THE CHASTENING results for Premier League clubs in Europe this week indicated a general dearth in quality that has contributed to the division’s unpredictability this season.
No side has looked imperious and the supposed lesser lights have fancied and often taken their chances. This weekend is no different.
Arsenal host West Brom in a contest between sides keen to restore confidence after disappointing results in recent matches.
The Baggies struggled to create chances in last weekend’s defeat to Stoke but will likely have greater opportunities at the Emirates.
Arsenal will be missing Bacary Sagna, Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott. Defeat could have deep resonance for the losers.
Neither Aston Villa nor Stoke have been praised for their aesthetic qualities in recent weeks but the Potters travel to Villa Park having claimed four wins in five to climb into the top-half of the table.
Their direct approach has proven most effective and few would bet against Tony Pulis’ side adding a further three points tomorrow.
The relegation haunted pair of Southampton and Reading meet at St. Mary’s in a contest that promises goals and more of the defensive laxity that has contributed to their predicaments. The Royals’ inability to win on the road makes the Saints favourites.
Sunderland represent attractive opponents for a Chelsea side looking to maintain the pressure on the two Manchester sides ahead of their trip to Japan for the World Cup Championships.
A victory would not endear interim manager Rafa Benitez to Chelsea supporters but a defeat could help make his position untenable even at this early stage.
Swansea entertain Norwich in a fixture that promises that very notion. Michael Laudrup’s side have regained their early season form, while Chris Hughton’s charges have been invigorated in recent weeks.
While it is difficult to argue with the form of Swansea striker Michu Norwich will look to stifle the Spaniard and pilfer the points.
A Wigan side looking to bounce back from Monday evening’s 3-0 defeat at Newcastle would probably have chosen QPR and their next fixture given the chance.
If the west Londoners lose this match it is difficult to look beyond the notion of Harry Redknapp leading the club back into the Championship.
On Sunday the first Manchester derby of the season sees City trying to rein in United, who hold a three-point advantage.
Neither side has played cohesively for any length of time this season yet they have plundered results through the sheer quality of some of their individuals. This encounter is likely to be decided by whichever key participants shine on the afternoon.
Tottenham’s trip to Everton is an intriguing contest between a consistent and difficult to beat Toffees side and a Spurs outfit that have performed in patches.
The scoring form of Andre Villas-Boas’ side makes them a menacing prospect for the hosts. Victory for Tottenham and favourable results elsewhere could see them sitting in third place on Sunday night.
West Ham will hold no fear of a Liverpool shorn of the suspended Luis Suarez. It is difficult to see were the Reds’ goals will emanate but if Sam Allardyce’s side find the technique and tenacity that saw off Chelsea last time out then they will be confident of taking their second large scalp in as many weekends.
Fulham’s tendency to leak goals will read as an open invitation to the in-form Demba Ba in Monday night’s encounter at Craven Cottage.
A victory for the visitors would go some way to indicating that they are emerging from their recent slump and extend the woe for Martin Jol’s side, who have not won since October 20.