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Premier League Preview

THE INTERNATIONAL interlude has done little to dull the appetite for the resumption of Premier League action.
West Ham travel to Norwich in Saturday’s early kick-off without the injured Andy Carroll. Sam Allardyce’s side have looked goal shy at times this season and may find it difficult to break down a Norwich side that have eked out two consecutive draws and now go in search of a first Premiership victory of the campaign.

Arsenal found their goal scoring touch in a superb display at Anfield a fortnight ago and this has been touted as a match in which Olivier Giroud could open his Gunners account. Goals seem likely against a Southampton side that have been involved in 3-2 defeats to both Manchester clubs and the question is whether the defensively shaky Saints can turn one of these goal fests in their favour.

There were encouraging signs as Aston Villa took their first point of the season at Newcastle and Paul Lambert’s side will relish the visit of Swansea, who sparkled even as they dropped two points at home to Sunderland. The Swans will eventually suffer an inevitable off-day but should they postpone it by at least a week then the pressure on Lambert will intensify.

Fulham were upended at Upton Park last time and need to find balance and cohesion as they host a West Brom side that have impressed under Steve Clarke’s stewardship. The momentum appears to be with the visitors but that often proves a false marker in this division.

Manchester United usually relish the visit of Wigan, who have conceded 17 goals without reply on their last five visits to Old Trafford. The hope for Roberto Martinez’s side stems from the defensive frailties exposed by Everton and Southampton but Robin van Persie has hit the ground running and United’s attacking options should prove irresistible.

For many, football is not the main focus as Chelsea travel to QPR tomorrow, as the Anton Ferdinand - John Terry incident rumbles on.But on the sporting front the Blues are favourites. Mark Hughes’ side require the resilience and discipline that yielded last year’s surprise victory in this fixture, lest Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres run amok.


IN THE SPOTLIGHT: QPR's Anton Ferdinand

Signs are finally emerging that Stoke are attempting a more nuanced approach, if the capture of Charlie Adam is to be interpreted as such. Yet expansive football will be put on hold for the visit of the champions Manchester City, with frustration and containment being the order of the day, as it was at the Britannia when these sides contested a 1-1 draw in March.

Sunderland present an arduous challenge to the visiting Liverpool in Saturday’s evening kick-off. The decline of Pepe Reina and the paucity of Brendan Rodgers’ attacking options following the Reds’ transfer indolence are enough to fill any opponent with confidence. Steven Fletcher will look to add to his two debut goals against a Liverpool side making their worst start in 50 years.

On Sunday Reading, playing their first Premier League fixture since August 22, entertain Tottenham, who have made their worst start to a league campaign for four years. Where Andre Villas-Boas is concerned the question remains the implementation of his system. With the Portuguese satisfied that his squad is now settled the Madejski will provide another acid test against a Royals side hungry for their first league victory of the campaign.

Everton host Newcastle on Monday evening with the hosts looking to put their comprehensive beating at West Brom behind them. The trick for Alan Pardew’s side is to sustain the levels of last term while balancing the demands of Europa League football. A finely balanced encounter could go either way.

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