Thursday, September 21, 2006

Weekend Preview 23-4 September

I’m starting a new (hopefully) weekly feature examining the upcoming weekend’s games. Doesn’t mean I’ll be abandoning the essays on the wider aspects of the game – I’m just trying to force myself to pay more attention to the day-to-day stuff

Few games of note this weekend in the Premiership. Fulham – Chelsea is a big match in only an incredibly tiny corner of London. As Jose Mourinho said this week, for Fulham it’s like the World Cup Finals. For anybody else, it’s sheer tedium. The late game on Saturday is Man City-West Ham; expect Carlos Tevez to break his duck against a Man City defence so god-awful the team managed to lost to Chesterfield in mid-week.

The best potential match Saturday’s early game: Liverpool – Tottenham. Both teams have seriously underachieved so far this season and neither can really afford a loss. Xabi Alonso’s Wednesday Wondergoal should not in any way be taken to herald a revival (does anyone seriously believe he would have scored that against a first string goalie?) – and Tottenham’s strong squad is already in danger of falling into some terrible losing habits. Expect fireworks.

Over in Italy, Catania plays its second Sicilian derby in three days when Messina visits on Saturday night (they lost a wild mid-week game against Palermo 5-3). In a huge turnaround from just four years ago, Sicilian derbies matter. Then, Serie A could not boast a single club south of Rome; today, Palermo and Messina top the table.

The only team in a serious position to disrupt this cozy arrangement this year – Inter – will be hampered in this weekend’s match against Chievo by the fact that Patrick Vieira – shock! Horror! will be serving the first game of a three-match ban after being sent against Roma. This may not matter – Chievo have been painfully bad so far this season, and seem set to replicate Everton’s feat from last year of qualifying for the Champions League but still crash out the UEFA cup in the first round.

Possibly the best match of the weekend will take place at the Camp Nou when Valencia meet Barcelona on Saturday night. While Barcelona scampered to victory last season los ches showed long stretches of indifferent form. But both teams have started this season with three straight wins. Valencia look more dangerous in attack this year with Morientes partnering the prolific David Villa, but the loss of Carlos Marchena may hurt the team and Barcelona must be the favourites. Sevilla will need to win a tricky away tie to Atletico to keep pace.

Enjoy the weekend.

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