Match of the weekend:
Chelsea v Manchester United
It's the big one and I have to listen to my head, not my
heart, when predicting the outcome. Chelsea are simply
too strong for United at the moment and I expect them, with home advantage, to
take all three points at Stamford
Didier Drogba is one of the best strikers in the world and
he is in the kind of form to exploit United's current defensive frailties. With
Rio Ferdinand out, United need Nemanja Vidic to be strong and match Drogba physically,
but that will be no easy task for the Serb.
Chelsea's midfield is equally
awesome - Carlo Ancelotti has encouraged Chelsea
to abandon the Jose Mourinho way of playing and in doing so he has managed to
get the best out of Deco and Michael Ballack. Meanwhile Frank Lampard is still
thriving, albeit in his slightly different role. The battle in the centre of
the park is crucial and that is where Chelsea
can stamp their authority on the game.
For United to get anything from it, they need a matchwinner
on the pitch. But, Wayne Rooney apart, they no longer have a player like that.
And even Rooney is not firing on all cylinders, as he proved against Blackburn last weekend. United are relying too heavily on
him at the moment, and with Chelsea so difficult to break down, while posing a
real goal threat the other end, United could well find themselves further
behind in the title race come Sunday evening.
Player to watch: Joe
One player who is really enjoying life under Ancelotti is Joe
Cole. From the little we have seen of him since his return from injury, he
seems to have rediscovered his enthusiasm for the game. Before Ancelotti
arrived, Cole was unable to express himself fully but he now has the freedom to
be himself. Players love to have a manager who believes in them and their skill
- in Ancelotti, Cole has just that. And the timing of his return is great news
for England as well as Chelsea. He will
certainly be out to impress Fabio Capello at the Bridge on Sunday, with United
the ones set to suffer.
Banker of the
weekend: Manchester City v Burnley
Burnley have been great at home so far this season - that
defeat to Wigan aside - but their away form has been woeful. And even though Eastlands
is less than an hour from Turf Moor, they are once again unlikely to travel
well this weekend. Their resistance seems to be broken when not at home. Meanwhile,
City are more than capable of scoring goals galore, but they have not followed
up on that threat over recent weeks. This could be the game where they break
free and grab a glut.
Under pressure: Benitez
Rafa Benitez is clearly a man under pressure at the moment. It's
black and white - he and his side simply must win against Birmingham on Monday. Forget about the
performance, three points is what counts. He knows it, and so do Liverpool fans.
As for Brown, if his side fail to beat Stoke at home, Hull supporters will be
forgiven for thinking their team are on the way down this season. If the Tigers
have aspirations of being a Premier League side next season, these are the kind
of games they will need to win. If they can't, it may not just be their top
flight status on the line - Brown's managerial tenure could also be over. He
has been reminded by new chairman Adam Pearson that football is a results-based
business and the wrong one on Sunday could well see him out of a job.