6 Key Battles to Watch in the Premier League This Weekend
Rare is a weekend—save for those dreaded international breaks—when the Premier League does not provide us watchers with a plethora of eagerly-anticipated matches, controversial talking points and, best of all, bucket-loads of goals.
As one of the best leagues in the world, it is only right that we expect more and more each time, not just from our favourite teams and players, but from the league as a whole.
It keeps us entertained, it provides the biggest highs and most desperate lows and gives us conversation for the week ahead.
Especially if your team has just been unexpectedly knocked out of the League Cup.
This weekend should be no exception as a bushel full of excellent match-ups catch the eye, both on a team and an individual player-level.
Here are the six best key battles to watch out for in match-week 10 of the Premier League.
Robin Van Persie vs. Arsenal
Fresh off the back of his best goalscoring season, Arsenal captain Robin van Persie packed his bags and left the Emirates—straight into the welcoming arms of rivals Manchester United, for whom he has already netted seven times in the league.
Gunners fans were naturally delighted for their man with the move and are sure to offer him a hero's reception when they visit Old Trafford this weekend for the first United vs. Arsenal fixture of the season.
Or else they'll scream profanities and rain boos down at him for the entire duration of the match.
The game is much bigger than just that particular battle of course; last season this game ended up as Arsene Wenger's worst moment in many a season and the Frenchman, along with (presumably) the players who figured will be desperate to put that result right.
In terms of the league, Arsenal have quietly kept themselves close to the top four despite only two wins from the past four games, while Manchester United can go top of the table for a few hours at least if they win.
It's always an intriguing battle, and this season might prove as open as ever.
Prediction: United to take three home points—but not by a six-goal scoreline, don't worry Arsenal fans.
Jol vs. Moyes: Managers Chasing European Spots
Unfancied, unfashionable clubs—but both doing well in the Premier League this season and with possibilities of qualifying for a Europa League spot this season.
Fulham host Everton in one of the 3 p.m. Saturday games, with two points and two games separating the sides in the league.
That they are both in form is undeniable; between the two sides they have suffered just one league defeat in the past 12 matches (Fulham 1-2 Manchester City).
Fulham have only conceded two goals at Craven Cottage so far this season and Jol's increasingly-attack-minded team have proven that they have the technical capacity to mix it with some of the league's top teams.
Everton will fancy their chances of keeping their good start to the season going, and rightly so, but they will not have an easy time of it and anything that they take home with them will be hard-earned.
Prediction: Fulham to just about edge an entertaining clash of styles, 2-1.
The Draw Specialists: Sunderland vs. Aston Villa
Darren Bent's old team vs. Darren Bent's new team—but the big money striker might not even get on the pitch.
Bent has been out of favour with Villa manager Paul Lambert as the boss tries to re-shape the team from the mess of last season into a coherent side which can battle hard as well as out-play opponents.
So far, he hasn't exactly been hugely successful with either one. Villa have been poor; a lack of quality in the squad contributing to just one win from their opening nine games.
It hasn't been plain sailing for his opposite number Martin O'Neill either; after a decent start in the second half of last season, O'Neill has failed to fix the glaring weaknesses in the Sunderland squad.
They have lost only once in the league this season, but have also only won once.
Between the two sides' 17 league fixtures this term, nine of them have ended in draws.
Prediction: A thoroughly surprising draw.
QPR vs Reading: Battle at the Bottom
Onto Sunday's games, and the match which absolutely has to be the start of QPR manager Mark Hughes' season.
His side has performed poorly in some games, well in others—but they have no victories to show for it. November was always going to be a big month for them with a run of games taking in the likes of Southampton, Stoke and Sunderland after the Reading game.
They need to start picking up points.
QPR are bottom of the table going into this match and joining them in the relegation zone are Reading themselves, who are 18th with just four points.
They also need to start scraping points together from somewhere, having taken just three from their last seven league games.
Neither of these sides have managed a win yet this season, which tells you everything you need to know about where the key battles of the match will come.
Prediction: After spending money on good players in the summer, it's got to come good for Hughes and his team. Their revival starts here. 2-0 to QPR.
Liverpool vs. Newcastle: A Return of the Classic?
One of the fixtures which can always be counted on to provide entertainment and goals in equal measure is Liverpool vs. Newcastle United.
In 1996 and '97 the two played out consecutive 4-3 games at Anfield, and in '98 it ended 4-2. There might not be as many as six or seven goals this time around, but there could certainly still be plenty of action and incidents.
Both teams are looking to mount challenges for top six spots, but languish in mid-table at present.
A win is paramount for Liverpool who have a wretched home record during 2012, but Newcastle will fancy their chances of taking something from Anfield—though they are yet to win away from home in the league this season.
Prediction: Just about a home win, by the odd goal. An eventful match, either way.
Monday Night Special: West Brom vs Southampton
Finally, we have a Monday night Premier League game which has one team achieving greater than was expected of them and one team desperate for points.
West Bromwich Albion currently sit just three points off the top four places in the league, though they have lost their past two games.
For Southampton, their problems are obvious; they have lost the most games in the league (seven from nine played) and conceded the most goals (26).
The Saints are yet to pick up even a single point on their travels this term while West Brom have won four out of five home games so it seems like a home banker.
However, Nigel Adkins' men will be desperate to pick up points, not only because of their poor league form but also because of their disappointing League Cup exit midweek when they lost 3-0 to Championship side Leeds.
Prediction: West Brom to recover from their last two games and pour more misery on the Saints. 3-1.