• Premier League Preview

Rodgers looks to mastermind Stamford Bridge heist

ESPN staff
November 9, 2012
Chelsea will be hoping to build on the confidence of a late midweek win © PA Photos

Once again, ESPN Goals is completely free this season. It's the first place to see every goal from every Premier League game, all season long.

After the excitement of the midweek European action, the return to Premier League fare is headlined by a game between one side that got a result they desperately needed - Chelsea, beating Shakhtar Donetsk 3-2 at the death - and one side that travelled the whole way across Europe only to suffer a narrow defeat - Liverpool, against Anzhi Makhachkala.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers would probably prefer any other game to a trip to Stamford Bridge at this stage of the season, but the Blues did not look indestructible at the same venue on Wednesday - while the return of John Terry could also provide as much distraction as defensive relief.

There are other big games elsewhere. Up in Manchester, two managers who have faced criticism in recent weeks are looking for significant wins as Manchester City host Tottenham, while in Birmingham Manchester United willl be looking to continue their improved recent form with a victory over Aston Villa.

For even more talking points and predictions, allow ESPN to preview all the action below...


Arsenal v Fulham

Form: The away side are actually the form team coming into this one, comparatively at least. The Gunners can perhaps point to a tough recent fixture list for their run of results, but they have nevertheless picked up just seven points from their last six games - with defeats against Manchester United, Chelsea and Norwich counting against them. Fulham, meanwhile, have claimed nine - their only defeat in that period coming against Manchester City.
Key battle: Fulham have a number of technically-gifted players in their attacking ranks, but it is actually Chris Baird - the man known as 'Bairdinho' on the banks of the Thames - who enters this game in prolific goalscoring form. Will he outshine Santi Cazorla (taking back most of his side's creative responsibility in the absence of Jack Wilshere) in this one?
Player to watch: Lukas Podolski this week joined Theo Walcott in calling for the chance to play as a central striker, but with Olivier Giroud also beginning to find his scoring boots, whoever gets the nod will be under pressure to make the most of the chance. Marouane Chamakh, you can probably rest easy though.
Talking point: Fulham are level on points with Arsenal as we pass the quarter stage of the season. If the Gunners are still considered firm Champions League qualification contenders, can the Cottagers be ruled out of matters - especially if they pick up something from this away game?
Bet of the day: Arsenal to be frustrated in a 1-1 draw is to be considered, especially at a tasty 7/1 with bet365

Prediction: 1-1

Everton v Sunderland

Form: The Toffees may play like Stoke (if you are Steven Gerrard) but it is certainly effective - the side have lost just once all season (to West Brom) and are unbeaten in their last six, although they are on a run of four successive draws. Sunderland have not won in four either, averaging a point-a-game from their last six.
Key battle: Simon Mignolet has been one of the Black Cats' most notable performers this season - but will he be able to keep out compatriot Kevin Mirallas, who is looking to build on a cautiously encouraging start to life in the Premier League?
Player to watch: Buoyed by a belated England call-up, Leon Osman will be keen to ride the confidence-boosting news to a stirring performance - or will the prospect of an impending international cap turn him timid in a subconscious effort to avoid injury?
Talking point: Is this the best Everton side of David Moyes' reign? The Scot seems to think so, but there is still some way to go before that can be proven the case over the course of a season.
Bet of the day: If you like to believe in such coincidences, Osman to greet his call-up with a goal (first or last) in this one can be snapped up at 10/1 with bet365

Prediction: 2-0

Reading v Norwich City

Form: Reading may well be in the relegation zone but they have not exactly been easy to beat this season - losing two of their last six matches (albeit with the other four all being draws) and tasting defeat once at the Madejski. They are yet to win, however - unlike their opponents on Saturday, who have two wins and a draw in their last three games after a run of three successive defeats.
Key battle: With Alex McCarthy sidelined through injury, Adam Federici gets the chance to reclaim his spot in the first-team - but Grant Holt will surely be wanting to ensure that the Australian's return to action is an unhappy one.
Player to watch: Mikele Leigertwood has caught the eye with his performances this season - especially as he has chipped in with a number of eye-catching goals from his midfield role. Against Norwich, a side who work diligently in the middle of the park, he will not be able to relent.
Talking point: Defeat for Reading could, in theory, leave the club eight points adrift of safety in the relegation zone. Even at this stage of the season, would that be too much of deficit to realistically overcome?
Bet of the day: We like both teams to score in this one, at 8/13 with bet365

