1-1 at Sunderland; Aston Villa got off the mark in the win column by beating (previously unbeaten) Swansea 2-0 at home; Norwich and West Ham played out a goalless draw in Norfolk; while Newcastle and Everton scored two apiece in their Monday night encounter.

There was also European action during the week, with the Champions League and Europa League kicking off their group phases with the first round of matches.  The current English and Spanish champions met in Madrid as Real took on Manchester City on Tuesday. After a dull first-half, the game came to life in the second 45 minutes – Mancini’s side went ahead twice, but ultimately lost 3-2, with a last-minute Cristiano Ronaldo goal securing the three points for the home team.  Manchester United ground out a 1-0 victory over Galatasary at Old Trafford; Arsenal won 2-1 in France against Montpelier; and Chelsea were clawed back by Juventus for a 2-2 draw, after the cup holders had started brightly with two good goals from their Brazilian youngster, Oscar.  

In the Europa League, Tottenham were unlucky to have a couple of goals ruled out in their match with Lazio at White Hart Lane, Dempsey’s first-half header was incorrectly adjudged to have been from an offside position, while Caulker appeared to do little wrong when he was called for a foul late on in the game.  UEFA are investigating reports that Defoe, Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend were subjected to racial abuse by the traveling Italian fans and, should they be found guilty, the Roman club may have to play some of its home games in this year’s competition behind closed doors.  Also on Thursday, Newcastle and Maritimo played out a 0-0 draw in Portugal; while Liverpool conceded three in Switzerland, but came away with a win after scoring five to win an exciting contest against Young Boys.

This Sunday will earn the moniker of “Super” by the Sky Sports team in the UK, as Tottenham take on Queens Park Rangers and Norwich travel to Newcastle…oh and Liverpool play Manchester United, while City face Arsenal.  The Anfield match marks the first meeting of the two clubs since the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel were released.  United boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, has called on his team’s supporters to end their horrible songs towards their Liverpool counterparts and has expressed a wish for a friendlier relationship between the two.  It would be a good start if the players led by example and Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra put their differences from last season aside and made a gesture of goodwill, even if it is something as simple as shaking hands before the match.

The not-quite-as-super Saturday fixtures see Swansea host Everton; Stoke travel to top-of-the-table Chelsea; Southampton will look to register their first point of the campaign at home against Aston Villa; West Ham entertain Sunderland; West Brom play Reading at the Hawthornes; and Martin Jol takes his Fulham team North to face Wigan.  Midweek also brings the return of the League Cup, with the competition reaching the third round, when all of the clubs involved in European tournaments entering the fray.  The standout fixture is Wednesday’s encounter between Manchester United and Newcastle, though the games between Crawley and Swansea; MK Dons and Sunderland; and Crawley and Tottenham, have the potential for a big upset.

Predictions

Last week, 4-6; Season, 16-23

Swansea vs Everton – Home win

Chelsea vs Stoke – Draw

Southampton vs Aston Villa – Away win

West Brom vs Reading – Home win

West Ham vs Sunderland – Draw

Wigan vs Fulham – Home win

Liverpool vs Manchester United – Draw

Newcastle vs Norwich – Home win

Manchester City vs Arsenal – Away win

Tottenham vs QPR – Home win

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