Premier League preview: Arsenal take on Chelsea as Liverpool target top spot

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho. 2007.
Image: Old foes: Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho pictured in 2007

Arsenal's position at the Premier League summit will come under threat ahead of their blockbuster Monday Night Football meeting with title rivals Chelsea.

Tottenham became the fifth Premier League club this season to part company with their man in the dug-out on Monday morning, as Villas-Boas paid the price for a 5-0 home humbling against Liverpool, despite Spurs being only five points adrift of the top four. Sunday's trip to Southampton, who have taken just two points from their last five games to slip from the dizzy heights of third to ninth place, is likely to be stand-in boss Sherwood's last chance to impress after the misery of their midweek Capital One Cup exit. The second helping of Sky Sports' Super Sunday offering sees Swansea welcome Everton to the Liberty Stadium, with Roberto Martinez returning to the club where he began his managerial career. The foundations for flowing football laid by Martinez have been continued by Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rodgers and now Michael Laudrup, with the promise of a contest which will please the purists this weekend. The Swans have won just twice in front of their own supporters this season, with four draws also recorded in their eight home contests.

Stark reality

For all the Wearside euphoria over reaching the Capital One Cup semi-finals with victory over Chelsea, the stark reality for Sunderland is that they will be bottom of the Premier League at Christmas regardless of the result of their Stadium of Light clash with Norwich on Saturday. A paltry nine points from 16 matches leaves Gus Poyet's men four adrift and a significant upturn will be required to survive. Norwich responded well to drubbings by Man City and Liverpool and currently hold a five-point cushion above the drop zone. Crystal Palace's two-game winning burst was halted by Chelsea in their last outing, but Tony Pulis will take heart from the way in which the title hopefuls were pushed all the way by the relegation-threatened Eagles. Marouane Chamakh has now scored in each of his last three Premier League games - a career first - and now has Saturday's opponents Newcastle in his sights. The Magpies, who are challenging for European football this term, have enjoyed great success at Selhurst Park recently, winning all four of their last league meetings with Palace in south London. Manchester United's hopes of retaining the title they won at a canter last term remain in the balance with 10 points separating them from top spot prior to Saturday's trip to Upton Park to take on West Ham. Three victories in succession in all competitions have lifted spirits for the Red Devils, but the Hammers will also go into the game on a high after their dramatic late win over Spurs in the Capital One Cup. Sam Allardyce's side have, however, won just one of nine in the Premier League, with five defeats coming in that spell. West Brom, who face Hull City at The Hawthorns this weekend, felt that four defeats in a row was evidence of a terminal decline under former boss Clarke and he was shown the door in the wake of the 1-0 defeat at Cardiff. With the Baggies just two points above the bottom three, whoever is brought in to steady the ship must swiftly arrest the downward spiral. Amid an off-field spat over their future identity, Steve Bruce has managed to maintain focus on the important matter of football and has the Tigers within striking distance of a place back in the top 10. Stoke City go into their derby duel with Aston Villa at the Britannia Stadium just one point behind their Midlands rivals in the standings. Paul Lambert's Villa saw their five-game unbeaten run halted by Fulham before a heavy home defeat at the hands of Manchester United, with Christian Benteke's ongoing goal drought, which currently stands at 11 hours and 59 minutes, of increasing concern. Mark Hughes has made the Potters tough to beat in recent weeks, with just one defeat in seven, but only two victories have been secured in that spell.

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