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Arsenal looking to gun down Blues

ESPN staff
September 28, 2012
Arsenal will defend their unbeaten record against table-topping Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on Sunday © PA Photos
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Andre Villas-Boas looks to continue his recent progress when Spurs visit Manchester United on Saturday, live on ESPN. Click here to subscribe

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Eight Premier League fixtures in a day is almost unheard of in these times, but that's what we've got on what promises to be an action-packed Saturday after the midweek Capital One Cup programme.

Table-topping Chelsea meet unbeaten Arsenal at Emirates Stadium at lunchtime before Tottenham travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in ESPN's live 5.30pm kick-off, while Sunday plays host to the second-city derby between Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion.

For talking points and predictions for every fixture this weekend, check out ESPN's take on the upcoming action.

Saturday

Robin Van Persie will hope to continue his fine start to life at Old Trafford against old rivals Spurs © PA Photos
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Manchester United v Tottenham

Form: One thing seems certain: there will be goals at Old Trafford. United are dripping in attacking intent, while Spurs are suddenly in a hot run of goalscoring form themselves - though David De Gea and Brad Friedel may have something to say about that. United will be keen to close the gap on the four sides above them, while Andre Villas-Boas' side are keen to kick on after their long wait for victory under the new manager.
Key battle: The loss of Nemanja Vidic to knee surgery this week has piled the pressure on a United back line already denied Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. With Rio Ferdinand missing a step, Jonny Evans' role alongside the United captain is ever-more crucial, particularly up against the buzzing Jermain Defoe, who heads to Old Trafford in search of his 200th goal of his club career.
Player to watch: Wayne Rooney made his comeback from the nasty-looking gash suffered against Fulham with a lively display against Newcastle in the Capital One Cup in midweek. Can the England man now kick on and strike up another of those feted United attacking duos with Robin Van Persie?
Talking point: Brad Friedel will start, and why shouldn't he? This is not about preserving a record run - the American will make his 309th consecutive Premier League appearance at Old Trafford - but picking an in-form keeper, and Friedel has been exemplary so far this season. Andre Villas-Boas has a stable of world-class keepers, with Hugo Lloris making it clear that he is unhappy playing second fiddle, and that's not to mention Heurelho Gomes and Carlo Cudicini. The perfect dilemma, some might argue, but not for a man who already has previous for falling short in the man-management stakes.
Bet of the day: One way or the other, Spurs haven't won at Old Trafford since 1989. Look for ex-Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie to bag two in a United win at 15/4 with bet365
Prediction: 3-1


Arsenal v Chelsea

Form: After a slow start the Gunners are starting to fire on all cylinders, with 6-1 wins against Southampton in the league and Coventry in the Capital One Cup in midweek. Unbeaten so far this season, they proved their potential to be among the title contenders once again with a steely 1-1 draw with Manchester City last week. Table-topping Chelsea are set for a stern examination, but scored six themselves in midweek against Wolves and showed during their 1-0 win against Stoke last time out in the league that they can still eke out results when it matters.
Key battle: Chelsea's season is off to a flier, but they will view this clash with the Gunners as the first test of their Premier League mettle. Both sides have recruited well in midfield over the summer, so keep an eye on the battle for dominance between the mercurial Eden Hazard and Mikel Arteta, who has averaged more touches for Arsenal than any other player so far this season.
Player to watch: Arsenal used to live in fear of Didier Drogba, but with the Ivorian having moved on to pastures new all eyes will be fixed on Chelsea's £50 million man Fernando Torres, whose form continues to ebb and flow for the Blues. Juan Mata - the man brought in to help the Spaniard flourish - is hitting top form, and Roberto Di Matteo will be hoping the faith he has placed in Torres is repaid.
Talking point: With Gervinho misfiring spectacularly against City last weekend, Arsene Wenger has no choice but to reconsider his forward options. Does he give Theo Walcott what he wants and play the winger through the middle after his two-goal showing against Coventry, or does Olivier Giroud get a chance to prove himself against Chelsea's surprisingly leaky back line?
Bet of the day: With both sides leaking goals, an entertaining 2-2 draw is available at 12/1 with bet365
Prediction: 2-2


