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Premier League Preview

THIS WEEKEND'S round of Premier League fixtures sees two local derbies, the top two meet at Stamford Bridge, and two managers take on their former charges with drama all but guaranteed.

Norwich travel to Villa Park in the early kick-off on Saturday having claimed their first victory of the season at home to Arsenal last weekend and the Canaries will be keen to prove to the struggling home manager, Paul Lambert, that he was ill-advised to depart Carrow Road for Aston Villa.

Arsenal entertain the still-winless QPR with neither side in particularly great confidence. The Gunners’ early season sheen has been worn away by two consecutive defeats in a week, while the Rs have stuttered all season.

Mark Hughes has a knack of taking points off Arsenal and the intrigue lies in whether or not Arsenal can rediscover their verve or if QPR will frustrate and harry their hosts into dropping two points or three.

Reading host Fulham and the visitor’s poor away form will increase hopes that the Royals can claim their maiden Premiership victory of the season.

Sunderland’s visit to Stoke offers little to entice the neutral. The Potters’ record at the Britannia establishes them as favourites against a limited if durable Mackems side whose only goal scorer this season is Steven Fletcher.

Wigan confirmed West Ham’s relegation the last time they hosted the Hammers in May 2011 but now Roberto Martinez’s Latics are up against a Sam Allardyce side that look well-equipped to consolidate their promotion. Both sides will look upon this as a fixture they are more than capable of winning.

Swansea travel to the Etihad for Saturday’s evening kick-off on the back of their first victory in six, although it will take something special to leave the home of the champions with anything beyond a defeat. Manchester City have acquired the champion’s habit of winning while playing poorly yet they will likely test the Swans to the fullest extent.

The latest edition of the Merseyside derby this Sunday sees Liverpool cross Stanley Park with hope of reducing the six points and eight places that separate the sides in the table.

The Toffees will be without the suspended Steven Pienaar and possibly the injured Marouane Fellaini, which could allow Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard to establish control in midfield. Neutrals and fans alike will hope against the kind of scrappy and ill-disciplined match that often characterises their meetings.

Newcastle welcome back former coach and caretaker manager Steve Clarke, with the West Brom boss hoping his charges will bounce back from their last-gasp defeat to Manchester City last Saturday.

Though they have exceeded the expectations of many, the Baggies have not won on the road this season and Newcastle begin as favourites.

Tottenham will be licking their lips in anticipation of taking on a Southampton side who have conceded more Premiership goals than any other team at this stage of the season. Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon will look to torment a defence that has been particularly poor in wide areas.

Second-place Manchester United travel to Stamford Bridge looking to prevent the league leaders extending their lead over the Red Devils to seven points.

Their aspirations are undermined by a porous defence that invites an inventive and rampant Chelsea to capitalise. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have relied upon their attacking brilliance to scrape them out of holes this season, having come from behind six times already, but Chelsea represent the most dangerous opponents they have faced so far and victories over Arsenal and Tottenham indicate a team capable of performing in the biggest matches.

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