Barclay’s Premier League
The action this weekend is heavily weighted to Saturday. The early game featuring Spurs and West Ham is a no-brainer given that there is nothing else to choose from – other than staying in bed.
This one must constitute a potential banana–skin for a Spurs side that must find a way to fight on two fronts. Spurs cannot afford to drop points particularly as a win guarantees that they will narrow the gap on one of or both of their closest challengers for 3rd or 4th this season, Chelsea and Manchester City who play on Sunday.
Both sides have identical records over the last 6 matches of three wins, 2 draws and a loss. White Hart Lane has been starved of Premier League goals this season with only 29 scored so far – only Blackburn fans (28 goals) have seen fewer goals this season.
This will be one of 5 remaining matches against relegation threatened sides for Spurs.
Conversely West Ham has a scheduled heavily weighted to the top of the Barclay’s Premier League. For West Ham this is one of 6 games out of 9 remaining against teams currently in the top 8 – the others are against Aston Villa then finish the Hammers finish the season with Blackburn (h) and Wigan (a).
Needless to say West Ham needs the points just as much as Spurs – perhaps more so. To get all three points they will have to do something they have not done at WHL since 1999 – win.
Other Premier League games on Saturday
Aston Villa v Wolverhampton
Blackburn v Blackpool
Manchester United v Bolton
Stoke v Newcastle
West Brom v Arsenal
Everton v Fulham, (late game)
Wigan v Birmingham
The top two teams both play on Saturday with Barcelona at home to Getafe while the Madrid derby takes place at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.
Only ten games remain and Barcelona enjoys a 5 point pad on Real Madrid. What is more the schedule looks more favourably on Barcelona than their rivals. (Just to make sure that there is no misunderstanding I am not saying the schedule makers have favoured Barcelona just that they have already faced the more difficult fixtures).
As well as facing their city rivals on hostile territory Real Madrid still have away games to Athletic Bilbao, Valencia, Sevilla and Villarreal. When you consider that Real’s soft spot has been road form this season you can see how difficult their task is.
A ray of sunshine this weekend is that their opponents are Atletico – a traditional whipping horse. Atleti last beat Real in October 1999 when the late Jesus Gill dominated the Spanish football headlines by just being his obnoxious self.
On the other hand of their last ten opponents Barcelona only have to play against three that are currently in the top eight of La Liga.
The season kicked off on Tuesday with the LA Galaxy winning 1-0 away to Seattle Sounders despite being outplayed for much of the match.
By the end of this weekend the other sixteen teams in the league will all see action.
This includes both expansion sides, the Portland Timbers and the Vancouver Whitecaps. As did the Seattle Sounders, both the newcomers opted to enter the league using the same moniker that they left the NASL with so many years ago.
The Timbers start off against the MLS Champions Colorado Rapids in a game that can be seen on Fox Soccer in the US. Colorado looked at have added some extra depth with the signing of Joseph Nane (TFC), Sanna Nyassi and Tyrone Marshall (Seattle) and Ireland international striker Caleb Folan. The first two offer younger legs while the latter offer some added experience. What is interesting about the signings is that they do not necessarily offer additional variety but have been made with an eye to covering existing strengths.
In 2007 Toronto FC was an expansion side and Canada’s first entry into MLS. Four years on they are joined by the Vancouver Whitecaps and next year by Montreal. The bad news is that you can argue that the Whitecaps enter MLS in a stronger position than Toronto.
Over four years inept and generally clueless leadership in the TFC organization has led them back to where they started but with a significantly diminished level of fan goodwill. The Whitecaps may have their challenges this season but expectations of a first year team are substantially less that a team with great support but with a dysfunctional organization.
Don’t be surprised if the Klinsmann makeover turns out to be a far easier sell conceptually than it does in actually turning the team around. The Whitecaps – TFC match is on TSN – Canada’s sports leader Eh! – now that is a better tag line.
Other MLS games on Saturday
DC United v Columbus
New York Red Bulls v Seattle Sounders FC
FC Dallas v Chicago
Houston v Philadelphia Union
Colorado v Portland Timbers
Chivas USA v Kansas City
San Jose v Real Salt Lake
While we are on the subject of MLS I am looking for some assistance and guidance. I vote each week on the MLS Player of the Week but it is often difficult to watch more than two or three games.
So, I am looking for help. If you watch or attend a MLS game this weekend can you post a quick comment and nominate a player of the game. I can then take that under consideration when I vote bright and early on Monday morning.
Thanks in anticipation
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