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Gameweek six: Premier League previews

Six teams are looking for their first win this weekend while Arsenal and Chelsea meet in the early kick off.

Chelsea's Eden Hazard will look to continue his fine start to the season.
Chelsea's Eden Hazard will look to continue his fine start to the season.
Image: Adam Davy/EMPICS Sport

ARSENAL v CHELSEA, The Emirates, 12.45pm
Marko Marin has claimed Chelsea have amassed enough attacking prowess to win the English Premier League as they prepare to take on Arsenal.

Chelsea signed four young attackers during the latest transfer window including Marin, and the 23-year-old German is excited by the club’s change to a more attacking focus this season.

While Eden Hazard and Oscar have grabbed the headlines so far, Marin is similarly talented and could be selected in Chelsea’s squad for the trip to Arsenal after he made his debut in the Blues’ 6-0 League Cup victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday.

“If you are to win the Premier League and Champions League, you need a lot of quality players,” Marin said.

“Chelsea have changed a lot since last season and now we have more attractive and offensive players.

“We hope that there are a lot of goals in this team because then it is more difficult for the other teams to play against us.”

Chelsea’s other new forward Victor Moses started and scored against Wolves, providing yet another option up front for manager Roberto Di Matteo.

When Di Matteo took over at Chelsea in March, the Italian manager focused on defence, with the Blues’ Champions League campaign a clear example.

But the inclusion of Hazard and Oscar has transformed the team’s approach and Chelsea sit top of the Premier League table after five rounds with nine goals scored, and are the early front-runners for the title.

Chelsea’s opponents on Saturday, Arsenal, have scored the same number of goals and, with both teams having conceded only twice this season, the Premier League clash shapes as an even match.

Arsenal also had a big win in the League Cup, smashing Coventry City 6-1 on Wednesday.

That win came without Arsenal’s two main attackers, as both Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski were given a rest.

Podolski and Arsenal started slowly this season but the German forward’s breakthrough goal in a 2-0 win over Liverpool has sparked his form and that of the club; and Marin knows Chelsea will need to be wary of his compatriot.

“I know Lukas from the national team and at the beginning (at Arsenal) it was all new to him but now he is doing well and has scored a few goals,” Marin said.

“But we have a very good defence and Branislav (Ivanovic) will do very well at right-back.”

Arsenal are fifth on the Premier League table heading into Saturday’s game and will have Emmanuel Frimpong available after the young midfielder returned from a knee injury against Coventry.

Jack Wilshere, Bacary Sagna and Tomas Rosicky are all at least a week away.

SUNDERLAND v WIGAN, Stadium of Light, 3pm
Fresh from their victories in the League Cup, Sunderland and Wigan Athletic will clash in the Premier League on Saturday.

Sunderland accounted for League One club Milton Keynes Dons, while Wigan beat Premier League rivals West Ham United in the third round of the League Cup midweek.

Both teams are locked on four points in the Premier League, with Sunderland in 12th on the back of four straight draws.

Despite accounting for Southampton early on, Wigan have slipped to 15th following losses to Manchester United and Fulham in their last two outings.

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez faces a selection dilemma at the Stadium of Light after promising to reward players who impressed at West Ham with starting berths.

Martinez’s men won 4-1 at Upton Park, with forward Mauro Boselli netting a brace in his first competitive start since returning from a loan spell at Argentine club Estudiantes.

“You have individual performances of a high quality, including Mauro Boselli who deserved his goals and took them very well,” Martinez said.

“I’ve said from the beginning of the season that he looks sharp and a player of that stature is going to be very important to us this season.

“Callum McManaman showed he’s a player ready to step in, Ryo Miyaichi brought together all the concepts of his training so far and David Jones paired well with James McArthur in the midfield ahead of the defence.”

Sunderland thumped Wigan 4-1 last time the teams met in January, though Martinez’s side prevailed 2-1 in their clash at the Stadium of Light.

