Louise Taylor was online answering your questions about the weekend's fixtures in the Premier League
Good afternoon. Louise Taylor will be online from 1pm BST to take part in a live webchat. If you have any questions about this weekend's fixtures in the Premier League, drop them into the comments section below.
Premier League clubs had mixed fortunes in the midweek European games. Manchester United came from two goals down to beat Braga at Old Trafford, Stewart Downing's superb strike gave Liverpool a 1-0 win over Anzhi Makhachkala and Gabriel Obertan scored the only goal for Newcastle as they beat Club Brugges at St James' Park. Spurs could only draw at Maribor and there were defeats for Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal.
This weekend's Premier League fixtures throw up some fascinating encounters. Manchester United visit Chelsea; Paul Lambert faces his old club Norwich; and Everton host Liverpool in the Merseyside derby.
Here is the fixture list for the weekend:
Aston Villa v Norwich
Arsenal v QPR
Reading v Fulham
Stoke v Sunderland
Wigan v West Ham
Manchester City v Swansea
Everton v Liverpool
Newcastle v West Brom
Southampton v Tottenham
Chelsea v Manchester United
If you have any questions for Louise, drop them into the comments section below.
10 things to look forward to this weekend blog, where Sean Ingle and James Riach analyse the first encounter between the big beasts, Everton's inferiority complex, the managerial sack race and how Fabricio Coloccini compares to Bobby Moore.While waiting for Louise, why not read the
Shane Collins starts us off, asking: "How do you see Man City doing? They are so inconsistent, but are good at home, Aguero or Dzeko to do the damage?"Louise Taylor is now in the comments section answering questions.
I would expect Manchester City to be too strong for Swansea at home but I'm fascinated to watch their season unfold. It may sound a little harsh but it's probably legitimate to ask whether they won the title last year because of Robert Mancini or in spite of him.
Carlos Tevez is no angel but I think the manager should share some blame for that messy stand-off. Granted I'm watching from afar - the north east - but Mancini appears to thrive on creating too many creative tensions for my liking. It's interesting he seems to have even managed to upset James Milner - a loyal "company man" of a player if ever there was one. Aguero or Dzeko to do the damage against Swansea? I'll go for Dzeko.
JimmyPants asks about Louise's relationship with Newcastle: "You were often accused of being very anti-Newcastle when you first started covering the club. However, since Alan Shearer's retirement you seem a lot more sympathetic, especially since Pardew took charge. Did you have a problem specifically with Shearer and/or the previous administration?"
To set the record straight, I was never anti-Newcastle. I was, however, extremely anti-Sam Allardyce and his tactics. At that time I also had deep reservations about Mike Ashley's stewardship of the club.
There's much to admire about Alan Shearer as a man and a footballer but I was worried about his lack of managerial experience plus his appointment of Iain Dowie as his assistant and the sidelining of Chris Hughton during his time in charge. I'd like to see Shearer have another go at management though, this time with Rob Lee as his assistant perhaps.
Very impressed with Pardew. Remember watching his Reading and West Ham teams and liking their football but, at the time, thinking he was a bit full of himself. He's toned that side of things down now though and developed into an excellent manager. He's talented but also clearly works very hard. Can see the bigger picture but also knows the devil is in the detail. Personally, I don't think Allardyce was too good on the bigger picture - certainly not for Newcastle.
Creditcrunched asks about Newcastle's best formation: "4-3-3 or 4-4-2 for the Toon? Cissé to be benched or played until he gets his golden touch back?"
4-3-3 is my preference; difficult one re Cisse but I think Shola deserves a start.
MrMondypops asks: "Why is Martin O'Neill not getting any stick even though Sunderland are on a worse run of form than anything Steve Bruce served up and his team have had the least amount of shots of any team in the top leagues in Europe and play awful football?"
Good question. I think he inherited a mess and is being given time by fans willing him to succeed but Adam Johnson, Stephane Sessegnon, James McClean and company could certainly do with getting their act together soon. It also helps Martin O'Neill that, surprisingly, the team have only lost once in the Premier League this season. True they've only won once but loads of draws.
