Premier League questions: Can Arsenal weather injury storm? Will Remi Garde start strong?
By Patrick Surlis
Last Updated: 07/11/15 4:39pm
Can Arsenal weather their injury crisis? Will Remi Garde get Villa firing? Odion Ighalo or Jamie Vardy? We take a look at 10 questions that could be answered by the end of the Premier League weekend.
The action gets underway at Saturday lunchtime as Eddie Howe's Bournemouth welcome Newcastle to the Vitality Stadium before West Brom visit Manchester United later that afternoon.
Saturday Night Football wraps up with Chelsea's trip to the Britannia Stadium, before a bumper Super Sunday concludes with the north London derby from the Emirates Stadium.
With all that to look forward to and more, here's what to keep an eye out for over the weekend...
Ighalo vs Vardy? (Leicester City vs Watford, 3pm Saturday)
Jamie Vardy made it eight from eight with a goal against West Brom last week, becoming just the third player in Premier League history after Ruud van Nistelrooy and Daniel Sturridge to achieve the feat.
But he comes up against a side with a striker in equally formidable form. Odion Ighalo has seven goals and two assists in his last eight games, and should be the Hornets' danger man once again.
He picked up a leg injury in the challenge that saw West Ham's James Collins sent off last Saturday, but he should be good to go against the Foxes.
The two sides have been performing above expectations this season, largely thanks to the contributions of Ighalo and Vardy, and both teams will be looking to their in-form front-men to make the difference this weekend.
Is Wayne Rooney back on form? (Manchester United vs West Brom, 3pm Saturday)
Rooney's critics were hushed on Tuesday night as the England striker hit United's vital winner in the Champions League clash against CSKA Moscow, but his performances in the Premier League have been sporadic.
With Louis van Gaal receiving similar criticism for United's style of play in recent weeks, Saturday represents a fine opportunity for the Red Devils to stamp their mark on the title race with Manchester City and Arsenal both in fine form.
Rooney's late goal prevented United going goalless for a fourth straight game, and he would love nothing more than another couple here to lift his side after an uninspiring 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace last weekend.
Can Mane be stopped? (Sunderland vs Southampton, 3pm Saturday)
Red card against Liverpool aside, Sadio Mane has put together a flawless start to his second campaign on the south coast.
The Senegal international looks a threat every time he touches the ball, playing a direct role in seven Southampton goals in his last eight Premier League appearances with three goals and four assists.
He should get plenty of opportunities this weekend, even if the Stadium of Light has not been a happy hunting ground for the Saints in recent seasons - James Beattie scored the winner the last time they took three points on Wearside in January 2003.
Sam Allardyce's challenge is to plug a leaky defence, the same one that conceded eight last season at St Mary's, and the size of the task was evident in last Sunday's 6-2 defeat to Everton.
A Saints side boasting Mane, Dusan Tadic and the in-form Graziano Pelle poses another conundrum for Allardyce to solve.
Can Arsenal weather their injury crisis? (Arsenal vs Tottenham, 4pm Sunday)
The Gunners have conceded just eight Premier League goals this season - the joint-fewest. But that doesn't mean Arsenal fans should be over-confident heading into the north London derby.
Per Mertesacker will need to rediscover his best form, and quickly, as Laurent Koscielny (hip) joined Arsenal's growing injury list in mid-week and Hector Bellerin, hugely impressive so far this campaign, is also likely to be missing on Sunday (groin).
The Gunners could have as many as 10 first-team players out, and while they will not come up against Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller every week, they will need to provide a reaction to the mid-week thrashing the pair handed out in Munich.
What will Garde's Villa look like? (Aston Villa vs Manchester City, 1.30pm Sunday)
After five days to prepare since his appointment on Monday, Aston Villa fans will get a first look at the Remi Garde era.
And they don't come much tougher than this, with the Premier League leaders Manchester City in town and full of confidence after a 3-1 win in Seville that sealed their spot in the Champions League knock-out round.
Garde's mandate will be to keep Villa in the Premier League, and to do that they will need to improve at both ends of the pitch.
Gabriel Agbonlahor's eight-touch first-half would be an interesting statistical anomaly for most sides, but on a Villa team with the second worst goal-scoring record in the top flight, it's endemic of the club's problems up front.
At the other end, Garde will need to clean up the mistakes that have been made scoring on Villa relatively straightforward this season, with Mousa Dembele the latest recipient of generous defending on Monday Night Football.
What's wrong with Diego Costa? (Stoke vs Chelsea, 5.30pm Saturday)
Chelsea eased the pressure on Jose Mourinho with victory over Dynamo Kiev, but Diego Costa once again looked a shadow of his former self.
His service has been poor, and Eden Hazard's dip in form doesn't help, but the blame for his 449 minute goal drought can't solely fall on his team-mates. Getting Costa back firing will be crucial for Chelsea, who have not scored more than four goals in a game since their victory over Walsall in the Capital One Cup.
Standing in their way will be Jack Butland, who has been one of the surprise packages of the season so far. Stoke have only scored nine Premier League goals this season, fewer than Aston Villa, but Butland's heroics have kept them in games and helped them claim 13 points from 11 matches.
Without him, it's fair to say that total would be much lower.
Can Hammers end Everton hoo-doo? (West Ham vs Everton, 3pm Saturday)
It might not be the smartest move to doubt Slaven Bilic after his magnificent start to life at West Ham, but he will need another big performance from his side to conjure a win against Everton.
For whatever reason, the Toffees have one over the Hammers. West Ham have won just one of the club's past 17 matches against Everton, and even that was a shoot-out win after their FA Cup replay ended 2-2 earlier this year.
It's a run that has to end sooner or later, and Bilic's side will fancy their chances as they enter the match despite last weekend's 2-0 defeat to Watford.
That was a first league defeat for the Hammers since August, and with the likes of Alex Song and Winston Reid likely to return after the upcoming international break, West Ham's squad is looking stronger than ever.
What's happened to Newcastle's strike-force? (Bournemouth vs Newcastle, 12.45pm Saturday)
Aleksandar Mitrovic and Georginio Wijnaldum flashed their potential as Newcastle put six past Norwich on Super Sunday two weeks ago, but since then the Magpies are goalless.
The pair played 90 minutes against both Sunderland and Stoke, not exactly top-tier defences, but a partnership that looked so potent against the Canaries was blunted on each occasion.
Up against a Bournemouth side with the second worst defensive record in the Premier League, the big-money summer signings need to get back on track in the weekend's opening game.
Which team stops the rot? (Norwich vs Swansea, 3pm Saturday)
Norwich, on a run of four consecutive defeats, face a Swansea side that have collected one win in seven. Although neither side has slipped as far as the relegation zone yet, there's plenty riding on this one.
Frustration has been a familiar feeling for Alex Neil, and the Norwich boss was left to rue defensive errors as the Canaries came up just short of claiming a vital point at the Etihad Stadium.
They need a mistake-free performance against a struggling Swans side, but both teams will be desperate to arrest their respective slides.
Can Jurgen Klopp go a seventh game unbeaten with Liverpool? (Liverpool v Crystal Palace, 4pm Sunday)
Liverpool have conceded just three goals in Klopp's first six games in charge of the Reds, and they navigated a tricky tie in Rubin Kazan on Thursday night with a hard-fought 1-0 win.
The travel back may jade them, but up against a stuttering Crystal Palace the German will fancy a seventh straight game undefeated, and a 13th game overall without loss.
Klopp has Christian Benteke back and Roberto Firmino improving in recent weeks, and he will be desperate for a win going into the international break, with the small matter of a trip to Manchester City on their return.