Premier League preview
Leaders Arsenal travel to Cardiff on Saturday before the chasing pack take centre stage 24 hours later on what promises to be a gripping weekend.
Last Updated: 29/11/13 1:10pm
Leaders Arsenal travel to Cardiff City on Saturday before the chasing pack take centre stage 24 hours later on what promises to be another gripping weekend of Premier League action.
Arsenal's trip to Wales is one of five games kicking off at 3pm on Saturday, as Everton look to boost their top-four hopes with victory over Stoke City and Aston Villa entertain bottom-of-the-table Sunderland.
Tony Pulis takes charge of Crystal Palace for the first time in their clash at Norwich City, while there is sure to be tension in the air at Upton Park as under-pressure managers Sam Allardyce and Martin Jol pit their wits against each other.
In-form Newcastle United host West Bromwich Albion in Saturday Night Football, before Sunday kicks off with a heavyweight showdown between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane.
Liverpool journey to Hull City and Chelsea meet fellow high-flyers Southampton, both live on Sky Sports 1HD, while Manchester City will look to maintain their blistering home form against Swansea City.
Arsenal currently have a four-point cushion at the summit and they have an opportunity to extend that gap to seven points by Saturday night, if they can succeed where both Manchester clubs have failed and win away to Cardiff. The Gunners have beaten Southampton and Marseille this week and will be looking to further underline their title credentials against the Bluebirds, who came from behind on Sunday to hold Manchester United to a 2-2 draw and inch three points clear of the relegation zone.
The nearest rivals to Arsenal at the moment are Liverpool, who played out a thrilling 3-3 draw with Merseyside rivals Everton last time out. The Reds produced another dynamic attacking display at Goodison Park but needed a late equaliser from substitute Daniel Sturridge to salvage a point, and the England striker will hope to return to the starting line-up alongside Luis Suarez against Hull in the first part of Super Sunday. The Tigers suffered a potentially demoralising home defeat against struggling Crystal Palace last Saturday, having previously been beaten by Southampton, and Steve Bruce will be desperate for his players to arrest the slide with a good result at home.
Sunday's second televised match sees Chelsea lock horns with surprise package Southampton at Stamford Bridge. The Blues looked back to their ruthless best in a 3-0 victory at West Ham last week, which lifted them level on points with Liverpool, but they were anything but impressive on Tuesday as they lost 1-0 to Basel in the Champions League. Southampton contributed to their own downfall against Arsenal as Artur Boruc's blunder gifted Olivier Giroud a comical opening goal, but they remain in fifth spot and will overtake Chelsea if they can do what West Brom so nearly achieved before the international break and inflict a first home league loss on Jose Mourinho.
Tottenham and Manchester United are both outside the top four ahead of their weekend encounter, and there is just one point separating them in the standings. United will head to London full of confidence, however, after demolishing Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 in Germany to seal progression in the Champions League and extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to 11 matches. Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas, meanwhile, has had to dismiss reports that he was on the verge of being sacked after a 6-0 drubbing by Manchester City, and would love to give the White Hart Lane faithful something to cheer against United whilst also improving their paltry league goals tally of nine.
Manchester City have had no such problems in front of goal, scoring more times at home than any other side has managed in total. They have netted 26 so far in the Premier League at the Etihad Stadium in winning six out of six, so it is a daunting task that lies ahead for Swansea. Michael Laudrup's men have shown over the past couple of seasons that they are capable of rising to tough challenges, and last weekend's 2-1 victory at Fulham lifted them into the top half.
Newcastle also occupy a position in the top ten, and a three-match winning streak has sparked suggestions they could challenge for a European place. Having followed up wins over Chelsea and Tottenham with a hard-fought 2-1 victory against Norwich, Alan Pardew has urged his men to keep the momentum going at home to West Brom, in a game that can be seen live on Sky Sports 1HD on Saturday evening. The Baggies are comfortably placed in mid-table but there will be a sense of frustration that they are not higher, having surrendered a 2-0 lead on Monday to draw with Midlands rivals Aston Villa.
Pulis received a welcome gift as he watched his new Crystal Palace side beat Hull 1-0 at the KC Stadium, and he now officially begins his reign against Norwich. Pulis has never been relegated as a manager and is confident he can steer the Eagles out of the drop zone, but Norwich will also have identified Saturday's match as an opportunity to bounce back from losing to Newcastle and pull further clear of trouble.
Signs of promise
Sunderland are currently the only team beneath Palace in the table as they prepare to visit Aston Villa. There have been signs of promise for the Black Cats under Gus Poyet, but they lost 2-0 to Stoke last week in a game which left the manager infuriated by Wes Brown's sending-off - a decision which has been overturned on appeal. Villa, meanwhile, are unbeaten in three matches and will feel they can push on into the top half, especially if star striker Christian Benteke can end a six-game goal drought.
Only goal difference is keeping West Ham United out of the relegation zone and on Saturday they take on the side immediately below them, Fulham. Allardyce is in need of a good result at home after the 3-0 loss to Chelsea made it five league games without a win, many of those played without a recognised striker. The arrival at Fulham of head coach Rene Meulensteen has done little to take the scrutiny away from beleaguered boss Martin Jol, and a 2-1 loss at home to Swansea last week made it four straight defeats.
Everton have a chance to rise into the top four, at least temporarily, if they can beat Stoke on Saturday. Roberto Martinez's men will need to end a run of three consecutive draws, though, as they go up against a Potters side looking to consolidate a place in mid-table after defeating Sunderland to extend their unbeaten streak to three games.