Premier League: Five things to look out for
JOE looks ahead to this weekend in the Premier League and considers what matches to watch and avoid, who might surprise and who probably won't.
By Conor Hogan
Surprise Package: West Ham
Avram Grantâ€™s Hammers have started the season absolutely abysmally. So far, West Ham have only garnered one point from five matches and lie in 20th and last position in the table.
Tottenham, in contrast, are at the right end of the table, level on points with 4th place Manchester City.
West Hamâ€™s performances have improved in recent weeks, however, especially away from home. Their last two matches were a 1-1 away draw against Stoke City, and a 2-1 away victory against Sunderland in the Carling Cup.
West Ham are due a win eventually, however and in a derby match, form goes somewhat out the window.
Spurs have been excellent at times this season, though they have also been their usual inconsistent selves, losing at home to a Wigan team they had beaten by eight clear goals the previous season.
Whipping Boys: West Brom
Despite losing 6-0 to Chelsea on the opening day of the season, West Brom have been in great form. In the last four games â€“ they have won two, drawn one and lost only one.
They also had a fantastic victory against Manchester City in the Carling Cup last night. This week, however, they will be facing an Arsenal side who, so far, have been absolutely rampant at the Emirates. In their two home matches, they have scored a grand total of ten goals, and only conceded one.
We donâ€™t expect Roberto Di Matteoâ€™s side to lose by anywhere near as much as they did during their last visit to London, but we would be surprised if Arsenal donâ€™t run out comfortable winners.
Game not to miss: Manchester City v Chelsea
Chelsea have started the season in astonishing form, winning all five games and scoring 21 goals. It must be noted, however, that they were gifted a less than taxing fixture list â€“ West Brom at home, Wigan away, Stoke City at home, West Ham away and Blackpool at home.
This weekend, they should be seriously tested for the first time this season, as they take on mega-rich Manchester City at Eastlands. City did the double over Chelsea last year, winning the games 2-1 and 4-2.
Roberto Mancini â€˜s side spent Â£125 million this summer, and though they have had a somewhat stuttering start to the season, they still find themselves in fourth position in the table. They are a formidable side at home and even defeated Liverpool 3-0 there earlier this season.
Both teams suffered defeats in the Carling Cup during the week after resting a host of first-team players and should be more than refreshed. It is possibly the richest fixture in world football, as the two teams have a combined wage bill of nearly Â£300 million.
Game to miss: Birmingham v Wigan
The fixture list has worked out rather nicely this weekend and most of the matches look quite appetising. Weâ€™ve selected Birmingham matches before as the game to miss, yet often theyâ€™ve surprised us and have been involved in some quite entertaining affairs, none more so than their enjoyable 2-2 draw against Bolton.
Wigan are looking as gloriously inconsistent as ever, so if it ends up being a high-scoring thriller donâ€™t blame us. The reason Iâ€™ve selected it is because of the lack of importance it has. Birmingham will probably end up comfortably mid-table come season end and because of Wigan's inconsistency, there is a 50% chance that they will play like absolute muck.
What about the rest:
Sunderland will hope to end their atrocious away record when they travel to out-of-form Liverpool. They may never have a better chance of getting a result away to Liverpool, who were inauspiciously dumped out of the Carling Cup by League Two side Northampton. The Reds have made their worst start to a league season for 18 years.
Fellow struggling Merseysiders Everton have a hard-task on their hands as they take on unbeaten Fulham at Craven Cottage. The Cottagers manager Mark Hughes will be hoping to convert one his teamâ€™s many draws into a win.
In a battle of good vs evil, Ian Hollowayâ€™s entertaining Blackpool side will take on Sam Allardyceâ€™s cynical Blackburn Rovers. Aston Villa will travel to Molineux to take on Wolves in a midlands derby, while Alex Fergusonâ€™s increasingly vulnerable Manchester United will take on Owen Coyleâ€™s improving Bolton Wanderers.
Man City v Chelsea, 12:45
Arsenal v West Brom, 15:00
Birmingham v Wigan, 15:00
Blackpool v Blackburn, 15:00
Fulham v Everton, 15:00
Liverpool v Sunderland, 15:00
West Ham v Tottenham, 15:00
Bolton v Man Utd, 12:00
Wolverhampton v Aston Villa, 14:05
Newcastle v Stoke, 16:10