Premier League: five things to expect from the weekend

With the Champions League and Europa League shenanigans behind us, the focus returns to the Premier League, which enters its seventh round, before making way for the World Cup qualifiers next week.

The first six weeks have hardly been predictable, with Arsenal top of the table despite a poor opening weekend and United closer to the relegation zone than to first place, while newly promoted Cardiff and Hull have surprised a few people.

Here’s five things we can look forward to this weekend…

1) Which Manchester City will show up?

For a side widely tipped to be favourites for the title, City’s consistency has been conspicuous by its absence.

Manuel Pellegrini’s men were virtually flawless in the 4-1 demolition of Manchester United but have looked strangely sluggish in defeats at Cardiff and Aston Villa, while Wednesday’s loss against Bayern Munich will have done little to boost their morale.

City are brilliant going forward – no other club has scored more than City’s 14 goals so far – but their back four has been uncharacteristically exposed and conceded six goals in the last two games, with Joe Hart culpable more than once.

Everton arrive at the Etihad as the only team still unbeaten in the league and Roberto Martinez will try to exploit City’s problems at the back, particularly throught the in-form Romelu Lukaku.

Should City drop more points, their derby triumph will begin to be an increasingly distant memory.

2) Time for Soldado to start scoring

If there’s a flaw that can be identified in Spurs’ otherwise excellent start to the season is that despite their plethora of attacking players, AVB’s men simply aren’t scoring enough goals.

While their defence has let in only two goals in six games, Spurs have the joint second-worst attack of any club in the top 8 and their profligacy in front of goal costed them three points last week.

Roberto Soldado was supposed to be the clinical finisher Spurs have missed over the last few seasons, but after scoring on his debut the former Valencia man has somewhat struggled to find the net, adding only another goal to his tally. 

With Jermain Defoe scoring three times in two Europa League games, AVB could soon have a selection problem and Soldado better start scoring soon if he wants to hold on to his starting spot.

3) Will United bounce back?

David Moyes knows his team needs to start winning games

Manchester United seem to suffer from bipolar disorder this season. Having crumbled to defeat against Manchester City, they came back to beat a full-strength Liverpool side in the Capital One Cup, only to fall to a second successive league defeat at home against West Bromwich.

After a professional, albeit unspectacular, performance in the Champions League on Wednesday night United travel to Sunderland on Saturday knowing dropping more points would make their quest to retain the title incredibly more difficult.

After drawing against Shakthar Moyes spoke of being closer to an established starting XI, something United desperately need if they’re to get their league campaign back on track, and on Wednesday United’s three-man midfield was refreshingly solid, even though Marouane Fellaini is still to justify the £27m Moyes forked out for him in the summer.

Sunderland might be bottom of the table, but Kevin Ball’s men will have the bit between their teeth as they fight to avoid a crisis themselves and it’s time for Moyes and his team to stand up and be counted.

4) Jol’s future hanging by a thread

Saturday’s home game against Stoke could be Martin Jol’s last in the Fulham dugout. Good job then that the Cottagers have won four of the last five games against the Potters, who have also lost on each of their last three visits at Craven Cottage.

Statistics, however, might not be enough to save Jol, whose team’s form has been nothing short of abysmal in the first six weeks of the campaign.

Fulham have struggled at both ends of the pitch this year, an issue not helped by injuries to Maarten Stekelenburg and Darren Bent and with Dimitar Berbatov yet to open his account for the season, things look rather grim for the West Londoners.

5) What next for Pardew?

During the week, Alan Pardew claimed that Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is fully behind him, despite the Magpies rollercoaster start to the season.

A win at Villa Park was followed by back-to-back defeats against Hull and Everton, with Newcastle’s frailties laid bare once again and Joe Kinnear’s figure looming menacing in the background as far as Pardew is concerned.

A trip to Cardiff isn’t exactly the sort of fixture Newcastle would have hoped for, with Malky Mackay’s men full of confidence after last week’s win at Fulham and desperate to continue their positive start to the season.

Should Newcastle lose in Wales, Pardew might be the second manager in the North East to be relieved of his duties before Christmas.

 

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