Toothless or ruthless? How will Arsenal play against Fulham?
Premier League preview: Gunners face Cottagers, as United await Chelsea showdown on Monday
IT'S ONLY the second week of the new campaign, but we are already gearing up for one of the biggest games of the season as Jose Mourinho takes his Chelsea team to Old Trafford to take on defending champions Manchester United.
However, that titanic clash does not take place until Monday night and there is plenty of action to look forward to before the Bank holiday showdown between two of the title favourites.
Perhaps the most intriguing of Saturday's fixtures is Arsenal's lunchtime trip to Fulham. The Gunners were humiliated at home by Aston Villa on the opening day of the season, but bounced back to beat Fenerbahce in midweek and all but secure their place in the Champions League.
So which Arsenal team will turn up at Craven Cottage - the toothless or the ruthless?
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger is convinced of his squad's qualities and has backed his existing players to mount a title challenge. The problem is that few people believe him and last week's meltdown at the Emirates has only intensified the calls for him to spend some money.
That means the talk this weekend will be more about transfer targets than the players on the field. The Arsenal faithful may be more concerned about the possibility of signing Karim Benzema than whether Aaron Ramsey can reproduce the form he showed against Fenerbahce on Wednesday.
But there is plenty for the Gunners to consider when it comes to team selection. Wenger is already dealing with an injury crisis and Bacary Sagna could be forced to play at centre half, just as he did in midweek after Laurent Koscielny was forced off.
Those problems at the back make Wenger's relentless pursuit of an extra striker even more of a mystery, although this will be Theo Walcott's fourth match in ten days.
As for Fulham, they have done what Arsenal have failed to do this summer, and reinforced their squad with a host of new signings. Former Spurs man Scott Parker is the latest arrival at the Cottage and will likely make his debut on Saturday. He along with fellow Spurs old-boys Dimitar Berbatov and Adel Taarabt would love to get one over on the Gunners.
Fulham will also be buoyed by their opening day win against Sunderland. They did not dominate the game but scored the all-important goal and kept a clean sheet. There is a good chance they will do so again, although a draw may be the more likely outcome.
Cottagers boss Martin Jol would probably settle for a point, but such a result would probably leave Wenger with the sound of jeers ringing in his ears.
Liverpool's trip to Aston Villa is probably the pick of the later kick-offs on Saturday. Villa made a fine start to the season with victory at the Emirates, and showed plenty of spirit against Chelsea on Wednesday. So far, Paul Lambert's side have been unrecognisable from the outfit that only just escaped relegation last season.
Christian Benteke has picked up where he left off and there is plenty of bite elsewhere on the pitch. Villa will offer Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool side a stern test.
Liverpool are in a similar situation to Villa, looking to improve drastically after a disappointing campaign last season. They, too, looked good in their opening fixture against Stoke, but it took a last-minute penalty save from new keeper Simon Mignolet to secure the points.
Still without the banned and sulking Luis Suarez, all eyes will be on Phillippe Coutinho in midfield and new signing Iago Aspas, who performed well last week.
On Sunday, the two sides in Europa League action, Swansea and Spurs, play each other. They both scored five against European opposition on Thursday so will be confident of their chances, although the Welsh side had a baptism of fire in the Premier League last week when they lost 4-1 to Man United.
By the time the match kicks off on Sunday, Gareth Bale could well be a Real Madrid player, while the Swans will be hoping that their two most-wanted men, Ashley Williams and Michu, are still wearing white, rather than the colours of any other club.
FIXTURES: SATURDAY Fulham v Arsenal (12.45)
Everton v West Brom
Hull v Norwich
Newcastle v West Ham
Southampton v Sunderland
Stoke v Crystal Palace
Aston Villa v Liverpool (17.30)
SUNDAY Cardiff v Man City (16.00)
Tottenham v Swansea (16.00)
MONDAY Man Utd v Chelsea (20.00) ·