Prediction: 1-2

Manchester United's forwards are all starting to hit top form © Getty Images

Southampton v Swansea City

Form: Things have been pretty dire for the Saints since their 4-1 win over Aston Villa; Nigel Adkins feeling increasingly uncomfortable as four defeats and a draw have left him on the verge of losing his job (reportedly). Swansea, meanwhile, have only picked up one more point over the same period - victory over Wigan being their little slice of solace.
Key battle: Swansea are a fluid outfit, but nonetheless much of their most dangerous play seems to go through Michu. The Spaniard has proven erratic in his first matches in England - Jose Fonte will be hoping to catch him on a bad day.
Player to watch: Already in trouble in the race for Premier League survival, highly-touted (and highly expensive) Saints midfielder Gaston Ramirez really needs to start delivering the sort of performances fans were promised after returning from injury.
Talking point: Adkins was heavily linked with the Blackpool job this week, despite still being in employment. But how quickly will his stock slide if his team - and some of their notable summer acquisitions - continue to struggle so badly in the top flight?
Bet of the day: Southampton have had their difficulties but this might just be the game for them to change their luck. A win for the home side is 11/8 with bet365

Prediction: 2-1

Stoke City v QPR

Form: Stoke, perhaps to the mild concern of Tony Pulis, are on a poor run of late - five points from a possible 18 a meagre return for the club. Things could be worse, however ... they could be QPR, whose run of two points from their last six games is the envy of exactly no teams in the Premier League.
Key battle: With Stephane Mbia still suspended, the responsibility for dealing with Peter Crouch likely falls to Anton Ferdinand - who might not appreciate being asked to cope with the particular challenges of the one-time QPR striker.
Player to watch: Charlie Adam has to be significantly better if Stoke are to improve on their record of eight goals in ten league games so far this season.
Talking point: How long does it take for a group of players to integrate as a team? QPR overhauled their squad completely in the summer - but is it growing pains that have caused their sorry start, or is Mark Hughes simply not the right man to lead them?
Bet of the day: Neither side exactly looks designed to blow the ruddy doors off, so we can see this one being decided by a single goal. A 1-0 home win is 11/2 with bet365

Prediction: 1-0

Wigan Athletic v West Brom

Form: With two successive triumphs to their credit, only Manchester United are currently on a longer winning streak than the Latics. Which is probably a good thing, considering Roberto Martinez's side had picked up a solitary point in their four games before that. West Brom, meanwhile, have three wins, a draw and two defeats to their name.
Key battle: West Brom's secret might just be in midfield, where Claudio Yacob has proved to be a formidable foil for the entrenched Youssouf Mulumbu. Ben Watson was his side's match-winner in their last game against Spurs, but this could be a different test for him.
Player to watch: Peter Odemwingie was the difference against Southampton on Monday, and the Nigerian - who has had his ups and downs at The Hawthorns - will want to continue his scoring form.
Talking point: Early days it may well be, but is Steve Clarke already thrusting himself into contention as a possible manager of the year contender, as the Baggies sit on the fringes of the Champions League spots?
Bet of the day: Wigan are notoriously hard to bet on, but unfortunately we have no choice but to try. So we are hedging our bets completely and tipping the scoreline to be level at half-time and full-time, a really outlandish prediction that yields odds of 11/2 with bet365

Prediction: 0-0

Aston Villa v Manchester United

Form: A win against Sunderland in Villa's last game was much needed for Paul Lambert, especially after seeing his side pick up two points from their previous five matches. Manchester United, meanwhile, are the division's form side - a historically unlikely defeat to Tottenham at home the only blip in a run of wins that has included Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool scalps.
Key battle: Ron Vlaar has immediately come in this season and become Villa's key central defender - but he will have to be at his very best to silence compatriot Robin van Persie, who has become integral to United in a similarly brief space of time.
Player to watch: Defence is where just about Sir Alex Ferguson's only headaches lie - and with Chris Smalling tired after returning to action in midweek he will be hoping injury doubt Jonny Evans recovers in time to slot back into the backline.
Talking point: Darren Bent's status at Villa continues to be the subject of much confusion - could yet another big-money January move be on the horizon for a player who seems to score but not settle wherever he goes?
Bet of the day: Robin van Persie to score two or more goals is 7/2 with bet365