READING v NEWCASTLE, Madejski, 3pm
Reading must hit their straps in the English Premier League as soon as possible, starting with Newcastle’s visit to Madejski Stadium.

Reading manager Brian McDermott has overseen his promoted side collect a lone point in four matches so far this season, to occupy bottom spot of the league, although they have a game in hand on their nearby rivals.

McDermott’s side have managed to score in three of their four league outings but a leaky defence – with nine goals conceded – has cost them early season results.

And Newcastle are not exactly a defensive-minded side – with weaponry such as Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse up front, the visitors are likely to target all three points from their trip to Berkshire.

And in good news for Alan Pardew’s men, they could have a couple of handy inclusions to their defensive structure – namely full-back Danny Simpson and first-choice goalkeeper Tim Krul, with the pair attempting to return from hamstring and elbow injuries respectively.

Pardew revealed the pair would train during the week, but their inclusion in the match-day squad remains in doubt.

“Danny will train Thursday or Friday all being well. Tim is looking for the all clear on Wednesday to start back,” Pardew told the Evening Chronicle.

The possible inclusions are a further boost to Pardew’s stocks, after midfielder Cheick Tiote and captain Fabricio Coloccini both returned to the side via their League Cup loss to Manchester United on Wednesday, while midfielder Ryan Taylor is sidelined long term by a knee injury.

Reading will be without goalkeeper Adam Federici indefinitely – also to a knee injury – meaning Alex McCarthy will be in between the posts for the hosts.

Jimmy Kebe returned to the Reading line-up in their League Cup triumph over Queens Park Rangers on Wednesday, putting the midfielder in the mix for his first Premier League outing since the club was in the top flight in the 2007/08 season.

Striker Jason Roberts remains sidelined by a calf injury, and is expected to miss Newcastle’s visit.

The last time the two sides met at the venue, both were in the Championship, with Newcastle 2-1 victors.

The Tyneside club have won their past three against Reading, scoring eight goals in the process, with Reading’s most recent clean sheet against Newcastle coming in May 2007.

STOKE v SWANSEA, Britannia Stadium, 3pm
Stoke City manager Tony Pulis believes his side need some luck to pick up their first win of the season ahead of their clash with Swansea.

Pulis’ team have four draws and a loss from the opening five rounds of the English Premier League season and, having gone ahead in 1-1 stalemates with Reading in the first round and last week against Manchester City, Stoke’s manager wants a change of fortune.

Swansea are Stoke’s next opponents and Pulis believes some good luck on Sunday could lead to his team’s opening win of the season and a shift in momentum.

“Although the performances have been good so far, we haven’t had that little bit of luck,” Pulis said.

“But if we keep working hard, it will change for us.”

Swansea will head to Stoke on the back of a disappointing 3-0 defeat at home against Everton and then a late comeback victory in the League Cup whey they defeated Crawley Town 3-2.

While Swansea have been kept goalless in their past two Premier League fixtures, their three goals in the League Cup should give them confidence of taking a win home from Stoke.

Regular starters Michu and Danny Graham both scored for Swansea in the win versus Crawley and with their hosts on Sunday struggling to hit the back of the net, the Welsh club may have too much firepower.

Michu has been a great signing for Swansea manager Michael Laudrup with the 26-year-old Spanish attacking midfielder having scored four goals in five league matches since signing from Rayo Vallecano.

Stoke have conceded five goals this season and scored just four.

While Pulis generally starts Jonathan Walters in behind Peter Crouch as his two forwards, Stoke’s manager may need to try something different against Swansea to notch a victory.

New signing Michael Owen, who came off the bench against Chelsea last week, could be an option to link up with former England team-mate Crouch, while Charlie Adam offers a different kind of a threat as an attacking midfielder.

Laudrup’s main dilemma will be who to play in midfield after new signings Pablo Hernandez and Ki Sung-Yong were unimpressive against Everton and then Leon Britton, who was a favourite under former manager Brendan Rodgers, put in a good shift in the win over Crawley.

