Man City to host Man United

Only 2 games into the Premier League season and Manchester City hosts neighbor United with one already 4 points clear of the other in the standings.

updated: August 18, 2007 06:57 IST
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Only two games into the Premier League season and Manchester City hosts neighbor United with one manager already four points clear of the other in the standings.

It's not Alex Ferguson.

While the United manager is bemoaning the loss of four points as well as Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo because of injury and suspension, former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson is already having to calm the euphoria of City fans after a perfect start.

On his return to club soccer and in his first season in the Premier League, the Swede has begun with two shutout victories over West Ham and Derby. The team is level on points with Everton and Chelsea at the top of the standings, and Eriksson has to caution against celebrating too soon.

"Sunday is a big one. Of course, they are the champions, so it is a big test for us," said Eriksson, who goes head-to-head with Ferguson for the first time and acknowledges that City has to improve its standard of play to compete with the title contenders.

"It's a long way to go yet. We have to keep our feet on the ground. Six points after two games, two clean sheets, it's very good. It couldn't be better and I'm quite sure that in the future we'll play better football as well."

City has home advantage and United, which is yet to win and has scored only one goal, is already without two of its star players.

Injured in Sunday's 0-0 draw at home to Reading, Rooney is sidelined for up to two months with a hairline fracture of his left foot. Ronaldo starts a three-game suspension after being sent off in Wednesday's 1-1 draw at Portsmouth for an apparent head-butt on Pompey defender Richard Hughes.

"Cristiano was provoked but he fell into a trap of intimidation and he has to learn from it," Ferguson said. "It is another big blow to lose but it has happened with him a few times.

"I've looked at the replay, which is inconclusive, but my take on it was that he responded to something. He should know that this is what other players do and he's got to tell himself that they are inferior to him and this is why they do it."

Eriksson said Ronaldo's absence from the game would be a letdown for the fans.

"It is always a pity," he said. "As a fan or a spectator in front of the TV, you want to see the best players perform. But (Manchester United) have so many good footballers I think they can put in another one who is of roughly the same standard as well."

Rooney's absence from Wednesday's game at Fratton Park meant that Carlos Tevez made an earlier debut than expected. Although Tevez didn't score, he was impressive and set up an early goal for Paul Scholes.

Ferguson said the Argentina striker was the victim of repeated fouls by Portsmouth defenders. With a heavy hint of sarcasm aimed at referee Steve Bennett, Ferguson said that the Argentina striker got little protection.

"Tevez endured a lot of tackling from behind," the United manager said. "I need to check the laws of the game on that. I think under the new (rule) you can kick from behind all night and not get given a foul against you."

The absence of Rooney and Ronaldo and injuries to Louis Saha and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suggest that Tevez will almost certainly play against City in one of two standout games of the weekend.

Liverpool, Chelsea clash

The other is Liverpool vs Chelsea on Sunday. Both teams are yet to drop a point so far.

Chelsea came from behind to win 2-1 at Reading on Wednesday while Liverpool's only Premier League game so far was a 2-1 victory at Aston Villa on Saturday.

While the Blues have Didier Drogba and John Terry back from injury but no sign of return for Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack, the Reds are worried about Steven Gerrard.

The inspirational midfielder and captain sustained a hairline toe fracture in Wednesday's Champions League 1-0 victory at Toulouse but is set to play in Sunday's game at Anfield.

Manager Rafa Benitez is likely to reshuffle his strikeforce for the game against the Blues.

Benitez started with Peter Crouch and goalscorer Andriy Voronin against Toulouse but is likely to have both on the bench against Chelsea and start Fernando Torres and Dirk Kuyt.

Everton, which leads the standings on goals scored from City and goal difference from Chelsea, hopes to maintain its own convincing start with a victory at Reading.

Blackburn and Arsenal also won their opening games and meet at Ewood Park on Sunday, while last-place Tottenham aims to recover from two losses with a home victory over promoted Derby on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, it's Portsmouth vs Bolton; Birmingham vs West Ham; Fulham vs Middlesbrough; Wigan vs Sunderland; and Newcastle vs Aston Villa.