Seconds out, round two
The opening weekend nerves should be a thing of the past, as round two of the Premier League is upon us, with some attractive looking fixtures over the weekend.
The first set of matches brought about some good, attractive football, with some one-sided scorelines, close encounters and scares for the top clubs.
This weekend won’t answer many questions and could actually provide more interrogations, but what it will do is keep the fans intrigued, especially with new signings still bedding in.
Game of the weekend – Chelsea v Newcastle
Although Liverpool v Manchester City is perhaps the standout fixture on Sunday, the most attractive game of the weekend arguably comes from Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening.
Chelsea will be looking to make it three wins from three but come up against a Newcastle side that will go for the victory in West London and will have sweet memories of the 2-0 victory they enjoyed back in May.
Both sides like to attack and normally, there is often a talking point to delve into for the football experts.
The Blues probably start as slender favourites, due to the home advantage but Newcastle upset the odds last season and beat Tottenham last weekend. Alan Pardew will harbour ambitions of another surprise.
The star with a point to prove – Wayne Rooney
Maybe it was expected but Wayne Rooney looked a pale shadow of himself at his former club on Monday night.
At times, he linked up well with Shinji Kagawa but was generally limited with scoring chances and his facial expressions, summed up it was a difficult night for Manchester United.
The Red Devils play Fulham at home tomorrow, a fixture they normally end up collecting three points from.
Robin van Persie might make his home debut and there is plenty of competition now in the strikeforce at Old Trafford.
Rooney’s performance at Euro 2012 wasn’t great and he didn’t look in formidable form either against Everton.
He needs a goal and a starring performance again; this match could have come at just about the right time.
The confidence match – Norwich v QPR
Both Norwich City and QPR will be keen to erase the memory of last weekend’s 5-0 beatings, at the hands of Fulham and Swansea City respectively.
These two sides square up to one another at Carrow Road tomorrow afternoon, both keen to gain a result of some kind and some much-needed confidence.
QPR have made the headlines this week, with the newspaper articles making the club sound like an airport arrivals lounge from the amount of players they might be interested in.
A lot is expected of the Hoops this season, especially when you think of some of the quality that Mark Hughes has brought in over the summer.
It is worth noting that Norwich won both games between these sides last season. For both teams, it is time to give their supporters a boost after last weekend.
A draw could well be the best outcome for both.
Player to watch out for – Maroualine Fellani
Maroualine Fellani won the main praises for his performance in Everton’s superb success over Manchester United, even if Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t too impressed with the tactics of the Toffees.
The Belgian might be adaptable but forget the awesome ‘afro’ haircut for now; I think Fellani has generally underperformed in recent times.
Monday was a reminder of what he did in his first season at Goodison Park and I hope we will see more of the same tomorrow.
Aston Villa will be the opponents for Fellani and Everton, in a fixture that provides a tendency for goals and late drama.
The presence of Fellani could be the difference in what is likely to be an open encounter but one that could be tough, to pick an out & out winner.
The spicy contest – Stoke City v Arsenal
Let’s face it, Stoke City do not like Arsenal and Arsenal certainly don’t like Stoke City.
Arsene Wenger has often been very critical of Stoke’s physical tactics on his players. Sometimes, it is worth merit but in case Mr. Wenger has forgotten, Stoke can play decent football.
They are a tough team to beat and although I’ve predicted it will be a struggle for Tony Pulis’s side this season, no-one will get an easy game at the Britannia Stadium.
Aaron Ramsey will also come across Ryan Shawcross again. Shawcross has recently rejected his desire to play for Wales, which is something that Ramsey will be relieved about, after the defender’s awful tackle in 2010, which left the midfielder with a badly broken leg.
This game is likely to involving many meaty tackles, some typical shirt-pulling and shoving and will be a battle. The Gunners record at the Britannia is poor, with just one win in four – so a win here will show that Wenger’s side are made of sterner stuff.
The rest and a cheeky prediction
In other matches this weekend, I’m looking forward to the lunchtime clash tomorrow between Swansea City and West Ham United.
Both sides won last weekend and are on a high. Swansea proved tough to beat at the Liberty Stadium in their first Premier League campaign and Michael Laudrup will be aiming, for more of the same.
There is an interesting test of Manchester City’s potential title credentials, as they visit Anfield on Sunday afternoon.
Last season, the Reds won just six league matches, turning Anfield into a gift shop, rather than a fortress.
City might have Carlos Tevez back in top form but without the injured Sergio Aguero, it’s time for Edin Dzeko to step out of the shadows and force his way back into Roberto Mancini’s first team plans on a regular basis.
Elsewhere, Sunderland host Reading, Wigan travel to Southampton and Andre Villas-Boas’s first home match in charge of Tottenham, is a clash with a confident West Brom unit.
So, it is time for a cheeky prediction then from me. I would bank on a routine Manchester United home victory, reckon Reading will taste their first victory back in the top flight, think Manchester City will pass the stern Liverpool test unscathed and the frustration will grow for the two North London sides.
All in all, it should be another spectacular and probably, controversial weekend in the Barclays Premier League.
By Simon Wright – Follow me on Twitter @Siwri88
Follow Total Football on Twitter: @TotalFootball12