Paul Parker

Blackpool can rock Arsenal

Paul Parker

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GAME OF THE WEEKEND: Blackpool v Arsenal

This is a match which sees a side which has a very defined and distinctive way of playing visiting a team which at times looks totally unorganised. However, neither seems to know how to defend, so I can see plenty of goals in this game.

We are still to see a clean sheet for any team at Bloomfield Road this season, and I can certainly see that run continuing.

Perhaps the unpredictable nature of Blackpool was the key to their success earlier in the season. Sometimes you would be forgiven for wondering if Ian Holloway knows what his players are up to, so how is an opposition manager supposed to plan on stopping them?

Both of these sides could be described as temperamental, with neither able to produce the goods that their respective talents warrant in a consistent basis.

But now, with one side fighting against relegation and another desperately scrapping for the only piece of silverware left available to them, this is the time to stand up and be counted. 

Blackpool have only won once in their last 11 games, but they have saved some of their best performances for the bigger sides.

Arsenal, meanwhile, have the best away record in the Premier League, and they put six past Blackpool at the Emirates back in August.

Arsene Wenger said he was concerned by Arsenal's "flat" performance in last week's 0-0 draw with Blackburn, but they played how they always play. Rovers were just able to nullify their threat in the final third.

Blackpool will not be able to do that, but they will put everything they can into at least matching their visitors for goals, especially with DJ Campbell returning from suspension.

If the Gunners drop points here and Manchester United win, then I think we can definitely say the title race is over.

UPSET OF THE WEEKEND: Tottenham Hotspur v Stoke City

Spurs seemed to take their eye off the ball last weekend at Wigan, and they left the DW Stadium with a disappointing goalless draw.

They looked as though they were saving themselves for Tuesday's trip to Real Madrid, but they returned from Spain after being on the receiving end of a dispiriting thrashing. There were very few positives to take from that game at the Bernabeu.

So the last thing they will want is to welcome Stoke to White Hart Lane. While The Potters' away form is not very good, expect the players to give all they can to ensure they make the cut for the following weekend's FA Cup semi-final.

Harry Redknapp has a tough decision to make with his team selection, bearing in mind Wednesday's second leg with Real. Does he save players for that game, in the vain hope of overturning a four-goal deficit? Or does he now fully prioritise the league and see his team's thrilling European campaign end in a whimper? After all, he has done so before.

Spurs are on a poor run of form, winless in their last six games which have included meetings with each of the league's bottom four clubs. Stoke could well extend that run to seven.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Bobby Zamora (Manchester United v Fulham)

The Fulham striker has really hit the ground running since his return from long-term injury, scoring three goals in as many league games.

His stock really rose last season, and he looked set to continue that upward trajectory this term before he broke his leg in September. So he is a player who goes to Old Trafford with a point to prove.

Zamora was instrumental in the 3-0 win over United at Craven Cottage last season, and will feel confident going into this game.

With Rio Ferdinand likely to be rested ahead of next week's European clash with Chelsea, Zamora will be up against Nemanja Vidic and Chris Smalling.

Vidic looked well out of sorts at West Ham last week when balls were sent over the top, and was very fortunate to stay on the pitch. Zamora thrives on just that kind of service, and Mark Hughes will surely point that out to his players.

As for Smalling, he and Zamora will know all about each other following their time together at Fulham, and that looks like it will be a key battle at Old Trafford on Saturday. 

UNDER PRESSURE: Joey Barton (Aston Villa v Newcastle United)

Barton has claimed he is the best English midfielder in the Premier League, and that he cannot understand why he hasn't been picked for England.

His form has been good this season, and I don't know if these words are intended to make everyone pay more attention to him, but he will get his wish if that is the case, for better or worse.

Regardless of how well he plays, surely he can't think he is deserving of more than his solitary senior cap?

Rather than ask why he is not getting picked he should be asking why he has amassed such a rap sheet over the course of his career.

Why did he stub a cigar out in a team-mate's eye? Why did he beat up another fellow professional? Why did he kick a person in the street? Why does he have a history of making obscene gestures at fans?

On top of all that, he has been slagging off current internationals like Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and even Jack Wilshere.

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