Man City can't afford jetlag as Chelsea storm the Palace
Premier League preview: how will international stars fare this weekend after a week of travelling?
How tired will the stars of the Premier League be feeling this week? For some the last fortnight has involved arduous trips around the world while on international duty, while others will have been resting up in preparation for the next round of games.
And after all the debate this week about the stresses and strains placed on footballers, it's fair to assume that many of them will be looking forward to the familiarity of their club colours.
The biggest game of the weekend sees second-placed Man City entertain perennial grafters Tottenham, who are still trying to find a way to break into the elite. But there are plenty of other intriguing clashes to look forward to as Chelsea aim to maintain their serene progress towards the title – they could be eight points clear by Sunday – Arsenal scour north London looking for 11 fit players and Man United hope to continue their climb up the table as they face West Brom on Monday night.
Here's the best of the weekend action.
Man City v Spurs
City will be hoping that the likes of Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta and Martin Demichelis aren't suffering after their long-haul jaunt to the Far East with Argentina last week as they seek to maintain the pressure on Chelsea at the top of the table. However, Yaya Toure coud be missing after only getting back to Manchester on Friday, leaving him precious little time to prepare for this Saturday lunchtime showdown.
City have won their last two league matches but two points from the three games before that, including a home defeat to Stoke, badly dented their title hopes and with Chelsea five points above them they cannot afford to slip up against Spurs.
Spurs have had a mixed start to the season under Mauricio Pochettino with home defeats to Liverpool and West Brom denting the new boss's aura. Goals have been hard to come by for the Lilywhites, they have managed nine in seven games, but without the four they scored against QPR it is five in six. It is hard to see Spurs outscoring City at the Etihad and, with City enjoying an 11-1 aggregate scoreline against Spurs last season, a home win looks likely.
Crystal Palace v Chelsea
With Chelsea being tipped to go through the entire season unbeaten it would be quite a story if they came unstuck at humble old Selhurst Park, and the Eagles will have to hope that Chelsea's scintillating early-season form has deserted them if they are to emerge unscathed from this encounter.
But while Chelsea are the talk of the town, it is also becoming fashionable to acknowledge that Palace are the most under-rated team in the Premier League. Players like Mile Jedinak, Joel Ward and goalkeeper Julian Speroni may not get mobbed in the street or appear in the gossip columns but they are highly effective. Whether they can get the better of Cesc Fabregas and the seemingly unstoppable Diego Costa remains to be seen.
Jose Mourinho will know what to expect from Tony Pulis and his Palace battlers, and he has the tools to deal with it, but it could be closer than many might imagine.
Arsenal v Hull
The Gunners began the season with high hopes, but two months into the season they are languishing in eighth place, nine points off the leaders and in the grip of (another) injury crisis. As usual there are signs of discontent at the Emirates.
The good news for Arsene Wenger is that Mikel Arteta should be fit to return to midfield, but the sight of Nacho Monreal playing at centre back alongside Per Mertesacker will not do his, or any other Gunner's, blood pressure much good. Hull striker Nikica Jelavic on the other hand will be licking his lips.
With such a threadbare defence and with Hull having scored in every league match they have played this season, the Gunners may be forced to concentrate on outscoring their opponents.
That tactic just about worked the last time these two sides met, as Arsenal recovered from a two-goal deficit to win the FA Cup final 3-2. Hull will want revenge for that, and although a win might be asking too much a draw is not out of the question.
QPR v Liverpool
This could be a tale of two managers. Harry Redknapp is under increasing pressure at Loftus Road, while Brendan Rodgers has been at the centre of the club vs country row all week. The game could hinge on the contribution of the two England stars at the centre of the controversy. Daniel Sturridge, injured on international duty last month, could return up front, while a well-rested Raheem Sterling will be playing against the team that first spotted his talent.Rodgers can also call on Mario Balotelli, who will also be fit and raring to go, having been deemed surplus to requirements by Italy last week.
It could be an uncomfortable afternoon for Redknapp and the reaction of the QPR fans if and when Liverpool gain the upper hand could be telling. The Reds have not been in good form recently, but QPR's has been much worse and an away win looks likely.
This weekend's other fixtures:
SATURDAY:Burnley v West HamEverton v Aston VillaNewcastle v LeicesterSouthampton v Sunderland
SUNDAY:Stoke v Swansea
MONDAY:West Brom v Man Utd