Chelsea bid to set unbeaten record as City up the pressure
Premier League preview: Blues on verge of new club record as they prepare to face Newcastle
The fixtures are coming thick and fast in the Premier League at the moment, and this weekend will see some teams play their third match in seven days.
It is another round of intriguing fixtures with none of the traditional big guns facing each other, but with Liverpool and Arsenal clawing their way back up the table the pressure is on the less fashionable teams like Swansea, West Ham and Newcastle to keep up with the pace.
One thing that hasn't changed is Chelsea's position at the top of the table. The Blues dropped points last weekend against Sunderland but were imperious against Spurs and remain six points clear at the top, while Man City have usurped Southampton as the Blues' closest challengers.
So what can we expect this weekend? Here's the best of the weekend action:
Newcastle v Chelsea:
It's been famine and feast for the Magpies so far this season, while the Blues have enjoyed nothing but feast. Newcastle had an awful start to the campaign but a run of five successive wins propelled them to the upper echelons of the table, before defeat to West Ham and a draw with Burnley dampened the mood in Tyneside. However, Alan Pardew's side have won their last three home games and are unbeaten at St James's Park in five. The question is do they have what it takes to stun the Blues? Few people beyond Tyneside would bet on it.
Newcastle may have beaten the Blues on their last two visits to St James's Park, but a hat-trick looks unlikely.
Moussa Sissoko returns from suspension on Saturday, but the Magpies could be without the influential Daryl Janmaat and Fabricio Coloccini at the back. Chelsea will be missing the suspended Nemanja Matic, but Diego Costa is set to resume his role up front.
If Chelsea do avoid defeat it would set a new club record of 24 games unbeaten and count as another important step towards the title and an "invincible" season. That there appears to be more interest in Chelsea's chances of going through the season without losing than their chances of winning the league tells its own story.
The Blues settled for a draw against Sunderland last week, but they have marginally less breathing space this week as Man City appear to have woken from their early-season slumbers. The Blues will go out to win, and will expect to get it.
Man City v Everton
Sergio Aguero's late, late show against Bayern Munich a couple of weeks ago appears to have energised Man City, and suddenly Manuel Pellegrini's team look like defending champions, rather than an out of shape heavyweight trading on past glories. The result could be another miserable week for Everton, whose season requires the kind of jolt that Aguero gave to City.
With only four wins all season the Toffees are languishing in the bottom half of the table and there was dissent in the stands after their midweek draw with Hull. However, there could be ray of light for Everton in that City will be without Vincent Kompany, and Eliaquim Mangala will likely take his place in the Citizens' defence. Mangala has had a torrid time since arriving at the Etihad with many querying quite why City forked out £32m for his services. Surely Roberto Martinez will tell Romelu Lukaku to target the defender.
Whether that will be enough to keep City at bay remains to be seen: a home win looks the most likely outcome.
Stoke v Arsenal
Once again the Gunners are doing what they do best in the Premier League and blowing hot and cold. At the moment they are in that part of the cycle in which they put together a run of results that propels them up the table and can be interpreted in two very different ways. In one analysis Arsenal are showing their true colours and proving that they have the talent to become a real force in the division. In the other, they are flattering to deceive.
One thing seems inevitable, at some point the Gunners will suffer another series of setbacks, and whether that happens against Stoke we will discover on Saturday afternoon.
The good news for Arsenal is that Alexis Sanchez has so far avoided the Emirates injury curse and will continue to provide the Gunners' spark, while goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny should return. The bad news is that they are facing Stoke, one of Arsene Wenger's bogey teams.
The Gunners have beaten Stoke just once in their last eight meetings in the Potteries, and with only two away wins so far this season they have a tough task on their hands this weekend. Stoke were unlucky to lose to Man United in midweek and Liverpool last weekend, so will want to prove a point against Arsenal, and a point may not be beyond them.
Liverpool v Sunderland
The big question at Anfield this weekend will be whether Steven Gerrard starts the match. Rested last weekend the former England skipper was the star of the show against Leicester in midweek. Can Brendan Rodgers afford to leave him out again, or should he rest him for the Champions League match next week?
With Mario Balotelli and Daniel Sturridge still out Rickie Lambert will continue up front for the Reds and Phillippe Coutinho could return to midfield, maybe in place of Gerrard? As for Sunderland, they performed creditably against Chelsea, but were outclassed by Man City. How they do here could reveal more about Liverpool than it does about the Black Cats, and the Reds appear to be getting their act together. A home win looks likely.
The weekend's other fixtures:
Hull v West BromQPR v BurnleyTottenham v Crystal Palace
West Ham v SwanseaAston Villa v Leicester
Southampton v Man Utd