BPL This Weekend: Teams seek European bounce back, Dempsey’s final day, more

IMAGE, MLSSOCCER.COM

BY MATTHEW LEVINE
Staff Writer

Four Premier League clubs took part in European competition in a week where the English sides struggled to get good results. Three losses and a draw was the outcome for Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Swansea City.

City, Arsenal and Swansea didn’t have to deal with traveling with European home fixtures. Tottenham, on the other hand, flew out to the Ukraine. The effect of traveling will have on their bodies cannot be underestimated. Also, the loss for Spurs came late by way of a penalty kick goal by Dnipro’s Yevhen Konoplyanka. Spurs will have to bounce back against Norwich. This game becomes trickier still having to go to Carrow Road — the same ground where the Canaries recently held Man City to a 0-0 draw.

City and Arsenal both played eerily similar games in the Champions League. Both teams were reduced to 10-men and looked like they would escape with only a 1-0 loss until late goals dashed those hopes. Both clubs also acquitted themselves well — even in defeat against two of the best sides on the planet in Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

At what cost does it come at though? The performances from both clubs were inspired and hard-fought and both sets of players may be a bit leggy heading into this weekend’s Premier League fixtures. Both get home games as City goes up against Stoke City and Arsenal face Sunderland.

Swansea was able to get a 0-0 draw against Napoli in a match where they looked the better side. However strong, there resilient efforts couldn’t produce a goal. Liverpool is up next for the Swans in the toughest fixture of amongst clubs that performed this week in Europe. The Reds are a surging side at the moment and one that has been clinical in front of goals — especially in the last few matches. This will be a great test for first time manager Garry Monk who will be monitoring the fitness of his squad in the contest. His man management may be the key to pulling out a result.

What Else To Look For

1. Clint Back In? – The American captain has spent two matches in a row out of the squad for Fulham. With his loan in it’s final day, will Dempsey get a chance to make something of it?

Fulham have changed managers and that could open the doors for Dempsey to return to the squad. On the other hand, being a player that is leaving in a few weeks may hinder him as well. Newly-appointed Felix Magath may want to dig Fulham out of it’s hole by using players that are going to be there for the remainder of the season.

For Dempsey, he needs to find a way back on the pitch and restore some confidence before the MLS season kicks off on March 8th.

2. Everton Look For Double Over ChelseaRoberto Martinez’s Everton side continue to surpass expectations since his arrival. The Toffees have an outsider’s chance at qualification for Champions League next season and another win over Chelsea would continue that push. Everton beat Chelsea 1-0 earlier in the season and look to double their wins against the Blues this weekend.

An important factor will be the squad Jose Mourinho turns out for the weekend. Chelsea will no doubt want to stay atop of the Premier League at the end of another weekend. With a Champions League match against Galatasaray to follow, will Mourinho rest some regulars? The squad Mourinho plays this weekend may determine which competition he wants to win more.

3. United Dream Of Top Four– Like Everton, United have an outsider’s chance at the Top Four, but it’s looking slimmer after each of their recent fixtures. In season’s past, Arsenal have been able to storm back when they’ve looked like they were going to miss qualification, but can David Moyes’ men do the same?  The current champions sit in sixth, 11 points adrift from a Top Four spot with a match against Crystal Palace to come.

Normally, this would be a fixture the Red Devils would be all but guaranteed to win. However, with struggles against bottom-dwellers Fulham, this is not the case of this year’s United. If United can not come up with a victory at Selhurst Park this weekend, their only chance at returning back to the Champions League would be to win it.

4. West Ham Streak– The Hammers head into this weekend’s match against Southampton winning their last three by a score of 2-0. That form has moved them into 10th place in the Premier League, although it is still far from safety.

They will have a tough test to continue their winning streak. The Saints haven’t lost in their last six matches as they visit the Boleyn Ground. Southampton are a team that could push themselves into the European places and they will need three points to continue to challenge for it.