Robert Van Der Does previews the weekends action from the Barclay’s Premier League with Chelsea hosting Norwich, Arsenal taking on West Ham, and a fragile Manchester United visiting the Sports Direct Arena on Sunday.
MANCHESTER CITY v SUNDERLAND 12:45, The Etihad Stadium (Saturday)
Both these sides got the hard-fought wins they needed last weekend to release some of the pressure on their managers. However, after being fortunate to scrape a draw at home to Dortmund on Wednesday evening, serious doubts are surfacing about whether City are as capable a team as last season. A home game against a perceived mid-table club gives them an opportunity to prove the critics wrong, but having got the monkey off their back with their win against Wigan, Sunderland will arrive with a sense of freedom that might make them dangerous.
What to watch out for: Plenty of goals: The last three meetings at Eastlands have produced an astounding 18! Don’t bet against Steven Fletcher notching yet again either.
Man City – Hart; Zabaleta, Lescott, Kompany, Clichy; Rodwell, Barry; Silva, Y Toure, Aguero; Tevez
Sunderland – Mignolet; Gardner, Bramble, O’Shea, Rose; Johnson, Larsson, Colback, McClean; Sessegnon; Fletcher
Recent form (League): Man City – WDWDDW; Sunderland – LDDDDW
CHELSEA v NORWICH CITY 15:00, Stamford Bridge
Table-toppers Chelsea have forced the majority of the country’s football pundits to reconsider their title predictions with their win at in-form Arsenal last Saturday. Apparently in transition, Roberto Di Matteo’s men are looking impressive at both ends of the pitch, with five wins and a draw from their six league games and only three goals conceded. Norwich are almost the exact opposite, no wins and 13 conceded already. After shipping five at home to Liverpool it’s difficult to see how Chris Hughton can buck the trend here.
What to watch out for: Chelsea’s tricky attacking trio behind striker Fernando Torres could have a field day if Norwich don’t get tight to them. Stoke two weeks ago managed to blunt the influence of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar, but with games their intuition will get better and Norwich don’t look equipped to deal with them on current form.
Chelsea – Cech; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Terry, Bertrand; Obi Mikel, Ramires; Oscar, Mata, Hazard; Torres
Norwich – Ruddy; R Martin, Turner, Barnett, Garrido; Snodgrass, Howson, Johnson, Surman; Jackson, Holt
Recent form: Chelsea – WWWDWW; Norwich – LDDDLL
SWANSEA CITY v READING 15:00, The Liberty Stadium
Swansea’s sensational start to life under Michael Laudrup has rather dissipated since their emphatic opening two wins. Their acclaimed brand of possession football is not functioning as well without the departed Scott Sinclair and Joe Allen and they’re giving the ball away more cheaply and inviting pressure on the defence. Reading are finding the net more freely of late and the three goals they got in the League Cup at QPR bodes well against attack-minded Swansea.
What to watch out for: Reading look to be slowly getting to grips with the intensity of the Premier League and Brian McDermott may sense this is a good time to be playing the Swans and record his first top flight win as a manager.
Swansea – Vorm; Rangel, Chico Flores, Williams, Davies; Dyer, De Guzman, Britton, Hernandez; Michu; Graham
Reading – McCarthy; Cummings, Gorkss, Pearce, Shorey; Kebe, Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff; Guthrie; Pogrebnyak
Recent form: Swansea – WWDLLL; Reading – LDLLLD
WEST BROMWICH ALBION v QUEENS PARK RANGERS 15:00, The Hawthorns
Mark Hughes was given the dreaded ‘vote of confidence’ by QPR owner Tony Fernandes following their defeat at home to West Ham on Monday night. Having spent a large amount of money on players in the summer, Hughes has to quickly get results to remove the Hoops from the bottom of the table.
On the other hand, his former Chelsea teammate Steve Clarke has adapted to management seemingly with ease, with just one league defeat so far in his tenure as West Brom boss. The Baggies have won all three home games this season without conceding so will be optimistic of adding another clean sheet.
What to watch out for: An open, expansive game. Although struggling for goals, QPR are looking more lively in attack and better in possession than last season. West Brom are set up similarly and have strikers scoring goals.
West Brom – Foster; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Popov; Brunt, Yacob, Mulumbu, Morrison; Odemwingie, Long
QPR – Julio Cesar; Onuoha, Mbia, Nelson, Hill; Wright-Phillips, Granero, Faurlin, Park; Hoilett; Zamora
Recent form: West Brom – WDWLWD; QPR – LDLDLL
WIGAN ATHLETIC v EVERTON 15:00, The DW Stadium
The last time Everton started a season as well as they have this one they went on to finish fourth. Aside from the wins themselves though, it’s the nature of the performances that will have Toffees’ fans jumping for joy at present, with David Moyes’s men looking full of ideas going forward and Marouane Fellaini unplayable at times. Wigan have lost two and drawn the other of their home games so far, but tend to raise their game when you least expect it and will relish the chance to upset the form guide.
What to watch out for: Ali Al Habsi. The Omani is one of the most underrated goalkeepers in the league and his huge frame can seem unbeatable at times. He may need to be at his best against Everton, but could be the inspiration that sees Wigan pull off a surprise win.
