Four huge Barclays Premier League matches take place on the afternoon of Sunday 18th September 2011, particularly when one considers the matches in the context of how the early 2011/12 table is shaping up: each of the four matches features at least one team from the top five in the table.
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool – Kick-Off (BST) 13:30
Spurs and Liverpool are two sides who will have designs on a top four finish. Both sides, despite not impressing in every match thus far this term, have got strength throughout their squads, particularly in attack.
The key to this home match for Tottenham, at White Hart Lane, will be whether they can get a goal return against Liverpool’s stingy defence, and whether they can prevent the £100 million+ attacking line-up Liverpool have invested in recently from getting on the score-sheet more than once at the other end.
This is a fascinating battle, which is difficult to predict. A score draw is the tentative prediction.
Fulham v Manchester City – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
Man City have a 100% win record from the first four games they have played, and, along with Manchester United, are one of only two sides looking to continue that record into game week 5.
Fulham have started this season badly, and find themselves down in 20th place after the sides around them at the foot of the table all got points, making their 2 scored to date the worst of the league. City are not, then, the opponents that they would choose to play this afternoon: the Manchester side have scored 15 and conceded just 3 in their four matches played to date.
It is difficult to see just how Fulham will be able to prevent defeat today, unless they smarten up their play across all areas of the pitch, and City perform as they did in Europe in mid-week, where they were a little flat. A Man City win by more than two goals would otherwise be expected.
Sunderland v Stoke – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
Two mid-table teams who play in red and white meet at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light with the sides experiencing considerably different fortunes this term.
Stoke find themselves fifth in the table – and deservedly so – as they have added a little more invention, while gaining even more solidity in defence, to make themselves into a solid Premier League outfit. Sunderland, on the other hand, continue to look a little leaky at the back – they rarely finish matches with clean sheets these days – and have yet to really find the secret to unlocking defences at the other end having gone through more attacking ins and outs than Steve Bruce would have hoped for.
If both teams play to recent form, this match would go to Stoke by the odd goal, but Sunderland have shown signs of late, that they are beginning to gel: with home advantage, a score draw looks possible.
Manchester Utd v Chelsea – Kick-Off (BST) 16:00
The match of the day, surely, is this 1st v 3rd game at Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium, which comes with these perennial league contenders experiencing different form to date in 2011/12.
Man Utd come into this match in rude health, having gone through their best first four league matches in living memory. They have a 100% win record. Chelsea, on the other hand, have yet to put together two halves of football that reflect the value within their ever-impressive squad. They remain, however, unbeaten, having only dropped two points against a resilient Stoke City first time out in a 0-0 draw.
Chelsea need to find goals; Man Utd are full of goals at present.
It looks, on paper, as though United have all the ingredients, in particular the vital confidence, to take a home win and push further towards league title number 20. But Chelsea have a talented squad, and a great manager: only the smallest improvement in their play will see them at least a match for United today. This will be a great match. Chelsea will know that, if they have designs on the league title, they need to get at least a point from this – they could well achieve that from a score draw this afternoon.
Barclays Premier League 2011/12 Fixtures, Sunday 18th September 2011
- Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool – Kick-Off (BST) 13:30
- Fulham v Manchester City – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
- Sunderland v Stoke – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
- Manchester Utd v Chelsea – Kick-Off (BST) 16:00