FOX Soccer Exclusive
City remain Premier League favorites
Buckle up, folks. We’ve got a special two-for-one Manchester double on tap this Saturday with back-to-back matches featuring the current Premier League leaders and the defending champions:
Our Saturday, FOX Soccer coverage kicks off with the defending champs, who have the opportunity to reclaim the top spot again in the Barclays Premier League. The Etihad has been an impenetrable borderline as of late. City have won 33 and drawn three in their last league 36 home matches.
Wondering who their last home loss was to? You guessed it! It was Everton, back in December 2010.
City's defense has sorted itself out and their surplus of offensive talents has me leaning towards saying that they’re the team to beat in the Premier League. If Everton wants to get at least a point, they'll need a huge effort from American goalkeeper Tim Howard. Howard has been off his game lately but if he can find his sharp form again, the Toffees have a good shot at coming away with a positive result.
The Saturday Manchester “double shot” will then turn its focus to current league leaders, United. There is something about the Red Devils this season that doesn’t sit well. They have conceded the first goal in nine of their 14 league matches and have struggled with weaker sides – a loss at Norwich City, and come-from-behind wins versus Southampton, Aston Villa, and still winless Queens Park Rangers. Their health, age, and lack of speed are all worrisome for the club. Sir Alex Ferguson knows this, and there is the sense he just wants to get into the New Year, and pick up a piece or two to strengthen his team’s depth as he leads yet another spring charge for the league title
More than ten hours. That's the current Premier League scoring drought for Fernando Torres. Since his last goal on Oct. 6, he's attempted 12 shots.
Chelsea supporters must be on the verge of turning on him. But there is hope. Torres has scored against West Ham more often than any other league team (six goals in six games). Clearly, not all the blame can be placed on him, but at some point soon, if the struggles continue, Rafael Benitez is going to have to bench him.
And what took me so long to get to Rafa? I figure the guy has enough issues at the moment, so let me offer some to the embattled manager; wear a blue tie; apologize to the Chelsea fans and swear your allegiance to them; go to the Chelsea section and applaud them Saturday; show some emotion and warmth on the bench; and keep updating your resume.
“It came to a point for me where I didn't feel valued and appreciated, not by the fans, but by other situations.”
That is Clint Dempsey, with some locker room fodder ahead of his first return to Craven Cottage. He bagged 50 goals for Fulham since he joined the club in January 2007, and since his transfer, he has just two finishes in all competitions for his new Spurs side.
Last weekend we saw flashes of the Deuce of old, suggesting he is beginning to become more familiar with his new role. There is no better place or opposition for him to fully display that newfound comfort than Saturday versus his old club.
If you believe defense wins championships, then Arsenal is in contention. Only City, Stoke, and Chelsea have conceded fewer goals than the 14 allowed by the Gunners. But that number will be tested through the holidays, as center back Laurent Koscielny has been ruled out for roughly three weeks with a groin strain.
On the flip side, as manager Arsene Wenger so eloquently and succinctly put it after their midweek 1-1 draw at Everton, “I feel we have some room for improvement in the final third.” No kidding.That is what happens when you sell Robin van Persie. Lesson learned, Arsene?
As David Beckham closes out his MLS playing career Saturday at MLS Cup, there are folks out there who question his impact on the sport in the US. Surely, they cannot be serious. The attention he has given the sport and league has been epic.
No player could ever match it. He overdelivered on everything; merchandise, attendance, notoriety, prestige, class, connections and value. Kudos to AEG and MLS for having the guts and creativity for making it happen.
So, who can step into that void next? There’s only one man for the job, and he's not Lionel Messi. Come on Cristiano Ronaldo, you know you want to bring your talents to America.
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.