This is a big week for O'Neill though: Stoke away tomorrow, Middlesbrough in the League Cup on Tuesday and then Aston Villa - his old club - at home on Saturday. Struggle in those three and questions will be asked. A corner needs to be turned - and soon.
Outoforbit asks: "What is Chelsea's secret this year? Is Di Matteo the next special one?"
I hope he is. I admire Di Matteo for daring to dream and playing really easy on the eye, clever, purist football.
He played the other way when he had to last season and made it work but he's had the nerve and vision - and resources of course, it helps when you can sign Hazard and Oscar - to try and raise Chelsea's collective bar. So far it's working wonderfully. I also wonder if he's inspired by clearly not being wanted by Abramovich and being written of by pundits. Would Chelsea fans really want to swap him for Pep Guardiola now?
IronLionZion asks: "Are these the least appealing Saturday 3pm kick-offs this season? Arsenal v QPR, Reading v Fulham, Stoke v Sunderland and Wigan v West Ham"
No, they are full of great sub-plots. The animosity between Mark Hughes and Arsene Wenger, not to mention Hughes fighting for his job. The culture clash between Roberto Martinez and Sam Allardyce; talk about two worlds collide. Two tactically very interesting teams in Reading and Fulham, and Martin O'Neill's Sunderland desperate for a win at Stoke, where Kenywne Jones would surely love to score the winner against his old club.
TipsterBird talks tactics: "Do you think Alex Ferguson should go with the diamond formation that looked so effective against Newcastle or stick to what United know with their traditional winger-based play?"
Very interesting. If they had a strong central midfield enforcer a la Roy Keane I would say go with the wingers but, they are currently a bit short in central midfield so I think the diamond conceals that flaw. That said; the Newcastle game was slightly deceptive. True there was an initial spell where Newcastle barely got a touch but they conceded the first two goals from corners and, after that, began matching Manchester United in midfield. Sir Alex's team deserved to win no question but, in spells, Newcastle showed that the diamond is not invincible. And, statistically, a lot of goals still come from crosses.
TimeTravelAgent asks: "Are Arsenal going the way of Liverpool a few years ago, considering a top four finish a successful season while treating domestic cups as beneath them, when really it is their allotted position. What will happen when they are edged out of top 4 finishes?"
Santi Carzola is doing his best to paper over the cracks for now but I worry about what will happen when Arsene Wenger finally steps down. The transition promises to be tricky. That said, financially, Arsenal are in an enviable position and the infrastructure is excellent, so I would anticipate any blip proving temporary. Liverpool's problems are much more deep-seated and extend well beyond the team. Anfield v the Emirates is a case in point.
Elvisminogue asks: "Would Nigel Adkins be better off if Southampton hadn't achieved back-to-back promotions?"
Good point. Had Southampton narrowly missed out on going up and were top of the Championship today Adkins would probably be being hyped as a mini managerial genius. I think it would be hard for any manager to do much better with his particular Southampton side - indeed I think he's almost certainly got them punching well above their weight.
The Adkins backstory - ex-Scunthorpe physio promoted to manager - is wonderful and I was very impressed with the job he did on tiny resources at Scunthorpe where, significantly, the team also played good football. I like his principles. Hope Southampton stay up but maybe it was a field too far this season. Shame though as the south coast could really do with a Premier League team.
Scarfizzle asks: "Who would you suggest for Chelsea: Neymar or Falcao? While on that issue they have been reports on Santos wanting to cash in on Neymar. Where do you think he'd really go?"
I'd go for Neymar - although, on second thoughts, where would they actually play him? Neymar is fabulous - only thing if he came to England he'd have to cut down on the diving and play-acting but believe that, in a different way, he could be the biggest talent to grace our shores since Cristiano Ronaldo. A real joy to watch; Neymar could only enrich our game.
CredeSigno asks: "Do you think Manchester United's defensive problems are down to a lack of defensive organisation and quality, the lack of a genuine 'screening' midfielder, or a combination of both?"
A combination. A screening midfielder operating in a quasi-sweeping role in front of defence would really help right now. But there's been a bit of a perfect storm for Sir Alex with Vidic's injury, Rio Ferdinand starting to succumb to advancing years and Jonny Evans not "training on" as well as was initially hoped. Patrice Evra has also been struggling for a few months now. Maybe Sir Alex should experiment with a back three?
