Friday 30 November 2012

‘The Beautiful Game: A Football Blog’

By Dave McArdle

Friday 30/11/2012

Another week has come and gone in the world of football – Mark Clattenburg returned to refereeing in the hot-bed of the Premier League, Rafa Benitez’s Chelsea flattered to deceive yet again and Robin Van Persie delivered the fastest goal scored in the league this season.

The midweek action saw Manchester United and Aston Villa both 1-0 win at home. QPR and Fulham both earned a point a piece away at Sunderland and Chelsea respectively. Tottenham and Stoke both enjoyed fine 2-1 victories at home to Arsenal and Newcastle. Swansea won well at the Liberty against a West Brom side who had been flying high while Manchester City were the only away side to win – Mario Balotelli and James Milner providing the goals in a 2-0 win against Wigan.
The action continues to come thick and fast across the water and between now and Monday all 20 sides will participate in another round of mouth-watering fixtures.

Premier League Preview

West Ham v Chelsea (Saturday 12:45 – Live on Sky Sports 2)

After 180 minutes without a goal, interim boss Rafa Benitez will be hoping his Chelsea side can get back to winning ways against a stubborn West Ham side who will be no pushovers at Upton Park. Benitez will be hoping that Fernando Torres can provide the spark and with a record of six goals in six games against the Hammers Torres should be confident that he can return to goal-scoring form. Sam Allardyce will have Mark Noble back from suspension but he will continue to be without Alou Diarra, Jack Collison and Ricardo Vaz Te while there are doubts over the fitness George McCartney and Andy Carroll. Yossi Benayoun is ineligible for the Hammers as the terms of his loan deal prevent him from playing against his parent club. Rafa Benitez will be without John Terry (knee), Frank Lampard (calf) and David Luiz (suspension) but Juan Mata should start after being rested last time out.

Arsenal v Swansea (Saturday 3pm)

Arsenal will be keen to secure a victory at the Emirates after drawing their last two games while Swansea will travel to London in confident mood after an impressive win over West Brom last time out. Arsene Wenger definitely will be without Andre Santos and Abou Diaby. There are serious doubts over the fitness of Laurent Koscielny and Bacary Sagna while Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski are slight doubts for the Gunners. Michael Laudrup will once more be without Michel Vorm, Neil Taylor and Alan Tate while Pablo Hernandez and Danny Graham are doubts for the Swans.

Fulham v Tottenham (Saturday 3pm)

Former Tottenham manager Martin Jol will welcome former Fulham players Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele to Craven Cottage as the Cottagers seek to build on their scoreless draw at Stamford Bridge last time out. Fulham captain Brede Hangeland will miss out as he serves the last game of his suspension. Martin Jol will also be without Bryan Ruiz and Alex Kacaniklic while Kieron Richardson could be fit enough to play a part. For Spurs, Emmanuel Adebayor also completes the third game of a suspension while Andre Villas-Boas will have to do without Scott Parker as well as defensive duo Younes Kaboul and Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

West Brom v Stoke (Saturday 3pm)

Stoke City travel to the Hawthorns on Saturday and they will be hoping to build on their impressive comeback against Newcastle in midweek. Steve Clarke’s side will continue to be without goalkeeper Ben Foster and there are doubts over the participation of Hungarian midfielder Zoltan Gera and Swedish defender Jonas Olsson. Tony Pulis will be unable to call upon long-term absentees Marc Wilson and Rory Delap but Andy Wilkinson and Michael Owen could return to the fold. Pulis will also be without Peter Crouch after the beanpole striker lost three teeth on Wednesday after a challenge with Fabriccio Coloccini.

Liverpool v Southampton (Saturday 3pm)

Brendan Rodgers’ side welcome Southampton to Anfield hoping for a valuable three points which would push them up the table. Martin Kelly and Fabio Borini will miss out once more for the hosts while Brendan Rodgers will be pleased to be able to call upon Andre Wisdom, Joe Cole and Lucas Leiva once again. Danny Fox should be ok to feature for the Saints while Frazer Richardson and Richard Chaplow are close to full fitness for Nigel Adkins’ side.

