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Now that winter is upon us, the Premier League's Hi-Vis ball will be in use.
Now that winter is upon us, the Premier League's Hi-Vis ball will be in use.
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Pardew, Poyet and the Manchester Derby - this week's Premier League talking points

There are a host of intriguing clashes at both ends of the table.
Nov 1st 2014, 8:32 AM 8,331 6

THE PREMIER LEAGUE season is gathering pace with each passing week and with the top two both dropping points last week, the chasing pack were given a window of opportunity to make up some ground.

This weekend, there are several key clashes at both ends of the table with Sunday’s Manchester derby topping the bill. Here are five talking points ahead of the action…

Can Pardew’s Magpies continue to soar against Liverpool?

A lot can change very quickly in football. Two weeks ago, Newcastle fans were calling for Alan Pardew’s head after the Mapgies had failed to win any of their opening seven league games. Now, on the back of three successive victories, the pressure has eased on Pardew somewhat and victory over Liverpool in Saturday’s early kick-off would propel Newcastle into the top-half, temporarily at least.

It would be premature to say this Newcastle side have reached a turning point because confidence is fickle and one result can send things spiralling back in the wrong direction. However, Pardew will know securing positive results are the only way to go about restoring the faith of the St. James’ Park faithful and three points over the Reds would go along way to securing Pardew’s position, for now anyway.

Conversely, Liverpool are desperately searching for something to ignite their faltering season. The Mario Balotelli show continues to gloss over their poor form and although they carved out victories over Swansea in midweek and QPR two weeks ago, the Reds are a million miles from the cohesive, fluent football they produced last term.

A trip to the North-East, against a rejuvenated Newcastle, side is a stern test but Liverpool have lost just one of their last seven Premier League games against Saturday’s opponents.

Surprise packages Southampton and West Ham look to maintain fine start to season

Britain Soccer League Cup The Saints will be hoping to go marching on this weekend Source: AP/Press Association Images

Each year there is a team that punch above their weight and exceed even their own expectations. While Southampton’s propensity to do just that was underlined with an eight placed finish last season, very few thought they’d be able to replicate that this time around following the summer exodus from St. Mary’s.

It could be argued, however, that the Saints are in better health than last year and their results would certainly suggest that to be true. Only Chelsea have scored more goals than their 20 this term and a visit to Hull on Saturday offers a great opportunity to consolidate their second-placed position.

Shane Long scored his first goal for the club in the midweek win over Stoke and he’ll be hoping to retain his place in the starting XI and prove his worth against his former employers.

West Ham, meanwhile, are flying high and while a trip to the Britannia Stadium is never an easy task, Sam Allardyce’s side are full of confidence after beating Man City last time out. The Hammers are playing an attractive brand of football not previously associated with Allardyce and the change in approach is reaping handsome rewards.

Misfiring Villa in desperate need of three points

After sitting pretty with ten points after four games, Aston Villa fans would have been forgiven for thinking Paul Lambert was finally getting the best out of a side that have consistently struggled at the wrong end of the table in recent years.

Since winning at Anfield in early September, however, Villa have played five, lost five. They’ve leaked 13 goals in that period but more alarmingly have failed to score in any of those games. Their lack of fire-power up front is becoming a major issue and when they’re unable to keep things tight at the other end, they aren’t giving themselves much chance of picking up points.

To be fair, they’ve faced Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton in that period but any of the confidence built up in the opening games of the season has now been drained. Monday’s limp and abject defeat at QPR proved that.

That said, Sunday’s visit of Tottenham is a crucial juncture in their season. With a series of ‘winnable’ games on the horizon, their fortunes could change very quickly but a sixth consecutive defeat and things could get messy for Lambert and Villa.

Time running out for Gus at Sunderland

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Sunderland v Stoke City - Stadium of Light Gus Poyet is looking nervously over his shoulder Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

As the managerial conveyor belt continues to churn in the lower leagues, there is yet to be a casualty in the Premier League this season. There are several managers nervously looking over their shoulder, none more so than Gus Poyet. Sunderland have won just once all campaign and the ignominious 8-0 defeat at Southampton was followed up by a calamity of errors against Arsenal.

The Black Cats currently find themselves in the red zone with only QPR and Burnley below them and they travel to the capital on Monday night low on confidence. The Uruguayan needs to instil a sense of belief in his ranks again but the form, or lack there of, of several of his senior players hasn’t helped.

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If there was ever a time for the likes of Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Lee Cattermole and Steven Fletcher to stand up and earn their buck, then now is almost certainly the time.

Can United take advantage of City’s uncertainty

Soccer - Capital One Cup - Fourth Round - Manchester City v Newcastle United - Etihad Stadium City will be desperate to return to winning ways when their near-neighbours pop in Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

It would probably be stretching it to say United head into Sunday’s derby in better health than their near-neighbours but such has been the form of Manuel Pellegrini’s side in the past ten days, there is substance to the argument that the visitors have an ideal opening to move themselves back into the title race.

City have beaten United in five of their last six Premier League meetings and Louis van Gaal will be desperate to do better in his first derby than his predecessor managed twelve months ago.  There are signs, like last week’s draw with Chelsea, that United are slowly finding their feet again and victory at the Ethiad would certainly help their recovery process.

City have failed to win any of their last three games and with David Silva ruled out for at least a month, the defending champions face a testing couple of weeks. They cannot afford to allow Chelsea’s lead at the top grow any further and United will certainly not want the gap that developed between the two rivals last season to widen either.

Fixtures (3pm unless stated)

Saturday

  • Newcastle United v Liverpool (12.45pm)
  • Arsenal v Burnley
  • Chelsea v QPR
  • Everton v Swansea City
  • Hull v Southampton
  • Leicester City v West Brom
  • Stoke City v West Ham United

Sunday

  • Manchester City v Manchester United (1.30pm)
  • Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur (4pm)

Monday

  • Crystal Palace v Sunderland (8pm)

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Ryan Bailey

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