Prediction: 0-3


Andy Carroll did not exactly enjoy his last visit to St James' Park © PA Photos

Manchester City v Tottenham

Form: The defending champions are unbeaten in the league this season, but a collection of draws - and some woeful form in Europe - has given the sense that they are not yet firing on all cylinders. Still, 14 points from a possible 18 remains a decent return. Spurs, meanwhile, have not fared too much worse - with four wins and two defeats (to Chelsea and, most recently, Wigan) not preventing Andre Villas-Boas from being the subject of questioning among some Spurs fans.
Key battle: Yaya Toure is a behemoth in midfield for City, and has a range of physical and technical gifts that Tom Huddlestone might struggle to contain.
Player to watch: Gareth Bale was in devastating form in midweek, proving crucial as Jermain Defoe scored a hat-trick against Maribor. The Welshman is one of the Spurs players their rich opponents would covet, and has the ability to cause them real difficulties.
Talking point: Both managers have faced their fair share of opprobrium already this season, despite what most neutral observers would describe as solid league starts. Other factors are in play - but do either of them really deserve the criticism that has been levelled?
Bet of the day: We like goals, goals, goals in this one - over 2.5 in a game that ends in a draw is an enticing 10/1 with bet365

Prediction: 2-2

Newcastle United v West Ham

Form: Both sides have reason to be cheerful with their recent work - although Newcastle may be wanting to kick on a bit more. Perhaps affected by Europa League considerations, the Toon have picked up nine points from their last six games (of which they have lost just one), while the Hammers have focused fully on the league to grab eight points from the same period - with a home draw against Man City last time out boosting their confidence.
Key battle: Let's go with Andy Carroll, just because a return to his former club guarantees him a 'hot' reception (especially after last season's meltdown while in Liverpool colours). Unfortunately for the St James' Park faithful, Mike Williamson may not be best equipped to prevent the rangy striker from producing something of his own to shout about.
Player to watch: Shorn of both Cheik Tiote and Fabricio Coloccini due to suspensions, there could be something of a leadership void through the spine of Alan Pardew's side. Yohan Cabaye might find himself taking on even more responsibility than usual.
Talking point: How much of an effect does European football have on a side not exactly used to it? Not much can be read into it, but it is perhaps interesting to note that this time last year Newcastle had 22 points on the board. This season, they have just 14 - almost a third less.
Bet of the day: It's inevitable, isn't it? Andy Carroll to score the opener in this one will return you 7/1 with bet365

Prediction: 1-1

Chelsea v Liverpool

Form: The Blues had been on a four-match winning streak before a defeat to Manchester United and draw with Swansea checked their progress somewhat. Liverpool have been hugely erratic all season but have given the impression of being harder to beat in recent weeks - drawing three times and winning twice since that home loss to Manchester United.
Key battle: This strikes you as a game that could be won in midfield - as good as Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard are going forward, they need Ramires and Mikel to hold the fort behind them. If Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard and Nuri Sahin can work between the lines successfully, they could get joy. Of course, their numerical disadvantage means they will need help from elsewhere.
Player to watch: John Terry was left on the bench for the midweek game against Shakhtar Donetsk, despite returning to availability. Roberto Di Matteo insisted afterwards that Terry remains integral to the team - this is almost certainly going to be his chance to reiterate that at the first opportunity.
Talking point: He may be the least high profile of the club's summer acquisitions but, after another decisive impact on Wednesday (in a crucial Champions League game), will Victor Moses ever get the chance to displace one of his more illustrious attacking team-mates in the first team?
Bet of the day: Correct score, 3-1 to the home side? Have a bang on that at 14/1 with bet365

Prediction: 3-1

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.