Kieran Davies on a returning hero, book-balancing, and an excitement-fuelled weekend.
Merseyside hasn’t seen a comeback greeted with such positivity since Jimmy Corkhill came back from the grave on Brookside until last weekend when the stadium announcer at Anfield made the statement that the oncoming substitute was number fifteen, Daniel Sturridge. Since gaining the mantle of Liverpool’s main striker, the Anfield faithful have barely seen their main man in action. He wasted no time in getting on the scoresheet after his absence with assistance from the in form Coutinho, showed a sublime first touch and rifled the ball past the keeper at the near post. This meant not only that Sturridge was back but that in 12 minutes he had done more than Lambert, Borini and Balotelli had all season. The reds will need both Coutinho and Sturridge on form this weekend as they face as Merseyside derby at Goodison Park. Brendan Rodgers goes into his 100th game in charge and all the comparisons are being made of how he ranks amongst previous managers. Interestingly, they only compare him to the last decade or so, a period where Liverpool have been below par in most Premier League campaigns. The fact that Rodgers is second only to Benitez with a win percentage of fifty something percent, means nothing as none of these managers have made the club a success in the Premier League era.
Man City came away from Stamford Bridge with a point but this should have felt as bad as defeat to the players. They had a fantastic opportunity to take Mourinho’s side to the sword and dominated most of the game without complimenting their play with goals. This cost them and Jose will be the happier of the managers as the point ensures that the gap between the pair remains the same. In a week where Mourinho tries to darken the image of Man City by questioning the legality of their Financial Fair Play breach in competing for trophies that following season, ironically Chelsea went out and made a major signing in Cuadrado before the transfer window shut but did seem to balance the books somewhat by offloading Andre Schurrle in the process. With Chelsea travelling to Villa where his side have a surprisingly poor record but facing a Villa side struggling to score goals, City will need a convincing win against Hull just to keep their goal difference in check. The early kick off throws up another big derby where Tottenham face Arsenal at White Hart Lane. The form book goes out of the window for these games normally so home advantage could be a big factor while Wenger looks for the sort of performance his side put in when brushing aside Man City at the City of Manchester Stadium.
With Burnley playing West Brom and Leicester hosting Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace, an emphasis is put on the need for Leicester to get a win against a team that would be a rival in the battle against relegation. With Tony Pullis having seemed to steady the ship somewhat at West Brom and Burnley needing to get back to winning ways, I can’t see this one ending in a stalemate which means defeat for Pearson’s side could see them slip further adrift. Managerless QPR will entertain high flying Southampton after the shock departure of Harry Redknapp. Things were looking rosy for the hoops only a month or so ago mainly thanks to their home form and also Charlie Austin’s too. For whatever reason Harry decided he’d had enough. Gus Poyet’s Sunderland travel to Swansea and although they’ve managed to put a bit of daylight between themselves and the drop zone, defeat could see them sucked right back in with things so close at the foot of the table.
In what already seems like a mid table battle, Newcastle will take on Stoke City at St James’ Park. With both these sides showing non consistency this season, this one could go either way so it’s a tough one to call. Man Utd find themselves in third place in the table, sitting pretty for Champions League qualification. A trip to West Ham with their rich vein of form this season will no doubt prove a stern test for Van Gaal’s side. Their form away from home has been none to impressive so he will no doubt want to make a statement in Sunday’s live game. Allardyce, this time last season was being ousted by his own fans asking for the owners to put him out of his misery. What a difference a year can make where Big Sam finds himself in the hunt for silverware in the FA Cup and his team in the top eight of the table. While football can be a fickle game, credit needs to go to Sam who has taken all the negativity in his stride and turned haters into believers. He too can make a big statement with a win over the ex-champions elect.
No doubt we are in for another excitement fuelled weekend which the Premier League regularly provides, as TV broadcasters battle it over a deal for around £4bn for the rights to air games from 2016. As much as we all love the game and wouldn’t do without it, that for anyone is a disgraceful amount of money. When parts of the world live in squalor, the money bandied about in the beautiful game is shocking. While we all see the passion and love for our clubs as just that, to most the game is monetary vehicle as can often be seen at cup finals. With fans of both clubs receiving about 20,000 tickets each in 80,000+ capacity, the maths really doesn’t work out. However, when you add the words ‘corporate hospitality’ it all suddenly adds up. This is why some teams prefer the rawness of lower league football to the ‘money game’. It’s not something we will fix however as greed is a human trait that blackens the world all over, all we can do is enjoy the rather expensive ride. With tops costing as much as a family weekly shop, tickets costing more than a slap up meal with the enemy, most of us have to make do with the medium of Sky or such like. As a result these are the power players but where does that £4bn the Premier League makes go? Well that’s for a dispatches programme another day no doubt!