QPR v Aston Villa (Saturday 3pm)

Harry Redknapp will take charge of QPR at Loftus Road for the first time as they welcome an Aston Villa side who will be buoyed by a late victory over Reading last time out. QPR remain rooted to the foot of the Premier League table and defeat against fellow strugglers Villa would pile further pressure on the R’s.  Bobby Zamora and Andrew Johnson will miss out for QPR while Julio Cesar is a serious doubt for Redknapp’s side. Villa boss Paul Lambert has a raft of defensive injuries with Joe Bennett, Enda Stevens and Richard Dunne unavailable while Ron Vlaar is also expected to miss out. Villa will also have to make do without midfield duo Gary Gardner and Charles N’Zogbia for the trip to Loftus Road.

Man City v Everton (Saturday 3pm – Live on Setanta Ireland)

Manchester City welcome Everton to the Etihad hoping for a victory which would – at least temporarily – return them to the top of the table. After six draws in their last eight games, Everton will nonetheless be confident on their trip to Manchester as they were the last side to record a victory at the Etihad in December 2010. Roberto Mancini will be without Micah Richards, Gael Clichy and James Milner while Jack Rodwell is not yet ready to return for the home side. Everton captain Phil Neville will continue to be sidelined for the Toffees while David Moyes also has serious fitness concerns over Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman along with forward trio Nikica Jelavic, Kevin Mirallas and victor Anichebe.

Reading v Man United (Saturday 5:30 – Live on ESPN)

Reading welcome league leaders Manchester United to the Madejski and they will hope to produce another upset after taking the scalp of Everton in their last home game. United, on the other hand, will aim to maintain their lead over rivals Man City ahead of next week’s Manchester derby. Alex McCarthy, Jem Karacan and Jimmy Kebe continue to be sidelined for the Royals but Brian McDermott may be boosted by the return of Danny Guthrie as he edges closer to full fitness. Sir Alex Ferguson will once more be unable to call upon Nemanja Vidic, Shinji Kagawa, Nani and Antonio Valencia while the Red Devils will be buoyed by the return of veteran duo Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs – who have a combined age of 77 years.

Norwich v Sunderland (Sunday 4pm – Live on Sky Sports 1)

Norwich City welcome Sunderland to Carrow Road on Sunday with both sides in contrasting form. The Canaries will be looking to extend a run of form which has them unbeaten in seven while the Mackems will be looking to arrest a slide down the table which could see them in the relegation places if results go against them on Saturday. John Ruddy and Michael Turner will miss out for the home side while Chris Hughton has concerns over the fitness of Russell Martin and Harry Kane. Sunderland will be without captain Lee Cattermole and long-term absentee Wes Brown while there is a serious doubt over the participation of Republic of Ireland international John O’Shea after he picked up a calf injury last weekend.

Newcastle v Wigan (Monday 8pm – Live on Sky Sports 1)

Newcastle face Wigan on Monday night at St.James’ Park looking to arrest a terrible run of form that has seen them lose their last four games on the bounce. Alan Pardew’s side have been decimated by injuries in recent weeks and they are expected to be without Steven Taylor, Ryan Taylor, James Perch, Johan Cabaye, Gabriel Obertan, Dan Gosling, Haris Vuckic and Shola Ameobi. The only chink of light for the Toon is that influential midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa is closing in on a return to full fitness. For Roberto Martinez’ side, things are looking slightly better on the injury front and the Wigan boss may be able to welcome back as many as five players for Monday night’s game with Gary Caldwell, Ivan Ramis, Ryo Miyaichi, Shaun Maloney and David Jones all closing in on full fitness. However, Antolin Alcaraz, Albert Crusat and Ben Watson are expected to remain on the sidelines for the Latics.   

CCFL Preview
Unfortunately, I could not attend the intriguing looking cup tie of St.Peters against Willow Park last weekend as the game was postponed due to bad weather. However, this week (weather permitting) I will be in Clara as home side Clara Town – who now top the Senior Division – face up to a Killavilla side who will be looking to get back to winning ways after a couple of disappointing results. The Senior Division has proven to be particularly exciting this season as several teams battle for top spot and with two of those sides in action on Sunday afternoon, Stanley O’Hara Park should host an exciting match. There are two more games in the Senior Division on Sunday as Mullingar Athletic travel to St.Peters while Melville Utd host Monksland Utd.

