After a two-week gap for the F.A. Cup and League Cup to take center stage, the Premier League returns to action this weekend, with the top two teams facing each other on Saturday. Before looking at that Chelsea vs Manchester City game, here’s a recap of what happened in the cup tournaments over the last fortnight.
F.A. Cup 4th Round
Last weekend was possibly the biggest collection of upsets in a single round of the F.A. Cup, none were bigger than the one that occurred at Stamford Bridge. Early on, it seemed as though League One’s Bradford City were going to take a hiding, as they fell behind 2-0 to Chelsea inside half an hour. However, the Bantams pulled one back before half time, then scored three more after the break to record an astonishing 4-2 victory over the current leaders of the Premier League. It was only the second time in either of Jose Mourinho’s spells in charge of the Blues that he has lost at home inside 90 minutes to another club from the English leagues – the other being Sunderland last season.
Manchester City exited the tournament at the exact same time, as they also lost at home to lower division opponents, as Middlesbrough triumphed 2-0 at the Etihad. The reigning champions had returned from a trip to the United Arab Emirates less than 24 hours before the match kicked off (in part due to a delayed flight, but mostly because of ridiculous planning to fit in lucrative friendlies in their owner’s home Emirate, Abu Dhabi). However, City still played pretty much their best players, so nothing should be taken away from Boro’s achievement.
In comparison to those two results, Manchester United’s 0-0 draw away at League Two’s Cambridge seems like a positive scoreline, especially since they now have a home replay to try to progress to the fifth round of a wide-open competition. Only United and Arsenal – who overcame a resilient Brighton comeback to win 3-2 – remain in the F.A. Cup out of the current top 6 in the Premier League, since Southampton were beaten 3-2 at home by Palace; while Leicester scored twice in the final 10 minutes to eliminate Spurs 2-1 at White Hart Lane. Bolton held Liverpool to a draw at Anfield; Blackburn knocked out Swansea 3-1; and the match between Sunderland and Fulham at the Stadium of Light ended goalless. Continue reading →
After a break for international fixtures, including the final group games in the qualifying tournament for Euro 2012, the Premier League returns with a full slate of matches this weekend. The marquee game of the bunch is the first one that will be played, as Liverpool face their old rivals, Manchester United, in the early kick-off on Saturday. In the last round of games, there was the North London Derby, but these two North-West clubs might dislike each other even more than Spurs and Arsenal do. While there is no doubting the fans animosity towards each other in those games, with Manchester United and Liverpool the divide is not just between the clubs, but also the cities they call home.
In the days of the Industrial revolution, the two cities were in direct competition with each other for business. In 1894, when the Manchester Ship Canal was completed ships were able to bypass Liverpool and dock directly in Manchester, resulting in less revenue for the former’s merchants, which ultimately lead to job losses in the city. From here a rivalry between the two places was formed, nowadays it is framed in each city’s most successful football clubs. While Liverpool and Everton derbies mean a lot to families who are divided between red and blue; and Manchester United and City games have taken on a new relevance in the last two seasons, as both teams are in the upper echelons of the league and are competing for titles, it is Saturday’s game at Anfield that supporters of both clubs will most want to win.
When Sir Alex Ferguson took over at United in 1986, Liverpool were the dominant team in English football and, in 1990, they won their 18th league title. At that time, the Red Devils were sitting on a total of just 7 championships, and had not won any since 1967. Since the dawn of the Premiership era in the early 90s, Ferguson has revitalised the club and Manchester United have won 12 league titles since 1992/1993. As Liverpool have not won any in that time, they now trail their rivals in the overall title count by 19 to 18 – though they still can cite their 5 European Cup triumphs, compared with United’s 3.
The personnel involved with the two teams do not like each other either: when he started his reign at United, Sir Alex had talked about wanting to “knock Liverpool off their fucking perch”; Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has many shirts he has swapped with opposing players displayed in his house, but none of them are from a Manchester United player; and recently retired Red Devil, Gary Neville, was famously antagonistic towards Liverpool, running the length of the pitch to celebrate a last minute winning goal in front of the away supporters in a game at Old Trafford in 2006. The two clubs will not do business together, no player has been transferred between the two teams since 1964. When Gabriel Heinze requested a move to Anfieldfrom Old Trafford in 2007, he was vilified by the United fans, the transfer was blocked and he ended up being sold to Real Madrid instead.
Manchester United have not won in the league at Anfield since 2007, having lost all of their last three Premiership away games against Liverpool. This season, Ferguson’s team have only dropped 2 points out of the first 21 available to them, and they will be looking to continue their good form against their old enemy this weekend. Liverpool have had a reasonable start to the season, and beat Everton in their last league game – a win on Saturday would take them up to 4th, with Newcastle not playing until Sunday. You can predict the winner of the game in this week’s poll question – found at the bottom of this article.
That game at St. James’ Park sees Newcastle taking on a Tottenham team who also won a derby game last time out, overcoming Arsenal 2-1 at White Hart Lane. Spurs have won their last four games, having started the season with two defeats to the Manchester clubs, and will be looking to strengthen their own quest for a top four spot this weekend in the North-East. In other games, Manchester City take on a still unbeaten Aston Villa side at Maine RoadCity of Manchester Stadium theEtihad Stadium; 15th takes on 16th at the Emirates when Arsenal host Sunderland; two of the newly promoted sides, Norwich and Swansea, play at Carrow Road; and two of the bottom three meet with Bolton making the short trip to Wigan. Fulham, who won 6-0 in their last outing, travel to Stoke; while QPR, the team on the wrong end of that thrashing by the Cottagers, hope to get back on track as they are at home to Blackburn Rovers. Bovril will be in short supply in the Midlands this weekend as there is a derby between West Bromwich Albion and Wolves; while Chelsea will look to keep the pressure on the top two of United and City by beating Everton at Stamford Bridge. After a delay of two weeks, it will be good to be back to a full round of Premier League fixtures again.