After some big results last week for Wolves, Liverpool and Newcastle, what can this week’s fixtures offer us? How will the Premier League look when round 11 is all said and done? Here are the 10 Big Questions we want answered this weekend.
1.Could West Brom seal Mancini’s fate?
It doesn’t take much for pressure to build on a manager nowadays, but when you’re manager at a club like Manchester City where expectations are so high any pressure is magnified. Three defeats in a row is bad enough, but continued talk of unrest between players and manager certainly doesn’t help. The fixture fairy hasn’t been smiling on Mancini either, just when he would be hoping for a cushy home tie against a lowly ranked Premier League, he gets West Brom away. This will be a very tricky match for City. Despite West Brom lying sixth in the league and only suffering one defeat in nine, they still hold the tag of a ‘newly promoted side’, thus fans still expect their team to beat the Baggies. A win would go a long way in shining the spotlight away from the Sky Blues, but a defeat would leave Mancini in increasingly hot water.
2. Will Liverpool’s climb up the league continue against Chelsea?
In an attempt to lift the pressure from his own team, Petr Cech has said that all the pressure is on Liverpool prior to their clash on Sunday. Cech believes that Liverpool need to win the game in order to show their fans that they are still contenders and can raise themselves for the big games, and as the home team they will be under even more scrunity. Despite wins in their last two league games taking them up to 13th, Liverpool know that, with the table as tight as it is, a defeat could plunge them straight back into trouble. Chelsea, as we all know, are flying high at the summit of the Premiership and will be a daunting prospect for Roy Hodgson and his men.
3. Can Wolves repeat their feat at Old Trafford?
A week and a half ago Wolves went to Old Trafford and lost 3-2. Yes, it was only the Carling Cup but it was a significant game in Wolves’ renaissance and not many teams manage to score two goals at Old Trafford, especially a team who were firmly in the bottom three of the league. Wolves played very well that night and pushed the Red Devils all the way to the final whistle, and a few days later went on to beat Manchester City. The tough games just keep coming for McCarthy and his auld gold troops and a return to Old Trafford will be another tricky match. But Wolves are arguably the Premier League’s most improved team of late, and what better way to test your progression than a trip to Manchester United?
4. Can Gareth Bale recreate his Champions League form in the Premiership?
Despite Gareth Bale’s Champions League heroics, as any frustrated fantasy football manager will be able to testify, he has failed to put up the numbers in the Premiership. He has yet to score since his brace at Stoke and only has one assist to his name. His reputation now means that he’s constantly being marked out of games which has reduced his productivity, but can he reaffirm his place amongst the world’s best at Bolton?
5. What will the bottom look like by Sunday night?
At present we see West Ham, Wolves and Blackburn occupying the bottom three spots in the Premier League, but how will it look when all the fixtures are done and dusted? As it stands there are only three points separating 18th from 10th, so on Monday morning we could see some new teams plunged into trouble. There are two big bottom of the table clashes at the weekend: Birmingham vs. West Ham and Blackburn vs. Wigan. All of the afore mentioned teams are in the bottom six places and these games will go along way to determining who lie in the relegation places. With the Premier League so tight, teams like Aston Villa and Liverpool, who themselves have hard games, will also be nervously looking over their shoulders.
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6. Can Spurs get their first ever Premier League win at the Reebok Stadium?
We’ve all been told of late about Tottenham’s failings when they go away to the big four, but another stat that’s been quietly building up is that Spurs haven’t won away at Bolton in the Premier League since March 1996 – when they played at Burnden Park. In the 10 games since Tottenham’s last win at Bolton their record reads: played 10, won 0, drawn 4, lost 6. Spurs’s record following Champions League matches is good, only one defeat in five, so they’ll be hoping to put this jinx to rest. Kevin Davies is one player who looks forward to this tie more than most, he has four goals in his last three goals against Tottenham at the Reebok.
7. Which way will the Blackpool rollercoaster go this weekend?
Blackpool are a fantastic team to watch. They play a good brand of football, they entertain, score goals and you have no idea what’s going to happen. The latest chapter in Blackpool’s topsy-turvy season sees them take on Everton at Bloomfield Road. After their trademark poor start to the season, Everton are starting find some form, but a game at Blackpool is proving to be a tricky seaside trip so as ever, how this one will turn out is anyone’s guess.
8. Will Steve’s Bruce and Sunderland respond to last week’s humiliation?
What’s the only thing worse than getting soundly beaten on a football pitch? Getting soundly beaten by your nearest and most hated rivals. This is the nightmare that Steve Bruce’s side and the Sunderland faithful had to endure last week after their 5-1 mauling by Newcastle. Steve Bruce is saying all the right things:
“The mark of everything is how you respond. I try to get up off the floor and come out fighting. I didn’t speak to anyone for two days. You batten down the hatches, you take it, you try to be dignified and you try to respond, that is all you can do. There is no hiding place for us. It has happened and we must not let it derail our season.”
But can he inspire his team to bounce back against Stoke at home? The Sunderland we’re seeing at the moment is looking rather familiar to that of last season: three red cards already, inconsistent league form and Darren Bent’s goals are still carrying the team. Stoke have a very average away record so this could be the perfect chance for Sunderland to show some steel.
9. Will Lampard make a goalscoring return to the Chelsea starting XI?
What is going on with Frank Lampard? For what seems like ages, we’ve been told that he is one week from a return, only to then be told he’ll be out for another two weeks. This ‘will be play, won’t be play’ saga now seems to be over. During the week, Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti said that Lampard is fit and will go straight into the team, but with Chelsea going fantastically well without Lampard, he will have to make a good return to show that he is worthy of his place.
10. Can Dempsey keep the doubters quiet?
There has been some debate about whether or not Clint Dempsey is worth a place in the Fulham side. Some fans believed that Simon Davies was a better option in the Fulham midfield during Dempsey’s poor run of form following the World Cup. However, after his match winning performance last week surely now he is back to his best, and another good showing against Aston Villa will silence any doubters.