Ask anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the game and they’ll tell you that football is only 11 v 11 on paper. It is more so a series of individual battles that help decide results and last season the Cutter began highlighting the most intriguing and influential of these match-ups ahead of each weekend of fixtures.
After a baffling break (ie we stopped doing them and don’t know why) the Cutter is genuinely chuffed to announce that by popular demand, and in association with Party Bingo http://www.partybingo.com/ (join now and get £30 free!) the return of the preview with a difference…the match-ups of the day.
Demba Ba v Matija Nastasic – Newcastle United v Manchester City
On the penultimate game of last season City travelled to the north-east needing three extremely difficult points to put themselves in pole position in a thrilling title race. That they achieved this was largely due to Yaya Toure’s calm, classy brace but until their towering Ivorian struck it should not be forgotten that the Toon’s exhillerating strike force of Ba and Cisse were ripping City a new one, causing all manner of problems with their powerful mobility. This has been much less in evidence this term but Ba remains a potent threat one in which the champions will employ a nineteen year old to combat.
Serbian Nastasic arrived in the summer from Fiorentina labelled the ‘new Vidic’ and quickly established himself as a commanding presence that belies his tender years. Usurping Joleon Lescott he has excelled in some intimidating match-ups but – with his imperious partner Kompany presumed missing with a hamstring strain – this could be his most challenging to date especially with Ba’s intelligent movement and unnerving ability to strike early and accurately from distance.
Newcastle have won only one in their last ten so the fear is they will batter from the start, spurred on by a packed St James’. How City – and Nastasic – deal with the early onslaught will go a long way to determining the result in this intriguing affair.
Joe Allen v Barry Bannan – Liverpool v Aston Villa
For lovers of diminutive ball players who nip and bite when out of possession but stroke it around once retained this duel is worth watching purely for itself. The Welsh wonder has been superb at the heart of the Anfield midfield since following Rodgers from Swansea but it’s not just his neat retention and deceptive simplicity that has instantly made him a fan favourite – Allen has covered more ground than almost any other Premier League player so far this term breaking the hundred mile mark against West Ham last week.
Bannan meanwhile has been rejuvenated under Paul Lambert and has rediscovered the form that once had Alex Ferguson seriously consider him a long-term replacement for Scholes. The 23 year old Scot was rested last weekend after a series of outstanding all-action displays but now sees his place under threat after Delph and El Ahmadi helped Villa romp to a 4-1 away win at Norwich. But Lambert will surely rely on the persuasive stats to restore his little schemer – Bannan is Villa’s most successful passer in the opponents half with 198 completed thus far.
Whoever comes out on top in this battle of the ball players will sway dominance in an exceedingly tricky fixture for the Reds.
Jan Vertonghen v Michu – Tottenham v Swansea City
The Spaniard has been such a revelation since his summer move from Rayo Vallecano that he has already seen his £2m value soar ten-fold with Atletico Madrid reportedly sniffing around should they lose the majestic Falcao in January.
According to Michael Laudrup however the Premier League’s top goalscorer with 12 is going nowhere http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2246474/Michu-happy-Swansea-despite-transfer-interest.html and who can blame him for his truculence considering Michu’s importance to the Swans’ play. Not only has the 26 year old fired in a variety of match-winners his deep-lying instincts makes him a nightmare to contain for any centre-back. Now it is Vertonghen’s turn to attempt what many others have failed to do and though the Spurs man has been splendid this term and settled well he does look susceptible to any striker who ventures beyond ABC.