Arsenal v Man U tops the bill, but can Swansea steal the show?
Premier League preview: Chelsea odds-on for another win as old rivals scrap over European places
It's been away for less than a fortnight but the return of the Premier League this weekend has been greeted with relief in some quarters. And there is one stand-out fixture to look forward to this weekend as Manchester United head south to take on their old rivals Arsenal.
But while that game may be the one grabbing the headlines it has lost much of its intensity in recent years with neither side realistic title contenders this season. But there are plenty of other intruiguing clashes to look foward over the next couple of days, as Chelsea look to extend their lead at the top of the table and Man City attempt to kick start their faltering title defence.
Here's the best of the weekend action:
Arsenal v Man Utd
It used to be the most eagerly anticipated clash of the season, and while it remains one of the Premier League's marquee fixtures there is a lot less riding on this encounter than was the case in the days of Patrick Vieira, Roy Keane and flying pizzas. Indeed fourth place in the table is all that's at stake this weekend, but what else is there to do at 5.30pm on Saturday?
Both sides have injury concerns. Arsenal will once again be down to the bare bones at the back with Laurent Koscielny and Mathieu Debuchy missing. Nacho Monreal's unconvincing display at centre back against Swansea is a cause for concern among the Arsenal faithful. Further up Theo Walcott could return to the starting line-up after ten months out of action, although a place on the bench is perhaps more likely.
United's bad luck with injuries continued during the international break. Daley Blind is out for several weeks and there are doubts over Luke Shaw and Michael Carrick. Radamel Falcao is also out for at least another fortnight meaning Louis van Gaal must struggle on with just Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney up front. On the plus side David de Gea and Angel di Maria have been passed fit after injury scares.
Among the many sideplots that accompany a game like this will be the performances of strikers Van Persie and Danny Welbeck, playing against their former clubs. It is hard to predict a winner given both sides' defensive frailties and Arsenal's refusal to hold onto a lead. It could go either way, which is another reason to watch the game.
Chelsea v West Brom
If Chelsea's unbeaten start to the season comes to an end on Saturday afternoon it would cause quite a stir. It is also highly unlikely to happen. Everything seems to be going Chelsea's way at the moment, even the timing of injuries. The Blues' two standout players this season, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas are expected to be available despite pulling out of international duty last week. Even if they do not recover from their hamstring problems Chelsea should have enough to overcome the visitors.
West Brom have not beaten Chelsea in the league since 1978 and Chelsea are the only team left in the country to have won all of their home league games so far this season. Saido Berahino, an unused substitute for England last week, will be the Baggies best hope of getting something from this game, but it looks a forlorn one. The main issue could be how much noise the home crowd makes after Jose Mourinho's complaints about the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge.
Man City v Swansea
How long before the knives come out for Manuel Pellegrini? After one win in their last six matches, another failure to take all three points here would surely torpedo City's chances of securing a second successive title and spark mutterings among the fans. But Pellegrini has a balancing act to perform with a must-win European clash against Bayern Munich looming in midweek. Resting players is surely out of the question, given City's league position, however, he is likely to be without skipper Vincent Kompany as well as Aleksandar Kolarov at the back.
Swansea have only lost one of their last six, and with striker Wilfied Bony set to sign a new deal will arrive at the Etihad with a spring in their step. A win would put them level on points with City, and they will see no reason why they can't take the points, having already beaten Arsenal and Man Utd this season. A lot will depend on how the two teams gel after the international break, but while a Swansea win is the least likely outcome a draw might not be out of the question.
Crystal Palace v Liverpool
A return to the place where it all went pear-shaped for Liverpool last season. The Reds squandered a three-goal lead in the last 11 minutes of their game aginst Palace last season to blow their hopes of beating Man City to the title.
They will be hoping not just for revenge on Sunday lunchtime, but also a much-needed three points to get their season going. After last season's efforts the Kop did not expect to see their heroes languishing in the bottom half of the table after 11 matches. But that is where the Reds find themselves after a dismal start fo the season.
Liverpool look lost without Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge this week suffered yet another setback in his return from injury. It probably means another chance for Mario Balotelli up front. The Italian needs to start delivering, and fast. Liverpool need the goals and so does he, because his reputation is sinking faster than the Reds at the moment.
Palace have not won for five games, and if Liverpool can't take three points from this game then their credentials as a top six team must be in doubt.
This week's other fixtures:
Everton v West HamLeicester v Sunderland Newcastle v QPRStoke v Burnley
Hull v Tottenham
Aston Villa v Southampton