Friday, February 08, 2008

Weekend EPL games

This weekend's English Premier League games are the return legs from the Round 3 fixtures.

Recap of Round 3:
None of the big four of Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea or Liverpool picked up a win in Round 3. But Arsenal, Liverpool and Blackburn had only played one game heading into the weekend of August 19 because of European ties.

Arsenal 1-1 Blackburn
No Arsenal fan needs reminding of this game. A mistake from Jens coupled with his opening day error against Fulham signaled the end of his first team days. Prior to this game, my image of Jens was either seeing him in a defiant mood, pushing someone, shouting or being authoritative. But this was the first time I saw him lower his head in his gloves and go silent.

Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea
A superb Torres goal gave Liverpool the lead and they should have picked up all 3 points until a non-existent penalty was given to Chelsea. Even though the ref admitted later he had made a mistake, it did not erase the fact that Liverpool were robbed. Chelsea never looked like getting anything from this game until that gift.

Man City 1-0 Man Utd
Nothing went right for United and City rode their luck after a sliced deflection gave them three precious points.

So after Round 3, Man City were alone at the top with 9 points, Chelsea had 7 points, Liverpool, Arsenal and Blackburn had 4 each while Man Utd were winless with 2points.

Round 26:
How the table has changed. Arsenal are top with 60, Man Utd right behind with 58, Chelsea have 54, Liverpool are in 5th with 43, Man City are in 7th with 41 and Blackburn are in 8th with 39 points. Liverpool still have a game in hand.

Arsenal's home record is second only to Man Utd's in the league. The Gunners have 11 wins and 2 draws, one of them being a 2-2 with Utd. Arsenal also lead the league with most goals scored at 52.

Blackburn's away record is slightly better than their home record. Away from home, they have picked up 20 points (5 wins, 5 draws and 2 losses) while at home they have 5 wins, 4 draws and 4 losses. Blackburn have scored 32 goals this season and let in 31, with 19 goals scored away from home and 18 conceded away.

The Manchester derby takes place early on Sunday morning, followed by the Chelsea-Liverpool game on Sunday evening. Arsenal take on Blackburn on a rare monday night game.

Arsenal should not expect any favours from Man City or Liverpool. The Torres injury will not help Liverpool against a Chelsea side who are still grinding results out.

Familiar Foe:
In recent years, the frequent meetings with Blackburn in the domestic cup competitions combined with their tactics have made them an annoying opponent for Arsenal. In the last 8 seasons, Arsenal have faced Blackburn 3 times in the F.A Cup (4 games in total) and twice in the Carling Cup, including this season's 3-2 win. Last season, Arsenal lost 1-0 away to Blackburn in the F.A Cup after a 0-0 draw in the first leg.

But Arsenal's 6-2 thumping win over Blackburn at home last season surely makes up for some of those frustrating moments with Blackburn over the years. Since Blackburn's promotion back to the league in the 2001/02 season, Arsenal have won 8 times, drawn two (this year's 1-1 draw and a 3-3 home tie in the 2002 double year) and lost 3 times. Arsenal lost both fixtures to Blackburn in a dismal 2002/03 season. In the 90's, Arsenal also failed to beat Blackburn in both fixtures on three other occasions -- the first season of the Premier League & Blackburn's return to top-flight football in 1992/93, Blackburn's title season of 1994/95 and the 1995/96 season.

Overall, Arsenal have 46 wins, 29 draws and 24 defeats against Blackburn since the two first met in league football in the 1904/05 season. The first meeting between these two teams took place appropriately in a F.A Cup tie on Feb 9, 1901 when Arsenal won 2-0.

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