Good Weekend, Bad Weekend

Whilst the Manchester derby will live long in the memory, the likes of Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres also produced memorable performances this weekend and over in Spain Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were electric. One (little) man dominates this Monday, everyone loves a comeback…

Good Weekend

Michael Owen

It has long been said that if England need one player to be closing down on goal in the final minute of the World Cup final it should be Little Mickey. The former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle striker underlined his incredible poaching ability in the 96th minute yesterday and really started his Manchester United career.

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While his goal at Wigan also illustrated his fine finishing, Owen stepped off the bench yesterday and found space against a packed City defence and finished with aplomb. It has not gone unnoticed by many that Carlos Tevez missed an easy chance at the end of the first half, hitting the outside of the post when well positioned.

For now at least Sir Alex Ferguson has been vindicated for his summer dealings and Owen could well go on to hit a lot of late winners at Old Trafford in the coming seasons.

Besides some pretty poor defending, which added to what will surely become known as “the greatest Manchester derby,” United were impressive. They battered City in the second half and in particular Darren Fletcher and Ryan Giggs were excellent. The Scottish midfielder has added goals to an all-round game that has marked him out as a Player of the Season contender in the opening weeks of the season and Giggs is simply ageless, his pass for Owen’s goal proved the importance of quality and experience.

(Manchester United are 9/4 to win the league, Manchester City are 10/1)

Chelsea

Carlo Ancelotti’s 100% record in the Premier League continued and the Blues were way too strong for Spurs. All three goal scorers seem to be enjoying life under the Italian, in particular Ashley Cole is flying at the moment and is now just one goal away from equalling his best ever season tally (3 in 2000/2001).

Chelsea have strength throughout and words like resolute are becoming more and more applicable after every performance. Petr Cech rebounded from his error at Stoke with fine saves against Porto and Spurs. Whilst Drogba, with five goals in six games, could lead the Blues to all manner of silverware if he stays in this vein of form.

With Wigan unlikely to provide much resistance next weekend, the clash with Liverpool in early October is looking like a key date for Ancelotti and his side.

(Cheslea are 11/10 favourites to win the league)

Fernando Torres

By his own admission Torres was out of form in the early weeks of the season, El Nino emphatically came back into the goals at Upton Park. The first was a terrific run and the second a classic centre forwards header underlining Torres’ goal scoring prowess and the likelihood he will emerge as Cristiano Ronaldo’s heir to the mantle of best player in the Premier League.

(Liverpool are 13/2 to win the league)

Aston Villa

Following their opening day home defeat to Wigan and exit from the Europa League at the hands of Rapid Vienna, Villa were thought by many to be struggling early on in the campaign. This was only heightened by Martin O’Neill’s “training ground bust-up” with Nigel Reo-Coker prior to the win over Pompey.

Villa have now won four out of five and look as well placed as Manchester City and Spurs to challenge the “Big Four.” Their tail-off at the end of last season should also only make them stronger this campaign.

(Villa are 9/4 to win the “without Big Four” league)

Burnley

Following the Stoke blueprint for fighting relegation, Owen Coyle’s side have now won all their home games and have turned Turf Moor into a fortress. Burnley have won nine successive games at home and the scalp of Manchester United means no one can rest on their laurels when facing the Graham Alexander, David Nugent et al.

(Burnley are 11/10 to be relegated)

Thomas Vermaelen

The Belgian stopper now has four goals in eight games at his new club. His goals against the Latics displayed his quality in the air (it’s about the leap not how tall you are) and the strength of his left foot. As a point of reference, Vermaelen scored five goals in 40 appearances for Ajax last season.

Lionel Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo

While the two best players on the planet are in danger of not appearing in South Africa at the World Cup, both made defenders look like dummies on the weekend.

Messi was at his imperious best as he scored two against Atletico Madrid, in particular his assist for Seydou Keita’s goal was a joy to watch.

CR9 claimed his sixth goal in four games and was the catalyst for Mardid also hitting five on Sunday night. The Portuguese winker is coming good at the right time, hours after Los Blancos announced a debt of 327 million euros.

Juventus & Sampdoria

The only two teams with 100% winning records in Serie A.

(Juventus are 6/4 second favourites to win Serie A)

Bordeaux

The Ligue 1 champions continue to look like the team to beat in France.

Luis Suarez

The Uruguayan international claimed his second four-goal haul of the season as Ajax routed VVV Venlo 4-0.

David Beckham

Goldenballs scored one and set up the other. The LA Galaxy are heading for the play-offs and Beckham will no doubt pick up the headlines when it matters most.

Sint Truidense

The Belgium minnows, newly promoted, sit atop the Pro League after winning five of their opening seven matches.

Bad Weekend

Manchester City

Mark Hughes’ anger over the added time which allowed Michael Owen to score the winner has overshadowed a number of aspects crucial to judging City’s ability to compete with the very best this season.

On the one hand City stayed in the match and were close to gaining a point without Robinho, Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz – it is fair to the say the first of those three would walk into almost any side in the world.

On the flip side though, their performance in the second half should have seen United walk the match as they scored from their only meaningful attacks of the half. City defended pretty poorly and were indebted to Shay Given for making a number of saves and by hoofing the ball every time it came near their defence late on they handed the initiative to Ryan Giggs to make defence splitting pass.

There is no doubt that City can challenge the top teams but their lack of a true “leader” and their ability to produce when the pressure is on will be what makes the difference this season.

City now have to respond against Fulham in the Carling Cup and West Ham in the league and April 17, 2010 is a date for the diary – Manchester United visit Middle Eastlands, for the fourth last match of the Premier League season.

(Manchester City are 8/13 favourites to win the “without Big Four” league)

Tottenham

After all these years Spurs are still way too reliant on Ledley King. Once he went off with a hamstring injury even Harry Redknapp has admitted he knew the game was up.

Tottenham have seen how far away they are from challenging the very best, blaming Howard Webb is all well and good but a porous backline cannot be hidden over a season and certainly not against the likes of Didier Drogba.

(Spurs are 5/2 second favourites to win the “without Big Four” league)

Portsmouth

The first Premier League team to lose their opening six games of the season and Paul Hart is now looking like the clear favourite to get the sack.

(Portsmouth are 4/9 favourites to be relegated)

Jamie Carragher & Martin Skrtel

Perhaps we are not giving Carlton Cole enough credit for a fine performance but Liverpool’s central defensive pairing struggled all afternoon at Upton Park and may need Fernando Torres to bail them out plenty more times this season if they continue to perform like this.

Liverpool have also conceded nine goals so far this season – eight have come from set-pieces.

West Ham

The Hammers have not won in the league since the opening day of the season and Gianfranco Zola appears to be affected by “second season syndrome.”

(West Ham are 14/1 to be relegated)

Hull City

If not for Pompey’s shocking start, Hull City would be the crisis club of the Premier League. Phil Brown seems to be struggling to motivate his troops and the expected hangover from the second half of last season has come to frutition.

A home defeat to fellow likely relegation strugglers Birmingham, in which Boaz Myhill was their best player does not bode well and upcoming matches against Everton and Liverpool could see the Tigers adrift in October.

(West Ham are 4/7 to be relegated)

Atletico Madrid

Second bottom in La Liga they have now conceded 14 goals in their last three league meetings with Barca.

Deportivo Xerez, Grenoble Foot & Atalanta

All have a 100% losing record so far in 2009/2010.