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Andy Carroll grabbed his first Liverpool goals as the hosts obliterated a weakened Manchester City by 3-0 at Anfield. With City gearing up for a huge FA Cup semi-final clash over the weekend, Roberto Mancini opted to rest both David Silva and Nigel de Jong, but his plans backfired as the makeshift side he put out were played off the park by Kenny Dalglish's men - and to top it all off Carlos Tevez hobbled off the field barely a quarter of an hour into the match with an injury.
The City captain is believed to have a hamstring tear, which if true would put the rest of his season in some doubt, and he'll almost certainly miss the match against Manchester United this weekend. Mario Balotelli, the man who came in for Tevez, also appeared to pick up a knock - the striker was clearly troubled by a back problem after being flattened by Lucas - and was himself replaced by Nigel de Jong with a few minutes left on the clock. His injury is not expected to be particularly serious, however.
As for the rest of the match, Liverpool were sublime in the first half and comfortable in the second. 3-0 flattered the visitors, who couldn't cope with the intelligent movement of Luis Suarez combined with the physical presence of Carroll. Carroll got the party going with a long range shot that caught Joe Hart flat-footed before Dirk Kuyt threaded in a fine finish, and the ex-Newcastle man added to City's misery by netting a powerful header less than two minutes after Kuyt's goal.
In the second half, Liverpool weren't quite so rampant, but they didn't need to be. Despite the introduction of David Silva ten minutes into the half, there was virtually no attacking threat from City and Liverpool were free do just do whatever they wanted, which was mostly having Suarez try ten billion cute flicks into space. It took until there were less than ten minutes to go for the visitors to even register a shot on goal, and although Yaya Toure's effort packed a real punch, Pepe Reina dealt with the threat to deny City even a consolation goal.
The result leaves Manchester City just three points ahead of fifth place Tottenham Hotspur (and the London side have a game in hand), as well as reducing their goal differential advantage to twelve. Liverpool, meanwhile, seperate themselves from the pack of teams chasing sixth place - they're now four points clear of Everton and five of Bolton Wanderers. More than that, they've given themselves a huge boost with a great performance tonight.
Visitors Manchester City will have to use the interval to regroup after being blown off the pitch by Liverpool in the first half to their match at Anfield. Roberto Mancini's side find themselves 3-0 down and minus their captain Carlos Tevez to what appears to be a serious hamstring injury, and it's probably far too late to come back into the match. About all they can hope for is not to embarrass themselves further (I guess they can also hope that Tevez hasn't torn his hamstring as feared, too).
Liverpool, for their part, have been little short of phenomenal. Andy Carroll has scored his first and second goals for the club, the defence is playing adequately, and the movement of the midfield and Luis Suarez has been excellent. City simply can't keep up with the runs they're making, and their usually compact, organised defence is looking like a hopeless shambles against the Liverpool attack. The Reds' investment in Carroll and Suarez is, at least for today, looking very wise indeed.
Liverpool lead Manchester City 3-0 at Anfield and nobody could possibly say the scoreline isn't well-deserved. City had grown a little bit into the game following captain Carlos Tevez's departure with a suspected torn hamstring, but still hadn't really threatened Pepe Reina, and Liverpool were apparently just waiting for the chance to punish the woefully disorganised visiting defence. Sustained pressure from Liverpool's midfielders and forward line eventually resulted in the City defence being drawn over to the left side, leaving Dirk Kuyt totally unmarked on the right. Fabio Aurelio found him with a quick pass (possibly by accident), and the Dutchman's assured finish went through Joleon Lescott's legs and left Joe Hart helpless.
The hosts weren't done, though - less than 90 seconds later Andy Carroll notched his second goal for the club with a monstrous header at the back post. Meireles was the provider after drifting over to the left flank, and for whatever reason Dedryck Boyata didn't feel obligated to pick up the Portuguese midfielder. Meireles had the time and space to cross, and found Carroll six yards out. With only left-back Aleksandar Kolarov to challenge him, there was only ever going to be one result.
