Nothing sheepish about Ba’s threat to United

SaturdayMan City      vs      Sunderland     13:45    Chelsea      vs      Norwich City     16:00    Swansea City      vs      Reading     West Brom     vs      QPRWigan     vs      Everton     West Ham     vs      Arsenal     18:30
Demba Ba and Papisse Cisse celebrate after scoring. Net photo.
Demba Ba and Papisse Cisse celebrate after scoring. Net photo.

Saturday
Man City      vs      Sunderland     13:45    Chelsea      vs      Norwich City     16:00    Swansea City      vs      Reading    
West Brom     vs      QPR
Wigan     vs      Everton    
West Ham     vs      Arsenal     18:30
Sunday
Southampton      vs      Fulham     14:30    Liverpool      vs      Stoke City     16:00     Tottenham     vs      Aston Villa    

Newcastle     vs      Man United     17:00   

LONDON - Alex Ferguson has had nine months to come up with a plan to combat the threat of Demba Ba and how Manchester United cope with the red-hot Newcastle United striker on Sunday (1500 GMT)could define their Premier League season.

The Senegalese bullied United’s injury-hit backline in Newcastle’s 3-0 victory on a windswept night at St James’ Park in early January, and will surely be licking his lips at the thought of testing a defence who have been uncharacteristically sloppy so far.

Third-placed United have leaked nine goals in six league games, including three in last weekend’s surprise home defeat by Tottenham Hotspur.

Injury has again robbed the Old Trafford side of Nemanja Vidic’s steadying presence for the foreseeable future, and now Ferguson has injury worries over Vidic’s fellow centre back Jonny Evans.

Even though they conceded a sloppy early goal to fall behind, Ferguson praised his backline for a resolute display in the 2-1 Champions League victory in Romania over Cluj on Tuesday.

With the imposing Ba, the Premier League’s top scorer with six this season, and strike partner Papiss Cisse awaiting, Ferguson can ill afford to lose Northern Ireland international Evans.

The defender is battling to shake off a dead leg and was replaced late on by young centreback Scott Wootton against Cluj.

Wootton made his debut in United’s 2-1 League Cup victory over Newcastle at Old Trafford last month. Cisse notched up his only goal of the campaign in that defeat, a match which Ba played no part in.  

MIRALLAS PRAISED

Second-placed Everton, three points behind leaders Chelsea, make the short trip to Wigan Athletic on Saturday with manager David Moyes hailing the impact of Belgium forward Kevin Mirallas.

The Goodison Park side’s acquisition of Mirallas from Greece’s Olympiakos was one of the more unheralded signings of August but the 24-year-old has surprised Moyes with how quickly he has settled on Merseyside.

“He is doing much better to start than I thought he might do. I thought we might have to take our time with him and bed him in,” Moyes told Everton’s website (www.evertonfc.com).

“But he is doing a great job for us playing from the right at the minute and he is looking bright and looking a threat so I am really pleased with him.”

A tasty London derby is in store at Upton Park in Saturday’s late kickoff when Arsenal aim to check West Ham’s United’s bright start.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was less than enamoured with his side’s defending in their first defeat of the season last weekend at home to Chelsea and could decide to bring back Per Mertesacker to combat the threat of West Ham’s big frontman Andy Carroll.

Wenger deployed Laurent Koscielny instead of the previously impressive Mertesacker against Chelsea, a move that was less than successful, and the Frenchman also started the 3-1 Champions League win over Olympiakos Piraeus on Wednesday.

Fit-again England centre forward Carroll believes West Ham - one place and two points above Arsenal in seventh - can cause the visitors plenty of problems.

“We’ve obviously been playing really well and we proved that on Monday,” Carroll said in reference to a 2-1 away win at Queens Park Rangers, a game in which he made a return off the bench after four games out with a hamstring strain.

Chelsea welcome struggling Norwich City to Stamford Bridge on Saturday and champions Manchester City, level on points with United and four behind the leaders, host Sunderland following their last-gasp 1-1 draw with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.

 

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