EPL Preview: Ronaldo Returns for Manchester

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EPL Preview: Ronaldo Returns for Manchester
Finally—it's back.

After a week of those pleasantries known as Internationals, normal business resumes in the EPL.

With England playing well, the country are on a "football-high"—and are looking forward to the upcoming weekend of fixtures.

Let's look at how the "Big Four" will get on...

 

Everton v Manchester United

Watch out Everton, he's back!

Cristiano Ronaldo has been sitting on the sidelines in agony as United have stumbled to two 1-0 home victories and a derby loss to Manchester City. United will welcome him back with open arms, as they will Louis Saha.

The game will be a good chance for Fergie to give Tevez a break, considering that he's had to fly to and from Argentina this week. Dare we say Rooney? Rumours are rife that he could be fit for the bench this week.

Though it might be too soon, how fitting would it be for him to come back and grab the winner against his former club?

Everton have been going strong this season, and shouldn't be underestimated. A 3-1 win at White Hart Lane sent a strong message.

The early season form of Lescott and Arteta gives hope to the Goodison faithful, and it will be interesting to see if the teams can muster as good a game as last season's 4-2 United win.

Prediction: 2-0 Everton

I can just see United stumbling at Goodison, especially if they choose to play Saha as a lone striker. Everton will come at United with Yakubu partnering Johnson up front—and if that partnership gets supply from Arteta, United could be in trouble.

Key Man: Cristiano Ronaldo

 

Portsmouth v Liverpool

A big test for both teams.

Pompey will find out if they can hang with the big boys. Harry Redknapp seems to have built a team that could actually push for European qualification—and optimism has never been so high on the South Coast.

Kanu, for his part, has found a new lease of life. Factor in the additions of Distin, Muntari, and Utaka, and Portsmouth's season is full of promise.

The test for Liverpool is whether they can get results away against UEFA Cup teams. They often failed to do so last season, and it cost them in the end.

With players like Torres, Voronin, Gerrard, and Alonso, you can't look past Liverpool this season. Everyone is tipping Chelsea for the title, but I wouldn't bet against Liverpool putting up a big challenge.

Prediction: 3-1 Liverpool

Liverpool's strength will overpower that of Portsmouth, and I think that will be the key point of the game. Torres and Kuyt to dominate.

Key Man: Sol Campbell

 

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal

Finally, a North London derby that could prove to be an even contest.

It's been awhile since the boys from White Hart Lane have been able to challenge the Gunners. What a game this one promises to be.

Tottenham managed only a 3-3 draw against Fulham two weeks ago—but I've never seen a team so dominate a game without winning.

The return of Aaron Lennon will be a huge boost for Spurs, as will the good form of Steed Malbranque. The problems may come at the back, where the absences of Dawson and King could leave the defense vulnerable.

Arsenal remain undefeated, and have answered a lot of critics—myself included—who said they wouldn't last without Henry.

The problem is that they like to do it the hard way.

Against Fulham at home, they were down 1-0 for most of the game before winning it in the last minute. They can't afford to do that against Spurs.

In Henry's absence, Van Persie's play will be key on Saturday. If Fabregas can get a foothold, he'll run the game with his technique and passing.

Prediction: 2-2

This one is too close to call. Form goes out the window on derby day, as do previous results.

Key Man: Cesc Fabregas

 

Chelsea v Blackburn Rovers

This should be a dead certainty for Chelsea, shouldn't it?

We shall see how they cope without Frank Lampard.

Could Lampard's injury mean that Steve Sidwell, a free transfer from Reading, finally gets his chance? Or will Chelsea go with Mikel, who's already proven himself?

Another question: Why exactly did Sidwell move to Chelsea?...because it doesn't seem to have been about playing first-team football. But that's another article to come.

Blackburn have Benni McCarthy back from injury, who along with new signee Roque Santa Cruz could give Chelsea a bit of trouble...if Blackburn are adventurous enough to play two strikers up top.

David Dunn has looked promising, so expect him to continue in midfield—but it might be a busy day at the office for Chris Samba and Brad Friedel at the back.

Prediction: 3-1 Chelsea

Too strong for their opponents. I think Blackburn will keep them out for a while—but once one goes in the floodgates will open.

Key Man: Michael Essien

 

So there you have it. If nothing else, this weekend promises to be as eventful as ever—and proof that the EPL plays the best football in the world.
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