Everton v Southampton

Form: If this is Everton making their typical slow start to the season, they're set to win the league by 20 points. David Moyes' side have been terrific so far in the league, sparked by their opening-day win against Manchester United, but a 2-1 defeat to Leeds in the Capital One Cup in midweek came as a shock. How they bounce back against Southampton, buoyed by their 4-1 win over Aston Villa last weekend after a hellish start to life back in the top flight, is anyone's guess.
Key battle: Paulo Gazzaniga should get the nod once more in goal for Southampton after impressing against Villa. The 20-year-old Argentine will need to be on from at set pieces, with Marouane Fellaini at his bullish best and among the goals in recent weeks.
Player to watch: Kevin Mirallas scored Everton's third against Swansea last week and adds a new dimension to the Toffees' front line alongside Victor Anichebe. With the Saints defence prone to the odd bumbling collapse, look for the nippy Belgian to pounce.
Talking point: Southampton are off the mark after beating Aston Villa last time out, but their back four still look solid as balsa wood. How will they cope with Everton's swarming attack?
Bet of the day: Everton should have too much for the Saints in both halves, available at evens with bet365
Prediction: 3-0


Roberto Mancini will hope his players can bounce back after their shock Capital One Cup exit © PA Photos
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Fulham v Man City

Form: Nine points from five games probably stacks up as a decent start for Martin Jol's Fulham side, but Roberto Mancini would have hoped for more by now. The Italian showed signs of fraying after Aston Villa dumped City out of the Capital One Cup in extra time, and Fulham, on the back of two wins and no midweek fixture themselves, might be playing host to the champions at just the right time.
Key battle: Roberto Mancini vs Martin Jol. Mancini said he was sick of other managers trying to rile him up after clashing on the touchline with Villa boss Paul Lambert during their Capital One Cup defeat, and Jol doesn't strike us as a man to back down from an argument, should the need arise.
Player to watch: Yaya Toure was everywhere for City last season, taking games by the scruff of the neck and driving the side on to victory when the title came into sight. But the Ivorian is yet to hit the same heights in this campaign, which may explain City's ordinary start in the league. Once he gets firing, his team-mates will follow.
Talking point: City have conceded 16 goals in eight matches so far this term, and are yet to keep a clean sheet - hardly the foundation for a successful title defence. Will Fulham's attack take advantage at Craven Cottage?
Bet of the day: City should win but Fulham will give them a fight. Back a draw at half-time before the visitors find a winner after the break at 15/4 with bet365
Prediction: 0-1


Norwich v Liverpool

Form: Two teams who have struggled badly for points under new managers so far this season, but if one side looks ready to rise from the mire, it is Liverpool. The Reds were the better side during their 2-1 defeat to Manchester United on an emotional day at Anfield last Sunday, and while much has been made of their threadbare squad, wins against New Boys and West Brom with the second string out suggest lowly Norwich will be up against it, even at home.
Key battle: The Canaries are yet to find their feet since Paul Lambert departed for Aston Villa, but in Robert Snodgrass they have a winger who truly offers the side a new dimension. Coming into his prime as a player, he will snipe at Jose Enrique all day long in search of a route to the heart of the Liverpool defence.
Player to watch: Steven Gerrard got Liverpool's opener against United, his first strike of the season. With the unique intensity of United's visit to Anfield, Liverpool's first home game since the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, now passed, perhaps the England captain will now kick on towards some vintage form.
Talking point: Liverpool's injury problems were deepened by the loss of Martin Kelly to a cruciate tear during the United game. Brendan Rodgers no doubt feared he had lost Daniel Agger after the centre-back was stretchered off in some pain as well, but the Dane looks set to make a swift return for the Reds. A sign that their injury curse may be on the wane?
Bet of the day: Gerrard to score in a Liverpool 3-0 win is priced at 20/1 with bet365
Prediction: 0-3


