6 Key Premier League Battles to Watch This Weekend
After some high-scoring midweek League Cup clashes, the Premier League returns this weekend and, as usual, there are some intriguing fixtures on offer.
Two old rivals will do battle at Old Trafford.
Chelsea will look to get back in the groove after their loss last weekend, and two Premier League clubs both looking for their first win of the season will play each other on Sunday afternoon.
It'll be tense, entertaining and unmissable, so let's look at the six key battles to watch this weekend!
Saturday: Manchester United vs. Arsenal
Portuguese winger Nani was among the scorers the last time these two rivals battled at Old Trafford.
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In one of the most shocking scorelines in recent memory, United walloped Arsenal 8-2 last August.
The scoreline didn't flatter United and in all honesty, the scoreline could've been much worse.
This season however, I wouldn't expect to see as many goals in this match.
Both teams were involved in high-scoring League Cup matches this week (4-5 and 5-7 respectively), so Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger will both be looking to shore things up at the back and limit chances for the opposition.
Saturday's lunchtime kick-off will also be the first time that Manchester United striker Robin van Persie has played against Arsenal since his move north.
Will he get a frosty reception from the Gunners fans?
I'd like to think not, especially after the glorious season he had with them last year, but one thing's for sure, I wouldn't bet against van Persie scoring on Saturday!
Saturday: Fulham vs. Everton
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In the same fixture last season, a couple of late goals from Jack Rodwell and Louis Saha secured a 3-1 win for Everton.
At that time, Everton's season hadn't really got started and they were probably relieved to get three points on the board.
This season couldn't be more different.
They're playing excellent football, scoring goals and there's an argument that David Moyes' side should have more points than they already have, especially in both of the 2-2 draws at Goodison against Newcastle and Liverpool.
Fulham will perhaps feel unfortunate that they didn't pick up a win at Reading last week, where they drew 3-3.
A late flurry of goals saw the points shared, and even though Bryan Ruiz's strike was good enough to win any game, Fulham couldn't keep it tight at the back to get the win they probably feel that they deserved.
This match has the potential to be an excellent game, with both teams at the top end of the table and more than capable of playing excellent football.
It could be the match of the weekend.
Saturday: West Ham United vs. Manchester City
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Manchester City have huffed and puffed this season and at times, looked clueless.
However, they've been able to grind out results domestically and, if things go their way, they could go into Saturday's late kick-off against West Ham knowing that a win could take them top of the table.
That's astonishing when you consider how poor the champions have been at times.
What's causing their problems?
Is it pressure?
Is it Mancini's insistence on tinkering with tactics?
Are the players not motivated enough and think they can just show up and win games?
It's probably a mixture of all three, and even though they're winning now, all it takes is one defeat for these problems to be scrutinised even more.
Carlos Tevez will probably get a reaction when he goes back to Upton Park with City, but it wouldn't surprise me if he scored.
West Ham will go into this match fired up, there's no question about that.
Whether you love him or hate him, "Big" Sam Allardyce knows how to motivate and get the best out of his players.
He'll want them to go out there on Saturday and show that they're good enough to mix it with the big boys.
I've got a sneaky feeling that City won't like it down at West Ham, and I fully expect City's first league loss of the season to come on Saturday night.
Sunday: QPR vs. Reading
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His chairman says that he's not under pressure and he has his full backing, but the longer QPR and Mark Hughes go without a win, the tougher that will be for QPR owner Tony Fernandes to stick to.
While the winning goal that Arsenal scored last week might have been questionable, the fact is that, more often than not, QPR are the makers of their own downfall.
Reckless defending, squandering goal scoring opportunities and don't get me started on their players seeming need to get themselves sent off.
It's simple: if you don't keep 11 players on the pitch, you'll find it hard to win.
QPR are finding it difficult enough when they've got 11 on the pitch, so when players like Samba Diakite and Stephane M'Bia make stupid challenges and get sent off, Hughes must be fuming inside.
The one thing that'll have pleased him lately, is the fact that they've not been shipping too many goals.
Reading on the other hand can't seem to stop shipping goals.
They lost another three last weekend and were somewhat fortunate to come out with a draw against Fulham.
In saying that, Mikele Leigertwood did score a peach of a goal with the inside of his right foot!
It was an astonishing strike.
Both teams go in to Sunday's early match looking for their first league win and for that reason alone, I expect it to be a nervy, tense affair with very few goalscoring opportunities.
It's more than likely that, after Sunday's match is over, both teams will still be looking for their first win.
Sunday: Liverpool vs. Newcastle
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The introduction of Raheem Sterling to the first-team, and his form since then, has been one of the highlights of Liverpool's season.
This kid has got raw talent and the potential to be as good as he wants to be.
For me, there's no better man to nurture that talent than Brendan Rodgers.
Sterling seems to play without fear, and this Sunday, he'll get the chance to show his talent to all the world on live TV when Newcastle come calling to Anfield.
Some of my fondest memories are of the high-scoring matches these two teams used to have, including a couple of 4-3 wins for Liverpool at Anfield in the '90s.
Both teams are more than capable of playing decent football and creating chances, but right now, Newcastle seem to have more tools available to them in front of goal.
Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba, Shola Ameobi, Hatem ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye can all chip in with a goal or two, but when you look at Liverpool's team, other than Suarez or Gerrard, who's going to score regularly?
At the back, Newcastle have been fantastic, led by Fabricio Coloccini.
The Argentinian is an excellent defender who can read the game, play a pass and isn't afraid to put his body on the line.
In this match, all I'm looking for is an entertaining game.
If that happens, we'll all be winners.
Monday: West Brom vs. Southampton
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The final fixture of the weekend is on Monday, when we'll see Southampton travel to West Brom, looking to get their first win in a couple of months.
When you're on a run like that, it's very difficult to keep motivating the players, because they're not as confident and it becomes a struggle to get yourself going for a match.
One of the most ridiculous suggestions I've heard and read about is that Nigel Adkins is supposedly "under pressure."
Why? Is two promotions in as many years not good enough for some fans, pundits or experts?
It's ludicrous to suggest that the man should be under any pressure whatsoever after what he's achieved at the club.
Has he made mistakes?
He'd be the first to admit that he has, but that's part and parcel of being a manager.
Even the very best managers in the world make mistakes from time to time.
Southampton's hosts on Monday are West Brom and they couldn't be in a more different position than Saints.
Full of confidence, playing great football and, in my opinion, they were incredibly unlucky to lose to Manchester City last weekend.
Steve Clarke has done, and will continue to do, an excellent job there if the start he's made is anything to go by.
Shane Long has been one of the stars of the show this season and he continues to impress.
He can score goals, create chances and most importantly, he's good at bringing other players into the match.
I think Long's star will continue to shine on Monday and if Southampton are as naive defensively as they have been already this season, Shane Long could come away with a couple of goals on Monday night.