So, 3-0 down with Carlos Tevez apparently badly injured. Not the best first half for Roberto Mancini and co.
Although Manchester City captain Carlos Tevez walked off the Anfield pitch under his own power when he was substituted following an apparent hamstring injury, news from the clubhouse is dire indeed - the Argentina striker believes that he may have torn his hamstring. If the injury is more than just a strain, Tevez is certain to miss out when City play against Manchester United in their FA Cup semi-final on Friday, and a tear could well jeopardise the rest of his season.
Without Tevez, City are an entirely different team (although they weren't very impressive with Tevez in the early stages against Liverpool here), so a prolonged absence from their talisman would be something approximating disastrous, especially considering how tight the race for 4th is looking this year. With Edin Dzeko yet to score in the Premier League, if Tevez is out they're going to have to find another scorer - and fast.
It's been all Liverpool in the early going at Anfield and now they have something to show for against Manchester City - £35M striker Andy Carroll notching his first goal for the club after a long long spell of pressure which included two corners and Luis Suarez hitting the post. not much looked on when Raul Meireles picked up a loos ball from range, but his rather pathetic shot bounced off Vincent Kompany and landed straight at the feet of Andy Carroll. Instead of taking a touch of controlling, Carroll slammed a blistering daisy-cutting to Joe Hart's right and straight into the back of the net. Hart might have done better there, but that shot stayed hit.
If a 1-0 deficit fifteen minutes into the game wasn't bad enough, Carlos Tevez has just been forced off the pitch by what looks like a bad a hamstring injury. That's bad news for Roberto Mancini, since his side has a date with Manchester United at Wembley on Saturday. Mario Balotelli has replaced the captain, but we'll have to see whether Tevez can play in the semi-final. Early signs are worrying.
Manchester City have finally showed up at Anfield so we're going to have a game after all. Kenny Daglish hands a full debut to right back John Flanagan in the absence of both Martin Kelly and Glen Johnson, with Liverpool lining up in 4-4-2 to accommodate both Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll.
Manchester City play both Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko, dropping both Nigel de Jong and David Silva to the bench in an odd system that sees Tevez mostly played as a withdrawn striker. They too are in dire straits at right back - Dedryck Boyata starts with both Micah Richards and Jerome Boateng on the treatment table.
Liverpool are supposed to be getting ready to welcome Carlos Tevez and Manchester City to Anfield for Monday evening's Premier League action, but there appears to have been a slight mishap. Nobody can find the opposition, which is a little bit strange:
Someone should probably tell Roberto Mancini that Liverpool aren't really scary enough to warrant scurrying away and hiding, especially as City destroyed the Reds earlier this season. Current theory: Little Mario Balotelli is lost and the team bus has stopped to look for him. Follow the trail of darts!
Aston Villa claimed an important victory over Newcastle United to take themselves five clear of 18th place and soothe some frayed nerves in Birmingham. In their last home match, a 2-1 loss against Wolves, fans began chanting for Gerard Houllier's head, and although things were fairly stressful towards the end of this game those same fans went home rather happier as the hosts avenged their 6-0 thrashing at St. James' Park last August.
The officials did their utmost to prevent Villa getting those three points, though. Although the match finished 1-0 thanks to a James Collins header, striker Darren Bent had a perfectly legitimate goal disallowed for offside and then was denied a clear penalty when Steven Taylor bundled him over in the box. Had Newcaslte gone on to score - and they were putting on plenty of pressure in the final ten minutes of the match, their only good spell, Stuart Atwell's name would not have been held in particularly high regard around Villa Park.
But, no matter. Aston Villa won, could have scored more goals, and looked defensively solid throughout the match. They're now in 14th place, while Newcastle, two points ahead, are in ninth. Both sides now look like they'll probably manage to avoid the drop into the Championship next year.
Aston Villa started slowly but eventually got on top of things against Newcastle United at Villa Park. The hosts, who are mired in a relegation battle that sees them just two points clear of safety entering the match, were pushed onto the back foot by some sloppy defending and confident forays forwards from the visitors, but they managed to snatch a goal against the run of play and from there things have been fairly rosy for Villa. However, a controversial decision deep into stoppage time that prevented the home team going 2-0 up may yet come back to haunt them.
