Chelsea v Arsenal
Chelsea and Arsenal are the only unbeaten sides in the Premier League this season. However, the former are three places and six points ahead of their opponents on Saturday evening. Arsenal have drawn four of six matches while Chelsea have only dropped points away to Manchester City.
Jose Mourinho’s side have a perfect record at home with three wins from three matches, scoring nine goals and conceding two. Conversely, Arsenal have won just once on the road but avoided defeat in their two other away fixtures. Cleary the Gunners are difficult to beat and this will be Chelsea’s biggest test at Stamford Bridge this season to date.
The Special One always wins the league in his second full season with a club. He has won domestic leagues around Europe in this way and Chelsea are on course to maintain his record. They are the best team in the league and could have virtually tied up the title by Christmas.
Diego Costa has scored eight goals in six league matches and even at £32 million looks to be the buy of the summer. No player has come from abroad and finished top goalscorer immediately. That’s a strong statistic given the quality of overseas players who have appeared in the Premier League. Costa has a great chance to achieve something that eluded Henry, Bergkamp, Zola, Cantona and others.
Jose’s Blues are ready to push for the title and that process can continue in the key match against Arsenal. Last season the lack of a striker was seen as a major issue but there can be no complaints this time with the arrival of Costa and return of club legend Didier Drogba. Mourinho made some other decent signings and Cesc Fabregas is a good capture.
Arsenal look strong but they will probably fall just short of winning the title. Danny Welbeck scored the first hat trick of his career in the week against Galatasary in the Champions League. He was a good signing by Arsene Wenger and seems to have settled better than Alexis Sanchez. The side now look full of goals but may not score enough to beat Chelsea.
Manchester United v Everton
Wayne Rooney once declared on his shirt “Once a Blue Always a Blue” and then promptly left Everton to join Manchester United. He could well return to the club he loves at the end of his career but will not be playing against them at Old Trafford on Sunday. Rooney is suspended after being sent off for United against West Ham last weekend.
The United and England captain has now been dismissed six times during his playing career. However, talk of some inherent flaw in his nature is unfair as he is always playing at the sharp end of big matches for his club and country. He will be missed against Everton but the Manchester galacticos should be good enough to beat their local rivals. Defence is still a problem area but Everton have not looked too solid in this department this season.
In six league matches Everton have conceded 14 goals which is poor for a side managed by Roberto Martinez. He likes his teams to play attractive football but within the framework of disciplined structure. Phil Jagielka may be suffering with a World Cup hangover but he now has the freedom of the blue side of the city after his stunning goal against Liverpool.
United have sneaked up to seventh in the league despite the recent debacle at Leicester, where they lost a match from two goals in front for the first time in the Premier League. They have won, drawn and lost twice in six matches and another home win over Everton could take then into the Champions League places, the minimum requirement for Louis Van Gaal.
Aston Villa v Manchester City
Aston Villa have been a surprise package this season but have lost their last two matches in a tough run of fixtures. They were thumped at home by Arsenal and then got nothing when visiting Chelsea last weekend. Their next fixture is away at Manchester City which means in consecutive matches they will have played the teams that will probably finish in the first three.
City are now five points behind Chelsea and but for Frank Lampard’s goal against his former club the gap would have been eight. City cannot afford to drop points in this match as Chelsea should beat Arsenal. Villa have already beaten Liverpool away from home but winning this match at Villa Park may be beyond them.
The old saying goes that it is harder to retain the title than to win the thing in the first place. A poor transfer policy at City was blamed in the 2012-13 season and it could be argued that they have repeated that strategy this year. The financial fair play rules have made it more difficult for the champions and loaning Lampard shows that.
Villa fans believe last season was not a disaster due to some poorer teams below them. Manager Paul Lambert is gaining some support but will always be remembered for overseeing Villa’s worst season in the Premier League. At the start of this season they looked potential relegation contenders but World Cup star Ron Vlaar can keep Villa in the league.
West Ham v QPR
This London derby brings together two teams that have made contrasting starts to the season. Sam Allardyce’s Hammers are now playing attractive football and were only a marginally offside goal away from drawing against Manchester United last Saturday. Allardyce is often quoted as the manager most likely to be sacked next but has won over the fans with his brand of football.
Queens Park Rangers have lost four of six matches, scoring four goals and conceding 13. They were fortunate to win the play-off final to get out of the Championship and they could return to that level immediately. Rio Ferdinand has been persuaded to move to the club but the midfield needs rebuilding and its obvious Ranger still need reinforcements. QPR had most possession in the Championship but scoring at less than a goal a game this season suggests not creating enough chances is still a problem. West Ham are conceding at almost two goals a game so something must give in this fixture.