Premier League – Premier League previews
Tottenham Hotspur‘s man of the moment Gareth Bale will be in action on Saturday against Bolton Wanderers as the London side hope to avoid any hangover after their pulsating 3-1 victory over Champions League winners Internazionale on Tuesday.
The 21-year-old has been the name on everyone’s lips for much of this week after he followed up his sensational hat-trick at the San Siro a fortnight ago with another virtuoso performance against the European champions back at White Hart Lane.
Inter are among the clubs said to be interested in the Welshman, along with Real Madrid and Barcelona, with figures in excess of £50 million mentioned.
But Spurs manager Harry Redknapp insisted: “It doesn’t worry me, it’s great. Spurs are being noticed and one of our players is getting the whole of Europe talking.
“I understand the attention on Gareth, it’s the nature of football. But, trust me, he won’t be leaving Spurs – even if we were to fail to qualify for the Champions League this season.
“I don’t think Gareth is at all interested in being anywhere else.
Bolton manager Owen Coyle believes Redknapp would be “a perfect fit” for England when Fabio Capello steps down.
He said: “If and when Mr Capello decides after his contract expires he doesn’t want to do the job any more, Harry Redknapp would be the perfect candidate to be the next England manager.
“I think the whole country would be pleased about that. He is an outstanding manager and a terrific man, who has been very helpful to me. He has always given his time very generously.”
Manchester United can close Chelsea’s gap to two points when they host Wolves on Saturday.
Boosted by an impressive win over Manchester City last weekend, make a second trip to Old Trafford in 12 days having lost 3-2 in the Carling Cup.
Third-placed United will be without Nani and Darren Fletcher, who picked up a groin injury in Tuesday’s 3-0 Champions League win at Bursaspor.
The pressure is on for youngster Nathan Delfouneso to get among the goals for Aston Villa at Fulham on Saturday after injuries ruled out John Carew and Emile Heskey.
Norwegian striker Carew has a calf problem while former England forward Heskey was ruled out for a month with a knee injury. Fellow striker Gabriel Agbonlahor is still unfit.
Everton manager David Moyes will not consider starting highly-rated midfielder Jack Rodwell, recovering from an ankle injury, at Blackpool on Saturday. Moyes will also be without Leon Osman for six weeks after the midfielder had ankle surgery this week, the club said on their website.
Liverpool‘s fall from grace has been so extreme in the past year that it seems almost inconceivable that as recently as 2009 they and Chelsea were battling for Champions League supremacy on an annual basis.
Since a 4-4 draw at Stamford Bridge in April 2009 in the quarter-finals the clubs have veered off in different orbits to such an extent that when they meet at Anfield on Sunday, Chelsea will boast a five-point lead in the Premier League while Liverpool are just glad to be out of the bottom three.
Scratchy wins at home to Blackburn Rovers and away to Bolton Wanderers – plus a comeback win over Napoli in Europe – represent a step forward for Roy Hodgson but Liverpool’s wily manager will know more about his side’s current health after the visit of Carlo Ancelotti‘s rampant side.
Likewise new owner John Henry will also get a first hand look at how much work, and investment, his new project needs before Liverpool can return to challenge for the title as they did two seasons ago under Rafael Benitez.
The problem for Hodgson is that, whatever Benitez claimed during a midweek rant, the squad he inherited was mediocre and he has so far had little financial muscle in the transfer market.
That may change in January but until then he must hope that Fernando Torres rediscovers some form and that Joe Cole, who is ruled out of Sunday’s clash, begins to resemble the player he was at Chelsea.
With Dirk Kuyt unlikely to recover from injury in time, it was left to Maxi Rodriguez, a Benitez signing, to snatch the points at Bolton and Hodgson hopes that the Argentine will benefit from a run in the team.
“Maxi is a quiet man and his English isn’t as good as some of the players, so it’s not easy to have a long conversation with him,” Hodgson told Liverpool’s website.
“But he’s picked up very quickly on what we want him to do and how we want him to play. In the games he’s played recently he’s been very good.”
Chelsea will be buoyed by a 4-1 victory over Spartak Moscow on Wednesday that guaranteed their place in the last 16 of the Champions League.
John Terry and Michael Essien will be fresh for the trip to Merseyside having being rested against Spartak, although in-form Florent Malouda is out with an ankle knock.
Such is the small spread of points below the top three that were Liverpool to pull off a surprise win on Sunday they could suddenly find themselves on the fringes of the top four.
Manchester City are fourth behind Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United but suddenly look vulnerable after three successive defeats – including a 2-1 reverse against Wolverhampton Wanderers and a 3-1 defeat at Lech Poznan in the Europa League.
City face sixth-placed West Bromwich Albion on Sunday when another defeat would leave their hopes of a serious title tilt in tatters and Roberto Mancini’s future as coach in jeopardy.
Talk of dressing room unrest and player squabbles have helped create a sense of growing crisis at Eastlands and West Brom, who almost earned a point at Blackpool on Monday despite having two players sent off, will be keen to add to it.
“We’ve a couple of injuries. Nani has hurt his groin and will definitely be out for Saturday. Darren will also be out,” manager Alex Ferguson said after United’s 3-0 win against Turkish side Bursaspor in the Champions League.
Arsenal, whose 100 per cent record in the Champions League was ended by defeat against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday, face in-form Newcastle United at the Emirates on Sunday when Cesc Fabregas should return after missing the trip to Ukraine.