James Collins is the man who gave Gerard Houllier's side the vital lead with a flicked header off a whipped Ashley Young free kick, but Villa really ought to be leading by a pair after Darren Bent finished coolly past Steve Harper only to see his effort ruled out for offside - incorrectly, as it turns out, as left back Jose Enrique had been playing him on. With Villa in desperate need of three points and with their defence looking fairly porous, that disallowed goal could be vital.
Aston Villa have a vital lead as they look to haul themselves away from the relegation zone. They'd been looking a little defensively suspect and frankly more or less inept going forward, and with Newcastle United getting into the game more and more it was a wonderful time for Villa to get onto the scoresheet. The move began with the visitors probing down their right flank, but Villa managed to secure the ball and get it to the feet for Gabby Agbonlahor, who duly sprinted halfway down the pitch before he was body checked off the ball my Mike Williamson.
One free kick led to another in a rather more dangerous position, and from Ashley Young's delivery centre back James Collins rose to power a header past Steve Harper in the Newcastle goal. The aggregate score between these sides is now 6-1 on the season, but if it stays that way Villa won't much care - they're on course for a huge three points.
Aston Villa host Newcastle in a must-win game for Gerard Houllier's beleaguered team. Fortunately for the Villans, they're finally back up to something approaching full strength after spending most of the season with half of their first team injury - and hovering near the relegation zone as a result. Houllier is therefore able to show us what he'd be able to do when not forced to start ten year old little girls in his defensive line, so we'll for the first time in a long while see the real Aston Villa.
We may not see the real Newcastle, however. Captain Kevin Nolan is suspended and there are several major long-term absences from Alan Pardew's lineup. However, they did do a more than thorough job of slaughtering Wolves last time out, so they could well be capable of compounding Villa's woes today.
Arsenal have another crucial three points after a 3-1 win over Blackpool. The game should have been over in the first half, when the visiting side had a flurry of chances thanks to a lacklustre display from the Blackpool back line. Arsenal converted the first two with assured finished from Abou Diaby and Emmanuel Eboue, but should have scored more than just a couple of goals before half time, so thorough was their dominance. Samir Nasri hit the post with a deft volley, Robin van Persie wasted a few excellent opportunities, and Eboue totally failed to take advantage of an open goal after Richard Kingson had vacated his box for reasons that will be known only to him.
Blackpool came out for the second half apparently refreshed and rejuvenated. It wasn't long until they had clawed one back, Gary Taylor-Fletcher sweeping a loose ball home, but their defensive organisation was much-improved from the first half without compromising their famous attacking flair and they looked for a spell like they were more likely to get the equaliser than Arsenal were to pull away.
The hosts were denied their best opportunity by referee Lee Mason, who denied a strong penalty appeal from the Tangerines after Laurent Koscielny bulldozed Taylor-Fletcher shortly after the striker had opened Blackpool's account, but they had several other chances that they can only blame themselves for failing to take. Eventually, Arsenal's ability to hit on the counterattack told, and van Persie fired home a pass from Theo Walcott with ten minutes left to put the game out of reach.
With the result, Arsenal go to seven points behind leaders Manchester United with a game in hand, while Blackpool remain just a point away from 18th.
Now that is a counter-attack. Blackpool had been threatening to once again breach the Arsenal defence, but Abou Diaby mopped up, dispossessing DJ Campbell as the striker tried to surge into the box. However, the midfielder was then stuck in the corner with very little on at all. Apparently that sort of thing doesn't matter at all for Arsenal, because about ten seconds later they'd scored. Diaby's clearance was neatly flicked forward by Cesc Fabregas, which released Theo Walcott down the right in miles of space. The young winger burst forward and laid in an absolutely perfect pass to Robin van Persie, who finished first time past a despairing Richard Kingson.
