Premier League preview
Chelsea will be looking to get their first win under Rafael Benitez when they face West Ham, with the Manchester clubs threatening to pull clear.
Last Updated: 30/11/12 1:04pm
Chelsea will be looking to get their first win under Rafael Benitez when they kick off this weekend's action against West Ham United, with the Manchester clubs threatening to pull clear at the top.
A battle for survival is also developing and Harry Redknapp will take charge of his first home game as Queens Park Rangers manager after being brought in to plot a great escape, with Reading and Southampton also in the bottom three at present.
All eyes will be on Upton Park for Saturday's early game as West Ham entertain London rivals Chelsea, who slipped seven points off the title pace with a second successive goalless draw on Wednesday against Fulham. Benitez will be satisfied by another clean sheet but he will have to do a lot more to endear himself to the Blues faithful and it will be a tough challenge against a Hammers side still occupying a place in the top half. Sam Allardyce's men are in the middle of a difficult set of fixtures and were beaten 1-0 by Manchester United in midweek.
Manchester United's victory kept them one point clear of Manchester City at the summit and Sir Alex Ferguson was delighted with an improved defensive performance. The Red Devils will now be looking to push on when they travel to the Madejski Stadium for Saturday's teatime clash with Reading. Brian McDermott has insisted there is no need to panic after a 1-0 defeat by Aston Villa kept the Royals four points adrift of safety, as he believes they are still in a 'great situation' considering how far they have come over the past couple of years.
United could find themselves back in second by the time they kick off, though, with Manchester City in action earlier on Saturday against Everton. The consensus is that Roberto Mancini's side have yet to click into top gear this season, but they remain unbeaten and Wednesday's 2-0 triumph at Wigan kept the pressure firmly on. City have also not lost at home in the league since December 2010, although it was Everton who inflicted that defeat and the Toffees will be determined to end a three-match winless streak to re-establish their top-four credentials.
West Bromwich Albion currently hold fourth spot after a hugely impressive start to the season under Steve Clarke, although a 3-1 loss to Swansea City ended their four-game winning run. The Baggies now lock horns with another team in fine form, Stoke City, who have climbed to ninth in the standings on the back of four matches unbeaten. Tony Pulis' men came from behind to overcome Newcastle United in midweek and have the second best defensive record in the Premier League this season.
The big game at the bottom of the table pits Queens Park Rangers against Aston Villa at Loftus Road. QPR held Sunderland to a goalless draw at the Stadium of Light in their first match of the Redknapp era and the new manager will be hoping to make home advantage count on Saturday in a bid to reduce the eight-point gap separating the team from safety. Villa are the side immediately above the drop zone after beating Reading 1-0, and there is sure to be scrutiny again on whether Paul Lambert selects England international Darren Bent.
Southampton are another side languishing at the wrong end of the table but the signs have been positive for Nigel Adkins over the past few weeks as a four-match unbeaten stretch has begun to move them in the right direction. Fresh from a victory over Newcastle and a draw with Norwich City, Saints travel to Anfield this weekend to take on a Liverpool team beaten by Tottenham Hotspur in midweek and currently down in 12th position.
It was a second win for Tottenham in the space of a few days and Andre Villas-Boas' men are now back within striking distance of a top-four spot ahead of their encounter against capital rivals Fulham, which will mark a return to Craven Cottage for Spurs' summer signings Clint Dempsey and Mousa Dembele. Former Tottenham boss Martin Jol will have been pleased with the way Fulham held Chelsea in midweek but the Cottagers are now without a win in six and have just dropped back into the bottom half.
Arsene Wenger has had to deal with dissenting voices this week after fans decried a substitution he made during Saturday's goalless stalemate against Aston Villa, and Arsenal then had to settle for another draw at Everton in midweek. The Gunners will not want to lose any further ground on the leading pack but Swansea City will be confident of springing a surprise at Emirates Stadium. Michael Laudrup's side are just a point behind Arsenal and have played some sparkling football during a run of five matches without a defeat.
The weekend's action concludes on Sunday with Norwich hosting Sunderland at Carrow Road, in a match which can be seen live on Sky Sports 1HD. Chris Hughton's Canaries are now unbeaten in seven and four points clear of the relegation zone, while Sunderland are struggling and Martin O'Neill was forced to deny rumours earlier this week that he had offered to resign.