In Review

Welbeck, Falcao, Balotelli: who will shine brightest?

Premier League preview: New strikers take centre stage as the Premier League tucks into a meaty weekend of action

If the first three games of the Premier League season were a tempting hors d'oeuvre then, now that the international break is over, it's time for the main course to begin. And with the fans appetites whetted, there are some delicious looking clashes this weekend.

The meatiest game comes on Saturday lunchtime when title hopefuls Arsenal and Man City go head to head. But there are other delights to enjoy including the battle between the only two teams with 100 per cent records in the division and a raft of big names debuts in the first round of games since the transfer window shut.

Here's the best of the weekend action:

Arsenal v Man City

The weekend kicks off with a humdinger of a clash at the Emirates as Arsenal welcome defending champions Man City. All eyes will be on the Gunners line up to see if Danny Welbeck gets a berth in the starting XI and if he is chosen as centre forward. Arsene Wenger has said he believes his £16m signing is best playing in the middle, but the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Yaya Sanogo will also have designs on the position in the absence of Olivier Giroud. At the very least, Welbeck's arrival will create a buzz of excitement.

Of more concern for the Gunners will be the fitness of Aaron Ramsey who picked up an ankle injury on Wales duty against Andorra on Tuesday. Jack Wilshere would be able to deputise, unless Wenger wants him to reprise his role as a holding midfielder - it's a spot where Arsenal could do with options. Despite a big outlay this summer, the Gunners have failed to convince in their three outings so far this season, and after two draws and a last-gasp win over Crystal Palace this will be their sternest test yet. City will certainly be on the lookout for all three points after their shock defeat to Stoke at the Etihad last time out.

The game at Arsenal is the first of three huge games for the Citizens, who face Bayern Munich in mid-week and Chelsea the following weekend. They will be boosted by the return of skipper Vincent Kompany. Bacary Sagna will be returning to the Emirates weeks after leaving the club and can expect a hot reception from the home fans. The same goes for Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy. City are unlikely to play as badly as they did against Stoke and although a draw would satisfy neither team, it could be the most likely outcome, offering other title contenders the chance to make some gains.

Chelsea v Swansea

Few people would have expected this clash to be a first versus second affair when the fixtures were announced earlier this summer, but both clubs go into this clash with 100 per cent records. Something will have to give, and it's fair to say that most people will be expecting it to be the Swans that crack. 

Chelsea have looked imperious this season, although the chaotic nature of their win over Everton would not have gone down well with Jose Mourinho. The Special One will be hoping for a more controlled performance at home against the Swans and he appears to have a full squad to choose from, with Eden Hazard and Diego Costa likely to be fit after picking up knocks on international duty. It will be intriguing to see whether Willian or Andre Schurrle gets the nod in midfield alongside the daunting trio of Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic.

Everyone will expect Swansea to return home with nothing but they thought the same ahead of their visit to Old Trafford on the opening day. If Glyfi Sugurdsson picks up where he left off last month then Chelsea may have a battle on their hands. Wilfried Bony and Bafetimbi Gomis are yet to find the net this season, but they have to start somewhere, why not at the Bridge? The Swans may travel with high hopes but Chelsea could prove to be a bridge to far.

Manchester United v QPR

After spending £150m in the transfer window and earning two points from the first three games of the season, Louis van Gaal has been told that his Manchester United team must finish third or better in the league this season. No pressure, then, for the visit of QPR.

Fans at Old Trafford could be forgiven for looking twice at the team sheet, which is likely to have an unfamiliar feel. The biggest question is likely to centre on Radamel Falcao. Will he start, or come off the bench? If he does start, will he play alongside Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, or will one have to make way for the Colombian? 

Even more intriguing will be his selection in defence. Van Gaal signed three left-sided defenders this summer in Luke Shaw, Daley Blind and Marco Rojo, so who will get the nod at left wing back? What does it mean for Tyler Blackett? And where will Angel di Maria play? These are confusing times at Old Trafford.

QPR boss Harry Redknapp had a relatively quiet deadline day, but his old muckers Nico Kranjcar and Sandro are back in the fold and both could both start for the Hoops on Sunday. 

This is a banana skin for United. QPR will travel in hope rather than expectation and if they get anything at all from the game it will be like a dagger to the heart of Van Gaal. But surely United will register their first win of the campaign.

Liverpool v Aston Villa

The Saturday evening game sees Liverpool entertain Aston Villa, in what could turn out to be a great game. Brendan Rodgers is seething over the absence of Daniel Sturridge, but the media may be secretly delighted as it means that mercurial Mario Balotelli will get to strut his stuff in front of the Kop. He will want his place in the limelight back after seeing Welbeck and Falcao grab all the headlines since deadline day. There could also be a home debut for fit again Adam Lallana.

Villa are lying in third on the table and looking rejuvenated this season. The presence of Roy Keane alongside Paul Lambert on the bench has probably helped, and the former United man will not want to leave Anfield empty-handed. Fabian Delph will be buzzing after making his England debut during the international break and even without Christian Benteke Villa have looked sharp in attack.

The Reds, though, will expect to win this and if they fail to see off Villa at home, no matter how spirited a performance they put up, there may be some doubts raised about their title credentials.

The weekend's other fixtures:


Crystal Palace v Burnley

Southampton v Newcastle

Stoke v Leicester

Sunderland v Tottenham

West Brom v Everton


Hull v West Ham


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