Blackpool aren't giving up, of course, and they keep trying to test Jens Lehmann in the Arsenal goal - but their strategy of walking in his direction until he clears the ball is being met with only moderate success at this point. The Tangerines have less than ten minutes left to score twice.
Well that's a rude re-introduction to the Premier League for Arsenal backup backup backup goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. Jack Wilshere tried to break up a threatening Blackpool attack by obliterating Luke Varney, but although he succeeded in flattening his man it made no difference to the overall move and the hosts surged forwards, with Lee Mason playing advantage. The Gunners' defence was stretched and the ball was threaded through to DJ Campbell, who was rather clumsily taken out by Lehmann. Instead of giving a penalty (and a sending off*), Mason elected to play on, and the ball broke loose to Gary Taylor-Fletcher, who took a couple of touches and threaded the ball into an empty net to halve the deficit.
Minutes later and Blackpool could have had another through a penalty as Laurent Koscielny felled Taylor-Fletcher in the area, but Mason was rather less competent in this instance and waved play on after what was a clear foul. They also should have scored after Jason Puncheon sent in an inviting cross minutes after that, but Kevin Southern rather messed that one up, so it remains Arsenal 2-1 Blackpool.
*With no backup goalkeeper!
Blackpool's fairly bright start to the match today is now a somewhat distant memory - it's been all Arsenal for about half an hour here at Bloomfield Road, and they really should be five or six goals up rather than just two. Abou Diaby and Emmanuel Eboue are the scorers, but Samir Nasri's hit the post, Robin van Persie might have done better with several clear-cut chances, and Diaby decided to go have a picnic or something rather than put the ball into the back of the net when presented with an open goal.
Really, Arsenal have been playing some quite lovely football. Their buildup play has been superb, and they've finished enough chances to get themselves a victory. On another day, they might be left ruing their missed opportunities, but it doesn't look like that will happen today.
Blackpool have... had a DJ Campbell shot cleared off the line. That's something, I suppose, but it's not looking good for the relegation threatened Tangerines, who are defending like a gaggle of drunken badgers.
Arsenal take the lead against the run of play at Bloomfield Road. It's simply, beautiful stuff from the guests - Robin van Persie, bombing down the left flank on the counterattack, is picked out brilliantly by a long diagonal pass from the back. With Abou Diaby breaking through the centre and free of the attentions of the Blackpool defence, it was easy for the Dutch striker to slide the ball into the area and even easier for the French midfielder to slot past Richard Kingson to take the lead.
No sooner had Arsenal stopped celebrating than they were on the attack once more, and it was an attack down the right which paid dividends this time. Jack Wilshere and Samir Nasri exchanged passes around the edge of the box before laying it off to Emmanuel Eboue, who was storming forwards towards Kingson's goal. The Ivorian danced into the area, cut the ball into shooting position on his weaker left foot, and dinked a finish into the Blackpool net. 2-0 Arsenal, less than half an hour gone. It's not looking great for the hosts.
It's business as usual between Blackpool and Arsenal in their English Premier League match at Bloomfield Road, as both managers have selected their typical teams without surprises. A red card lead to a 6-0 Arsenal win in the first match of the season between these two at the Emirates Stadium, but it seems likely that Blackpool won't go down so easily in this encounter. With relegation staring them in the face, the Tangerines, who are just one point above the drop zone, should be focused.
Arsenal lineup (4-2-3-1): Lehman; Clichy, Koscielny, Squillaci, Sagna; Diaby, Wilshere; Arshavin, Nasri, Fabregas; van Persie
Blackpool lineup (4-3-3): Kingson; Crainey, Evatt, Cathcart, Baptiste; Southern, Puncheon, Adam; Varney, Taylor-Fletcher, Campbell
Blackpool have a game in hand on their relegation rivals, so they will stay above the drop with a loss, but they can only take so many. The relegation race is extremely tight, and no team is certain to go down. Arsenal are 10 points behind Manchester United for first place, but have two games in hand and could be within a manageable distance if they win both.