On Saturday, Killavilla, Edenderry Town and Tullamore Town are all in action in the Umbro FAI Youths Cup while Grange Utd face Horseleap Utd in the John Farrell Combined Counties Cup. Also on Saturday, Derry Rovers will be looking to keep up with Premier Division leaders CK Utd as they host Abbeyleix Athletic at Brians Park. Sunday afternoon sees plenty of action in the John Farrell Combined Counties Cup as Moate Celtic host Portlaoise, Birr Town welcome Newtown to Frank O’Connell Park, Clonmore Utd host Noreside Celtic while CK Utd travel to St.James’.

Also on Sunday in the Premier Division, Mullingar Athletic B host Stradbally Town and Willow Park B face Mullingar Town. In Division 1 on Sunday, the pick of the games include league leaders Templevilla against third-placed Gracefield Athletic and second-placed Shinrone travelling to fourth-placed Clonaslee. The top game in Division 2 this weekend sees table-toppers Killeigh Ramblers host second-placed Dynamo Town. In Division 3A, Raheen face Brosna in a relegation battle while in Division 3B it’s first against third as Clara Town B host Banagher Utd and it’s also second against fourth as Frankford Utd square up to Melville Celtic B. There is a top of the table clash in Division 4A as Abbeyleix Athletic B host Portarlington Town whilst the pick of the action in Division 4B sees Monksland B host Clara Town C. In the women’s Division, there is only one game to be played as third-placed Tullamore Town host fifth-placed Clara Town.

For full information on fixtures, results and tables visit:

Fantasy Football

Finally, after two barren gameweeks, Robin Van Persie came good for me in midweek. His goal after 31 seconds was enough to win the game for United and deliver the 3 bonus pints for Van Persie. Looking ahead to Gameweek 15 this weekend and it’s pretty hard to ignore the potential of Van Persie once again up against a Reading side that have been shipping plenty of goals this season. However, this week RVP has a serious rival for the captain’s armband in Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan has been in lethal form this season and a home game against a Southampton side - who have shipped more goals than anyone else in the league to date - looks an appealing prospect. Some other contenders for the captain’s pick this weekend include Santi Cazorla/Olivier Giroud (Arsenal play Swansea at home), Demba Ba/Papiss Cisse (Newcastle are at home to Wigan) and Carlos Tevez/Sergio Aguero (Man City face Everton at home).

In terms of clean sheets this week, the above teams also look the most appealing with the fixtures they have – Liverpool and Arsenal at home should be looking to produce shutouts while Man United at Reading should be winning comfortably. Newcastle and Man City are also traditionally strong at home but both have found things more difficult defensively this season and clean sheets in these games are perhaps less likely.

In relation to who to transfer in this week, an Arsenal defender could be a good shout – they have four home games (against Swansea, West Brom, West Ham and Newcastle) and two away games (against Reading and Wigan) in their next six and even the notoriously attack-minded Arsenal should be able to produce some clean sheets (and some real attacking hauls) in this period. Per Mertesacker (5.3 million) and Carl Jenkinson (4.6) look the best value in the defence but buying Jenkinson comes with the risk that his game time could be severely restricted by the return of Bacary Sagna. Santi Cazorla is the main contender for attacking points and for those of you looking for more of a gamble, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud should also be considered.

Another team whose next six fixtures are good is Liverpool – home games against Southampton, Aston Villa and Fulham along with away games against West Ham, Stoke and QPR should hold little fear for Brendan Rodgers’ men. Obviously, the main man to consider here is Luis Suarez but Jose Enrique has emerged as a really intriguing option recently – his role as part of a front three, along with his FPL classification as a defender, means he could pick up both defensive and attacking returns. Andre Wisdom and Raheem Sterling are strong budget options also.

Enjoy the weekend and I’ll be back next week with a review of all the weekend’s action.

You can follow Dave McArdle on Twitter @DaveMidlands103


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