Manchester City won a relatively boring 2-0 match against Everton this weekend. Mario Balotelli earned his first goal of the season, and the Citizens have drawn level with Manchester United at the top of the league. Their squad is sure to be bolstered by the return of defender Kolo Toure, banned six months for a failed drug test. As City find themselves in the battle to escape from their dangerous Champions League group, they will be thankful for the added depth. So far they have managed to stay towards the bottom half of the injury table, only missing Nigel de Jong, who is still out with an ankle injury. Their match today against Bayern Munich should be one worth watching.
Arsenal managed to climb a few places in the Premier League table with a 3-0 win against Bolton this weekend, but as their fans sang “We are staying up” their injury problems increased. Theo Walcott, Gervinho, and Laurent Koscielny have all been ruled out of their Champions League match this week against Olypiakos, but surely the Gunners have the quality to get by the Greek champions. These injuries can be added to the list that includes Jack Wilshere, who is not expected to return until February after undergoing ankle surgery. It doesn’t look like it is going to get any easier for Arsenal.
Newcastle continued their improbable start by beating Blackburn 3-1 on Saturday, lead by a hat-trick from Demba Ba. They will do well to continue this run of form with difficult matches coming up away to Wolves and home against Tottenham. With talented strikers like Ba and Leon Best, along with solid performances from Cheik Tiote, and finally some competent management for Newcastle from Alan Pardew, the Magpies may just end up challenging for a Europa League spot towards the end of the season.
Liverpool got by Wolves with a 2-1 victory, but left a lot to be desired from their fans. Despite their lackluster performance, their squad will surely be uplifted by the return of captain Steven Gerrard. Gerrard, had appeared in last week’s Carling Cup match and saw a substitute appearance at Anfield over the weekend and will surely be ready to go for the upcoming Merseyside Derby this weekend against Everton. They will however miss defender Daniel Agger who will be sidelined for four weeks with a fractured rib.
Manchester United find themselves at the top of two tables this week, the Premier League table and the injury table. Wayne Rooney is now expected to miss several weeks after being omitted from Saturday’s squad due to a hamstring injury. He will be joined in the stands by several others including fellow striker Javier Hernandez who has been unable to finish his two previous matches due to injury. While Basel probably will not prove to be too difficult for United the road ahead may be rough without Wayne Rooney.
La Liga Update
Since there are only two teams that matter in Spain we’ll start with Real Madrid, who go into their midweek battle against Ajax fresh off a 6-2 drubbing of Rayo Vallecano. Cristiano Ronaldo earned himself a hat-trick in the match, but the best goal has to go to Raphael Varane, who scored a ridiculous goal by flying backheel. The six goal performance came after struggling to a scoreless draw midweek against Racing Santander.
Barcelona recovered from their midweek struggles against Valencia to crush Athletico Madrid 5-0. Led by a goal from David Villa and a hat-trick from Lionel Messi, they travel to Belarus this week to take on BATE Borisov. So far this season Barcelona has been on an outrageous run of goal scoring with their current goal differential already at 18. Currently Barcelona sit in second place, but based on their form I wouldn’t expect it to be long before they claim the top spot.
Before I go, check out this brilliant header from distance by Jone Samuelsen: http://theoriginalwinger.com/2011-09-26-video-norwegian-midfielder-jone-samuelsen-x-header-goal-from-his-own-half-gotta-be-a-record-right
Plenty of Champions League matches today and tomorrow to keep us all entertained. Look for an update later in the week.