Tottenham Hotspur recovered from their mid-week battering by Real Madrid by taking care of Stoke City at White Hart Lane, winning 3-2 thanks to a pair of goals from Peter Crouch and an excellent low shot from Croatian playmaker Luka Modric. Stoke certainly made it interesting, though - a brilliant stike from winger Matthew Etherington made the score 2-1 in the 27th minute before Crouch and Kenwyne Jones traded goals before half time.
Despite five goals in the first half, the second remained scoreless mostly thanks to a heroically poor effort from Potter striker Jon Walters, who managed to hit the post from two yards out and the goal gaping shortly after the break. It was the closest the visitors would come to an equaliser, and although they spent the remainder of the match pressing for a goal they simply couldn't find one.
Stoke slip to twelth following West Bromwich Albion's win at the Stadium of Light, while Tottenham remain in fifth place, three points behind Manchester City in the race for the Champions League spots. City face off against Liverpool on Monday.
Sunderland continued their miserable run as they were overcome by West Bromwich Albion at the Stadium of Light. With Steve Bruce's side not having found the net in more than seven hours of football, one would hardly have expected a 3-2 game, but goals were there nonetheless. Even after Sunderland took an early lead, they still hadn't manage to score - it took a Nicky Shorey gift to get them on the board for the first time since Asamoah Gyan netted in a 2-1 loss to Tottenham Hotspur on Feb. 12th - but they managed to get a legitimate goal through left back Peter Bardsley shortly thereafter.
Unfortunately for the hosts, West Brom managed a goal of their own between the two Sunderland efforts with Peter Odemwingie tapping in from close range, and the 2-1 lead was erased after Youssouf Molumbu finished neatly past Simon Mignolet after a one-two with Odemwingie. Sunderland surely would have taken a point - they'd managed just five from nine games after selling Darren Bent to Aston Villa - but they were denied even that after Steven Reid's cutback found Paul Scharner to sweep home the winner.
The result, astonishingly, puts West Brom into the top half of the table, and they now look certain to avoid relegation with 39 points and six matches to go. Sunderland, meanwhile, are sliding down the bottom half, sitting in 13th place after being in contention for the European slots for much of the year. It's been an odd turn of events for the Black Cats, and some are now calling for manager Steve Bruce's head. They may have a point.
West Ham United's surge up the table faltered once more as they were taken apart by Owen Coyle's Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium. A brilliant brace from on-loan striker Daniel Sturridge sandwiched a neat Lee Chung-yong header, but the 3-0 scoreline didn't reflect the level of dominance from the home side - Bolton could have won by five or six here, and the only reason the Hammers had any chances at all is because the hosts turned off after Sturridge netted their third early in the second half.
The result ensures that Bolton keep pace with Everton as both sides try to overhaul Liverpool in sixth place, but it keeps West Ham in 18th spot and in line to be relegated despite what had been a remarkable resurgence over the past month. They certainly didn't look like a team that had turned the corner today, and they'll have to do much better than this over the next six matches if they want to avoid dropping down into the Championship.
Blackburn Rovers went behind to fellow strugglers Birmingham City but ultimately came back to earn a draw at Ewood Park - a result that really suits neither team, who are now 14th and 15th in the Premier League with equal points and an equal goal differential. Unsurprisingly considering the players involved, most of the match was fairly dull, but it burst into life when Lee Bowyer headed in from close range following good work from Cameron Jerome in the 32nd minute from a suspiciously offside position.
The home side pressed for the equaliser, and although they'd get it in the first half it wasn't until the 52nd minute of play. The reason for that much injury time? Roger Johnson, who was clattered by Blackburn striker Jason Roberts and spent several minutes down with a head injury. Eventually, play was allowed to continue again, but apparently concussions were contagious for Birmingham - at least, that's the only excuse Liam Ridgewell might have. An awful mistake from the defender allowed Junior Hoillet to nip in, round Ben Foster and level the scores in the seventh minute of stoppage time to cap a frenetic end to the first half.
If you thought all of that action in the first half would lead to a fun second half, you thought wrong. It's probably best to pretend it didn't happen, to be honest.