Reading v Newcastle

Form: It's been a frustrating start to the season for last year's high fliers Newcastle, who have failed to build on their opening win over Spurs. As for Reading, one point from their opening five games is the stuff of nightmares for the Royals.
Key battle: Cheick Tiote returned from injury to face Manchester United in the Capital One Cup in midweek and will hope to build on a solid performance at Old Trafford, marshalling the defence to cut the supply lines to Pavel Pogrebnyak.
Player to watch: Papiss Cisse got himself back among the goals against United, while the overhead kick that cannoned off the crossbar was proof positive that he is not short of confidence. Should terrorise the Reading defence.
Talking point: Newcastle manager Alan Pardew was rewarded for his efforts to transform the club with an unheard-of eight-year contract that keeps him, and his coaching staff, at the club until 2020. A bold move from Mike Ashley, who has seen six managers come and go on Tyneside since taking charge of the club in 2007, and he'll no doubt want to see his generosity rewarded.
Bet of the day: There's a reason Pavel Pogrebnyak scoring in a 3-1 defeat is a long shot, but worth a nugget at 180/1 with bet365
Prediction: 1-3


Peter Crouch will hope to give Swansea keeper Michel Vorm a hard day at the office © PA Photos
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Stoke v Swansea

Form: After a bright start to life under Michael Laudrup, Swansea's season seems to have stalled with back-to-back defeats to Aston Villa and Everton. How everyone's other favourite team will stack up against a powerful Stoke side who pushed Chelsea last time out remains to be seen.
Key battle: Michel Vorm's contribution to the Swans' success in recent years has been rewarded with a new contract at the Liberty Stadium, but the Dutchman will face a stern test of his aerial skills with Peter Crouch and co hoping to latch onto the likely barrage of crosses coming their way.
Player to watch: Charlie Adam has made a decent start to life at the Britannia Stadium, and certainly looks a better fit with Stoke than at Liverpool.
Talking point: All eyes will be on Stoke's honest players staying on their feet after Tony Pulis called for three-match bans for diving this week.
Bet of the day: A tight 1-0 win for Stoke is on the cards at6/1 with bet365
Prediction: 1-0


Sunderland v Wigan

Form: Four games, four draws for Martin O'Neill's Sunderland so far this season, the epitome of frustration on Wearside. As for Wigan, things would be looking a lot worse but for their win over Southampton earlier this month.
Key battle: Black Cats captain Lee Cattermole picked up a red card against MK Dons to rule himself out for the next three matches, leaving Craig Gardner on sentry duty at the heart of the Sunderland midfield, where he will be charged with keeping former Aston Villa colleague Shaun Maloney quiet.
Player to watch: James McClean has gone from a breakthrough season to become one of the first names on Martin O'Neill's team sheet each week, and his driving runs down the left will be a constant threat.
Talking point:The biggest problem Wigan face is finding goals in the absence of the departed Hugo Rodallega, though where they come from right now is anyone's guess.
Bet of the day: Back Steven Fletcher's hot streak to continue in a Sunderland win at 5/1 with bet365
Prediction: 3-0


Sunday

Aston Villa v West Brom

Key battle: The green shoots of recovery are poking through at Villa Park, not least after their rousing 4-2 win after extra time to dump Manchester City out of the Capital One Cup. That 4-1 defeat to Southampton is far from forgotten, however, and with the Baggies, Villa's new derby rivals in the absence of Birmingham City, in fine form with 10 points after five games, this should be a feisty one.
Player to watch: Romelu Lukaku scored on his full debut for West Brom to take the points against Reading, and should start again at Villa Park.
Talking point: Villa are set to see Richard Dunne return from injury, and it will be interesting to see if he can strike up a solid partnership with new captain Ron Vlaar, the latest Scandinavian rock to turn up at Villa Park. With that, and the impressive Brad Guzan behind them in goal, Villa might finally have the defensive unit to build upon once more.
Bet of the day: A feisty 1-1 draw is priced at 5/1 with bet365
Prediction: 1-1
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