Paul Parker

Spice added to Merseyside derby

Paul Parker

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MATCH OF THE WEEKEND: Everton v Liverpool

The first Merseyside derby of the season is an interesting
one, considering the poor recent form of both sides. Neither have got going
this season and their respective on-field problems have been well documented.

Everton lost to Hull in
midweek while Liverpool head into the game off
the back of their exit from the Champions League, so both teams will be looking
to bounce back from those disappointments with a positive result.

At least Liverpool won last
time out; Everton have managed just one victory in their last 10 outings in all
competitions. David Moyes has not had a campaign as bad as this since the
season following their qualification for the Champions League.

The Toffees need to rediscover the work ethic that helped
propel them into Europe's premier club
competition in 2005 - and hope for some luck with their long injury list - if
they are to get their current season back on track.

The rivalry between these two sides is intense at the best
of times, but there may well be a little extra spice in this latest encounter
following Liverpool's apparent refusal to
consider a ground-share with their neighbours.

It all makes for essential viewing, although given the way
both sides are playing at the moment, a draw would not be a surprising result -
certainly Moyes would take that.

UPSET OF THE WEEKEND: Portsmouth
v Manchester United 

While it's far from 100 per cent certain, there's a chance Portsmouth will be able to get something out of the game
with the champions at Fratton
Park.

Considering the amount of players he lost and the financial
situation he had to deal with, Paul Hart did not do a bad job.

Pompey are not a poor team and they have enjoyed a few
decent results of late; they certainly have not been getting thrashed, like
some other teams in relegation contention.

But now they've got a new manager, who should be able to
lift the players a little. There will be some sensing their chance and wanting
to prove a point to Avram Grant.

Fratton
Park is the last place
United would have wanted to visit off the back of losing their 23-match
unbeaten home run. It's not an easy place to go at the best of times, let alone
with a couple of key players missing.

ONE TO WATCH: Jermain Defoe

Can the Tottenham striker get
on the scoresheet again after his incredible haul last weekend? He certainly
has the quality to do so, although another five is unlikely!

As he proved last time out, he is the in-form Premier League
striker at the moment and you would not bet against him finding the back of the
net against Aston Villa.

He can score all kinds of goals and from anywhere; on
current form he is far and away England's
best striker at the moment. He's got quicker feet in the box than Wayne Rooney
and is more selfish than the Manchester United man, something required of a top
striker.

Simply there is no better player in the Premier League at
the moment. If you're looking for a player to make something out of nothing,
you can't look further than Defoe, who is sure to give Villa's back line a few
problems on Saturday.

UNDER PRESSURE: Gary Megson

As we saw with Phil Brown's infamous sit-down team talk on
the pitch last season, publically admonishing players does not work. The Hull City
boss is still suffering the fall-out from that particular disaster - but Megson
committed the same error of judgement this week.

In going public about a few fringe players who are making
life difficult in the camp, the Bolton manager
said too much about his dressing room.

He has since admitted he was wrong to lift the lid, but the
damage has already been done.

Megson was never the most popular choice of boss and Bolton fans are rapidly losing faith in him. But he has
vowed to battle on in his position.

If he is to get his team out of the trouble they find
themselves in, then he needs the support of his players. But this incident can
only have served to divide the dressing room and put distance between himself
and some of his squad.

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