The Premier League returns after what seems like an eternity with some crucial battles at both ends of the table. Fresh from the international break, an unbeaten record is likely to be lost at the top while the bottom two battle it out in the north-west. Here is a pick of the weekend’s action:
Manchester City vs. Newcastle
Both Manchester City and Newcastle have gone through the first 11 games of the season without a defeat on their records, but something is likely to give at the Etihad Stadium as the best defence take on the most prolific attack. Sergio Aguero is fit again for City, but Samir Nasri is out with tendonitis. Newcastle have doubts over Leon Best and Gabriel Obertan, but will hope that leading scorer Demba Ba can continue from where he left off before the break.
Wigan vs. Blackburn
Wigan are boosted by the return of skipper Gary Caldwell for the basement battle with Blackburn Rovers. However, his return is offset somewhat by the beginning of Antolin Alcaraz’s ban. Rovers skipper Chris Samba looks like recovering from a hamstring injury as he tries to inspire his team. With Wigan five points from safety and Blackburn one point better off, victory here even, at this early stage, would be crucial.
Swansea vs. Manchester United
The fixture that the Swansea fans have been waiting for takes place at 17:30 on Saturday as champions Manchester United head to Wales looking to keep pace with their Manchester neighbours. Midfielder Stephen Dobbie should return for the Swans but Steven Caulker is still out. Danny Welbeck, who missed England’s game against Sweden, will come into contention for United, but full back Fabio is a doubt having picked up an injury while with Brazil.
Norwich vs. Arsenal
Sitting in mid table, Norwich will be delighted with their progress, but welcome a resurgent Arsenal to Carrow Road. After a terrible start to the season, Arsene Wenger’s men are on a run of four wins in a row and will be confident of extending that run. Norwich have Bradley Johnson and Russell Martin available, while the Gunners are without Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson.
Chelsea vs. Liverpool
The game of the weekend comes from Stamford Bridge as Andre Villas-Boas’ Chelsea welcome Liverpool, with both teams in need of a result to reignite their flagging seasons. It is sure to be the Fernando Torres show again as the Spaniard takes on his old club, along with ex-Red Raul Meireles. Liverpool will be desperate for Luis Suarez to shrug off an injury picked up for Uruguay, having scored all but six of his sides goals from open play this season. Chelsea have a full forward line available after both Didier Drogba and Daniel Sturridge were passed fit.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, Sunderland entertain Fulham and QPR travel to Stoke. Meanwhile Everton take on Wolves at Goodison Park and West Brom welcome Bolton. Monday night’s game sees a battle for a potential Champions League place as Tottenham, likely to be boosted by the return of Harry Redknapp, play eighth place Aston Villa.