English Premier League: Latest News, Preview and Predictions for Week of Oct. 15
An Everton draw allowed rivals Manchester United and Manchester City to jump the surprising top-four contenders, making the current top three closer to what most fans were expecting when the season began, with Chelsea leading the way right now.
Players will return from international duty for this weekend's matches, which can often lead to some makeshift lineups as managers around the Premier League attempt to give rest to those who need it. In those cases, it's a chance for reserves to shine.
Even though the season is still young, the race for European spots and the relegation battle are already starting to take shape. So let's take a look at some of the top news from the week followed by predictions for every match.
Jack Wilshere Set to Return?
Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere appears ready to return to first-team action. Andy Sixsmith of Goal.com reports the rising star's agent confirmed he's fit to make the trip for the team's road clash with Norwich City on Saturday.
Wilshere has been out for more than a year due to various injuries, but has made enough progress in recent weeks to complete his comeback. It's a moment Gunners fans have been waiting for and should provide a boost to the side.
It remains unclear what his role will be against Norwich, assuming he does return, but his creativity will make the entire attack more dangerous. All the hard work will be worth it once he steps back on the pitch. It was a long road.
Everton Adds Hitzlsperger
Everton have signed veteran midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger to a contract that runs through January, according to ESPN. He last played with VfL Wolfsburg before suffering an injury that caused him to go unsigned until now.
The Toffees will gladly accept the reinforcements as they look to build off a strong start that has them sitting in fourth place, just one point behind the two Manchester club for second. Hitzlsperger will bring some experience to the table.
The report states the German star still needs international clearance before he's given the opportunity to play on Saturday when Everton takes on QPR. Once that happens it will become more clear what type of role he is going to fill with the club.
John Terry Accepts Suspension
Chelsea star John Terry has decided to accept the punishment of a four-match ban and £220,000 fine after using racist language in a match against QPR last season, according to Goal.com. He will be cleared to return in early November.
Terry made a statement about his decision, saying he didn't agree with the initial FA decision but still understands the language he used wasn't acceptable.
"I want to take this opportunity to apologize to everyone for the language I used in the game.
"Although I'm disappointed with the FA judgment, I accept that the language I used, regardless of the context, is not acceptable on the football field or indeed in any walk of life."
In related news, Blues teammate Ashley Cole was fined £90,000 by the FA after lashing out on Twitter when he learned his contributions to the Terry investigation were questioned. He used offensive language in the tweet and will now pay for it.
Newcastle United Transfer Talk
It's only October, but Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew is already looking ahead to the January transfer window with hopes of providing a boost to his team's back line. ESPN reports the Magpies are already monitoring seven defenders.
Newcastle lacks depth at the back, which has held the team down despite having a dangerous group of attacking options. A couple January moves to fill that void would set the club up for a strong run in the season's second half.
In the report, Pardew talks about targeting young players instead of high-priced options that have already reached their peak. It's easier said than done, of course, but Toon fans should be happy their team already have a plan of attack. Things get hectic once the window opens.
Laurent Koscielny Calls Out Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez can't seem to avoid the spotlight. This time it's Arsenal center-back Laurent Koscielny expressing a negative view of the Liverpool striker, naming him as the one player he doesn't like to face because of his antics.
Koscielny didn't hold back in his comments, making it clear he doesn't appreciated how the Reds star goes about playing the game. His thoughts, passed along by ESPN, are sure to receive a lot of attention in the coming days:
"Who is the forward I hate to face? Suarez," Koscielny told L'Equipe. "He is tiresome to defend against. He cheats. He pulls your shirt, giving small blows. You always want to give him a kick but you have to be careful not to be red carded."
The Arsenal defender isn't the first person to express this view. FIFA vice president Jim Boyce has also pointed toward Suarez as a player who doesn't play fair. He's clearly gained a negative reputation with many within the sport and should be looking to change it.
Winter Break Setback
The idea of adding a winter break to the schedule has been thrown around for a long time. England manager Roy Hodgson was the latest to bring up the idea with hopes the extra midseason time off would boost international play.
A stalemate has been reached, because the involved parties aren't willing to sacrifice matches, according to The Sun. Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore says in the report that it will be tough to find a compromise since nobody wants to give up fixtures.
While it's one of those ideas that always sounds good on paper, the deeper people begin to dive into it, the tougher it becomes to make work. They will probably keep working toward some type of agreement, but it doesn't sound promising right now.
Match of the Week: Tottenham vs. Chelsea
After a slow start to the season, Tottenham has rapidly moved up the table with four straight victories—a run the Spurs will look to continue against Chelsea at White Hart Lane. The Blues will be looking for at least a draw to solidify their EPL lead.
Tottenham's resurgence has been led by a rejuvenated attack featuring Jermain Defoe, Gareth Bale and high-profile addition Clint Dempsey. The team's back line, which has been shaky all season, will get tested by Chelsea, however.
The play-making duo of Eden Hazard and Juan Mata has been crucial to the Blues' hot start and needs to be in top form again on Saturday. The duo's strong play has helped Fernando Torres rediscover his scoring touch, which is key for Roberto Di Matteo's bunch.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea
Tottenham will likely come out flying given its recent hot streak and home-field advantage for the marquee match. As long as Chelsea can weather that early storm, the league leaders should be able to escape with at least a point.
Fulham vs. Aston Villa
One of the most surprising things about the season so far has been Fulham's potent attack, which has scored nine goals in three home matches. The Cottagers should continue to excel against a struggling Villa side.
Prediction: 2-0 Fulham
Liverpool vs. Reading
Liverpool would have liked to earn more than a draw against Stoke City in its last match, but the Reds' overall level of play recently has been encouraging. A victory over Reading would finally start to put some distance between them and the relegation zone.
Prediction: 2-1 Liverpool
Manchester United vs. Stoke City
Even though there's still room to improve, United's lineup featuring both Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney has started to settle in and looks extremely dangerous. The Red Devils should have no problem cruising past a middling Stoke squad at home.
Prediction: 3-0 Manchester United
Swansea City vs. Wigan Athletic
Swansea has been able to hold its own thanks to strong play from underrated options like Michu and Wayne Routledge. That said, the Swans face a tricky test in a Wigan side that should be riding high after earning a draw with Everton.
West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester City
This match will be a great measuring stick for both teams. It will illustrate whether or not West Brom can continue playing at a top-six level and also show if City has found the form that allowed it to win last season's title. It should be a terrific clash.
Prediction: 1-0 Manchester City
West Ham United vs. Southampton
If Southampton would have received even average defending through the first seven matches, it would be around the middle of the table. Instead, the Saints have been doomed by a weak back line, and West Ham will take advantage of that weakness.
Prediction: 2-1 West Ham United
Norwich City vs. Arsenal
Although Arsenal is only sitting in seventh place right now, the Gunners are definitely trending in the right direction, as their new players are starting to show why Arsene Wenger brought them in. Norwich has struggled at home with 11 goals against in four games.
Prediction: 3-1 Arsenal
Sunderland vs. Newcastle United
Steven Fletcher continues to carry the Sunderland attack on his back. Eventually, other players will have to start chipping in. They will have a good chance to do exactly that against Newcastle in what could end up being a wide-open game.
Queens Park Rangers vs. Everton
After only earning a draw with Wigan, Everton can't afford to drop more points against a low-level opponent, even on the road, in its quest to keep pace with the top teams. QPR has struggled in every key area, giving the Toffees a good chance to bounce right back.
Prediction: 2-1 Everton