Prem Previews: Sunday, Bloomin' Sunday!

Curse these European midweeks!

No sooner have we returned from an annoyingly scheduled international break than we have a Premier League Saturday with just three 3pm kickoffs, thanks in no small part to the league having five participants in the UEFA Cup first round on Thursday night (and oddly in Portsmouth’s case, early evening). Will the Premier League ever be allowed to find its rhythm?

The result of all this fixture list jiggery-pokery is that all three of the matches that fall under our microscope of hot, steamy football analysis take place on Sunday.

While at least one other football publication would tell you this means football is 'dying on its backside', we at FourFourTwo.com embrace change, as long as that change doesn't clash with Antiques Roadshow, obviously.

"Wotchu doin' on my patch, Keys, you mug?!?!"

It was a mixed week for the English sides in Europe (and generally a bad one for the Scottish ones); while Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Aston Villa will be satisfied with their lot, Manchester United, Everton and maybe even Spurs might be slightly concerned.

The north Londoners finally earned their first victory of the season on Thursday night with a laboured, scrappy 2-1 win over Polish champions Wisla Krakow, and will have a tough night ahead in Poland in two weeks' time.

Spurs have pretty much had a spine transplant through the summer, with a new keeper and ‘point man’ striker being brought in along with playmaker, in the form of Heurelho Gomes, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Luka Modric, and it will take time for them to gel into a cohesive unit.

While no Spurs fan will be happy with their current league position and having lost the strike partnership considered the Premier League’s best over the summer, they will also be more than aware that last year’s equivalent points tally of four points from four games was skewed somewhat by a handily scheduled home match with Derby County.

Gone backwards 

For that reason, former Tottenham carthorse Tim Sherwood’s claims during Setanta’s coverage of the Krakow match that Spurs have ‘gone backwards’ in the last 12 months are wider of the mark than a speculative 30-yarder from Didier Zokora.

A lot has been made of Spurs' faltering start to the campaign, but interestingly, if they can muster four points from their next two matches, they’ll have made their best league start since 2005, for what that’s worth.

Juande Ramos’ side take on Wigan on Sunday and will feel their defence, which seems largely bereft of pace nowadays, will be more suited to handling Emile Heskey and Amr Zaki’s physical presence than the pace of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young.

Campbell goes one better than kissing the badge...or not

At the other end of the pitch, Roman Pavlyuchenko impressed in patches against Villa on Monday, with his determination and work ethic sure to help him succeed in N17 in time, while Fraizer Campbell teeing up Darren Bent’s winner last night was a welcome boost – even if Spurs’ dependence on a Man United loanee makes them the new West Brom.

One man that knows a thing or two about hitting the back of the net for Spurs is Jermain Defoe, who will lead the line for Portsmouth at Manchester City in another Sunday afternoon showdown.

Defoe has scored three times in four league outings so far this term, which is in keeping with his impressive scoring rate since moving to Fratton in January of, erm, three in four.

Into the swing 

Like Spurs, City are in the process of integrating a fair few new players into their side and will take a few weeks to fully get into the swing of things.

Apparently FourFourTwo.com upset a few City fans on Monday, when they took our warning that Robinho wasn’t a guaranteed success in the Premier League to heart and accused us of being bitter and/or jealous of their club's new found wealth.

We would like to clarify that we have no specific wish to see Manchester City fail; infact the ribbing is a backhanded compliment – it’s what comes with success or expectation of success (Newcastle are an exception to the rule, obviously).

Which brings us on nicely to the game of the weekend (if you like that sort of thing), Chelsea vs Manchester United.

PHWACK!!!

Murmurings emanating from the United camp seem to be suggesting they will be out of the title race should they be defeated by, and fall nine points behind, the Blues on Sunday, at least according to the Daily Express.

This is obviously not the case, given that they would still have a game in hand and a home match with Chelsea left to play, but spirits in the United camp will nonetheless be a bit damp, given their mediocre start to the season.

The return of Cristiano Ronaldo to first team duties on Wednesday evening was a much welcome boost for the champions, who are in the process of devising a suitable system to accommodate new signing Dimitar Berbatov, along with Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez.

Chelsea, on the other hand, have started solidly and were superb in winning at Eastlands on Saturday evening.

A few pundits questioned whether Deco would be able to handle the cut and thrust of the Premier League, not least because Barcelona seemed so willing to let him go for a relatively paltry sum, but the little Brazilian/Portuguese has already won any doubters over, which is probably just as well given fellow midfielder Michael Essien’s long term injury.

Discipline 

This means Mikel John-Obi will most likely play in the bulk of the Blues’ matches, at least until January, so he’ll need to do what he’s not done too often since arriving at Chelsea and keep his discipline (positional or otherwise) for a prolonged period.

It’s hard to see how United will overcome Chelsea on Sunday, given their differing form at this early stage of the season, but if anyone can upset the odds, it’s surely Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.   FourFourTwo.com's Premier League Predictions:

Saturday September 20Sunderland 1-1 MiddlesbroughBlackburn 1-1 FulhamLiverpool 2-0 StokeWest Ham 2-1 NewcastleBolton 0-2 Arsenal (Live on Setanta Sports 1, 17:30) Sunday September 21West Brom 1-2 Aston VillaChelsea 1-1 Man UtdHull 0-2 EvertonMan City 1-1 PortsmouthTottenham 2-1 Wigan

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