Two first half goals saw Manchester United through at home against Fulham, although the visitors made things interesting for long spells of the match. However, for all of their industry, Mark Hughes' side could never come close to the cutting edge they needed to seriously threaten Tomasz Kuszczak or United's lead, while the hosts had no problem with generating - and converting - straightforward chances.
Dimitar Berbatov got on the scoresheet yet again in the twelfth minute, picking up a loose ball in the box after a combination of Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes managed to eventually strip Nani in possession after excellent work by the winger. Berbatov, who was clearly offside, made the most of the opportunity, hammering a shot past a helpless Mark Schwarzer to make it 1-0.
Twenty minutes later and the hosts were up by two, and this time there was no question as to the legality of the goal. Schwarzer's decision-making, however, was thoroughly questionable, and his decision to challenge Nani for Patrice Evra's long punt forward utlimately allowed Antonio Valencia a free header into an empty net.
It was a blow Fulham never looked like recovering from. They pressed forward manfully, with Bobby Zamora particularly impressive, but there were no clear-cut opportunities generated in the United penalty box. Instead, the visitors were opting to shoot for longer and longer out, and although some of their long-range attempts were very good, it simply wasn't enough to get them on the board. Had they managed a goal, United probably had another gear or two to step into, but the hosts were able to keep Fulham at bay for long enough to earn a clean sheet and three more vital points as they continue their march towards the title.
It's 7am Pacific Time. All over the country, fans of English football are settling down to watch their matches. Supporters of Manchester United and Fulham have it easy: Their match is being shown on Fox Soccer Channel. But those attempting to watch Chelsea v Wigan are being treated to some interesting phenomenon. David Luiz has shot eight times on goal. Just before the final whistle, Florent Malouda transported himself back in time eight minutes to see his shot saved by Ali Al-Habsi yet again. The referee has brandished a yellow card to Wigan defender Emmerson Boyce three times for time wasting, and Frank Lampard got an elbow to the mouth five times. In real life, that's a red card and then some. In Fox Soccer TV world, it's business as usual.
It's not just the Chelsea - Wigan match (which, by the way, reliable sources have at 0-0 after the first half). There have been complaints thus far about Tottenham Hotspur - Stoke City and Bolton - West Ham. Complaints are normal in football, of course, but usually it's about the quality of play rather than the quality of a paid product.
Get it together, FSC.tv. ESPN 3 provides a free product that is nearly flawless. As long as illegal streams remain available (and they will), people will stop paying for your service. Not the best long-term business strategy.
PS-- FSC.tv worked just fine when showing advertisements. Telling, isn't it?
Although Fulham gave Tomasz Kuszczak a scare or two in the opening ten minutes, it's Manchester United who are well on top at Old Trafford thanks to goals by Dimitar Berbatov and Antonio Valencia. Berbatov, the Premier League's leading scorer, was the beneficiary of some good luck and poor officiating when he took advantage of a loose ball in the box (from an offside position, no less) to sweep United into the lead in the 12th minute.
But while Fulham could probably consider themselves unlucky to be down 1-0 after the Bulgarian struck, they only had themselves to blame for goal number two. More specifically, they had Mark Schwarzer to blame. The Australian goalkeeper decided to charge merrily out of his penalty box to challenge Nani for a long punt forward, got nowhere near it, and left Valencia with an easy tap-in two yards from goal after the Portuguese winger was able to swing in a cross.
United look very good on the attack, although Fulham's forward players are giving a makeshift defence some problems. However, the visitors can't afford to press too high - although they've put together some promising attacks United are looking hugely dangerous on the counterattack.
Antonio Valencia has his first goal in quite some time and it could not have been any easier for the Ecuadorian after an awful mistake from Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. Patrice Evra pinged in a long ball forwards, Schwarzer decided to come out to pick up the pass, and was beaten to the ball by Nani. Even more unfortunately, the race for the ball took the goalkeeper completely out of the penalty area leaving the goal managed by Gael Kakuta, which was a recipe for trouble. Nani swung in an easy cross and it took a slight deflection before landing right on Valencia's head.
