Premier League preview
This weekend's action gets under way on Saturday lunchtime when Chelsea travel to fellow high-fliers Newcastle, live on Sky Sports.
By Rachel Griffiths - Follow me on Twitter @SkySportsRachG
Last Updated: 03/12/11 8:59am
This weekend's Premier League action gets under way on Saturday lunchtime when Chelsea make the trip to fellow high-fliers Newcastle, live on Sky Sports 2 and HD2.
Andre Villas-Boas' men got their league campaign back on track with victory over Wolves last time out and will look to make it back-to-back wins when they travel to the North East.
Elsewhere, Manchester United will hope to bounce back from their deflating Carling Cup exit when they visit Aston Villa, while neighbours City remain unbeaten in the top spot as they prepare to host promoted Norwich.
Tottenham will look to maintain their storming form at home to Bolton while the weekend's other televised clash sees Sunderland start life without sacked manager Steve Bruce with a trip to Wolves, live on Sky Sports 1 and HD1 on Sunday.
Chelsea enjoyed some relief against Wolves last weekend with a 3-0 win to ease the pressure on manager Villas-Boas but the Blues will be wary of a Newcastle side who fought hard for a 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford in their last encounter. The West Londoners sit just a point behind the Magpies and will be hoping to leapfrog them into fourth place with a good result in front of the Sky cameras, but could be lacking confidence after they were dumped out of the Carling Cup at home to Liverpool in midweek. The hosts have added incentive as they look to pay tribute to their former midfielder Gary Speed with a win after his tragic death last weekend.
Still sitting pretty at the top of the table are Manchester City, who boast a five-point lead despite only managing a 1-1 draw at Liverpool last time out. Premier League newcomers Norwich will not be relishing the prospect of facing the undefeated leaders on their own turf despite having made an impressive start to their own campaign to sit mid-table. The Canaries enjoyed a 2-1 win over QPR last weekend to halt a run of back-to-back defeats but could endure a tough afternoon against a City side buoyed by their progression to the Carling Cup semi-finals in midweek.
City's local rivals Manchester United travel to Aston Villa desperate to recover from their Carling Cup upset. A largely second-string Red Devils side were beaten 2-1 by Crystal Palace after extra-time at Old Trafford to oust them from the competition. Sir Alex Ferguson apologised to the United fans after that defeat and will be keen to get things back on track at Villa Park to close the gap on City. Villa were held to a goalless draw at Swansea last weekend in an encounter overshadowed by the death of Wales manager Speed and will be hoping to take advantage of a wounded United side to claim their first win in three games.
Tottenham are in blistering form having stormed to five consecutive wins to leave them third in the table and in prime position to overthrow second-placed United. Spurs have never won six Premier League games on the bounce in their history but will be looking to do just that when they entertain beleaguered Bolton at White Hart Lane. The North Londoners have won six and lost none of their last seven home games against the Trotters in all competitions and will host a Bolton side stinging from back-to-back defeats and languishing in the drop zone.
A midweek Carling Cup exit to Manchester City put a dent in what has otherwise been a good run of form for Arsenal, who have finally ignited their season after a slow start. The Gunners travel to relegation candidates Wigan this weekend hoping to build on a six-game unbeaten streak in the league, with five of those encounters ending in wins. The other match finished as a 1-1 draw at home to hard-working neighbours Fulham last time out, while Roberto Martinez's Latics enjoyed a 2-1 victory at Sunderland to seal the end of Bruce's reign.
Sunderland are in action in Sunday's televised clash at Wolves when they will make the trip to the Midlands under the temporary care of caretaker boss Eric Black. Bruce's sacking came on the back of a run of poor results which left the Black Cats 16th in the table and just two points clear of the drop zone, while Wolves sit one spot below them on goal difference only. Both teams will be desperate to put some distance between themselves and the relegation places, setting up what promises to be a fiercely contested encounter at Molineux.
He may not have won the sack race but pressure continues to grow on Blackburn manager Steve Kean as his side prepare to host Swansea at Ewood Park. Rock-bottom Rovers are without a win in the Premier League since 17th September and suffered further woe in midweek when they were denied a spot in the Carling Cup semi-finals by Championship side Cardiff. Three points against Swansea would help to ease the heat on Kean but the Welsh visitors will also be chasing a result having failed to win in three.
Stoke could leapfrog Everton with the right result when they travel to Goodison Park, despite currently sitting three places below them in the standings. The Potters halted a run of four consecutive defeats with victory over struggling Blackburn last time out, while David Moyes' Toffees are fresh from back-to-back wins and will hope to continue that winning streak. Everton will also be hunting for a win to honour their former player Speed, with tributes to the late midfielder planned before kick-off.
The final encounter of the weekend sees QPR entertain West Brom at Loftus Road as they look to move on from their narrow defeat to Norwich last weekend. Like fellow top-flight newcomers the Canaries, Neil Warnock's men have fared well in their campaign so far to sit mid-table and will be in no hurry to relinquish that position against Roy Hodgson's Baggies, who were beaten at home by in-form Tottenham last weekend to leave them in 14th place.