Premier League: five things to expect from the weekend

There’s no rest for the wicked, as the Premier League returns after just two days for what promises to be a terrific weekend.

Here’s five things we can expect from this round of fixtures.

1) Catch us if you can

Wednesday’s win at White Hart Lane put Manchester City top of the table for the first time since September, but the fact that the Manuel Pellegrini’s men have leapfrogged Arsenal at the top was almost of secondary importance.

City’s performance was a thing of such outstanding beauty and ruthlessness that they made one of the in-form side in the Premier League look like a Sunday league team for the first 30 minutes.

With 68 goals in 23 matches, Monday’s night game against Chelsea is increasingly shaping up like a match-point for City, who would find themselves six clear of the Blues should they win.

Arsenal would remain just a point behind should they beat Palace, but the feeling is that City will eventually pull away from the pack and turn the remaining 14 games into a procession.

2) Watch out for the horse

Saturday’s early kick-off sees Newcastle hosting local rivals Sunderland and despite the 16-point difference in the Magpies’ favour, it’s the Wearsiders who’ll arguably go into the game with their tails up.

Having lost just once in the last eight league games, Sunderland dragged themselves out of the bottom three for the first time this season, after beating Stoke 1-0 on Wednesday and it’s now evident that Gus Poyet has completely revitalised a squad that was devoid of ideas and with morale under their heels when the Uruguayan arrived.

Newcastle, on the other hand, arrive into Saturday’s derby having flown high all season but deprived of their star man, that Yohan Cabaye who swapped St James’ Park with the Parc des Princes earlier this week.

There isn’t a worse game for Newcastle to start their post-Cabaye era than a derby in which the Frenchman would have come incredibly handy to orchestrate proceedings in midfield.

Expect horses to be keen for revenge, should things kick off again after the final whistle.

3) A tale of two Belgians

Everton and Villa face each other at Goodison Park and the teams couldn’t be in more contrasting moods.

Both emerging from derbies, the Toffees are still coming to terms with conceding four goals at Anfield, while Villa continued their unpredictable season by beating West Brom 4-3, after trailing by two goals after 15 minutes.

If that wasn’t enough, Everton will be without Romelu Lukaku, after the Belgian suffered an injury on Tuesday night, while Villa’s hopes of avoiding a survival scrap have been boosted by Christian Benteke’s return to form.

The Villa striker has netted three times in the last three league games and should he continue his current form, Villa could take another step towards safety.

4) The special Juan

Juan Mata’s debut against Cardiff on Tuesday was a largely positive performance, but the former Chelsea man was obviously still coming to terms with his new team-mates and surroundings.

Saturday’s trip to Stoke, however, will have none of the niceties that were on offer at Old Trafford, but it’s exactly the sort of game in which Mata could make a huge difference for David Moyes’ team, given how laboured United’s football has been this season, particularly against teams very solid defensively.

With Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney fully fit, Moyes could opt to field all the three tenors on the pitch at the same time, even though that would run the risk to expose United’s fragile midfield to Stoke’s superior physical threat.

With their direct rivals for fourth spot facing rather winnable games, United can not afford any more slip-ups.

5) Cardiff need a win

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finds himself in a rather delicate situation at Cardiff.

On one hand he looks like a man who’s walked right into the lion’s den after replacing a manager who was overwhelmingly popular with the support, on the other he needs to start picking up points if his side are to survive.¬†

Admittedly, three of Solskjaer’s first four league games in charge were against Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United, but Saturday’s home clash against Norwich could well be the first relegation six-pointer of the season.

With fellow strugglers West Ham and Swansea squaring up one another and Palace facing an almighty difficult trip to the Emirates, Cardiff could take a first step towards safety this weekend, but must seize their chance.

Their manager, after all, was a master in making the most of his.

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