Friday, October 5, 2007

Games to Watch--10/07

It's a relatively tame fixture list on tap for Saturday and Sunday, but two games stand out to me in Liverpool-Tottenham and Newcastle-Everton. These matchups are significant for each of the 4 teams involved and should make for entertaining soccer this weekend.

1. Liverpool vs. Tottenham (Sunday, 10:00 AM, FSC)

After Monday's exciting, come-from-behind 4-4 draw with Aston Villa at White Hart Lane, Tottenham face a tough test in a trip to Liverpool. Tottenham were 4-1 down in the second half but three unanswered goals, capped by a last minute equalizer from Younes Kaboul, gave Tottenham an unexpected share of the spoils. The manner in which Spurs came back showed the team's true character. They could've packed it in for the day after they faced a three-goal deficit but they never quit, they fought their way back and came away with a point. It was the type of game that could help turn around Tottenham's season. Already 13 points behind Arsenal, they need every single result they can get.

Unlike Tottenham, who are on the upswing, Liverpool have no momentum going for them. They've scored just one goal in their last three games, as they were held to a 0-0 tie at home by Birmingham on September 22, beat Wigan 1-0 at the JJB on the 29th (though they were held scoreless for much of that game and looked sluggish throughout), and most shocking of all, lost 1-0 to Marseille at Anfield in their Champions League group stage fixture this midweek. Manager Rafael Benitez has been under recent fire from the club's fans and media for his squad rotation policy (hindsight is 20/20; no one doubted him when it was working) and he'll need to put the right lineup out there for this game. Liverpool head across town to play Everton in two weeks' time and host Arsenal in three weeks, and I honestly believe that if Liverpool don't get a win over Tottenham this weekend, they'll be looking at 1 point from the three games.

It's not a must-win for Tottenham this early in the season, but they're desperate for points right now and I like them to pull off the upset on Sunday.

Prediction: Tottenham-2, Liverpool-1

2. Newcastle vs. Everton (Sunday, 10:00 AM, Setanta Xtra)

After coming out like a house on fire to start the season, Everton have cooled down as of late. Yes, they've won three straight games overall but one was in the Carling Cup (3-0 at Sheffield Wednesday) and one was in the UEFA Cup (3-2 at FC Metalist Kharkiv). In the Premier League, Everton have won just twice in their last six matches. The Toffees were expected to contend for a UEFA Cup spot this season and as of right now look to be favorites to do so. They're sitting in 5th place and that could likely be their finishing point. Manchester City are a likely bet to fall back to earth at some point and slide in somewhere behind Everton and Chelsea should leap back over Everton by season's end. Sooner or later, however, someone other than Joleon Lescott (3) is going to need to step up and score some goals for this club.

A casual fan of the Premiership might take a glance at the standings, see Newcastle in 10th place, and not blink twice about it. Newcastle have been a fairly mediocre team in recent years but new manager Sam Allardyce has legitimate European aspirations for his Tyneside club after four straight top-8 finishes with Bolton. Like Everton, Newcastle haven't been on good form recently (3 losses in their last 4 games) and need a rejuvenating performance in this game. Big Sam is one of the best managers in the Premiership and you can't underestimate that, but the fact of the matter is his team simply may not be good enough to finish higher than Everton, Blackburn, Portsmouth, and Aston Villa, the UEFA Cup contenders.

This is a big, big game for both teams. Newcastle really need to hold serve and win at home but I'm not sure if they can do it against Everton. A point gained on the road is a point earned, I always say.

Prediction: Newcastle-1, Everton-1

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