With the Premier League returning this weekend following the international break, we look at five of the best games on offer.
5. Everton vs West Ham
Everton have started off the season with just three victories, putting them exactly mid-table in 10th place, purely on goal difference.
It has by no means been a disastrous start for the Toffees, having scored more goals than any of the other sides outside the top three with 20 goals but it’s at the other end where one worries for Everton with 18 goals conceded.
West Ham enter the game in a much stronger position than the Goodison Park outfit. Sam Allardyce has completely turned around the club’s fortunes this term, masterminding five wins so far this season with his side being unbeaten in five games.
West Ham have not beaten Everton since 2007 so if there was ever a time for the Hammers to beat the Toffees one would think it will be this weekend.
West Ham – Diafra Sakho – The 24-year-old has been in outstanding form for the Hammers with six Premier League goals already this term in eight appearances. He is a doubt ahead of the game however.
Everton – Ross Barkley – The England youngster now has a great opportunity to play his way back into Roberto Martinez’s plans following his injury layoff with Gareth Barry, Darren Gibson and James McCarthy all doubts ahead of the West Ham clash.
It will be a close game but Everton will scrape through at home.
Everton 3-2 West Ham
4. Manchester City vs Swansea
The Eithiad Stadium plays host to a Saturday afternoon kick-off (3pm) with Swansea coming to Manchester on the back of two wins and a draw against Leicester City, Everton and Arsenal. This will be a clash of two sides high on confidence.
Garry Monk has galvanised his side into becoming a very realistic challenger to the traditional top four. One issue Swansea will have this season is their not scoring as much as the sides around them.
Defensively however, the Swans have been brilliant, only conceding eleven goals, one less than their opponents on Saturday.
Manchester City will rightly be expected to win, particularly when looking at their form. Their struggles in Europe aren’t being reflected domestically, with four wins and a draw in their last six games.
One has to expect City to overcome Swansea, however the Welsh side will be buoyed by the position they’ve found themselves at this stage of this season.
Manchester City: Sergio Aguero – The City frontman will need to be on top of his game to overcome Swansea’s tough defence on Saturday
Swansea City: Ashley Williams – It will be up to the skipper and co. to tame the aforementioned Aguero in what will arguably be one of Swansea’s toughest fixtures for the entirety of the season.
It will be tough for Man City to breach Swansea’s rearguard but they will at some point throughout the 90 minutes.
Manchester City 1-0 Swansea City
3. Aston Villa vs Southampton
The league’s biggest surprise package by quite a distance – Southampton travel to Birmingham to face an Aston Villa side struggling for form. It may not be as simple as many will think with Villa sure to have some sort of backlash following a rest period over the international break.
They will need to raise their game and this writer expects them to do so as they face the Premier League’s second placed side. It is difficult however, to see past a Southampton victory such is the way they have gone about their season.
A lot has been said about Southampton’s fixtures following the Villa game when they must face Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United – three games where they will be tested more than they have throughout the season so far. This adds an extra spice to the Villa game.
The Villans will hope to improve on a draw against West Ham before the international break following a run of six straight defeats before that, while the Saints will hope to bring their points total to 28 before this difficult run of fixtures.
Aston Villa: Brad Guzan – The Villa keeper has been in outstanding form once again this season, pulling off numerous wonderful saves and he will need to be at the top of his game to stop the Saints from marching on to a victory.
Southampton: Graziano Pelle – The obvious choice, but it’s difficult to pick anyone else out aside from the Saints’ top goalscorer as he will be crucial to Southampton’s attack against the Villans.
Aston Villa 0-2 Southampton
2. Leicester City vs Sunderland
This is a crucial fixture for both Leicester and Sunderland. Both sides are in need of three points, particularly Leicester who are in 17th position just two points from the foot of the table.
Sunderland are in a precarious position in the league. With a win they could theoretically shoot up to 10th but a loss leaves them firmly stuck in a battle against the drop.
The Black Cats have drawn six games which shows they do have a fighting spirit and this will need to come to the forefront as they head to Leicester to face a side chasing only their third victory of the season.
Leicester: Leonardo Ulloa – The Leicester striker is their top scorer this season with five goals. He must be on song against Sunderland for Leicester to have a chance
Sunderland: Sebastian Larsson – Sundereland’s most dynamic midfield player. He will need to win the battle against Leicester’s midfield to give the Black Cats any chance of scoring.
Try as they might to win the game, this looks like it could be a draw
Leicester City 1-1 Sunderland
1. Arsenal vs Manchester United
The highlight of the weekend’s action is set up to be Manchester United’s trip to Arsenal on Saturday evening. Arsenal are looking to gain another three points to give themselves a better chance of pushing for the Champions League places.
However, West Ham and Swansea who are currently above them are sure to slip behind Arsenal at some stage, particularly when Arsene Wenger has a fully fit squad to choose from.
Speaking of injuries and United are really struggling at the moment. The most recent of Louis van Gaal’s injury woes is Angel Di Maria who is a doubt for the fixture with Michael Carrick, David De Gea and Daley Blind all out of action.
The injury problems to both sides should make for an interesting encounter. However, this writer feels Arsenal may just have the upper hand.
Arsenal: Alexis Sanchez – It’s hard to look past the in-form striker. He will be the main threat going forward for Arsenal once again
Manchester United: Wayne Rooney – The England international was superb against Scotland in his most recent international game and will need to replicate that performance against Arsenal.
Arsenal should win this game despite injuries hurting both sides.
Arsenal 3-1 Manchester United
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena