Are you ready for some football? Eight by Eight’s Tom Lau previews the best (and worst) of what’s on tap in the Premier League this weekend. Expect irreverence, subjectivity, and a whole of lot of ‘Arry.
Manchester City vs. Tottenham — Everything that Rises Must Converge
Etihad Stadium, Saturday, 7:45 a.m. EST, NBC Sports
On Saturday, Manchester City face Tottenham Hotspur in a battle of heightened expectations. With both teams brimming with potential, it will be an exciting contest as the rising tide of Tottenham face the endless ocean of talent that is Manchester City. Both teams are capable of scoring but Man City’s Jekyll and Hyde mentality make this an unpredictable fixture.
Man City are…Man City. They are rising sea levels or shifting tectonic plates: vast, unstoppable forces of nature. Sure they have off days – Yaya mightn’t be in the mood, Aguero will have a pulled hamstring, and Joe Hart will mishandle a speculative shot – but ultimately the best you can hope for is that their off day is your day on.
The key this weekend will be Yaya Toure and David Silva. When Toure is energized and Silva plays in his preferred central role, Man City hum. It’s never a question of talent but of hunger, which is the price of assembling a team of overpaid mercenaries.
Meanwhile in London, Spurs have finally got their man in Mauricio Pochettino who has transformed last years expensive signings-Lamela, Eriksen and Chadli-from lame ducks into laser-guided ninja killer weasels. With every week, Tottenham look more fluid and threatening, but there’s still plenty of work to be done, especially in defense. It’ll be interesting to see how advanced the Pochettino project has come and who better to test them than the reigning champions.
Everton vs. Aston Villa — Size Does Matter
Goodison Park, Saturday, 10:00 a.m., NBC Sports Live Extra
For the first time in a long time, Everton has ambition. They want continental glamour, exciting players and to finally be the “big club” everyone says they are. But big clubs need big benches and Tony Hibbert does not quite scream Wednesday nights in Milan. Everton have so far banked a fortune of possession but have struggled both in defense and with finishing. Romelu Lukaku has been most disappointing. Once touted as a power forward in the mold of Drogba, he now floats in and out with Naismith, both building, no one finishing. He’ll be looking to rediscover his touch against a Villa defence potentially missing first choice pair of Vlaar and Senderos.
In contrast, Aston Villa’s players have had fewer games (domestic and international), fewer injuries and will be coming into the game with two weeks of preparation and rest. With Villa players like Benteke and Okore returning to fitness rather than fatigue, both teams will feel like this is a winnable game. Villa are on the tail end of a tough losing streak which has seen them valiantly battle big four teams. Meanwhile, Everton will be wanting online casino show their play can match their ambitions. Right now they look like they’ve finally going on their first date with an international supermodel but are gulping at the prices at the restaurant she picked.
Queens Park Rangers vs. Liverpool — The Jurassic Park Rangers
Loftus Road, Sunday, 8:30 a.m., NBC Sports
On Sunday, Brendan Rodger’s sputtering Liverpool will visit Harry Redknapp’s QPR in the battle of comedy defenses. Liverpool will be looking to trend upward from average to good and QPR will be looking to go from awful to anything. Expect goals, as a controversially well rested Raheem Sterling will hopefully be partnered by an injury-free Daniel Sturridge. Liverpool have looked incomplete without their key striker who now carries the heavy burden of “SAS” solely his shoulders. It speaks wonders of his development that in 3 seasons he’s gone from a fringe prospect to a fulcrum more irreplaceable than the butter-toed Gerrard.
Sitting at the bottom of the table, $200 million in debt, and with Redknapp at the helm, QPR fans should be looking at the fossilized remains of Portsmouth and be very, very afraid. They say you should “fake it till you make it” but how long should you wait? What if after faking it for 30 years, your record is five relegations, 40% win ratio and one financially ruined club. No wonder Harry gets upset if you don’t call him a “footbahl manajah.”
From the famous car window interviews to the bank account in his dogs name and comparing Darren Bent”s miss to his wife, Redknapp is becoming more caricature than character. The man is a football dinosaur, but that doesn”t mean we won’t watch him squint his beady eyes, point at the cataclysmic meteor set to end his existence, and attempt to avoid it all by signing Peter Crouch for the 14th time.
Liverpool will be licking their lips at a chance to unleash their newly restored fire power on the Premier League’s leakiest defense. Furthermore, with only 4 goals in 7 games (1 from open play), QPR’s strike force are scaring absolutely no one.
And while it’s disingenuous (fun too) to claim Redknapp does not know what he’s doing, it’s really his failure to evolve that will be his downfall. Redknapp seems to know only one way to skin a cat, and it’s a messy, expensive, and doesn’t work well. Perhaps the only glimmer of hope for QPR is that another loss brings them closer to parting ways with the Old Man.
Tom Lau is a scientist, sports nut, playlist maestro, economics enthusiast and humourphile. Follow him on Twitter at @TomLau.