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Image: Another action-packed weekend in store

An action-packed weekend sees Alan Pardew make his Newcastle bow and local derbies contested in the Midlands, Lancashire and London.

Derbies galore in the top flight, while Pardew's reign gets under way

An action-packed weekend sees Alan Pardew make his Newcastle bow and local derbies contested in the Midlands, Lancashire and London. There is also the small matter of a top-of-the-table clash at Old Trafford on Monday, with the Premier League offering plenty to help beat the winter blues over the next few days. Newcastle can always be relied upon to offer up at least one headline-grabbing episode each season, and the Magpies have not disappointed this term. Their decision to sack the popular Chris Hughton has gone down like a lead balloon on Tyneside and his successor, Pardew, has work to do if he is to get the locals on side. He would have hoped for a slightly easier opener than a home date with Liverpool, who have found form again of late, but that is the challenge facing the new man at the St James' Park helm on Saturday evening. Prior to that clash in the North East, Aston Villa and West Brom will rekindle West Midlands rivalries at Villa Park. It is fair to say that Gerard Houllier's reign at Villa has been a major disappointment so far and the Frenchman needs to start picking up points fast if he is to see out the season. In contrast, the Baggies are bouncing along nicely and Roberto Di Matteo's men will be looking to cement a top-half standing this weekend. West Ham host Manchester City with the player both sets of supporters were looking forward to seeing set to be missing from the action. City skipper Carlos Tevez, a legend at Upton Park following his heroics during his short stay at the club, is suspended and will play no part in the capital. The game will, however, see the Hammers looking to clamber off the foot of the table and City trying to keep pace with the title chasers. Everton and Wigan will be keen to address alarming slumps when they go head-to-head at Goodison Park. The Toffees are perched perilously close to the drop zone after going six games without a win, but have suffered only two defeats in 11 to suggest that there is more to come from them. The Latics, meanwhile, find themselves inside the drop zone and desperately need to pick up a welcome morale-boost when they make the short journey to Merseyside.

No excuses

Fulham are another side to have hit the skids over recent weeks, with no win taken from six outings. In fact, the Cottagers have won just two games in the league all season and can have no excuses for their lowly standing. They are set to face Sunderland in their latest fixture, with the Black Cats well-placed among the top seven and setting their sights on European qualification. Only Manchester United and Tottenham have left the Britannia Stadium with maximum points this season, so Blackpool will have it all to do when they go to Stoke. They will know that the Potters have gone unbeaten through their last five fixtures, claiming three victories in the process. Blackpool, though, are on a decent run of their own and could clamber above Tony Pulis' side with a win this weekend. Sunday's fixture list goes derby crazy, with Lancashire rivals Bolton and Blackburn kicking things off in a contest which can be seen live on Sky Sports 1 and HD1. The Trotters continue to occupy a lofty standing in the top flight table and have suffered only one defeat at the Reebok Stadium this season. Rovers' away form is unlikely to fill their travelling support with confidence, but manager Sam Allardyce will not want to suffer the indignity of defeat when he returns to his old stomping ground. Wolves and Birmingham then lock horns in the second Midlands derby of the weekend at Molineux. The hosts have endured a wretched run of late, losing 10 of their last 13, and they briefly hit rock-bottom last weekend before West Ham's ongoing troubles bailed them out. They will be aware that Christmas is fast approaching and it is vital they start moving forward if they are to avoid yet another return to the Championship, a fate Birmingham will also be keen to avoid as they are yet to hit top gear this term. Sunday's action is then wrapped up at White Hart Lane as capital foes Tottenham and Chelsea meet in a crucial all-London encounter, live on Sky Sports 1, HD1 and in Sky 3D. There was a time when Spurs struggled on an annual basis against the Blues, but they have not tasted defeat in the league against Chelsea on home soil since 2005. Carlo Ancelotti will be all too aware of that fact, with pressure mounting on his shoulders. Four games without a win have seen the Blues slip from the summit, and Tottenham will be in mood to offer festive pleasantries this time out. Just when you thought things could not get any better, Sky Sports' Monday Night Football will see Manchester United and Arsenal face off in a titanic tussle at Old Trafford. There is a chance they will not be the Premier League's top two by the time they take to the field, but they are heading into the weekend and there will be all to play for at the Theatre of Dreams. United will put the top-flight's only remaining unbeaten record on the line against the Gunners, while Arsene Wenger's side will be hoping to avoid being knocked off their perch at the top of the tree.

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