Hernandez picked up a knock to his knee versus Everton, meaning he was not available of the League Cup tie, but Laudrup remains confident the 27-year-old Spaniard will be available for the trip to Stoke.

Liverpool’s Luis Suarez celebrates scoring his side’s third goal against Norwich last time out to complete his hat trick
(C) Stephen Pond/EMPICS Sport

NORWICH v LIVERPOOL, Carrow Road, 3pm
Liverpool will want to convert their form from their Cup competition to the Premier League when they travel to Norwich City on Saturday.

The Reds are winless in the English top-flight through five games for the first time in 101 years and occupy a spot in the relegation zone in the infancy of the 2012/13 Premier League campaign.

While it is not complete panic stations for Brendan Rodgers and his side, they will want to get a move on if they wish to earn a spot in Europe for next season.

It is the Europa League in which they are performing well so far this season, winning four of their five ties and drawing the other – most recently scoring five goals away to Swiss side Young Boys.

The Reds also fired up to start their League Cup defence with a bang, as Nuri Sahin’s brace saw them come from behind away to West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday in a 2-1 win.

It is their profligacy in league clashes which is costing them, as they have scored just four times in five matches.

Conversely, Norwich have conceded only three times in their past four, since shipping five goals away to Fulham in what was a horrific opening 90 minutes to Chris Hughton’s reign at Carrow Road.

He has since tightened his side right up, as they earned draws against Queens Park Rangers, Tottenham and West Ham, before a narrow 1-0 loss away to Newcastle.

Another disciplined performance from Norwich will be necessary for Liverpool’s visit, however, as the Reds were certainly worthy of at least a point in their admirable 2-1 loss to Manchester United last time out in the league.

In injury news, Liverpool will be without Daniel Agger (knee), Fabio Borini (foot), Joe Cole (hamstring), Martin Kelly (knee) and Lucas (thigh) for the clash, while Jonjo Shelvey begins his three-match ban after being sent off in the loss to United.

For Norwich, defender Sebastien Bassong was substituted in their loss to Newcastle with hamstring tightness, and remains in doubt for this weekend’s game.

Hughton also brought back midfielder Elliott Bennett from a knee injury in their League Cup triumph over Doncaster Rovers on Wednesday, putting him in contention to appear against the Reds.

Midfielder Simon Lappin and full-back Steven Whittaker (both ankles) remained on the sidelines.

FULHAM v MANCHESTER CITY, Craven Cottage, 3pm
Fulham manager Martin Jol will be confident of his options up front as his team prepares to host reigning champions Manchester City.

Jol has signed three strikers during the European summer transfer window and all three, Mladen Petric, Hugo Rodallega and Dimitar Berbatov, have scored for Fulham this season.

Rodallega struck the opening goal for Fulham in their 2-1 win away to Wigan last week after being set up by Berbatov.

A flowing move down the right culminated in the ball arriving at Berbatov’s feet and the Bulgarian crossed to the six-yard box, where Rodallega leapt highest to thump a header into the net.

Fulham are joint top-scorers in the English Premier League with 12 goals from five games, matched only by second-placed Manchester United.

The London-based club have won both their home games this season without conceding a goal and considering Manchester City’s defence has looked quite shaky in the league so far, Jol will have belief Fulham can snatch a win on Sunday.

The reigning champions showed their defensive frailties in the League Cup on Tuesday as they were knocked out 4-2 by Aston Villa and although captain Vincent Kompany should return against Fulham to strengthen the back four, City remain suspect in defence.

Manchester City have not kept a clean sheet in any competition this season and have conceded two goals per game on average.

Sunday’s clash pits sixth-placed Fulham against seventh-placed Manchester City and a victory could see Jol’s side move into second if Manchester United lose to Tottenham and other results go the London club’s way this weekend.

While attack looks good for Fulham, midfield is a problem area for Jol as Mahamadou Diarra, Simon Davies and Kieran Richardson are all out injured, prompting the Dutch manager to reportedly look at former Bolton midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker as a possible free signing.

