English Premier League 2011, Week 9 Preview And Fixtures: United And City To Settle The Question Of Who Put The 'M' In Manchester

Hey did you hear they're playing the Manchester Derby this weekend? That's Manchester United against Manchester City? I didn't know if you'd heard about it or not. You should really check it out. Should be a great game.

There are a few lesser derbies (but still intriguing, because aren't they always?) this weekend, but of course the big one is Sunday afternoon as two of the three teams with a snowball's chance in hell of winning the title square off in Manchester.

Saturday October 22nd

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Swansea City

12:45 GMT (7:45 AM ET); Molineaux Stadium

This is the kind of lower/mid table game that really ought to get a lot more attention that it actually will; two well-run clubs with likable squads and managers that both play radically different but nonetheless entertaining styles of football. Both of these clubs are likely to at least flirt with the relegation zone as we get deeper into the season but they'll also likely pull out some unexpected results along the way and more often than not they'll be enjoyable to watch. Games such as these are a big part of the reason the Premier League is worth watching despite the fact that the places in the table that actually matter are all but pre-ordained.

Pick: Wolves, 2-1

Aston Villa vs. West Bromwich Albion

3:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Villa Park

Whereas games such as these are a big part of the reason DVRs exist. This game holds a lot of meaning for the partisan fan but for everyone else there's very little reason to pay attention. Villa and West Brom are doing what they have to do and it's hard to be too harsh on them seeing as how they're both likely to survive the year with their Premier League status in tact. But still. Ugh.

Pick: Villa, 1-0

Bolton Wanderers vs. Sunderland

3:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Reebok Stadium

Bolton and Sunderland have been two of the more surprising teams so far this season and a quick glance at the table should tell you that it's been far from a pleasant surprise for either side. Both teams at least have the excuse of having faced a brutal run of games to start the year but the results are still quite unpleasant; for Bolton a -10 goal difference through 8 league games is nothing short of embarrassing, while Sunderland's even goal difference but still meager point total doesn't say good things about the team's ability to capitalize on opportunities and turn one point into three. It's tough to imagine both of these teams staying down towards the bottom of the table all season, but at some point things have to turn around and that happens against other struggling sides more often than not.

Pick: Bolton, 3-1

Newcastle United vs. Wigan Athletic

3:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); St. James' Park

Just 8 games into the season, the Premier League is down to just three unbeaten teams. Two of them will of course be contesting the Manchester Derby on Sunday; the third will look to keep their run going against a Wigan team whose start does not inspire a great deal of confidence in their ability to continue to shrug off a loss of talent year after year after year. Newcastle hasn't been nearly as sexy in earning their results as some of their colleagues in the top four, but it would be dishonest to imply that they don't belong there (for now at least) based on their performances so far this season. At a certain point, one has to think that the fortunes of one of these clubs will have to shift. But it doesn't look all that likely to happen this weekend.

Pick: Newcastle, 3-1

Liverpool vs. Norwich City

5:30 GMT (12:30 PM ET); Anfield

Lost in all the talk about Liverpool's revival under the watchful eye of Kenny Dalglish is the reality that his club hasn't really been all that, you know, good so far this year. There have been few wins to write home about and perhaps the year's most impressive result was a draw at home against a Manchester United side that could barely be bothered to even pretend to attack. It's all well and good to preach patience seeing as how Dalglish has been on the job for less than a year and all, but he's also spent a fairly absurd sum of money on players that haven't necessarily delivered the best return on investment. Still, they'll probably obliterate Norwich.

Pick: Liverpool, 3-0

Sunday October 23rd

Arsenal vs. Stoke City

1:30 GMT (8:30 AM ET); Emirates Stadium

If Stoke City manage to win this game (which isn't all that far-fetched a notion) Sam Allardyce is going streaking.

Pick: Draw, 2-2

Fulham vs. Everton

1:30 GMT (8:30 AM ET); Craven Cottage

Interesting note: amongst fans of the United States National Team, this game actually counts as a derby.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Manchester United vs. Manchester City

1:30 GMT (8:30 AM ET); Old Trafford

This is, of course, the game of the weekend/month/season to this point/possibly of the year. Manchesters United and City are clearly the front runners for the title this season and though Chelsea is hardly a club anyone should take lightly at all the odds are good that these two sides will end up going neck-and-neck for most of the season. Which will be interesting, because it might mark the first time in recorded history a significant majority is pulling for Manchester United to win the title.

Pick: United, 3-2

Blackburn Rovers vs. Tottenham Hotspur

3:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Ewood Park

Blackburn hasn't been relegated yet?

Pick: Spurs, 4-0

Queens Park Rangers vs. Chelsea

4:00 GMT (11:00 AM ET); Loftus Road

QPR are a very, very poor man's Chelsea. And I mean that in a very literal sense. And yet somehow Chelsea are more likable in almost every way. That takes some doing QPR. Impressive.

Pick: Chelsea, 3-1

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