In the TV revenue-generated world that is the English Premier League, Sundays are usually reserved for the self-proclaimed ‘big games’. With international football on the agenda next week, though, and European football in midweek, this week’s fixtures are – at first sight at least – nothing to get all that excited about.
This week’s not-so-super Sunday sees a struggling London team face the most impressive London so far this season, two of the worst teams in the league come head-to-head and two of the lowest scoring teams this season attempt to, in all probability, out-clean sheet each other.
But, of course, this is the highest level of English football. There are always stories set to unfold, always something of interest even to the most neutral of viewers.
Tottenham are one of the most in-form teams in the league. The addition of Scott Parker to the side has been key: with him in the team, Harry Redknapp’s team haven’t lost a game. Redknapp will not be on the touchline this weekend due to a minor heart operation but a former-Spurs boss will be hoping to get one over his old employers.
Martin Jol left Tottenham in 2007 and has made an impressive start at Fulham. The Cottagers’ task will be difficult, though, as Fulham have won just two of their last 22 London derbies, one of which was the 6-0 drubbing of QPR a couple of weeks ago.
The match also sees two of the most in-form players in the league face-off, albeit not directly. Rafael Van der Vaart has scored six goals in five league games while Fulham’s Andy Johnson has struck eight in eight, including a stunning volley against Wisła Kraków in midweek.
The European adventures of the two teams could play an important role in the outcome of this game: while Fulham fielded a strong side, Tottenham effectively played their second string against Rubin Kazan. One would think, though, that even without the added fitness, Tottenham would have enough to overcome a side who have won just two of their last six league games.
In the day’s lunchtime kick-off, table-propping Wigan travel to Wolves looking to end the run of seven league losses. Similarly, Wolves have not won in eight games and have conceded at least two in each of their last seven games.
Wigan are struggling to score goals, with just three players off the mark in the league this season and having only scored one goal away from home in five games combined. Last season’s joint top goalscorer Hugo Rodallega is yet to score this term.
With Gary Caldwell suspended it is expected that Maynor Figueroa will come into central defence with Patrick van Aanholt at left-back. James McCarthy may return to the Latics’ midfield with Mohamed Diame a doubt. For Wolves, Matt Jarvis should return after being dropped against Manchester City.
Bolton are also in dire form and manager Owen Coyle has come under severe pressure in recent weeks. Their squad is depleted somewhat, with no fewer than seven first-eleven contenders out injured. Bolton will be hoping to pick up their first away point of the season and stop the rot that has seen them concede 27 league goals already in 2011/12.
Stoke’s away form, though, is something of a worry as they travel to the Reebok having lost their last three away league games. They’ve conceded nine and scored just one in those games. Their case isn’t helped by the fact that Tony Pulis’ side travelled to Israel in midweek for the Europa League after Monday’s league game against Newcastle and they have generally struggled on weekends after European games: losing all three post-Europa League games so far. They should, though, be strong enough to force their way past a disappointing Bolton side.