New-look Liverpool must prove their mettle against Man City
Premier League preview: Champions face Anfield test, can United overcome Fulham?
CHELSEA have set the early pace in the first week of the new Premier League season, and with two good wins under their belts will be looking to maintain their lead at the top of the table with another victory this weekend.
The Blues clash with Newcaslte is one of the most enticing fixtures this weekend, but the biggest game of this round surely comes on Sunday afternoon when defending champions Manchester City travel to Anfield to take on new-look Liverpool.
Brendan Rodgers got off to a terrible start as Liverpool boss, losing 3-0 to west Brom on the opening weekend. His side fared a little better on Thursday night when they narrowly overcame Hearts in the Europa League, but a 1-0 win was hardly convincing. The visit of the light blues will be a real test as the Reds perform in front of the Kop for the first time this season.
Two seasons ago Liverpool fans were swift to turn on Roy Hodgson when his reign started badly and he was gone by the end of the season. The Kop appears better disposed towards Rodgers but a good performance against City would do him a world of good. However, the team's two main performers, Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard will need some of their team-mates to provide the support they need. At the back the Reds will be without the suspended Daniel Agger.
Manchester City began their campaign with a breathless win over Southampton and will be keen to shift down a gear. But the Citizens' defence did not seem that solid and that will encourage the home side to have a go. Sergio Aguero will also be missing, but Roberto Mancini has plenty of cover, and will be confident of a win. But this is a big game for Liverpool and they may be worth a point.
Also on Sunday another new-look side, Arsenal, face their old nemesis Stoke. It will be interesting to see what players like Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud make of the Brittania Stadium in full cry and the no-nonsense approach of Ryan Shawcross, Robert Huth et al. Shawcross is well known to Arsenal fans for the horror challenge that broke Aaron Ramsey's leg in 2010.
The Gunners may miss the presence of Alex Song in this game, and will probably settle for a draw, even though it would leave them off the pace in the title hunt after just two weeks.
Chelsea's clash with Newcastle should be considered a must-watch on Saturday evening, even if it is only to see what tricks Eden Hazard produces after making a huge impression in his first two league games. Newcastle though are no slouches and should give Chelsea a run for their money.
How will Manchester United bounce back from their defeat against Everton on Monday? We will find out on Saturday afternoon when Fulham visit Old Trafford. The likely presence of Michael Carrick in the back four will give the Cottagers some cause for optimism, as United's early-season injury crisis continues.
However, all eyes will be on the United front pair. Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie are likely to team up in front of the Old Trafford faithful for the first time and it hard to believe that they won't end up with all three points.
In Saturday's other games Swansea take on West Ham, Aston Villa play host to Everton, QPR visit Norwich, Wigan head to the south coast to face Southampton, Sunderland play Reading and Spurs welcome West Brom to White Hart Lane. ·