Premier League preview
Chelsea and Arsenal meet live on Sky Sports among what promises to be another engrossing weekend in England's top flight.
Last Updated: 29/10/11 11:34am
The Premier League rarely lacks entertainment at the conclusion of a week which has not included European commitments and this Saturday and Sunday look set to be the latest engrossing instalments.
Chelsea and Arsenal meet on Saturday lunchtime in a London derby at Stamford Bridge live on Sky Sports HD2/2. The home side are engulfed by off-field controversy following the Football Association's charges in the wake of last Sunday's foul-tempered defeat by QPR, while captain John Terry has also been accused of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. Arsenal, in comparison, are in a relative state of stability after what had been a turbulent start to the season. Arsene Wenger will hope to extend a record as the most successful visiting team at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, but his team have won none of their last eight away matches in the top flight.
By the time Chelsea and Arsenal kick-off, Manchester United will be approaching half-time in their match at Everton. The reigning Premier League champions will be licking their wounds after the staggering 6-1 derby humiliation against Manchester City. But Sir Alex Ferguson's squad did salvage a molecule of pride as they matched Chelsea and Arsenal in midweek by successfully reaching the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup. Wayne Rooney's participation, or not, as the case may be, is likely to be a significant talking point at Goodison Park. The England international has in the past been taken out of the line of fire against his former club and has struggled to deal with the anticipation and hostile reception on other occasions. United will want a match-winning performance from their star man against David Moyes' Everton, who have remarkably lost on 28 occasions against United in the Premier League.
After hammering Wolves in the Carling Cup, league leaders Manchester City will be in confident mood when they welcome Mick McCarthy's struggling side to Etihad Stadium for a 3pm kick-off. Roberto Mancini's millionaires continued their blistering goalscoring form with a 5-2 win at Molineux on Wednesday and they will now aim to follow the thrashing of United with another convincing league win. If United were to lose at Everton, City could start the game against Wolves with the opportunity to open an eight-point lead over their neighbours, which would obviously underline their new-found status as title favourites. Wolves ended a run of five successive defeats by fighting back for a draw against Swansea, but McCarthy, who has been at his deadpan best during the week, remains under pressure.
Liverpool also booked a place in an unusually exciting looking last eight of the Carling Cup with a rare win at Stoke and now Kenny Dalglish will hope to carry the winning feeling into a reunion with Roy Hodgson. There was a sense of inevitability about the West Brom manager's victory over his former club at The Hawthorns in April. Hodgson had been sacked by Liverpool three months previously and he therefore earned a piece of karma against his former club. But the Reds will take on West Brom on Saturday evening having been frustrated by Norwich last weekend. As a result, winning a 10th Premier League match out of 11 against the Baggies is essential in their quest to return to the UEFA Champions League.
Paul Lambert's Norwich have been impressing pundits upon their return to the top flight and the draw at Anfield was arguably the highlight of their campaign to date. Brave yet unsuccessful performances against United and Chelsea before holding Liverpool earned praise, but Lambert will know points will be all that matter come May. The Carrow Road boss will as a consequence want to continue momentum when rock-bottom Blackburn visit on Saturday afternoon. Steve Kean's side broke Newcastle's unbeaten start to the season with a midweek victory in the Carling Cup, but the league remains a priority. The meeting with Norwich could well prove to be significant in the relegation fight come the end of the campaign.
Steve Bruce has not found himself the subject of fans' protest, as in the case of Kean, but the Sunderland boss is under pressure. A win at struggling Bolton last weekend was only a second of the season for the Black Cats in the league and there have been plenty of reports of discontent after a shabby return on a multi-million pound squad overhaul in the summer. Bruce will as a result be eager to inflict a third successive defeat on Alex McLeish's Aston Villa, who had been unbeaten before losses to Manchester City and West Brom, when they meet at the Stadium of Light.
The loss to Sunderland inflicted a seventh defeat in eight league matches on Bolton and Owen Coyle has been moaning about his side's lack of fortune. Lady Luck again deserted the Reebok Stadium outfit in their Carling Cup loss to Arsenal, according to Coyle, and it is difficult to disagree with the Bolton boss after an impressive performance at Emirates Stadium. Coyle will be desperate for a return to providence against Swansea, but Brendan Rodgers' Premier League new-boys are unbeaten in 12 successive matches at the Liberty Stadium.
Wigan's form has been even worse than that of Bolton and as a result Roberto Martinez's team sit one place below their North West rivals in the relegation zone. Critics suggested a three-match unbeaten run at the start of the season was nothing more than an anomaly for a team who only dodged relegation on the final day of the last campaign and they have been proved correct. Ahead of the arrival of Fulham at the DW Stadium, Martinez will be demanding a win which would see his side overtake that of Martin Jol. But a record of just 18 goals in 12 Premier League matches between the two clubs does not suggest a classic is in store.
On a rare quiet Sunday in England's top division, Tottenham host London rivals Queens Park Rangers. Harry Redknapp's men could overtake Newcastle, who travel to Stoke on Monday, in the coveted fourth place, if they defeat Neil Warnock's men by more than four goals. QPR will make the short trip to North London on the back of victory over Chelsea and with Manchester City next on a difficult fixture list. And the omens do not bode well for Warnock, with Spurs boasting an admirable record of a 16-game unbeaten home record in capital derbies.