Man United and Everton battling out in the first leg, which the Toffees won 1-0
The title chase in the English Premier League is becoming fiercer. so too is the battle against relegation, as Manchester United hope to extend their lead with Everton’s visit on Sunday, while Newcastle travel to white-Hart-Lane in their bid to stay afloat of relegation waters…
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson will look to his strike force to get the job done against an Everton side who have conceded in all but two away games this term. Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney have started to look like the lethal partnership that Ferguson envisaged when buying the former Arsenal captain at the start of the season.
With Rooney, Van Persie and Chicarito United have a triple headed attack that are all capable of scoring and setting up goals. With Captain,Nemanja Vidic returning to the heart of the defence and Rio Ferdinand playing some excellent football in defence United look to be coming into form at the right time for both the Premier League and Champions League.
Everton on the other hand will be hoping to pull off a rare double over United having beaten the Red Devils 1-0 in Goodison Park in the opening game of the their Premier League campaign.
Former United players Phil Neville and Tim Howard will be looking to cause some upset in their former home and there is a decent chance Howard will be in the line up Sunday as the home team has scored in 61 home Premier League games in a row.
With Moyes’s men having lost only two of their last six encounters against United, Sunday’s meeting should hold no fears, particularly against a defence that has shipped goals with alarming regularity this season and Moyes can also count on Nigerian international Victor Anichebe who has made the most of his opportunity.
Anichebe has scored three times since returning from injury shortly before Christmas and has also started weighing in with important assists.“I think it’s gone well,” says Anichebe. “I’ve played a lot of games since I’ve come back. I was out for about eight weeks just before Christmas and I came back and played a lot of football.
“I didn’t really expect to play so much. Now I’m just trying to find my feet; normally when you come back from injury you get eased in but I came straight in to help the team, in whatever way I could. I think it’s the best way as well.”
The Nigerian, who has made more substitute appearances than any other player in Everton’s history, has started the last three games, his shot turned in by Steven Pienaar against Bolton Wanderers and earning a penalty against West Bromwich Albion before netting against Villa.
“I love starting instead of coming on, but sometimes depending on the game or situation I know I might not start,” says Anichebe.
“I like to think I’ve shown what I can do from the start of the match. The great thing for me is that I’m finishing games as well. I’m playing for most of the game, if not all the game, so that’s another positive. I can only keep improving. I feel I’m getting stronger and fitter. Some games I feel not as fit as other games but that’s only going to come with more time on the pitch. I’ve come up with a few goals recently for the team. I should be looking to get more goals as well as looking to help the team in whatever way I can,” he said.
Anichebe’s versatility has ensured a place in Moyes’s squad since his senior breakthrough seven years ago, but he is now ready to prove his growing maturity as an out-and-out forward.
“I’ve played out on the right, out on the left, but obviously I see myself as a striker as time goes on,” he says.
“I’d like to say I’m maturing with age. Down the years I don’t think I was as mature as I am now.
“I’ve still got more learning to do but I think I’m just growing into myself. I’m not really a young player anymore, I’m 24 nearly 25. I’ve been here for a long time and hopefully I can cement a place. I just hope I can keep doing well.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle will be looking to kick further clear of the relegation zone when they meet Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
The Geordies are enjoying a good recent run of form, having recorded their first away win of the season against Aston Villa and having toppled heavyweights Chelsea in the past fortnight.
Newcastle are now six points clear of the drop zone and will be keen to increase the gap between themselves and the bottom three this weekend.
But it’s not going to be an easy proposition, as they must earn a result against a Tottenham side who are unbeaten in their past nine Premier League fixtures.
Adding to the enormity of the task is the fact that Spurs haven’t tasted defeat at home in the league since November 3 when Wigan accounted for them 1-0.
Not to mention the fact that fourth-placed Tottenham will be eager to maintain breathing space between themselves and fifth-placed Everton for a Champions League berth with only three points currently separating the two teams.
And Newcastle’s recent history at White Hart Lane doesn’t make for good reading either with Tottenham winning the last three fixtures between the two sides at the ground – including a 5-0 hammering a year ago.
But the Toon army will surely garner confidence from their last meeting with Tottenham when they beat the north London club 2-1 at St James’ Park.
That served as one of just six losses Spurs have suffered all campaign and ended Newcastle’s four-year drought against them.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew believes his team are riding high at the moment and Spurs should be wary of an unknown quantity this weekend.
“Tottenham is a difficult one, but we are going to go there with renewed vigour - we have some ‘je ne sais quoi’ in the team - and hopefully get something there,” Pardew said.
Pardew also said his team was out to avenge the five-goal hammering they received from Spurs last February.
“Last year when we were flying, it was a real disappointment for us that day. We were well beaten, so we need to put that right,” he said.
Pardew is also hopeful of a repeat performance from Moussa Sissoko who scored two goals on home debut in a match-winning effort against Chelsea last week. “Sissoko has announced his arrival,” Pardew said.
“He won’t get as much time and space perhaps as he got on Saturday because teams are going to be wary of him, but he enjoyed himself. It was a brilliant performance.”
Boosting Newcastle’s chances will be the absence of Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe who could miss as much as two months with an ankle injury.
“Jermain’s ankle does not look so good. He will have a scan in the morning and we will assess it from there. He is certainly out of the Newcastle game next weekend, for sure,” Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas said.
Villas-Boas intimated Gareth Bale may assume a more attacking role to help fill the void left by Defoe. “When we played pre-season, Gareth played alone in the striker role and it is something he feels comfortable with. He gives us even that possibility for sure. It is something we have to look to. You just have to adapt to it in the best way you can,” Villas-Boas said.