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Premier League Preview

THIS WEEKEND brings further potential for Premier League upsets as the supposed bigger teams struggle to impose themselves on the upwardly mobile.

Swansea entertain West Ham in Saturday’s early kick-off. Their contrasting styles will see the Swans dominate possession through their nimble ball players but it remains to be seen if Michael Laudrup’s charges cope with disciplined opponents who sit deep and look to hit them on the counter-attack.

Aston Villa looked lightweight against Sam Allardyce’s West Ham last weekend and will be wary of taking on Marouane Fellaini, who enabled Everton to dominate Manchester United on Monday night. For their part, the Toffees seem intent on confounding fears that they will perform sluggishly until the New Year.

Their victims at Goodison Park take on Fulham at Old Trafford. United were bullied in midfield on Monday and started with only two recognised defenders. The impressive debut of Shinji Kagawa provided some optimism, while Robin van Persie is likely to be in contention to start.

Martin Jol’s side did not seem unduly bothered about the speculation surrounding the unsettled Clint Dempsey as they walloped Norwich 5-0, yet they will find a wounded United an altogether different prospect.

Norwich entertain QPR in a battle of the sides beaten 5-0 on Saturday. Canaries manager Chris Hughton needs a win to prove he can live up to the expectations forged by Paul Lambert last season. He takes on Mark Hughes’ Rangers, who hope that their myriad new signings can gel.

Southampton drew encouragement from their ultimately narrow defeat at Eastlands on Sunday but defensive concerns were genuine. Whether a Wigan side without Victor Moses are the team to exploit the Saints’ weakness remains to be seen in this early relegation six-pointer.

Sunderland’s hard-fought point at the Emirates against a sluggish Arsenal, underlines their obduracy under Martin O’Neill, although that result makes it 10 Premier League matches without victory for the Black Cats.

That trend must be bucked against Reading tomorrow if Sunderland are to convince anyone they are anything more than mediocre. The Royals will draw confidence from last week’s draw with Stoke.

Tottenham feel unfinished, which undermines their conviction ahead of their meeting with West Brom at White Hart Lane tomorrow. All the same, it will be difficult for the visitors to match last week’s 3-0 defeat of Liverpool.

Table-topping Chelsea were undermined by defensive fallibilities in their two victories over Wigan and Reading, yet the immediate impact of Eden Hazard matched with the enduring quality of Juan Mata helped them succeed where Manchester United and Arsenal failed and makes them favourites against Newcastle at Stamford Bridge.

Nonetheless, the Magpies, armed with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, can hope to match their April victory at Stamford Bridge in the Saturday evening kick-off despite losing manager Alan Pardew to a touchline ban following his push on the linesman last weekend.


EYE FOR GOAL: Newcastle's Demba Ba (left)

Expect a radically altered line-up from the one that took on Greek side Atromitos in their Europa League play-off tie last night.

In the early Sunday kick-off Arsenal face their annual ordeal at the Britannia Stadium. Tony Pulis’ Stoke know their system is primed to hurt the north Londoners and the Potters are never a challenge Arsene Wenger relishes, particularly while he is trying to assimilate his summer signings.

Champions Manchester City’s visit to Anfield could give toothless Liverpool the fillip they need or plunge Brendan Rodgers’ tenure into a perceived early crisis.

The Reds, who have the advantage of an extra day’s rest after last night’s Europa League clash with Hearts, yet City, for all their raggedness last weekend, are favourites due to their greater firepower and strength in midfield.

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