6 Key English Premier League Battles to Watch This Weekend
This weekend sees the last set of Premier League fixtures before the international break and there are some intriguing contests on show.
Both sides of Tyneside play both sides of Manchester, there are three clubs still waiting for their first league win and one half of Merseyside could go joint top of the table by Saturday night!
It's shaping up to be another top-class weekend of football, so let's preview the six key battles to look out for this weekend!
Saturday: Manchester City Have the Black Cats Round for Lunch
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When Manchester City played Sunderland at the Etihad last season, City had to come back from 3-1 down to rescue not just a point, but their unbeaten home record and their hopes of winning their first Premier League crown.
The champions have been out of sorts since the season started.
They haven't played to the high standards they set last season, but they're still at the top end of the league and unbeaten in league competition.
Last night in their Champions League clash, Mario Balotelli came through once again when City needed him, so he'll be pushing for a start on Saturday.
Their opponents, Sunderland, are also unbeaten after drawing four and winning one of their first five games.
Martin O'Neill might be slightly concerned that all of his team's goals this season have come from Scotland striker Steven Fletcher.
He'll want his other players to start chipping in with goals to take the pressure off his in-form hitman.
In terms of the game itself, any team managed by Martin O'Neill will be well-drilled, hard-working and disciplined and if they get enough space on the ball, they could cause the champions problems.
I just think that City's astonishing record at home in the league over the last 18 months will be enough to see them through against the Black Cats.
Saturday: Will Norwich Be Singing Like Canaries at Stamford Bridge?
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Since their last league visit to Stamford Bridge 14 months ago, Norwich go to Chelsea still searching for their first league win of the season and smarting after being walloped 5-2 by Liverpool last weekend.
If it were me, I wouldn't want to go to Stamford Bridge needing a result, but that's the situation Chris Hughton finds himself in this weekend.
He needs to get that first league win, but to be honest, I don't think it'll happen this weekend.
Although Norwich held their own for 80 minutes in this fixture last season, Chelsea's quality shone through in the last 10 minutes as they scored a couple of late goals to earn the three points.
The European champions will head into the match full of confidence after a 4-0 win in Champions League action this week, which followed an important 2-1 win at Arsenal last Saturday.
I think Norwich will be strong and resilient, but ultimately, the attacking threat posed by the likes of Juan Mata, Oscar, Eden Hazard and, of course, Frank Lampard, will be enough to see Chelsea through.
Saturday: Can the Swans Stop Their Slide or Will Reading Get Their First Win?
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Saturday will be the first competitive match between these sides since Swansea beat Reading in the 2011 Championship playoff final to earn promotion to the Premier League.
Despite making an impressive start to the season, Swansea have lost their last three matches and will want to stop the rot before it goes on any longer.
They may have lost Scott Sinclair to Manchester City, but there's enough quality in their side to make sure that they're a threat to similar clubs in and around their position.
Michu has been particularly impressive since joining in the summer and in Michel Vorm, Swansea have one of the best keepers in the country.
Reading's start to life back in the Premier League has been difficult.
They'll still feel aggrieved at the way they lost at Stamford Bridge in August and it's as if they've not quite recovered from that.
Last weekend, they dropped two points at home to Newcastle after an extremely dubious goal from Demba Ba, who looked like he handled the ball to score Newcastle's equaliser.
Reading played well enough to secure the three points and I think that this Saturday will see Brian McDermott's side pick up their first win of the season against Swansea.
Saturday: Will West Brom Bag All Three Points Against QPR?
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Of all the sides in the Premier League, West Brom have to be absolutely delighted with the start they've made under their new manager, Steve Clarke.
Three wins and two draws from their first six games, including wins over Everton and Liverpool, see the Baggies sitting sixth in the table.
They have not yet conceded a goal at home and look very strong defensively.
Going forward, the likes of James Morrison, Graham Dorrans, Shane Long and Romelu Lukaku can cause problems for any defence in the country.
In the away dug-out on Saturday, QPR manager Mark Hughes is the third manager on this list still looking for his first league win of the season.
The sheer number of players who have left, and come in, at Loftus Road since Hughes took charge is staggering.
For the first couple of months in charge, Hughes could have said he was still getting to know the players and it wasn't really his squad, but he can't say that now.
Most of the players on QPR's books are players that Hughes has signed and sooner or later, they're going to have to stand up and be counted.
Against a very impressive West Brom team, QPR's defensive frailties could be laid bare for all to see on Saturday and if they're not careful, they'll be lucky to escape the Hawthorns with a slender loss.
Saturday: Will David Moyes Be Sitting Top of the League on Saturday Night?
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Wigan's form at the end of last season was, for lack of a better word, astonishing.
They looked dead and buried towards the end of February, but somehow, Roberto Martinez managed to guide them to seven wins in their last nine games, including wins against Manchester United and Arsenal, to make sure they stayed up.
In Ali Al-Habsi they've got a top-class keeper who makes save after save to keep his team in games that they should, by all rights, lose.
Scoring goals has always been a problem for Wigan, but in Arouna Kone, they seem to have found a striker with strength and pace who knows where the goal is.
Everton have been simply outstanding this season.
David Moyes has assembled probably his strongest ever squad on a very tight budget, but as always, his players give everything for their manager and right now, they're reaping the benefits of it.
Players like Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar, Kevin Mirallas and Nikica Jelavic (among others) look unplayable at the moment.
If it wasn't for a poor refereeing decision in their game against Newcastle a couple of weeks ago, when they were denied a goal that was clearly onside, Everton would have five wins from six and nobody would complain.
The players are a credit to their manager, who is a top-class coach, and if Norwich can somehow take all three points against Chelsea, and Everton win at Wigan, Moyes will be sitting proudly at the top of the Premier League.
Sunday: Sir Alex Looks for Revenge at St James' Park
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On that day, Newcastle simply outplayed and out-fought United, earning the three points they got.
Make no mistake about it, Newcastle have some excellent players on their hands.
From Tim Krul and Steven Taylor at the back, to Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote in midfield and Hatem Ben Arfa, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse going forward, the spine of their side is tremendous.
When you look at all the attacking talent that Newcastle have, and compare that to the injury problems that Manchester United have with their defenders, there's a very real chance that Sir Alex will leave on the wrong end of another 3-0 scoreline on Sunday.
However, Ferguson has some amazing attacking players of his own, so it won't be one way traffic, and he'll be looking for a response from his players after a poor performance against Spurs last Saturday.
Robin van Persie looks like he's going to score every time he plays, so just imagine what he'll be like when he's settled!
Wayne Rooney is on his way back to fitness, Shinji Kagawa has made a solid start to life in the Premier League and with Michael Carrick anchoring the midfield, United will cause Newcastle problems of their own.
I just think that the injuries to their defenders will be too much for Sir Alex Ferguson's side to cope with and Newcastle will come away with three points again on Sunday.