Now that we have survived the madness of Deadline Day, it’s time to focus our attention to the drama on the field – sadly, considerably lessened with Mario Balotelli out of the Premier League. There are plenty of intriguing matchups this weekend including Manchester City vs. Liverpool (live, FOX Soccer, Sunday, 10:30 a.m. ET), so make sure you don’t miss a minute of the action! Read on >>
Reading vs. Sunderland (live, FOX Soccer 2Go, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET)
It's not often you can say this, but you do not want to see Reading on your schedule right now. They have recovered seven points from losing positions in their last three games. That’s points earned against West Brom, Newcastle and Chelsea. And the Chelsea match was incredibly dramatic as Adam LeFondre scored two goals off the bench in the final three minutes of play to draw level with the Blues. Six of LeFondre’s ten goals have come off the bench, which is good enough for tops in the league. If you’re looking for a team that has heart, and is absolutely fun to follow, get on the Reading bandwagon.
Arsenal vs. Stoke (live, FOX Soccer Plus, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET)
Everybody stand. Put your right hand over your heart and sing “The Star-Spangled Anthem” as I welcome Brek Shea to one of my new favorite teams, as he joins fellow US international Geoff Cameron at Stoke. He is already training with the club, but even though he has been granted a work permit the winger is still recovering from a foot operation and will miss this fixture. Stoke is a rough edged team but Emirates is a tough place to play as Arsenal showed midweek with that late rally to tie Liverpool. I absolutely love the Theo Walcott-Oliver Giroud combination for the Gunners. Arsenal may make some big late noise as the Premier League season starts to wind down – especially with the addition of defender Nacho Monreal on deadline day.
Newcastle vs. Chelsea (live, FOX Soccer, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET)
Newcastle’s new French fragrance smells of a potential top ten finish, but they need to be very wary of their league standing, as they are just four points clear of the relegation line. It was a difficult midweek for Chelsea. With no Petr Cech in the nets, they surrendered two late goals at Reading, earning a deflating draw. Again, the Blues will be without Eden Hazard, which means more Juan Mata. But in my book, Mata has been one of the top five players in the league this season – having more of his impact on the field is far from a bad thing.
Fulham vs. Manchester United (live, FOX Soccer, Saturday, 12:30 a.m. ET)
This one comes to us from the, “gee, you look familiar!” department as just last weekend, United dumped Fulham 4-1 at home in FA Cup play. If you are in the Fulham camp you need to be leery of (but not intimidated by) the drop zone. At the other end of the table, City’s midweek draw only tightened United’s grasp on the Premier League title race, with the lead now at seven points. The Red Devils have a prime opportunity to extend it this weekend, as they have gone 12 games without a defeat. Oh, and don’t forget that Wayne Rooney is back from injury, and had two goals midweek – it’s scary what he and Robin van Persie can do when they’re both healthy.
Manchester City vs. Liverpool (live, FOX Soccer, Sunday, 10:30 a.m. ET)
“The Game Before The Game” lost some of its drama midweek when everyone’s favorite drama king, Mario Balotelli, bolted from Manchester to return home to his native Italy to sign with AC Milan. What does this mean for City? It means more calmness and fewer paparazzi running about. It also translates into more focus on Carlos Tevez. It’s time for the Argentine to cut loose. He's at his best when Roberto Mancini leans on him for long stretches. He sits behind Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero in scoring within the club, but I think he’ll top them both by the end of the season. As for Liverpool, they had a strong start but finished weakly during their midweek 2-2 draw at Arsenal. The Europa League is calling in mid-February, which means they really need to buckle down and try to steal a point at a place that they haven’t won at in more than four years.