A local derby and a clash between two title contenders are the standouts of the coming weekend's Premier League action, with Sunderland set to host Newcastle and Manchester City travelling to Chelsea.
Given the start to the season that Sunderland have endured, the Tyne-Wear derby could hardly come at a worse time for the Black Cats. Could it be, though, that the game is the springboard they need to kick-start their ailing season?
The battle between Jose Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini, meanwhile, will tell us much about their respective side's chances for the season ahead.
With eight other games to look forward to, another week of intense Premier League action awaits.
|Premier League Week 9 Fixtures|
|Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal||Saturday||12.45||1-5|
|Aston Villa vs. Everton||Saturday||15.00||2-2|
|Liverpool vs. West Brom||Saturday||15.00||1-1|
|Man Utd vs. Stoke||Saturday||15.00||2-0|
|Norwich vs. Cardiff||Saturday||15.00||2-2|
|Southampton vs. Fulham||Saturday||17.30||2-0|
|Sunderland vs. Newcastle||Sunday||13.30||1-2|
|Chelsea vs. Man City||Sunday||16.00||1-2|
|Swansea vs. West Ham||Sunday||16.00||3-1|
|Tottenham vs. Hull||Sunday||16.00||2-0|
Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal, Saturday 12.45 BST, BT Sport
Ian Holloway's Crystal Palace look in dire trouble following their 4-1 defeat to Martin Jol's Fulham on Monday night and, sadly for the Eagles, the challenges don't get any easier with the visit of Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger's side currently sit two points clear at the top of the table and, while they haven't faced their toughest tests yet, are on a mightily impressive seven-match unbeaten run.
It will surely be a tough Saturday lunchtime for the hosts, whose manic buying of the summer appears to have done little to prepare them for life in the Premier League.
Indeed, given that the game will see the second-worst defensive record in the league coming up against the second best, it feels easier to ask how many Arsenal will win by, rather than if they will win at all. A big defeat and Holloway will no doubt be feeling the pressure.
Southampton vs. Fulham, Saturday 17.30 BST, Sky Sports
Following their 1-1 draw at Old Trafford last weekend, Southampton will return to St Mary's Stadium to host an in-form Fulham, who come into the game off back-to-back victories over Stoke and Palace.
Southampton's three goals conceded in eight games is an outstanding defensive achievement and, given that they have played Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester United already, should be held in the highest regard.
As clearly shown on Sky Sports' Monday Night Football segment this week, Mauricio Pochettino has his side pressing incredibly high up the pitch and stifling their opponents.
Given their inconsistent and often brittle nature, Fulham will therefore face a tough task to come away from the South Coast with any points, with the Palace fixture accounting for nearly half of their goals this campaign.
Sunderland vs. Newcastle, Sunday 13.30, Sky Sports
Poor Gus Poyet could not have got off to a worse start than his side's 4-0 collapse at the hands of Swansea last weekend, in which the Black Cats allowed the South Wales side to play and were duly punished.
Just one point in eight games underlines the size of the task ahead for the Uruguayan, and it is a challenge that will not get any easier with the visit of local rivals Newcastle.
The Magpies are in good fettle, having claimed a point against Liverpool despite playing with 10 men for 50 minutes and won three of their previous five games before that.
It may be that the intensity of a derby fixture is exactly what Sunderland need to awaken their season, which already has supporters fearing the worst. Defeat, though, would only compound those fears, and the pressure will surely restrict the Black Cats on another tough afternoon for the club.
Chelsea vs. Man City, Sunday 16.00, Sky Sports
A true clash of title contenders sees many people's favourites for the Premier League crown, Manchester City and Chelsea, face off at Stamford Bridge in their first meeting of the campaign.
The two sides have stuttered at times so far, yet both remain within touching distance of the Premier League's summit and will hope to add pressure on those around them with a headline-grabbing success on Sunday.
Of the two sides, City have been the more open in attack and defence—scoring and conceding at a higher rate than Chelsea, yet both have at times looked well above the level of their opponents.
Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho have had to deal with disappointing defeats, City fell to Cardiff and Aston Villa while Chelsea slipped at Everton, but it is difficult to find two stronger squads in the league.
A win for Arsenal on Saturday would add to the pressure on both sides to secure a win and, with the incredible attacking players on show, it should be a sensational game if both sides loosen the shackles.
City have the better firepower in Sergio Aguero and Alvarao Negredo, which will prove decisive.
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