When an attacking player has a free header two yards from an open goal, you expect him to score. And so he did. It's 2-0 Manchester United and the game is already over at Old Trafford. Fulham gave it a good go for the first 30 minutes, but United go merrily marching on towards the title.
Despite a promising start from Fulham, who've tested Tomasz Kuzczak in the Manchester United goal several times already, the visitors find themselves down by a goal. Nani ran straight at the heart of the defence, with Aaron Hughes coming out to challenge, but although they did eventually manage to get a tackle in on the Portuguese winger, the ball popped straight to Dimitar Berbatov and the Premier League's leading goalscorer sent in an assured finish past Mark Schwarzer for goal number one of the afternoon.
Of course, Berbatov was offside and the 'pass' by Nani looked largely accidental, but the home crowd won't mind. This is one potentially annoying fixture that's rapidly become rather pain-free, although United will want another goal to alleviate the threat posed by the likes of Bobby Zamora and Gael Kakuta. Fulham, of course, will feel hard done by, but with the side well beyond the relegation battle and with little to play for they can just relax and enjoy the day.
Manchester United field a weakened starting eleven thanks to the absence of Wayne Rooney through suspension and injury concerns for several key players ahead of their match against Chelsea at Old Trafford on Tuesday. Tomasz Kuszczak fills in for Edwin van der Sar in goal, while the outfield players shuffle to a 4-3-3 with Dimitar Berbatov - flanked by the likes of Nani and Antonio Valencia - leading the line. Anderson makes his first appearance in some time, accompanied by Darron Gibson and Paul Scholes in the centre, while Rio Ferndinand and Rafael da Silva are both rested in the United defence.
Meanwhile, Fulham, who have very little to play for, are fielding an attacking 4-4-2 featuring Clint Dempsey and on-loan Gael Kakuta as the wingers. Bobby Zamora is up front alongside Moussa Dembele, and the power of the England striker could give United's makeshift defence a real scare today. At Craven Cottage, this team managed to hold United to a 2-2- draw, but don't expect the same result today.
Manchester United (4-3-3): Kuszczak; O'Shea, Smalling, Vidic, Evra; Gibson, Scholes, Anderson; Valencia, Berbatov, Nani.
Subs: Van der Sar, Brown, Owen, Park, Hernandez, Carrick, Fabio Da Silva.
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Salcido; Kakuta, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey; Dembele, Zamora.
Subs: Stockdale, Kelly, Sidwell, Gera, Gudjohnsen, Greening, Halliche .
It was a rough start to the weekend's proceedings for Mick McCarthy's Wolverhampton, who were destroyed at home by Everton. Although things started reasonably well for the hosts, who threatened Tim Howard's net frequently in the opening exchanges, a goal against the run of play courtesy of Jermaine Beckford sucked the wind out of their sails and two goals immediately before the end of the first half killed off the game entirely.
The only reason that the game wasn't entirely dead before Phil Neville and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov's screamers was thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, who pulled off several minor miracles as Wolves were pushed onto the back foot, keeping out a flying header from Phil Jagielka and then making an excellent save to prevent an own goal seconds prior to Neville's thunderbolt.
Matches that go into half-time at 3-0 are unlikely to be much of a contest after the teams pop out again, and this one didn't (did?) disappoint. Everton saw most of the ball but were happy to keep it rather than go for goal and risk exposing Tim Howard, and Wolves looked as though they were more than a little confused by the whole concept of this 'football' thing. But for a two-minute spell in which Howard was forced into acrobatic stops from Adlene Guedioura and Karl Henry, the hosts were utterly hopeless going forward in the second spell and were more good value for being down by three goals.
The result leaves Wolverhampton in 19th place, just one point ahead of Wigan and with a -20 goal differential, and with the sides above them in the table still to play, this could be a very bad weekend indeed for McCarthy's men. Meanwhile, David Moyes and company find themselves consolidating their hold on 7th spot. Considering Everton's start to the season that would be an excellent finishing place for the Toffees.
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