The English Premier League is reaching the break-neck level, with the North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium, while Di Mateo’s Chelsea visits highflying West Bromwich.
The reigning European champions have of recent been overtaken by the two Manchester clubs, which makes the title competition really interesting.
As I had opined before, it has been and still is predictable that Man Utd, Man City and Chelsea are the favourites for the top three but the scramble for the fourth is up for grabs, with more than five clubs in the mix.
Arsenal are eighth on the table- one point below their opponents but the good news for the Gunners’ fans is they have a pretty impressive record against their neighbours.
However, Andre Villas Boas’ team is strong and has been boosted with good attacking options in Dempsey, Mousa Dembele and other new signings like Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdson.
Striker Jermaine Defoe, winger Aaron Lennon and full back Kyle Walker all suffered injuries in last weekend’s 2-1 defeat to Man City.
AVB is already without long-term absentees Scott Parker, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Younes Kaboul who have usually made their defence impenetrable.
This means the Gunners will be favourites to win and at least forget the disappointment of last weekend’s unforgettable 3-3 draw against Fulham.
The result led to Fulham manager Martin Jol into making a humorous flashback saying: “We took four points off them last year — and they had Robin van Persie then.”
Arsene Wenger has lost enviable talents in Fabregas, Van Persie, Nasri, Alex Songo and Clichy and has not signed equal or better replacements.
Well to be fair, Wenger’s summer signings Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolsk have settled and are scoring but there are loopholes in the defence and until the weakness is addressed, the hopes of finishing in the top four are slim.
And Everton along with West Bromwich are proving harder nuts to crack in every game. Unless the Gunners, Tottenham, Liverpool inject in more money and reorganise their squads in January, qualifying for Champions League will be even harder.
What makes the competition stiffer is that this weekend games will dramatise it with Chelsea likely to lose at West Brom, while the Manchester duo wins and stay top. It will be dramatic because if Di Mateo’s Blues concede or draw, Everton may win and overtake.
Ironically, the fourth slot favourites, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool are currently far away on the table. Yet the Toffees, West Bromwich and West Ham Utd, who are above are strong and will not be easily overtaken.
The Red Devils, once they are on top, it is going to be extremely hard to overtake them, for they have the best striking partners than any of their opponents. Wide boys Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia have returned to full fitness and form.
And they have tight defensive unit of Patrice Evra, Rafael, Smalling, Vidic and Ferdinand. So it’s a big challenge to both City and Chelsea.