Premier League preview
The top flight will stage a south Wales derby for the first time this weekend, with Cardiff set to play host to arch-rivals Swansea live on Sky Sports.
By Chris Burton
Last Updated: 01/11/13 6:41pm
The top flight will stage a south Wales derby for the first time this weekend, with Cardiff City set to play host to arch-rivals Swansea City.
The Super Sunday team will be there to catch all of the action from what promises to be a feisty affair, but before that there are nine other Premier League fixtures to whet the appetite - including a top-of-the-table clash between Arsenal and Liverpool.
Saturday's action will end in north London, but it starts in the north east. Newcastle United suffered derby agony against Sunderland last time out, with Wearside prevailing over Tyneside. Alan Pardew's men also tumbled out of the Capital One Cup in midweek, so will have a few wrongs to right when they entertain Chelsea. In contrast to the Magpies, Jose Mourinho's Blues could not be in more buoyant mood at present. Victories over Manchester City and Arsenal in the league and cup have them well-placed to challenge on multiple fronts - and they will move to the top of the table, for a few hours at least, if they can secure a seventh straight success in all competitions.
Manchester United's struggles this season have been well-documented, and they have given themselves an eight-point gap to bridge on the early front-runners. If history has taught us anything, though, it is that you write off the Red Devils at your peril - regardless of who is in charge. David Moyes saw his troops dig deep to edge out Stoke last weekend - after twice falling behind - and they are now unbeaten in their last six outings. United also boast a formidable record against Fulham - the next side in their sights - with maximum points taken from their previous five meetings. London has also proved to be a happy hunting ground of late, with the Red Devils having made 11 visits to the capital since they last tasted defeat - at Arsenal in May 2011.
Were Fulham to come unstuck at Craven Cottage, they would tumble back towards the drop zone and could be overtaken by Norwich City - among others. The Canaries would, however, have to claim a notable scalp at the Etihad Stadium if they are to climb the standings. Manchester City will welcome the Canaries to the north west looking to get their title pursuit back on track - much like arch-rivals United. City sit seventh at present, six points adrift of the leaders. Inconsistency, particularly on their travels, continues to plague Manuel Pellegrini's side and Norwich will take heart from that fact that the Blues have looked far from convincing at times this term - and from the fact that they are the last side to take three points away from the Etihad, having prevailed 3-2 on the final day of the 2012/13 campaign.
One of those currently perched above City is Southampton, with the Saints continuing to draw plenty of praise and many admirers for the manner in which they are going about their business. Those inside the St Mary's camp are unlikely to be drawn into a debate regarding possible top-four finishes just yet, but they remain very much a part of that chasing pack. Mauricio Pochettino's side have suffered just one defeat in the league so far, and have gone seven games unbeaten in all competitions since coming unstuck at Norwich. Stoke City will not be relishing a visit from the in-form Saints, with their own form offering serious cause for concern. A run which has brought just two points from the last 18 available has the Potters languishing just above the drop zone, and with only three home wins to their name in 2013.
West Bromwich Albion have suffered no such troubles, but did come unstuck last time out and will be determined to embark on another unbeaten stretch when they entertain rock-bottom Crystal Palace. The Eagles remain without a permanent manager, with a full-time successor yet to be found to the departed Ian Holloway. That means Keith Millen will remain in caretaker charge at The Hawthorns, with no decision on the likes of Alex McLeish, Chris Coleman and Tony Pulis - who have all been linked with the post - set to be taken before Saturday. If this is to be Millen's last stand in the dugout, he will want to sign off on a high - with Palace having slumped to the foot of the table after suffering eight defeats in their nine fixtures so far, conceding 19 goals.
Sunderland had propped up the division heading into the last round of Premier League fixtures, but have become upwardly mobile on the back of their Wear-Tyne derby success. Building on that result is now the challenge for Gus Poyet, with there still a lot of work to be done before the Black Cats can rest easy. They remain four points from safety and still have the worst defensive record in the division - having been breached on 21 occasions. Hull City will be looking to pile the pressure back on Poyet's troops this weekend and cement a standing inside the top half. Two setbacks have been suffered against Tottenham Hotspur in the space of four days, with Spurs taking three points and a League Cup quarter-final berth off the Tigers. Steve Bruce's side more than held their own during those contests, though, and have plenty to be proud of since their return to the big time.
An all claret and blue clash at Upton Park will see West Ham United try to move ahead of Aston Villa and offer themselves a bit of breathing space towards the bottom. Just one point separates the Hammers from the trapdoor at present, while Villa are only another point better off. Neither side has offered much in recent weeks to suggest that they can be considered favourites on Saturday, with Sam Allardyce's side collecting one win in eight and Paul Lambert's one point from their last three games. The Hammers' record on home soil against Villa during the Premier League era tips the balance slightly in their favour, as does the fact that they have not suffered four successive top-flight defeats in front of their own supporters since January 2006.
The final game on Saturday pitches two of this season's most entertaining outfits into direct combat, with Arsenal looking to put a dent in the title aspirations of rejuvenated Liverpool. The Gunners have avoided defeat in the league since the opening weekend, but have seen question marks raised as to their ability to produce the goods against the very best after coming unstuck in recent cup outings against Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea. Victory over Liverpool would help to silence those critics, but the Reds will head to Emirates Stadium having won three of their last four, plundering 12 goals in the process - with a fear-inducing SAS strike partnership having been formed between Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez.
On Sunday, Everton will look to move into the UEFA Champions League places when presented with the opportunity to edge in front of Tottenham Hotspur. The Toffees are playing an exciting brand of football under Roberto Martinez and fancy their chances against anyone at Goodison Park - especially visitors who have found goals hard to come by. Spurs have netted just nine times in as many fixtures this term, but have also been difficult to break down. Andre Villas-Boas' criticism of the White Hart Lane support last weekend produced the desired response in a League Cup tie with Hull City in midweek, but the capital outfit may feel that a trip out on the road has come at a good time and will help to lift some of the pressure off their shoulders.
Once the Sky Sports cameras are done on Merseyside, the second instalment of a Super Sunday double-header will see history made in south Wales. There will be a lot more than three points riding on a duel between Cardiff City and Swansea City, with two fierce rivals having waited a long time to showcase a unique derby experience on the grandest of footballing stages. The hosts are in greater need of the points at present, having gone three games without a win, but anything is possible on such occasions and Swansea, who have improved over recent weeks, would like nothing more than to poop Cardiff's party and head home with points and local bragging rights tucked securely under their arm.
Sky Bet odds
Punters are finding Super Sunday a tough one to call, with Everton (7/5) slight favourites over Tottenham (19/10) and Swansea (6/5) preferred for the South Wales derby despite Cardiff (11/5) having home advantage. Saturday Night Football has all the ingredients for a goal fest with four of the Premier League's highest scorers involved. Liverpool's free-scoring strikers Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge 13/2 to both find the net, while Olivier Giroud is the 5/1 favourite to open the scoring. Elsewhere, Chelsea and Manchester United are both odds-on for away victories but Manchester City are the shortest-priced favourites of the weekend as they host struggling Norwich.