Wigan – Al Habsi; Ramis, Caldwell, Figueroa; Boyce, McArthur, McCarthy, Beausejour; Kone, Di Santo, Maloney
Everton– Howard; Coleman, Heitinga, Jagielka, Baines; Mirallas, Osman, Neville, Pienaar; Fellaini; Jelavic
Recent form: Wigan – LWDLLL; Everton – WWLDWW
WEST HAM UNITED v ARSENAL 17:30, Upton Park
West Ham might be lifted by the return of Andy Carroll as both sides go into a second successive London derby. Sam Allardyce’s Hammers will also be buoyed by their away win at QPR on Monday and a respectable start to the season in general. Arsenal recovered from last weekend’s Chelsea defeat by beating Olympiakos in the Champions League on Wednesday, but they never have it their own way at Upton Park and will have to play well to win.
What to watch out for: Doubts about Arsenal’s defending of set pieces resurfaced as a result of the two goals they conceded to Chelsea last weekend. Andy Carroll and West Ham’s general physical approach will be another big test for it.
West Ham – Jaaskelainen; Demel, Reid, Collins, O’Brien; Diame, Nolan, Noble; Vaz Te, Carroll, Jarvis
Arsenal – Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Arteta, Podolski; Cazorla; Gervinho
Recent form: West Ham – WLWDDW; Arsenal – DDWWDL
SOUTHAMPTON v FULHAM 13:30, St Mary’s Stadium (Sunday)
After their crushing defeat of Villa two weeks ago Southampton will be looking forward to another home game they can be confident of winning. Fulham won at Wigan on the same day as that Villa game, but the Cottagers struggles away from home in recent seasons are well documented. Furthermore, Dimitar Berbatov is likely to miss out and Fulham lack a focal point in his absence.
What to watch out for: Southampton have conceded a lot of goals so far this season, but ought to have an easier time against Fulham. A first clean sheet of the season for Nigel Adkins’s men is realistic.
Southampton – Gazzaniga; Clyne, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox; Rodriguez, Schneiderlin, S Davis, Lallana; Ramirez; Lambert
Fulham – Schwarzer; Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise; Duff, Sidwell, Baird, Kakaniklic; Ruiz, Rodallega
Recent form: Southampton – LLLLWL; Fulham – WLLWWL
LIVERPOOL v STOKE CITY 15:00, Anfield
The Luis Suarez-inspired thrashing of Norwich last Saturday will have done Liverpool the world of good. The Reds had been bossing games and wasting chances galore before then, but a win like that installs belief in the manager among players and fans. Stoke arrested their run of winless matches by brushing aside Swansea though and if their performances against Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea are anything to go by, they’ll be tough to wear down.
What to watch out for: Peter Crouch is in good form, with both goals last weekend against Swansea. Could he inflict yet more Anfield early season misery on his former club? And then there’s Michael Owen of course…
Liverpool – Reina; Wisdom, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson; Sahin, Gerrard, Allen; Sterling, Suarez, Suso
Stoke – Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson; Whelan, Adam, Nzonzi, Kightly; Walters, Crouch
Recent form: Liverpool – LDLDLW; Stoke – DDDDLW
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR v ASTON VILLA 15:00, White Hart Lane
An absolutely massive win, historic even, at Old Trafford last Saturday addressed a major hoodoo that had been hanging over Tottenham for years and suggested that the AVB way might be the right way for the club afterall. They were hanging on at the end, but the attacking abandon they showed in the first hour of the game was awe-inspiring. Villa can’t hope to be awe-inspiring any time in the near future, but a stubborn backs-to-the-wall performance at Spurs would be just as heavily appreciated by their fans if they can achieve a draw.
What to watch out for: The fluid Tottenham attack. They will be more secure when Scott Parker returns, but at the moment the Spurs front six are looking extremely mobile and interchangeable, with ex-Fulham pair Dempsey and Dembele the keys to this.
Tottenham – Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Caulker, Vertonghen; Sandro, Dempsey, Dembele; Lennon, Defoe, Bale
Villa – Guzan; Lowton, Clark, Vlaar, Bennett; Albrighton, Delph, El Ahmadi, Holman; Agbonlahor, Bent
Recent form: Spurs – LDDWWW; Villa – LLDWLD
NEWCASTLE UNITED v MANCHESTER UNITED 16:00, Sports Direct Arena
Following their stunning defeat to Tottenham, Manchester United have another difficult match in which to attempt to return to winning ways. With both defences looking vulnerable at present, success could come down to which of the hotshot forwards-Demba Ba or Robin Van Persie- is most clinical on the day. With a full crowd behind them, and United again rather unconvincing in Romania on Tuesday, Newcastle will fancy their chances.
What to watch out for: With their midfield options and defence looking a little suspect in comparison to their title rivals, United surely need Wayne Rooney and Van Persie to strike up a relationship. It will be interesting to note any signs of it developing the more they start to play alongside each other.
Newcastle – Harper; Perch, Williamson, S Taylor, Santon; Ben Arfa, Tiote, Cabaye, Gutierrez; Cisse, Ba
Man Utd – Lindegaard; Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra; Nani, Carrick, Scholes, Kagawa; van Persie, Rooney
Recent form: Newcastle – WLDDWD; Man Utd – LWWWWL
Tags: arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Premier League, West Ham