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Premier League preview

Manchester City will be hoping to put domestic and European disappointments behind them, while table-topping Arsenal look to make it 11 wins in a row.

City face Toffees; United tackle Cats; Spurs host Hammers

Manchester City will be hoping to put domestic and European disappointments behind them, while table-topping Arsenal look to make it 11 wins in a row. Manchester United also need to offer a response as focus switches back to Premier League competition, in front of the Sky Sports cameras, and Chelsea will attempt to keep pace with the early front-runners. The weekend's action gets under way at the Etihad Stadium - the scene of a midweek UEFA Champions League mauling for Manchester City at the hands of Bayern Munich. A 3-1 reversal against the German giants came on the back of a 3-2 defeat by Aston Villa in the league, so Manuel Pellegrini needs to show that a dominant display in the Manchester derby, which earned widespread praise, was no flash in the pan. City will, however, have their work cut out on Saturday lunchtime when they play host to an Everton side still unbeaten in the league and going in search of a fifth victory in their last seven visits to the blue half of Manchester. Saturday Night Football will feature the second of Manchester's title hopefuls, with United travelling to managerless and winless Sunderland. David Moyes saw a dogged display on Ukrainian soil against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday ease some of the pressure which has built on the back of successive defeats - and three setbacks in four - in the league. The Red Devils are unaccustomed to occupying a standing in the bottom half of the table and will be desperate to start righting a few wrongs. Sunderland could well do without a visit from a wounded United side, as they continue to prop up the table - with just one point taken from a possible 18. They remain under the caretaker charge of Kevin Ball for now, with a successor to the ousted Paolo Di Canio yet to be appointed. Elsewhere on Saturday afternoon, second-placed Liverpool will have their sights locked on a return to the Premier League summit. With Arsenal not in action until Sunday, the Reds know victory over Crystal Palace will put them back on the loftiest of perches. With Luis Suarez back among the goals and looking sharp following his return from suspension, and with Daniel Sturridge having netted five times in six league outings, Brendan Rodgers will feel that a sustained push for the title could be on the cards. Palace will be hoping to play party poopers this weekend, but Ian Holloway's side have already been overturned in five of their six fixtures so far and have gone 22 years since they last collected three points at Anfield. Newcastle United are another side in need of a spark and will be looking to get their season back on track against Cardiff City. Inconsistency continues to plague the Magpies, with Alan Pardew's men unable to string together a run of positive results. Back-to-back defeats have sent them tumbling to 16th spot, with their back four breached on three occasions against both Hull City and Everton. Plugging the defensive leaks is essential, even if Cardiff have hardly been razor sharp this season. The Bluebirds have, however, made a steady start to life back in the big time and have already put in solid displays on home soil against Manchester City, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur. Mark Hughes will return to familiar surroundings with Stoke City determined to make life a little more uncomfortable for the man who succeeded him as Fulham boss, Martin Jol. The odds on the Dutchman being the next Premier League manager to lose his job continue to shorten, with the Cottagers having stumbled their way out of the blocks. Four defeats in five and only four goals scored in six outings is not the kind of return Fulham's new owner Shahid Khan will have been expecting and it remains to be seen how patient he is prepared to be. Hughes does not have things much easier at Stoke, with the Potters having taken one point from their last three games, but he will not have an expectant home support on his back at Craven Cottage this weekend.


Hull City will be delighted with the start they have made since re-joining the elite, with pre-season predictions of relegation struggles having been knocked on the head - for now at least. Steve Bruce will look at a 10-point return as being a quarter of the way to top-flight safety, and there are still 32 games to come. The first of those arrives on Saturday, with the Tigers returning to the KC Stadium for a meeting with Aston Villa. Paul Lambert's side have been going okay themselves this term, winning half of their six games so far, and will be aiming to make it three victories in a row when they make the trip to East Yorkshire. The first instalment of a Super Sunday double-header comes at Carrow Road, with Norwich City charged with the task of making it another frustrating away day for Chelsea. The Blues have collected just two points from three trips out on the road - although those journeys have been to Old Trafford, Goodison Park and White Hart Lane. Norwich, though, will feel that Jose Mourinho's side are far from invincible, especially as they are yet to settle as an attacking unit and will have to mix things up again this weekend as Fernando Torres misses out through injury and Eden Hazard comes back into contention. Southampton and Swansea City lock horns in the second of Sunday's early kick-offs, with it possible that the Saints could end the weekend inside the top four. A defence which has been breached just twice continues to provide the most reliable of foundations for Mauricio Pochettino's side, making the fact that they have found the target just five times at the other end of the field slightly less of a concern. A third straight win is the target for the Saints, but they know that Swansea's slick passing game will pose plenty of problems. The Swans will have been in Europa League action on Thursday night, which could play into the home side's hands at St Mary's, but Michael Laudrup is likely to rotate his squad for two testing fixtures in the space of four days. Along with Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur currently boast the joint-meanest defence in the Premier League. They have already collected four clean sheets and will be planning another shut-out when they welcome cross-London rivals West Ham United to White Hart Lane. The Hammers have offered little so far to suggest that they can put a dent in Spurs' bid to remain among the title chasers, with Sam Allardyce's troops having failed to win since the opening day - collecting two points from the last 15 on offer. There may still be a long way to go, but the Hammers will be concerned that they are perched just above the bottom three at present and know the tide needs to turn quickly if they are to avoid being sucked into a basement battle. The final game on a busy weekend of top-flight action will see league leaders Arsenal take to the Super Sunday stage against West Bromwich Albion. The Gunners, who hold a two-point lead over the chasing pack, have emerged victorious in their last 10 games in all competitions - a run which includes a penalty shoot-out success at The Hawthorns in the Capital One Cup. They will return to the scene of that victory on Sunday hoping to get the job done inside 90 minutes. The Baggies know they will face a much-changed line-up to the one they tackled in the cup, but they also have a few aces up their sleeve and will have taken great confidence from a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford last time out - with Manchester United made to look ordinary at times in front of their own supporters.

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