English Premier League: Latest News, Preview and Predictions for Week 7
Chelsea continues to hold the Premier League lead, but it's getting tougher by the week to ignore Everton's red-hot start. The club, which has become notorious for its slow starts in recent seasons, currently sits three points off the pace in second place.
The biggest difference for the Toffees has been increased offensive production, mostly thanks to Nikica Jelavic and Marouane Fellaini, who has already matched his league goal total from last season. The duo has helped them stay ahead of the two Manchester powerhouses for now.
Everton's rival, Liverpool, got in the win column on Saturday, finally putting a little distance between itself and the relegation zone as the Reds try to rebound from a lackluster start. They are showing some signs of life at the very least.
Let's take a look at some of the other EPL news, preview the match of the week and make predictions for all of next weekend's matches.
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A weekend in the Premier League rarely passes without some type of officiating gripe. Manchester City's Sergio Aguero took it a step further, however, by saying he believes the referees unfairly lean toward English players, according to Arthur Virgo of Goal.com
City felt wronged by a penalty awarded to Fulham, which forced last season's champions to fight from behind to earn all three points. Aguero believes players who come from outside the country don't receive fair treatment:
"I try not to get involved with problems involving referees. There is a little bit of privilege with players who come from that country [England] but that is normal.
"We just play our game and the referee's job is to know who is tricking him and who is not.
"Here in England, there are almost as many foreign players as English players and it's not right that some have a privilege that others don't."
While it's tough to believe that officials are able to make split-second calls while also taking a player's nationality into account before blowing the whistle, Aguero makes it clear the perception is out there. It's something to watch next weekend.
Darren Bent Situation
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Darren Bent came off the bench to earn a point for Aston Villa with a late goal against West Bromwich Albion, but all anybody was talking about was the decision not to start him in the first place. Gabriel Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke got the nod instead.
Ian Edwards of ESPN reports Villa manager Paul Lambert stood by his decision and didn't think it caused any problems. But Bent wasn't as positive, saying he's hit a rough patch after losing his position as captain and his lineup spot.
Bent has now scored three goals in seven matches across all competitions this season. It will be interesting to see how Lambert handles the situation, but the striker clearly sent him a message with his terrific equalizer on Sunday.
Match of the Week: Newcastle United vs. Manchester United
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It's a pretty tame week in terms of high-profile matchups, but the clash between Newcastle and Manchester United won't disappoint. The teams just played in the Capital One Cup, with United squeaking out a 2-1 win.
The Red Devils are coming off a loss to Tottenham and have a midweek Champions League match with Cluj to navigate, which means the lineup might look a little different on Sunday as Sir Alex Ferguson seeks a winning combination.
Demba Ba is the key. If Manchester United can keep him off the scoresheet, it should be able to secure all three points. That's easier said than done, though, as Ba has found the net five times in his last three appearances for the Toon.
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Manchester City vs. Sunderland
The bad news for City is that the team hasn't been able to rediscover the form that allowed it to win last season's title. The good news is that the Citizens are still just four points out. They should have enough firepower to defeat a pesky Sunderland side.
Prediction: 2-0 Manchester City
Chelsea vs. Norwich City
Fernando Torres continued his resurgence with a goal against Arsenal. If he's able to make sure his struggles remain a thing of the past, the Blues will remain in the title chase for the duration. Three more points will be added on Saturday.
Prediction: 3-0 Chelsea
Swansea City vs. Reading
After scoring 10 times in the first three league matches, Swansea hasn't tallied a single goal in its last three. A suspect Reading back line should help the Swans, but it's far from a slam-dunk victory against a desperate club.
West Bromwich Albion vs. Queens Park Rangers
Heading into their match on Monday, Bobby Zamora has scored three goals for QPR. The rest of the squad has combined for zero. West Brom should be able to capitalize on that lack of production to keep its strong start alive.
Prediction: 1-0 West Brom
Wigan Athletic vs. Everton
This should be an outstanding test for Everton—a road match against a team the Toffees must beat if they want to get taken seriously as a contender for the top four. Don't be surprised if this one goes down to the wire despite the large point difference.
Prediction: 2-1 Everton
West Ham United vs. Arsenal
Arsenal would have liked to earn at least a point against Chelsea, but it fell short. The schedule for October is favorable, which means the Gunners have a terrific chance to make a move up the table. West Ham has battled inconsistency in the early going.
Prediction: 1-0 Arsenal
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Southampton vs. Fulham
Southampton will continue to struggle until manager Nigel Adkins is able to find a solution for the team's defensive problems. It's not likely to happen against a Fulham side which has quietly put together a solid start.
Prediction: 3-2 Fulham
Liverpool vs. Stoke City
Liverpool and Stoke both earned their first victories of the league campaign over the weekend and will be looking to make it two in a row. Luis Suarez and Peter Crouch have been in top form, but Suarez should have more support.
Prediction: 2-1 Liverpool
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Aston Villa
Tottenham must be careful here. It's a match the Spurs should win, but after their triumph over Manchester United, a Europa league match on Thursday and a clash with Chelsea on the horizon, it would be easy to overlook Villa.
Newcastle United vs. Manchester United
Although Robin van Persie and Co. will want to avoid dropping a second straight league match, the Red Devils are up against a Newcastle side that has been great at home over the past year. A draw seems like the most likely outcome.