Happy Halloween, Nuclear Warheads!
We are at the quarter point of the season and, as expected, Southampton and West Ham are fending off Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool for the third and fourth spots in the table. As a couple former colleagues of mine like to say, “as expected.”
A fun slate of matches this weekend to take us into November, highlighted, of course, by the Manchester derby Sunday morning.
But before all that happens, get out there and spread some holiday cheer on Halloween. Blah, blah, bars are crowded, blah, blah people are annoying on Halloween. Stop being a killjoy and listen to me when I tell you this stat: the next time Halloween falls on a Friday will be 2025. Seriously. Look it up. You will be a whole decade older by then. Get out there and get a little weird on All Hallow’s Eve.
Also, don’t forget the MLS playoffs this weekend!
Columbus vs New England at 3:00 – Not televised
Real Salt Lake vs Los Angeles at 7:00 – NBC Sports Network
New York vs DC United at 3:00 – Not televised
FC Dallas vs Seattle at 8:00 – ESPN2
Alright, onto the slate!
No. 1: Newcastle vs Liverpool at St James Park
When: Saturday at 7:45am on NBC Sports Network
Last year: This one ended as a draw last October at St James Park. Liverpool equalized twice, once with a Steven Gerrard penalty and the other came in the 72nd minute when Daniel Sturridge scored one of his 21 league goals last season.
Who let Newcastle out of the fridge the past few weeks? Seems like just yesterday Newcastle fans were showing up to St James with pitchforks and torches wanting to kidnap Alan Pardew and pee in his gas tank.
Now they get a win at City in the League Cup on Wednesday after getting back-to-back league wins at Tottenham and home vs Leicester CIty. Wait!! I just looked even further back in their schedule. They also tied Swansea City three weeks ago. Unbeaten in their last four! Pardew for Manager of the Year! Newcastle in Europe!
OK, lets not go that for. But they have looked better than Liverpool their last few matches. Liverpool have issues. Not because they got taken out behind the woodshed against Real Madrid. Madrid does that to a lot of teams. It runs much deeper than that. They are still built as if they have Luis Suarez on their team and, they, well, don’t have him anymore.
Last year they gave up a ton of goals but it was totally cool because Suarez scored a ton x 10. That isn’t a good way to build a soccer team but it worked for Liverpool and almost won them a trophy. But now they face a problem. Stay with me during this next math equation.
A ton of goals given up – (a ton x 10 goals scored) = your team has serious issues.
They have scored 13 goals and given up 12 in 9 games. And their knight in goal-scoring armor Daniel Sturridge is still a few weeks away from returning.
Making matters worse is that Liverpool has an Old Yeller issue when it comes to Steven Gerrard. It is always tough to phase out a legend. Just ask Chelsea and Manchester United over the past few seasons. They’ve had to do it a lot. But it appears Liverpool don’t exactly have a graceful exit strategy for ol’ Stevie Me.
He is clearly a step slow and it is almost tough to watch. With Frank Lampard, the England midfielder he was linked with his entire career, Chelsea phased him out slowly, using him in spots and matches they know he could be successful and not hanging him out to dry in matches he couldn’t be.
This was made a lot easier for Chelsea because they had the young horses to step up and play in Lampard’s spot. This isn’t the case for Liverpool, and they are forced to try to keep rolling him out there in awkward spots even though he is a few steps slow, can’t play defense and hasn’t scored a goal from the run of play since Raheem Sterling was 16.
But the show must go on for the Reds. Qualifying for Champions League is cool and all, but it is only impressive if you can continue to qualify. They sit in 7th place right now, tied with three other teams on 14 points.
They play a suddenly-confident Newcastle team at St James Park. They need the points to stay in that log-jam right now fighting for the third and fourth spot in the league. More importantly, they need to find a way to live life After Suarez. If they can’t, last year will just be a one-off and they’ll be back to watching Champions League on TV every Tuesday and Wednesday.
No. 2: Chelsea vs Queens Park Rangers at Stamford Bridge
When: Saturday at 10:00am on NBC Sports Network
Last year: This match didn’t happen last year, with QPR being relegated and whatnot. But it did happen in January of 2013 and the visitors won 1-0. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Chelsea players no doubt have some anger and frustration after that United debacle that they’ll no doubt look to take out on the bottom-feeders QPR.
It was actually quite sad after the game on Sunday. In case you missed it, Branislav Ivanovic got a red card late into stoppage and Robin van Persie scored the equalizer at the death to finish in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. Tough one, yes. But the players took Instagram like teenagers upset after a varisty soccer loss. Be bigger than that, Chelsea. The reffing was shady at times, but when isn’t it? It isn’t like United played with 16 men and released hounds trained to bite the color Blue.
