FOX Soccer Exclusive
Chelsea, Liverpool both need wins
It has been a busy week filled with UEFA Champions League and Europa League action, but it doesn’t end there! The weekend is here, and there are some intriguing Barclays Premier League match ups that you just cannot miss.
I no longer feel comfortable saying where exactly Chelsea is right now. They started off the season tearing up the league with three wins in their opening three Barclays Premier League games, and then their little journey to Monaco seemed to spin them off course. They were humiliated in the UEFA Super Cup (I was willing to cut them some slack there). But then they came home and drew 0-0 against Queens Park Rangers, and on Wednesday, they gave up a home two-goal lead against Juventus in the Champions League. Their defense has been troubling and the lack of production from Fernando Torres is closing in on 'crisis' mode (my favorite English tabloid word).
One interesting factor about this game against Stoke is the Oscar effect. The Brazilian recorded his first start for Chelsea against Juventus in the Champions League match and scored two goals — the second an absolute stunner. But then he had to leave with an ankle injury. If he’s at full health, I’m curious to see if he starts, and who he pushes out of the Blues lineup.
As for Stoke City, this is a team that lives and dies from the set piece — three out of the four goals scored, and three out of the four conceded so far this season have been via the set piece. Master of the Obvious says this will be important for Stoke. (*Bonus hook to this game - will Maurice Edu make his debut?)
Both clubs are coming off midweek action in Europe, and it’s always interesting to see how teams react to that.
For Liverpool, everyone talks about what a great home they have at Anfield, but to call it a fortress? It’s more of a fortress made of old dented up Lincoln logs found under the couch. They’ve won just two of their last eleven league games there. This was one of the reasons Brendan Rodgers was brought in, but they haven’t really sorted things out at home yet, and this is not an easy squad to do that against.
Manchester United has seven different goal scorers in the Premier League. I love how they can spread it out and hurt you in different places. And they are still getting things done without Wayne Rooney.
The big question is who will start in the net? David de Gea started the last two league games on the bench, yet was impressive in their 1-0 win in Champions League play midweek. I expect him back in the net and Manchester United to continue Liverpool’s home issues.
Their respective Champions League results this week showed the direction they’re going in.
Arsenal came off that huge six goal league output over the weekend, and chased it up with a road Champions League win. Then you have Manchester City. A 1-1 draw at Stoke over the weekend, followed by a loss at Real Madrid where they led twice late — these results are indicative of where these two teams are going right now. City’s story last year was defense; best in the league by far. Now Arsenal seems to have taken over that title.
There will be so many talented players on the field in this clash. But the one guy I’m keeping a close eye on is Santi Cazorla. The opportunities that he is creating for his team, and the mayhem that he is orchestrating for Arsenal, have been paramount for the Gunners thus far.
Does Clint Dempsey get a start? I’m not sure it’s going to happen in this game, but I think some solid minutes off the bench from Deuce will confirm his spot in the squad in the near future. His start against Lazio in the Europa League on Thursday will only add to his case for a starting spot in this weekend’s Premier League clash.
Tottenham’s schedule has been cream cheese soft so far. And that trend continues versus a Queens Park Rangers team that is so bad on the road that they might as well just save the gas money, the hotel expenses and the per diem, and stay in west London, rest their bodies and get ready for their next game. The three points they’ve earned from their last 45 available on the road is not how you keep your Premier League badge.
A couple of things jumped out at me from Everton’s 2-2 draw with Newcastle on Monday: #1 — It was an unusually shaky outing from the normally error-free Tim Howard. #2 — goal line technology really could have helped the Toffees. Two goals were essentially denied because of poor officiating.
For Swansea, so much love was heaped on them in the beginning and then a little reality smacked them in the face last weekend. But they return home, where they are unbeaten in their last five games, including shut outs in three of those — I think this is THE underrated enticing match up of the weekend.
And while I wasn’t on the subject…
I was able to cash in my FOX Soccer favor chips this week and get a viewing of Part 2 of Being: Liverpool “On the road.” You can expect to see a lot of golf, Brendan Rodgers being hands on, travel issues, batting cage moments and none other than 007 himself — with a horrendous mustache. Daniel Craig makes an appearance. Those are enough reasons to watch, right?
You can always ask me a question via my Twitter account @RobStoneonFOX using the hash tag #askStone. Each week I’ll pick a few and we’ll give you a shout-out right here. Enjoy the games this week and I’ll see you right here on FOX Soccer this weekend!
A 15-year broadcast veteran, Rob Stone is the lead studio host for FOX Soccer Match Day, Goals on Sunday, and UEFA Champions League coverage. Follow him on Twitter @RobStoneONFOX.