Premier League preview
Sunday takes full focus for the Premier League's heavyweights as Liverpool host Manchester United and Arsenal travel to Manchester City
Last Updated: 21/09/12 3:21pm
With European competition having returned in midweek, Sunday takes full focus for the Premier League's heavyweights as Liverpool's meeting with Manchester United comes under the greatest scrutiny.
The second day of the weekend also sees matches between defending champions Manchester City and Arsenal, Newcastle United and Norwich City, and Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers.
Chelsea do not have as long to rest as they host Stoke City on Saturday, while Southampton welcome Aston Villa, Everton travel to Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion take on Reading, West Ham United and Sunderland meet and Fulham travel to Wigan.
Anfield will be the scene for the weekend's most emotional match when Liverpool play their first home game since the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report into the 1989 tragedy where 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death. North West rivals Manchester United are the visitors and there have been pleas from both sides for a show of respect on what will be a highly-charged Sunday lunchtime kick-off, which is live on Sky Sports 1HD and 3D. Liverpool will be looking for their first Premier League win of the season. Meanwhile, United, who did not convince when defeating Galatasaray in the UEFA Champions League, have not won at Anfield in five attempts in all competitions and will hope to address that statistic if they have the opportunity to close the current two-point gap on table-topping Chelsea.
Strength in depth
Manchester City, who suffered a painful, late defeat at Real Madrid on Tuesday in the Champions League, welcome Arsenal to the Etihad Stadium later on Sunday afternoon in what is always an engrossing encounter and is also live on Sky Sports. Given the amount of former Gunners players in the City squad, there is a keen rivalry between the two clubs and there have been four red cards in their last four Premier League games. Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, who won at Montpellier in Europe and last weekend hammered Southampton, currently sit above City on goal difference in the table in what is already a familiar looking top four.
Tottenham picked up their first league win of the season when defeating Reading last weekend and Andre Villas-Boas will want to build on that against London derby rivals Queens Park Rangers at White Hart Lane. Mark Hughes' side have themselves yet to record three points in 2012/13 and they sit in the relegation zone. They have also been rocked by the news Andrew Johnson has been ruled out for the majority of the season with a knee ligament injury. But there were signs of promise last weekend when becoming the first club to take points from Chelsea in the current campaign, so Hughes will hope to address terrible away form which has taken just three points from the last available 45. Tottenham could be slightly weary after their Europa League outing against Lazio.
Newcastle made their much anticipated return to European football on Thursday when taking on Maritimo in the Europa League and they come back to domestic duties against Norwich. It has been a busy week for Alan Pardew's squad, having also played on Monday in the thrilling 2-2 draw at Everton, and it remains to be seen if they have the necessary strength in depth. They can rely on strong home league form after losing just once in their last 12 but they have won only one of their previous six overall top-flight games. Norwich will be looking to take advantage as they target a first away win of the season at St James' Park as Chris Hughton returns to his former club.
Chelsea had made a blistering start to the season before being held by QPR in a forgettable match which was overshadowed by Anton Ferdinand's ongoing row with John Terry. They then also threw away a two-goal lead against Juventus at the beginning of their defence of the Champions League and so they will not want another slip up against Stoke. Tony Pulis' team will visit Stamford Bridge on a high after holding Manchester City to a draw, with a little help from Peter Crouch's hand, and will prove tricky visitors. But Chelsea have won eight and lost none of the last 10 games against Stoke in all competitions.
Everton were furious to be denied three points by match officials' mistakes in the draw with Newcastle and the dropped points were a slight stumble in what has otherwise been a strong start to the season. David Moyes' team sit seventh in the table and just three points behind Chelsea which has led to early talk of qualifying for the Champions League. But Swansea will want to add a further setback to their visitors to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday lunchtime, which can be seen live on Sky Sports 2HD, especially after Michael Laudrup suffered his first defeat when losing to Villa last weekend. Swansea had otherwise made a superb beginning to the season and they will want a first win over Everton in 15 league and cup meetings. Join David Jones with injured Swansea defender Neil Taylor in the studio from 12.30pm.
Southampton remain rooted to the bottom to the table and without a point after defeats by Manchester City, Wigan Athletic, Manchester United and Arsenal. The pressure is consequently mounting on boss Nigel Adkins, although he remains typically optimistic, and he will be hoping for some relief when Aston Villaarrive at St Mary's. Paul Lambert picked up his first win when defeating Swansea and will not be in a charitable mood. He will also be aware his club need to address a failure to win away from home in 10 league matches. Villa, though, are unbeaten in five league meetings with Southampton, albeit with the most recent coming in 2005.
Reading, who beat Southampton to the Championship title last season, have themselves found life difficult since returning to the Premier League. The defeat by Tottenham means Brian McDermott's side have still to win since getting back to the top flight and the manager has been forced to play down reports of unrest among his squad. West Brom will look to increase the problems and get back on track after their 3-0 defeat last weekend by a Dimitar Berbatov-inspired Fulham.
Martin Jol's Fulham have endured an inconsistent season in the early stages of the campaign. They have been excellent at home, where they have scored eight goals in two wins. But they have suffered two defeats in away games at Manchester United and West Ham. Wigan will not want that pattern to change and Roberto Martinez will be a confident following a run of just one loss in their last seven league games at the DW Stadium. Wigan, though, have won none of their last 11 league games against Fulham.
The meeting between West Ham and Sunderland at Upton Park is a fixture of two sides who are likely to be setting similar targets for what they want to achieve this season. Getting close to a top-half finish is the ideal for both sides and it could be an evenly-matched game in London. Amid all the money West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has spent on attacking recruitments, such as Matt Jarvis and the loan signing of Andy Carroll, if they keep another clean sheet they will equal their best run of three home shut-outs from the start of a Premier League season. Martin O'Neill's Sunderland will be hoping that is not the case and Steven Fletcher will be the biggest threat after scoring three goals from three shots on target for the Black Cats.