Cyprus Mail
Premier League

Fabregas and Pochettino ready to battle old friends

Cesc Fabregas will line up against his old club Arsenal for leaders Chelsea on Sunday

By Mike Collett

Cesc Fabregas will play against his old club Arsenal for table-topping Chelsea while Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino will try to halt the progress of his former club Southampton, who are second, in the Premier League this weekend.

Harry Redknapp will also be renewing acquaintance with his first club West Ham United when he takes his struggling Queens Park Rangers side to Upton Park, needing a win to get them out of the bottom three.

But one reunion that has been put on hold, on the pitch at least, is Wayne Rooney’s with Everton.
It will be 10 years and two days on Sunday since Rooney, who was then 18, made his league debut for Manchester United against Middlesbrough after leaving Everton in a 27 million pounds transfer a few weeks earlier.
But the United skipper starts a three-match suspension after being sent off in a 2-1 win over West Ham last week in which he scored.

With six matches played, Chelsea, who beat Sporting Lisbon 1-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday, lead the standings on 16 points, three ahead of Southampton, five clear of champions Manchester City and six clear of fourth-placed Arsenal.

In March, Chelsea crushed Arsenal 6-0 in manager Arsene Wenger’s 1,000th match in charge of the Gunners and he goes back to Stamford Bridge, a few days after his 18th anniversary as the Arsenal boss, determined to avoid a repeat of that humiliation.

The only league points Chelsea have dropped this season were in their 1-1 draw at Manchester City on September 21 when their former player Frank Lampard scored against them.

Now Fabregas, 27, playing close to Lampard’s old position as an attacking midfielder, is determined to lead Chelsea to glory and says he has no problem facing the team where he spent eight years before moving to Barcelona.

“Changing clubs is part of the game and people must remember it was Arsenal who didn’t take up the buy-back option for me,” he told The Sun last month.
“I wanted to keep playing football, enjoying myself and my career and I felt that joining Chelsea was the best option for me.
“Arsenal are still very close to me. I still have friends there and have a really good connection with them but in football things change. I left Arsenal for a reason and didn’t go back for a reason.”

Arsenal, though, feel buoyant after their 4-1 thrashing of Galatasaray in Wednesday’s Champions League clash, which featured new signing Danny Welbeck’s first hat-trick in senior football.

Arsenal are unbeaten in the league but have only won two and drawn four of their six matches including last week’s 1-1 draw with arch-rivals Tottenham who will look to build on a solid defensive performance at the Emirates when they face Southampton at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

Current Spurs manager Pochettino did well to take the Saints to an eighth place finish last season, but Southampton have surprised everyone this season under new coach Ronald Koeman who said going to White Hart Lane will add some spice to the occasion for his players and their fans.

“Maybe it will be a little bit special for Mauricio and for the players and the fans – but I was in Holland last year,” he said after Southampton beat Queens Park Rangers last weekend.
“For me it is just another game and another three points we want.”

Redknapp, who also managed Southampton, was roundly booed by Saints fans at St Mary’s last week where QPR were beaten 2-1 but praised Koeman afterwards.

“He is doing an excellent job here,” said Redknapp. “And they have bought some good players and kept some good players despite losing some.”

Southampton might not finish among the top positions, but they have made a better start than champions Manchester City, who won 4-2 at Hull City last weekend after allowing a 2-0 lead to slip at one stage.

They will also be looking to bounce back from a lethargic Champions League performance on Tuesday, drawing 1-1 at home to AS Roma, when they visit Aston Villa, who have started well but lost 3-0 at Chelsea last week and have slipped to sixth.

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