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini could have Samir Nasri back in action for the trip to London after the French midfielder missed his club’s past two games with a hamstring injury.

But Mancini’s side will face a tough task at Fulham as the home side have scored eight goals in two games on their own turf in the EPL.

EVERTON v SOUTHAMPTON, Goodison Park, 3pm
Everton will resume their quest for a European berth when they play host to Southampton on Saturday.

The Merseyside club bowed out of the League Cup to Championship side Leeds United midweek, but remained buoyed by an impressive start to the Premier League season.

Everton are third with 10 points from five matches, having claimed the prized scalp of Manchester United as well as victories over Aston Villa and Swansea.

The positive run has prompted manager David Moyes to suggest the team can qualify for a spot in European competition next season.

“A Champions League place would probably be seen as unrealistic with the quality of the Premier League, but I think pushing for a European place is a realistic target for Everton,” Moyes said following the Swansea win.

Everton have not featured in a European tournament since 2010, when they lost to Portuguese outfit Sporting CP in the knockout phase of the Europa League.

Southampton travel to Goodison Park full of confidence, having thumped Aston Villa in the Premier League before beating Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup.

The win at home to Villa was Southampton’s first in their return to the top flight, ending a four-match losing streak and moving them above the likes of winless Liverpool and Queens Park Rangers.

Former Burnley striker Jay Rodriguez could return to Nigel Adkins’ starting line-up after netting a brace against Sheffield Wednesday.

“I just want to play, and to get two goals for the team is brilliant. I’m really chuffed,” Rodriguez said.

“I’ve got to keep working hard and maintaining things so that I can keep scoring as many goals as I can, and that’s what I aim to do.”

MANCHESTER UNITED v TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR, Old Trafford, 5.30pm
Anders Lindegaard looms as a likely starter when Manchester United’s take on Tottenham as Alex Ferguson continues to rotate his goalkeepers.

Lindegaard has played in the last three English Premier League matches, while young Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea was selected in Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Newcastle United in the League Cup on Wednesday, as well as the Champions League fixture against Galatasaray on September 20.

United manager Ferguson has made it clear he will continue to rotate his goalkeepers until one makes a clear case to be considered the undisputed number one at the club.

Lindegaard has conceded three goals in as many games, while De Gea has let in four goals in five matches, but the 28-year-old Dane, who is expected to return for the visit of Tottenham on Sunday, has claimed he is unfazed by Ferguson’s rotation policy.

“I don’t worry too much about roles,” Lindegaard said.

“I have taken the mickey out of everything and everyone by getting where I am now compared to where I’ve come from.”

Lindegaard joined United from Norwegian club Aalesunds in November 2010 and played 11 games last season, keeping seven clean-sheets, but has never been given an extended run as starting goalkeeper.

Manchester United are joint top-scorers in the Premier League after five rounds, having scored 12 goals, and sit second on the table but Ferguson’s team have also conceded six times, with critics claiming goalkeeper rotation is disrupting defensive cohesion.

But the problem has been throughout the defence, with Ferguson having yet to select the same back five players, including goalkeeper, in consecutive games since the start of the season.

Manchester United will take on eighth-placed Tottenham without injured defenders Nemanja Vidic, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, while Antonio Valencia, who has filled in at right-back this season, is unlikely to play after injuring his foot in United’s 2-1 win over Liverpool last week.

Tottenham, who defeated Carlisle United 3-0 in the League Cup on Wednesday, will travel north to Manchester hoping to take advantage of United’s disjointed defence.

Jermain Defoe has been Tottenham’s main attacking weapon this season, with the diminutive striker having scored four of his team’s eight league goals.

Fullback Kyle Walker came off the bench against Carlisle and could be in line for a return to the starting line-up after recovering from an ankle complaint, while Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas may also have striker Emmanuel Adebayor (hamstring) available for selection.

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