Before we go any further, can we talk about how amazing Didier Drogba is? What a professional. In less than a week, he comes off an ankle injury, scores in a Champions League match, scores in a Premier League match at Old Trafford and plays 90 minutes, then follows it up by starting and scoring in a Capital One Cup match on Tuesday. Three matches, three goals in three different competitions in less than a week at the age of 36.
I just want to hug him. I never want him to retire. I want him to eventually come to MLS and play until he is 53. Then, him and I become best friends and have our own reality show called Dana & Drogba where he hang out, eat wings, and travel around in an RV doing cool stuff. You’d watch.
But anyway, Chelsea have had six days to stew about QPR and will no doubt be looking to take some anger out in the London derby against the team currently 19th.
As far as QPR goes, lets just say it: they are terrible. They did pick up one of their two wins on the season last time out against Aston Villa, but that’s like getting excited because you dunked on a kids Fisher Price hoop.
Looks like QPR will also have Diego Costa to deal with. Jose Mourinho said in his press conference Friday morning that the Spaniard will be available after missing the Manchester United match with that lingering hamstring situation.
Should be a party at Stamford Bridge on Saturday but Chelsea fans remember thinking the exact same thing two years ago.
No. 3: Manchester City vs Manchester United at Etihad Stadium
When: Sunday at 7:30am on NBC Sports Network (No Big Boy NBC)
Put me in the camp that believes the United debry has turned into the premier (no pun intended) matches on the calendar each year.
This obviously has a lot to do with the resurgence of Manchester City in the past five seasons. I think a lot of people in this country took notice of the Premier League in run-up to the title in 2012 and City lifted the trophy in the most dramatic way possible. That was the first time I remember Premier League matches doing bigger numbers ratings-wise. Plus, because of the City’s rise to power, it made an old rivalry fresh again. For people on this side of the pond, this had always been a one-way street. Now it is fresh and exciting and people love fresh and exciting things.
But even more so, it has become the most exciting fixture on the calendar because crazy (expletive) always seems to happen. Sit down, children and let Nuclear ‘Mr Rodgers’ Wessel change sweaters and take you down memory lane.
2009-10: Craig Bellamy scores in the 90th minute to level things at 3 and nearly guarantee the then-on-the-rise City would get a point against the defending champions in their own backyard. But Michael Owen scored the winner in the sixth minute of stoppage time United would edge City 1-0 later that year at the Etihad.
2010-11: After a 0-0 draw at Manchester City, the two played an all-time classic at Old Trafford in February. Wayne Rooney provided one of the all-time great goals and images in Premier League history with that bicycle kick goal (you know the one I am talking about) and the ensuing celly.
2011-12: After the frustration of the past two seasons, City beat United for the first time since 2007 and only the fifth time since 1989. It was a 6-1 thrashing at Old Trafford. The noisy neighbors showing they weren’t messing around anymore. This match is often referred to as the ‘Why Always Me?’ match. Remember when Mario Balotelli was good?
2012-13: Robin van Persie gets the last-minute winner at City in a 3-2 match where a fan threw a coin at Rio Ferdinand, leaving him bloody, and keeper Joe Hart having to restrain fans from going after him after match. Scary stuff. A few months later City then beat United by a goal at Old Trafford.
2013-14: City do the double over United in humiliating fashion, winning both games by a combined score of 7-1. No late-match heroics needed, but still a huge chapter in the recent history of these two.
Now fast-forward to the present day. United are off to their worst start in Premier League history, grabbing just nine points in 13 matches. City, however, aren’t exactly lighting the table on fire, either. They have 17 points and have already lost two league matches at home and just dumped a Capital One Cup match Wednesday to lowly Newcastle.
If anything, I think United actually have some confidence coming into this one. Sure, their equalizer against Chelsea last Sunday was janky as all get-up, but a point is a point, and it is sometimes more than a point when it comes against the league leaders.
United also got a boost when it was announced Wayne Rooney is fit to play. Rooney hasn’t exactly had a lot to brag to the birds at the club about this season, but he is the leading scorer in Manchester derby history with 11 goals. So, ya know, that must count for something.
On the flip side of that, Manchester City will be without David Silva after he picked up a knock Tuesday against Newcastle and will be out for three to four weeks. That hurts for City.
This one will definitely be worth waking up for, especially since that magic clock thingy happens on Saturday. This one is truly up for grabs.
City won three derbies in a row. Can they win four in a row for the first time since 1970? Can United get their first signature win under Louis van Gaal? Does Wayne Rooney look like a munchkin that fell into a vat of toxic waste?
The answer to all these questions will come Sunday at 7:30am! Except the last one. That one is an obvious yes.
Alright, friends and lovers. That’ll do it for this week. Stay safe tonight and remember that an Uber will cost you about $95 a block.
Until next time, keep your shinguards taped and your sheets clean.