Everton could derail Man Utd once again as City get a boost

Feb 8, 2013

Premier League preview: Toure returns for City, and will Wilshere shine for Arsenal?

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A CURIOUS round of Premier League fixtures this week presents the teams at the top and bottom of the table with a number of potential banana skins.

The two title challengers have very different propositions to deal with, while at the bottom QPR, Wigan and Reading are all away from home. There will also be tests of Arsenal's and Spurs' European credentials as the north London clubs take on the North East.

On paper at least, the biggest game of the weekend is the last to kick off. On Sunday afternoon, Manchester United will hope to take revenge against Everton at Old Trafford for the defeat they inflicted on them in the opening game of the season.

Alex Ferguson's men now stand nine points clear at the summit of the Premier League - although Manchester City will hope to have cut the lead to six points by the time this one kicks off.

Everton's excellent start to the season continued after their win over United and they have lost only one of their last 15 games in all competitions. They currently sit in fifth place and are gunning for a Champions League spot.

In recent years this fixture has been marketed as an opportunity for Everton boss David Moyes to prove that he is the man to take over from Ferguson at Old Trafford, so he will want to impress. There is also the small matter of Wayne Rooney lining up against his old club.

United fans will not need reminding that they blew an eight-point lead over Man City in the title race last season, and crucial to that collapse was Everton's remarkable draw at Old Trafford, when they came from 4-2 down in the closing stages to draw 4-4. If Everton can pull off a result like that Alex Ferguson may well blow a gasket.

The omens are not good for Manchester City, who have been told by manager Roberto Mancini they must win every one of their remaining 13 games this season. On the opening day of the season Southampton almost shocked City and it required two late goals at the Etihad to secure victory for the champions. And the Saints are giving as good as they get at the moment, having lost just once in the league this year.

City, though, will be boosted by the return of Yaya Toure, who will add impetus to the midfield, and his brother Kolo, who could replace the injured Vincent Kompany in defence.

The game between Chelsea and Wigan on Saturday could have more significance for the relegation situation than the title as the Blues are already 16 points behind the league leaders. Wigan have begun their annual battle against the drop, picking up two battling draws in their last two matches.

Anything could happen at Stamford Bridge given Chelsea's fragile state, and it would only take a minor mishap for the fans to turn. If they mess up again then Chelsea's Champions League aspirations could be in doubt and Rafa Benitez could even find himself heading for the exit.

All eyes will be on Jack Wilshere at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland on Saturday afternoon as Arsenal take on the Black Cats. Will the Gunners midfielder be able to follow up his inspirational performance for England against Brazil on Wednesday with an equally commanding display for the Londoners?

It's been a while since Villa Park hosted a game as important as the clash between Aston Villa and West Ham at Sunday lunchtime. Villa are having an appalling season and are in grave danger of actually being relegated. They are the only team in the bottom four playing at home this weekend and they simply have to take advantage of that. Whether they do or not is a different matter.

Elsewhere this weekend, bottom club QPR travel to Swansea knowing that they too must get something from the game, battling Reading visit Stoke and improving Newcastle visit Tottenham. In the weekend's other match Fulham visit Norwich.

On Monday night Liverpool play West Brom at Anfield.

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