EPL soccer returns this week after a week layoff for the European qualifiers. Manchester United finds themselves less favored than usual against a tough Liverpool squad. We’ll examine Saturday’s matches this week, but will not preview the three games Sunday, in this preview. All betting odds are taken from Bodog.
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Liverpool (39/20) AT Manchester United (27/20)
–Manchester United Probable Lineup: De Gea, Smalling, Ferdinand, Vivic, Evra, Nani, Fletcher, Anderson, Young, Rooney, Cicharito
–Liverpool Probable Lineup: Reina, Kelly, Skrtel, Carragher, Enrique, Kuyt, Gerrard, Lucas, Adam, Downing, Suarez
Steven Gerrard will be back with Liverpool after having been a sub in the Merseyside derby. Liverpool manager Kenny Dalgish might put Andy Carrol up front, paired with Suarez, if Gerrard isn’t fully rehabbed and ready to start, though he is expected to be near full strength.
MC’s Wayne Rooney may or may not play, depending on his mind-state.
An entirely parallel story to this match has been the talk of LeBron James suiting up for Liverpool. It wuld be a tragic mistake on the part of LeBron to actually play. He’s not in soccer shape and isn’t really a soccer player at all. He’s far better off doing the NFL. It’s just an aside, though, as it is highly unlikely we do see James in action for Liverpool this year.
Manchester City (10/33) AT Aston Villa (9/1)
–Manchester City Probable Lineup: Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Silva, Toure, Barry, Nasri, Balotelli, Dzeko
–Aston Villa Probable Lineup: Given, Hutton, Collins, Dunne, Warnock, Bannan, Petrov, Delph, N’Zogbia, Bent, Agbonlahor
MC’s Sergio Aguero is questionable for the match because he is still rehabbing a groin injury. MC manager Roberto Mancini may opt to wait to bring Aguero back, when they take on Villaerreal mid-week.
MC’s Mario Balotelli has managed to over come back issues and is probable for the match. Nasri has six assists so far, and David Silva has scored five goals, while MC has won all three of their home games, while scoring 9 goals in those matches.
Aston Villa is hoping to have Gabriel Agbonlahor back as he just returned to training. AV has not won away from home.
Both MC and AV are unbeaten after seven rounds of games in the Premier league. Aston Villa has yet to give up a goal at home in Premier League and has won every game at home. Will things be different against a much stronger Manchester City?
Wigan Athletic (5/4) AT Bolton Wanderers (11/5)
–Wigan Starters: Al Habsi, Boyce, Caldwell, Lopez, Figueroa, Watson, McCarthy, Diame, Moses, Di Santo, Maloney
–Bolton Starters: Jaaskelainen, Steinesson, Cahill, Boyata, Robinson, Eagles, Reo Coker, Pratley, Petrov, Ngog, Klasnic
Hugo Rodallega of Wigan is unlikely to play, as he sustained a knee injury against Everton.
Jaaskelainen will be returning to Bolton after missing the defeat to Chelsea. Adam Bogdan gave up fivce goals, and he will probably return to the bench, after such an embarassment. Stuart Holden, Chung Yong Lee, and Tyrone Mears are not going to be available for Bolton.
Both Bolton and Wigan are in the bottom three of the standings, and both are seeking only their second victory of the year. The towns are a mere seven miles apart, which adds an interesting rivalry aspect toe the game. Both teams’ lone victory came against QPR.
Bolton has been poor at home, so they are probably better off on the road this week. At home they have givcen up 15 goals in 4 games. Wigan is winning the all time series against Bolton 13-12.
Norwich City (5/4) AT Swansea City (11/5)
–Norwich Starters: Ruddy, Naughton, De Laet, Tierney, Bennett, Johnson, Hoolahan, Pilkington, Holt, Morison
–Swansea City Starters: Vorm, Rangel, Monk, Williams, Taylor, Dyer, Allen, Gower, Sinclair, Graham, Lita
Norwich City has won three of the last four matches between the teams. Swansea’s international players (Ashley Williams, Joe Allen, Neil Taylor, and Michael Vorm) all came out of their international matches with good health and are injury-free.
Norwich has scored the most goals out of the three promoted sides, with seven goals. Swansea, by comparison, has scored five. Swansea became the first non-English side to play in the Premier League, and they last won at Carrow Road in 2008, with a 3-2 victory.
At home, Norwich is averaging 1.43 goals per game at home, and Swansea is only scoring 0.33 goals per match on the road. Because of this and the solid 5/4 odds, many bettors will be wise to back Norwich.
QPR (5/6) AT Blackburn Rovers (16/5)
–QPR Starters: Kenny, Young, Hall, Ferdinand, Traore, Derry, Faurlin, Wright-Phillips, Taarabt, Barton, Bothroyd
–Blackburn Starters: Robinson, Samba, Dann, Givet, Olsson, N’Zonzi, Petrovic, Rochina, Formica, Hoilett, Goodwillie
QPR has yet to win at home this year and they are bringing back Armand Traore back into the starting lineup. Fitz Hall will pair up with Anton Ferdinand to fortify the QPR defense.
Blackburn’s Michel Salgado is still nursing a hammy injury, and Samba will step up and start in his absense. Givet will fill in where Samba’s was playing on defense with Scott Dann, while Olsson will guard the left flank. It’s not the normal back four, but it will have to do against a heavily favored QPR team.
QPR has not beat Blackburn in any of the last four meetings. Blackburn has not lost in its last four games at QPR’s Loftus Road. QPR has not beat Blackburn at home since 1993. Bettors will be wise to back the underdog Blackburn Rovers, confident that their past success will translate to another victory against what is probably an overrated QPR team this year.
Stoke City (23/20) AT Fulham (12/5)
–Stoke Starters: Begovic, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Woodgate, Wilson, Pennant, Delap, Whelan, Etherington, Walters, Crouch
–Fulham Starters: Schwarzer, Grygera, Hangeland, Hughes, Riise, Dempsey, Murphy, Sidwell, Dembele, Zamora, Johnson
Stoke has Kenwyne Jones and Wilson Palacios are still unlikely to start this game despite having returned to practices. Stoke’s Etherington is probable to be back after recovering from an injury he suffered in a 2-0 loss to Swansea last game. Diao is still going to miss the game for Stoke though, as he has a fractured cheekbone.
Byran Ruiz of Fulham is out with a knee injury and Philippe Sanderos and Kerim Frei are out with injuries as well. Simon Davies is still out, as well, but Aaron Hughes has recovered from a graoin strain and should be back in action after missing his international game for Northern Ireland.
The clubs have met 70 times and Stoke has won 26, Fulham 29, and 15 have ended in draw. Fulham just won its first of the year against QPR, with a 6-0 slaughter. Stoke hasn’t won since September 10th, in a 1-0 win over Liverpool, so a win as favorite tonight would still be a big accomplishment, while a draw is no longer a reason for satisfaction. Stoke has scored only four goals in their last nine fixtures and they have the lowest tally of shots on target for the entire league, with only 17.
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