BPL This Weekend: Can Suarez Find His Scoring Boots? Arsenal, Stoke Continue Recent Rivalry, More

IMAGE, ARSENAL.COM

BY MATTHEW LEVINE
Staff Writer

Although it’s not a derby, Arsenal against Stoke has recently developed into a great rivalry. Ever since Ryan Shawcross broke Aaron Ramsey’s leg, the two teams have had several tense affairs.

The Brittannia Stadium isn’t an easy place to play, especially for the Gunners. Arsenal have only won once in their last seven visits. With even tougher matches following this weekend’s Premier League fixture with the Potters, Arsenal needs to keep their focus on the game at hand.

Arsenal is in much better form than Stoke at the moment, with the Gunners only losing once in their last 11 league games. Stoke have won only once in their last 10. They have also only lost once at home in the last six tries. They face an Arsenal team that has taken the second most points on their travels.

After a good bounce back game from Olivier Giroud against a hapless Sunderland, he will need to play a big role this weekend. Facing what will be a more physical test, the French striker will need to be strong on the ball and hold things up to bring others into play. Giroud is usually very good at this and that needs to continue.

Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker will also be key. Although it isn’t the same Stoke side under former manager Tony Pulis, Koscielny and Mertesacker will have to defend in the air very well, especially if Peter Crouch starts for the Potters.

For Stoke, Charlie Adam continues to be a player on form. He will be the driving force for the Stoke attack and will also test Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny from distance. US Men’s National Teamer Geoff Cameron scored his lone goal against Arsenal in a fixture in September and will look to have another strong game at the back for Stoke.

What Else To Look For

1. Will Luis Suarez Get In On Liverpool’s High Scoring Act?– Liverpool continue to score often over the last several weeks and it has been Daniel Sturridge leading the Reds in that department.

Although he hasn’t been scoring, Suarez has been adept at setting up his teammates — especially Sturridge. The Uruguayan keeps getting into good goal-scoring areas and will soon break his mini-drought. If he begins to add more goals in this purple patch for the Reds, they are going to be a handful for any team the rest of the season.

However, with the offense playing extremely well, the defense still needs to tighten up. Too many times this season, through errors or poor defensive positioning, they have conceded far too often. That will need to change if they are to secure their place in the Top Four and even challenge for a Premier League title.

2. Fulham Singing The BluesFelix Magath faces a tough test in turning Fulham’s chances of Premier League survival around. It won’t get any easier when his side takes on Chelsea. Fulham has been playing better in Rene Muelensteen’s final games and in Magath’s first match in charge, a draw against West Brom. It was a game Fulham should have won. However, they will need to find the same resolve they found at Old Trafford when they played to a 2-2 draw with Manchester United.

One point doesn’t help the Cottagers greatly as they desperately need to start taking three points in matches. Playing against Chelsea doesn’t seem to be the week this trend will kick in.

The Blues will look to keep their lead a top the Premier League and should be able to find the result they’re looking for at Craven Cottage. The Blues traveled to Istanbul to play Galatasary midweek in the Champions League. Although that might play a factor in the line-up Jose Mourinho starts the game with, Chelsea should be strong enough to get a victory.

This will also be Clint Dempsey’s final match with Fulham. Can he get off the bench to salvage the loan spell? With a lack in confidence stemming from being unused the last three matches, it seems unlikely Magath would play him now.

However, maybe Dempsey has one little piece of magic left up his sleeve to remind the Fulham faithful why they wanted him back in the first place.

3. West Ham Winners Again?– The Hammers have been on fine form, winning their last four Premier League matches. It has helped them not only get out of the Premier League dungeon, but distance themselves from being pulled back into a relegation battle.

Heading on the road to take on Everton won’t be an easy task. If Tim Howard can replicate his form of last week, even in a losing effort, Everton should get something from this game.

This could very well be the week West Ham’s streak ends.  

4. Can Cardiff Start To Climb Table?– The Welsh club have slipped further towards relegation under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment, but with a massive three points and Sunderland’s participation in the Capital One Cup, they can climb out of the relegation zone.

Traveling to White Hart Lane hasn’t been as daunting a task of late, with Spurs finding better form on the road. After playing a midweek Europa match, Spurs could be tired.

If Cardiff is to take a result against a Top Six side, this is the perfect time for them to do it. If they fail to get anything out of the game, they will only spiral further towards the exit door and life in the Championship for next season.

Bonus

Capital One Cup Final– Although it’s not in league play, it is a big fixture upcoming this weekend. Sunderland who are currently in the relegation zone, need a win to catapult them to more league success, where they’ve struggled. Jozy Altidore, who was subbed off at halftime against Arsenal last week, should still be in line to get a start.

If the American is to have a strong game, he will need better service from his teammates. Overall, the Black Cats need to show more desire and intensity than they did against the Gunners a week ago in a 4-1 loss. Playing for a trophy will hopefully bring out the best in Altidore and the rest of the squad.

City will look to add the first piece of silverware this year in their attempt for four trophies. Heading into this match as the favorites, they should be able to brush aside a struggling Sunderland. However, City lost in similar circumstances to Wigan last year in the FA Cup. City can not afford to lose focus and miss the chance at a trophy to a team they should beat.

Sergio Aguero could make his return, which will boost one of the best attacking sides in England. Another player who should have a big impact is Yaya Toure. He should be able to boss the midfield against the Black Cats. One player who has been prone to make mistakes has been Martin Demichelis. If he starts, expect Sunderland to test him early and often.