Premier League Saturday preview: Will the goal glut continue?

Last weekend was a record-breaking gameweek for the Premier League. 39 goals were scored amongst the ten games, taking the season’s goals-per-game average to 2.98 – the highest since 1967/68.
A quite incredible 38 games out of the 99 played so far have included four goals or more, while the four games between the Champions League sides – normally tight and nervy affairs – have resulted in 29 goals.
Freak scorelines such as 6-1, 8-2, 5-3 and 3-3 have appeared on the Premier League vidiprinter already. But it is not just the top teams who are scoring plenty: Blackburn threw away a two-goal lead last weekend to draw 3-3 with Norwich while Fulham beat QPR 6-0 a couple of weeks ago. Whether attacking in the Premier League is getting better or defending worse, the football is certainly entertaining.
Manchester City, the highest-scoring side this season, have scored an astonishing 17 in their last four games. Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko are both on nine league goals this term and both look set to start against struggling Queens Park Rangers. Dzeko did not play in the 3-0 win over Villarreal midweek so Mario Balotelli could be rested.
City’s key player this year – and arguably the Premier League’s best – David Silva could also be rested after picking up a knock on Tuesday night despite Roberto Mancini saying the Spaniard should recover for the late kick-off. Samir Nasri is the most likely to replace him.
QPR have only scored three times at home this season while City have struck at least twice in all 10 of their games. The match does see Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joey Barton face their former club, while Anton Ferdinand is expected to play despite the ongoing race row with John Terry.
After the 6-1 demolition two weeks ago Manchester United put in an efficient performance against Everton, beating David Moyes’ side 1-0 before easing past Romanian side Otelul Galati in midweek.
With Jonny Evans struggling in recent weeks Saturday’s match-up with Sunderland could see the return of the Rio Ferdinand-Nemanja Vidic partnership in central defence, despite Sir Alex Ferguson suggesting that Ferdinand may not be a first-team starter anymore. Wayne Rooney is expected to return to the forward position after his midfield endeavours against Galati, while Darren Fletcher is expected to return after being rested.
Sunderland are without their first two goalkeeper choices with Simon Mignolet joining Craig Gordon on the sidelines, so Kieren Westwood looks set to start. Connor Wickham, following his fine goal last week, is also likely to start, with Stephane Sessegnon either playing behind Wickham and Nicklas Bendtner or out on the right wing.
Sunderland have failed to score in 7 of their last 9 Premier League games against Manchester United and the Red Devils have never lost to Sunderland at home in the league, so the omens are far from good. John O’Shea is a doubt for the Black Cats and so may miss the opportunity to come up against the club he left in the summer, but Wes Brown, Phil Bardsley and Kieran Richardson all have the chance to face the side managed by Ferguson, who celebrates 25 years as United manager on Sunday.
Chelsea will be looking to rebuild after the hammering from Arsenal and the poor showing midweek, with John Terry expected to start.
Yakubu and Mauro Formica could pose some problems for the Chelsea back-line which looked so poor against Robin Van Persie and co. At the other end, Didier Drogba is injured leaving Fernando Torres as the main striker, with Juan Mata and Florent Malouda likely to play down the wings to support the Spaniard who hasn’t scored in the league since September 24.
Blackburn manager Steve Kean will be hoping for some sort of reaction against the Blues on Saturday after the disastrous way in which they lost two points against Norwich,
Norwich face Aston Villa this weekend, with Grant Holt expected to start on the bench again despite scoring last week. Emile Heskey isn’t expected to play in central midfield this week as Alex McLeish sees various options return to full-fitness, notably Jermaine Jenas, who could make his first start for the club.
Newcastle’s Demba Ba is currently fifth in the Premier League goalscoring charts having scored more than half of the Toon goals this season. The Frenchman scored a hat-trick against Stoke on Monday and looks in scintillating form as Alan Pardew’s side host Everton.
Everton have had a worrying start to 2011/12 but an impressive showing in the last half-hour against Manchester United and some promising signings – Royston Drenthe (Everton score every 36 minutes with the Dutchman on the pitch) and Apostolos Velios (a goal every 58 minutes) – means this weekend’s early kick-off with the Toon shouldn’t be too daunting.
Arsenal appear to be slowly turning a corner, which is especially helped by the return of Thomas Vermaelen. This should sure up a defence that has looked so poor and lacking in fight in recent weeks, although Laurent Koscielny looks to have settled into English football now and looks a lot more suited to the game than Per Mertesacker.
Van Persie, seven goals in three league games, should start for the Gunners against West Brom after sitting out most of the 0-0 draw with Marseille on Wednesday. Arsenal have been strong at home this season, winning four of their five league games at The Emirates, but West Brom have looked strong away from home, Swansea and Chelsea matches aside.
Roy Hodgson’s side may have to defend deep and play on the counter attack if they are to beat Arsenal – if André Santosstarts at left-back for Arsenal, James Morrison could end up being the Baggies’ main man on the right wing.
The news that Steven Gerrard faces more time on the sidelines has lead many to question how long the midfielder has left at the top level, but Charlie Adam and Lucas Leiva have looked more than adequate in the centre for Kenny Dalglish’s side.
Danny Graham has scored in his last four games so should retain his place ahead of Leroy Lita, but it could be a difficult afternoon for the striker: Swansea are yet to win away from home this season, while Liverpool have scored in every game at Anfield this term.

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