Premier League: five things to expect from the weekend

With book launches, Champions League and Europa League action all firmly behind us, it’s time to turn our attention to the Premier League.

While Chelsea vs Manchester City is undoubtedly the match of the weekend (on these shores, that is) there’s plenty more to look forward to, starting with a London derby.

1) What next for Palace?

Monday’s 4-1 shellacking at the hands of Fulham spelt the end for Ian Holloway at Selhurst Park, as the former Blackpool man decided to quit his managerial post at Palace less than 10 games into the season.

Things could soon get worse for the South Londoners, as they welcome league leaders Arsenal in tomorrow’s early kick off. On paper, Palace haven’t got a chance, as they go into tomorrow’s game having lost five in a row, with their leaky defence – Palace have the league’s second worst defensive record – facing the second best attack in the Premier League.

A derby – though watered down as it might be considering the abundance of London clubs – remains a derby, however and this looks exactly like the sort of fixture Arsenal would have slipped upon in previous season.

That’s probably not enough to fill Palace’s hearts with confidence, but it’s all they’ve got.

2) Title showdown at the Bridge?

With United lost in the doldrums of mid-table mediocrity and despite Arsenal’s impressive start, the feeling is that Sunday’s clash between Chelsea and Manchester City will offer a first indication of who’s the real favourite to lift the Premier League trophy this season.

Despite not having an established striker (Fernando Torres has a lot more to do to return to his best) Chelsea’s solidity has steered them in second place, despite having the lowest point tally after eight Premier League games in a season since 2007/08.

City, on the other hand, boast the league’s best offensive record but have looked fragile away from home in the Premier League and have won only twice in their previous 16 visits to Stamford Bridge in the Premier League.

The tactical battle between Jose Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini should be as fascinating as the duel between Eden Hazard and David Silva and for the first time this season, a heavyweight clash shouldn’t disappoint.

3) Can Sunderland turn it around?

Sunderland fans hoping that Gus Poyet’s arrival would kickstart their season were left disappointed as the Black Cats suffered a 4-0 hammering at Swansea last week, which left them rooted to the bottom of the table.

Newcastle’s visit is arguably the best and worst game Poyet could have hoped for as he seeks to resolve his team’s many problems. While players and crowd will undoubtedly be up for it, Newcastle arrive on Wearside on the back of a couple of positive results and would love nothing more than heap misery on their rivals.

Furthermore, Sunderland have won only once in their last 11 home derbies and have conceded in every single one of those games, hardly an encouraging statistic considering that the Wearsiders boast the league’s worst defensive record.

4) Can the Saints keep pushing for Europe?

Southampton’s late draw against Manchester United a week ago was fully deserved and proved that the Saints are a side looking to carve out a place for themselves in the noble end of the table.

A win against Fulham on Saturday would strengthen the Saints’ push for a European spot, but the Cottagers arrive on the South Coast on the back of a vital win against Crystal Palace.

Fulham haven’t lost against Southampton in the last seven games and definitely possess the attacking prowess to break down the league’s meanest defence, but if Mauricio Pochettino’s men are serious about their aspirations this is the sort of fixture they must win.

5) Marouane Fellaini has a point to prove

Having witnessed a 40-year-old Ryan Giggs run rings around Real Sociedad’s midfield on Wednesday night, Marouane Fellaini must seize his chance when, as widely expected, he returns to the starting line-up against Stoke.

Since his deadline day arrival at Manchester United, the Belgian has failed to impress his new fans and is yet to justify the £27m price-tag that accompanied him to Old Trafford from Goodison Park this summer.

Fellaini seems to suffer when United play a traditional 4-4-2, as his lack of pace and dynamism don’t allow him to roam forward as much as he’d like to and expose him defensively.

Many consider the Belgian to be a lot more effective when deployed in front of the back four in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but regardless of the tactical approaches, Fellaini has a point to prove to his manager.

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