FOX Soccer Exclusive
Liverpool, Arsenal headline week three
You guys out there are in for a huge weekend. Here's a little secret: this is when those of us in the booth are absolutely exhausted from all the games! But we know how lucky we are, and I get so pumped to walk into that new studio, see the lights, and see all of you watching these huge, huge games. I'll admit, I looked out at the beach earlier in the week and thought it would be pretty nice to just lay there, but soccer is here. It's supper, let's get right into the meat:
Clearly this is the most high-profile match of the weekend. This is a Liverpool team really buoyed by their home draw against Manchester City last week. It will be interesting to see what the fatigue level after Liverpool's Europa league match on Thursday. Lucas is out for two months, which is obviously a big blow to the Reds. The door's completely open for the Nuri Sahin era to begin in Liverpool.
Expect Brendan Rodgers to drop him right on in and tell him, "go do what you're so good at." Any player that Real Madrid signs is worth it, and Sahin was just a victim of the numbers with the Spanish giants. He's a massive addition for the Reds.
On the other end, Arsenal was focused on getting through the transfer day drama without losing Theo Walcott--an they succeed. And with all the talk about Alex Song and Robin van Persie still lingering, Arsene Wenger is just saying, "please just let me manage the players I have right now." Eleven on Friday could come have come fast enough for the Gunners’ manager.
Sunday's clash against Southampton will be Manchester United’s first match of the season without Wayne Rooney. How will the Red Devils respond? Count on a heavy dose of van Persie.
They clearly made a statement by letting Dimitar Berbatov go—even though we all anticipated it—so now it's up to Danny Welbeck and Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez to compliment Robin van Persie who, in case you forgot, had that sublime finish over the weekend.
Manchester United will rely even heavier on van Perise then they have in the first two weeks. Expect Kagawa and the rest of the Red Devils to constantly have him in the back of their minds, trying to find the Dutch striker at all times. If there is one guy in the league who has proven he can shoulder the scoring load, it's him.
The way this season has started for the defending champs, City manager Roberto Mancini continues to channel his inner George Costanza. Serenity anyone?
Manchester City secured four points in the first two games, though they're soft four points. All were earned in come-from-behind fashion; three at home against newly promoted Southampton and one against Liverpool.
Even though City showed heart, character and a flair for the dramatic, it should not have been this close for the Citizens. This is a team that is not settling. Expect some calmness when the transfer window closes.
And speaking of the transfer window, how about QPR? If someone handed a list of all their moves and money spent, you'd swear it might be from a top eight Premier League club. Nope, just good ole eighteenth place Queens Park Rangers. They went out and got Brazilian Julio Cesar from Inter this week, and it was confirmed Thursday that they snagged up Esteban Granero from Real Madrid. Earlier in the summer it was Ji-Sung Park from United.
This is an ownership group that wants to be recognized as a big club in London and in England, with eyes on European play in the coming years. But, they’ve still got a long way to go. One point and a minus five goal differential is no way to get the returns on those investments. It will take time for all the parts to start clicking, but QPR needs that to happen sooner rather than later.
Two teams can catch Chelsea on points for the top spot this week in the Premiership. Raise your hand if you figured it would be Swansea and Everton. Liars.
Everton have been one of the teams that has unexpectedly impressed through the first couple of weekends. Fellaini has been an absolute monster in the box and it's shocking more teams weren't trying to steal him from David Moyes' outfit. Jelavic's scoring pace – eight goals in his last eight League appearances – since coming over in January from Rangers has been totally undervalued.
This is an Everton team that, with a few more good results, will have people talking about European possibilities. Everton are for real, and they're going to show it this weekend again against West Brom.
The Match Day guys were talking about Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas the other day, and the conclusion was unanimous: it's really hard to like the guy. It doesn't seem like he's learned from his mistakes at Chelsea, his coat and tie look annoys Eric Wynalda, and the media venom will gush if Spurs fail to produce a positive result on Saturday against Norwich.
Luka Modric is finally gone to Real Madrid, which might help the team settle down from the ongoing saga. With Emmanuel Adebayor finding a long term home with Spurs, and the huge Moussa Dembele signing from Fulham, there are some positives for this club. But the fact remains: they're sitting in 14th place, with one point through two games.
The post-Harry Redknapp hangover has been worse than expected For those preaching patience for AVB, I'm with you, until post game Saturday that is. If the Spurs can’t get their offense going against a Norwich squad that has already allowed six goals this season, expect a feeding frenzy around AVB.
Red, white and blue
US men's national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann granted us a wide-ranging interview on Thursday. Klinsmann was downright giddy when talking about the Maurice Edu and Geoff Cameron duo playing together for Stoke City. He sees those two guys as an integral part of the USMNT going forward.
The Clint Dempsey and Carlos Bocanegra sagas were certainly on his mind. Klinsmann wants his guys to make sure they're playing in the top leagues at the top level as soon as they can. Despite his prolonged layoff, Dempsey will be called in ahead of the World Cup Qualifying series with Jamaica. He has been pounding on him to get to a Champions League team— to get to the highest level — to not be content.
We also had an interesting conversation about how Jurgen is trying to break a complacency issue that he's seen with many members of the US men's national team. Klinsmann was clear to say that just because you play in Europe doesn't mean you've “made it.” Sure, you've made it to Europe, but now you need to make it to the next level of competition.
I found many aspects of it fascinating, and you can see the entire interview at FOXSoccer.com. It was something that kind of surprised me—that Jurgen was so adamant about trying to break the complacency cycle that is affecting the majority of US men's national team.
You can always ask me a question via my Twitter account @RobStoneonFOX using the hash tag #askStone. Each week, I’ll pick a few and we’ll give you a shout-out right here. Enjoy the game this weekend and I’ll see you right here on FOX Soccer.
A 15-year broadcast veteran, Rob Stone is the lead studio host for FOX Soccer Match Day, Goals on Sunday, and UEFA Champions League coverage. Follow him on Twitter @RobStoneONFOX.
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