ThegodofTsoi asks: "What do you make of Tottenham's prospects this season, and in particular the tasks that AVB will need to do in order to achieve them? What's the general feeling among yourselves about his suitability?"
Situated in the frozen - well almost - north east, I can't speak for colleagues in London but, personally, I hope AVB does well. He clearly made mistakes at Chelsea but also evidently walked into the most toxic of atmospheres. To have gone unbeaten for so long at Porto he has to be exceptionally talented. From what I understand, the Spurs players enjoy his intelligent, varied training and his one to one communication - vital in football as in most other things - has improved immensely since Chelsea.
I've seen them live twice this season and thought they were unlucky to lose at Newcastle, while the second string played some lovely stuff when winning at Carlisle in the League Cup. He seems to have got Gareth Bale going and is coping well without Luka Modric. I think they'll make the top four, but I hope Adebayor doesn't start to cause him problems behind the scenes.
LeamLaneMassif asks: "Do you think Cheik Tiote's 'interesting' temperament will put off one of the big spending clubs from wanting to buy him during the January window?"
I think it might. Thirty yellow cards in 60 games is certainly a deterrent. My big worry is that he might end up injuring himself badly - not to mention someone else. He could do worse than being personally coached by someone like Rob Lee - a very different midfielder but one who excelled in the holding role while making the minimum necessary number of interceptions.
Tiote needs to learn that economy of tackling is sometimes the way forward. I love watching some of his challenges but I know Champions League referees, especially, would take a dim view of many. There was a feeling that Newcastle were almost resigned to a big bid coming in for Tiote during the summer but it never materialised - and discipline is probably why.
Smiff21 asks: "Where do you see Jack Wilshere playing on his possible return to the Arsenal first team this weekend, now that they tend to play with two deep-lying midfielders (Arteta/Ramsey) and Cazorla, Podolski and Gervinho/Ox?"
I'm no Arsenal expert but suspect Carzola would be wasted out wide. My suspicion is that Ramsey could be vulnerable to Wilshere's return. That said, they have loads of games and they will want to ease Wilshere in gently while indulging in a bit of necessary rotation. I don't think Arsene Wenger will mind being spoilt for choice. I also hope people don't expect too much of Wilshere too soon.
ROMhack asks: "Will Stewart Downing score this weekend?"
I hope so. I feel a bit sorry for him being told he was a right winger, then a left-back, then a bit-part player. I loved watching him at Middlesbrough, where he did so much to get Steve McClaren's side to the UEFA Cup final. He's a lovely player, who also had some good games for Aston Villa. I don't quite no what's gone wrong.
I like Brendan Rodgers but wonder if he's "over-coaching" him. Maybe Downing needs to relax and start enjoying himself on the pitch again. Maybe he needs to return to Boro.
Sergerio asks: "Chelsea have ran into troubles about this time for the last two years. Do you think it will happen now, starting from the Sunday clash with Manchester United?"
No. I'm backing Chelsea for the title. I expect them to beat Manchester United - and Fernando Torres to score.
Bazza12 asks "Do you think the Ferdinand family should go into politics in the future?"
Well, Anton was summoned to meet Gordon Brown to inform him about knife crime when Brown was PM so anything is possible. Maybe the Milliband brothers should watch out.
ShadowChaser asks: "Do you you think Rodgers and Liverpool are a good fit? If he is given time and a bit of dollar can you see them challenge for that top four spot in the coming seasons? Or like most on here do you see him as a David Brent type character?"
I hope they are a good fit. I suspect it could equally end up being very good for Rodgers and Liverpool - or going very wrong. Fingers crossed it's the former - but he will need time and getting it may be easier said than done. Liverpool's problems run deeper than the playing side.
I don't think he's really a David Brent type but suspect he's too much into modern management jargon. Nice to see a manager with real vision and principles though.
Thanks for all your comments and questions. Louise has signed off but there is plenty on the football site to entertain you this afternoon:
James Riach and Sean Ingle have previewed the Premier League fixtures in the 10 Things to look forward to this weekend blog
Scott Murray has looked back on some Champions League group stage classics in today's Joy of Six.
David Lacey's column is about the Merseyside derby.