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Premier League Preview

THE PREMIER League appears to afford its members weekly opportunities to both reassert and challenge the accepted wisdom that the table never lies.

Ahead of the latest international break, champions Manchester City will hope to return to domestic familiarity after another underwhelming performance in the Champions League on Wednesday night but Sunderland will not yield easily when they visit Eastlands in Saturday’s early kick-off.

The Black Cats will face the sternest test of their unbeaten start and will have to contend with a City side that seemed ready to kick into gear at Fulham last weekend.

League leaders Chelsea will hope to continue their residence at number one at home to winless Norwich. It is difficult to look beyond the Blues in a contest that pits Chelsea’s array of attacking options against the spirited but limited Canaries of Chris Hughton. More misery beckons for the East Anglians.

Reading are another side in the relegation zone looking to secure a first victory. They have not come close hitherto. Yet even a trip to the Liberty Stadium to take on a Swansea side without a win in five matches seems a tall order for the Royals.

West Brom’s position in the top six following a wonderful start to the campaign is something Mark Hughes’ rock-bottom QPR can only dream about at present. The Baggies are a good bet to extend their 100 per cent home record against the winless Rs, who are learning that it takes more than largesse to thrive in this division.

This season’s Everton have been playing some of the club’s best football in decades. Matches such as this visit to a Wigan side without a home win to their name must be overcome if the early plaudits are to be maintained as the evenings draw in.

The admiration for Arsenal’s new-found defensive parsimony dissipated following two sloppy concessions at home to Chelsea in last Saturday’s defeat. In this light, a visit to Sam Allardyce’s West Ham in the Saturday evening kick-off could either confirm suspicions that Arsene Wenger’s teams succumb under pressure or offer the Frenchman a riposte.

Southampton have shown signs that they can make a positive impression in the Premiership but their defensive laxity has proved their undoing on multiple occasions. If they can challenge and defeat mid-table sides such as Fulham, who visit St Mary’s on Sunday, onlookers will be more confident about their survival chances.

Liverpool’s first victory of the league season arrived last Saturday and their offensive performance offered some vindication of Brendan Rodgers’ methods but the defensive brittleness that afforded hapless Norwich two goals will give the visiting Stoke all the encouragement they need to grab their first win at Anfield since 1959.

Tottenham are buoyed by three consecutive victories, including last Saturday’s triumph at Old Trafford, and will be confident of extending that run against faltering Aston Villa at White Hart Lane. Spurs head coach Andre Villas-Boas has been able to introduce his game plans in a manner that has thus far evaded Paul Lambert at Villa Park.

Newcastle routed Manchester United when the two sides met at the Sports Direct Arena last term through greater firepower and midfield supremacy. That midfield ascendency remains but the Red Devils continually demonstrate their ability to mine goals from their able attacking options.

Hope for the hosts lays in their ability to recover from Thursday’s Europa League exertions and for Demba Ba, in tow with Papiss Cisse, to continue his rich vein of form in front of goal against a United smarting from their defeat to Tottenham last weekend.

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