It was shaping up to be a packed weekend, with some interesting EPL matchups and the start of the La Liga season in Spain. But alas, Spanish football is still in shambles, with the players on strike over unpaid wages. Hopefully that will be resolved over the coming week so that we’ll see those interesting fixtures next weekend. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the EPL games that we’ll be watching–along with the FIFA U20 World Cup final:
Saturday, August 20
EPL, Sunderland-Newcastle (7amET, ESPN3.com): An early kickoff for this edition of the Tyne-Wear derby. Last year this fixture resulted in a Sunderland suffering an embarrassing 5-1 thrashing–though Kevin Nolan scored 3 of those goals, and Andy Carroll was on the pitch for Newcastle as well.
This year Sunderland is probably picked my most to finish above their cross-town rivals. See Coach Larry’s thoughts on Sunderland following their draw with Liverpool last Saturday.
EPL, Arsenal-Liverpool (7:45amET, ESPN2/ESPN3.com): Another early morning game for those of us in the US–is it worth waking up for? Liverpool supporter & observer Coach Larry weighs in:
I think for the fans of the two teams it is. Both teams are trying to adjust to their new players still, and with the high stakes involved for the two, I’m not sure either will be too adventurous. They did do this in 2009.
Suarez might just have the full run of the middle of the pitch with Arsenal without Wilshere (injured) or Song (suspended) in the midfield. Stuart Downing and Enrique taking on Sagna should also add some fun. We should get more info on whether Dalglish has in mind rotations/matchups or starters/subs for his eight MFs at least.
RVP will give Carragher and Agger a rough time, and the Gunners should try and attack in spaces behind both left and right back. But the usual question remains, if they do, will they convert the chances into goal attempts. And they also have to solve a left back issue considering Gibbs’ and Djourou’s balky hamstrings.
From the numerous Arsenal-supporting branch of the CultFootball family, Tyler opines that Gunners fans and pundits are overly pessimistic. (Case in point: longtime Arsenal supporter Eddie wrote in: “I have to say, this is the most depressing start of season for Arsenal. I will feel compelled to watch the game, as I would video-clips of a tsunami disaster..” Last week while watching Newcastle-Arsenal together at the Chip Shop, Eddie mentioned how he started following the Gunners as a young lad in Singapore–actually he converted from supporting Leeds United, back in the days of Don Revie and Brian Clough. Naturally we immediately commissioned him to write the 2nd installment of our “They Reminsce” series. Look for that in the coming weeks.) On the other hand, Kirby joins Tyler in his cautious optimism: “I truly believe that it could be both a good match, and if Arsenal wins, a huge boost for the challenges ahead. A depleted squad goes in, but Robin, Vermaelan, Sagna. Who knows, maybe Arshavin will decide the time is right to be kickass again and bag 4 goals. Looks like Nasri may be playing tomorrow, btw. That just made the game a bit more star-powered.”
EPL, Chelsea-West Brom (12:30pm, FSC): Our resident Chelsea supporter, who prefers to go by the nom de plume The Cunning Linguist, writes in with these thoughts on the Blues after their lackluster scoreless draw opener against Stoke: “I hope people start giving ManU some stick for spending money. I’m sure no one will forget the 50mm quid on el niño, who looked very sharp and dangerous. Too bad his supply line is crap; Salomon still hasn’t got a kalou and Malouda is, well, he’s French. I prefer Anelka on the right as a wide man and would like to see Benayoun in the mix. Chelsea don’t impress me and doubt they’ll do much this season. May have to start cheering for QPR.”
FIFA U20 World Cup Final, Brazil-Portugal (9pm, ESPN3.com): We have to admit, we haven’t been watching the U20 World Cup. So we might as well tune in for this all-Lusophone final. We’ve variously heard over the past week that the best teams in this tournament were ones that didn’t make the final (Spain, according to Jonathan Wilson, and Mexico, according to Tommy, who also had some unflattering comments about Portugal: “they start that flopping crime in Portugal early. I’ve been watching a lot of the U20 Cup, and the final 30 minutes of Wednesday’s Portugal showing vs France was humiliating. Apparently France had several snipers posted in the stadium because the Portu-gals were going down like they were on an adult film set. Bad news for the US – the Mexican U20s look great. They may have lost to the Brazilians in the semis, but they were the best team I saw. Gddmmit.”)
Sunday, August 21
EPL, Bolton-Man City (11am, FSC): Both teams put in 4 last weekend, albeit against newly promoted sides (QPR and Swansea, respectively), and hence are at the top of the table after one week. All eyes will be on Kun Agüero’s after his Premier League debut performance–two goals sandwiched around a spectacular assist to David Silva, all after coming as a substitute in the second half.