The September international break is much maligned by both fans and club managers alike and both will be pleased with a return to Premier League football this weekend.
Though an untimely interruption, the break gives plenty of time for thought and ahead of the fourth week of the Premier League season fans across the country will be keen to see how their teams respond.
Norwich vs West Ham: 0-1
West Ham turned in a stellar performance to beat Fulham 3-0 last time out and will hope the break will not bring about a loss of momentum. Norwich, who look set to struggle this season will know they need to be winning games like this and they too will want to continue their good form after a 1-1 draw with Tottenham. It will be a tight game but with the likes of Nolan and Noble in their midfield the Hammers should edge it.
Arsenal vs Southampton: 3-0
The Saints have put in creditable performances against both Manchester clubs and have been unfortunate to be denied three points both times. With Arsenal’s profligacy in front of goal you might expect a close game. But the Gunners will be buoyed by the 2-0 win against Liverpool. Their defence looks solid, Santi Cazorla looks a fantastic signing and this could be the game where their new strikers get off the mark.
Aston Villa vs Swansea: 1-1
On previous form this should be an easy game for the Swans. But Villa managed a good draw with Newcastle last time out and will want to build on that. Maintaining their early form would be impressive but Michael Laudrup’s side could suffer without Chico Flores and Neil Taylor. Swansea are stronger but with Darren Bent could capitalise on a weakened defence.
Fulham vs West Brom: 2-1
This could well come down to which teams forwards perform better on the day. West Brom have made an impressive start and will be a stern test for Fulham. Having lost two key players in Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele late in the transfer window, the Cottagers may have benefited from the break, a chance to regroup. Dimitar Berbatov could be an inspired signing and should he start from the off he could be the difference.
Manchester United vs Wigan Athletic: 2-0
It may be a new season but Sir Alex Ferguson will want to right the wrong that was the 1-0 defeat to Wigan last April. But the United boss has a number of injury problems to contend with, both Robin Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa picked up knocks while on international duty. Despite that, they should be too strong for the Latics and get a comfortable if perhaps unspectacular victory.
QPR vs Chelsea: 0-4
It was a busy summer for these London clubs and both added quality to their sides. For QPR the international break may have come at the wrong as it has prevented them from giving their new faces a chance to gel. The break could have disrupted Chelsea’s fine start but I expect them to continue their good form with a convincing victory over their West London rivals.
Stoke City vs Manchester City: 1-2
Lets get the cliches out the way. Stoke is a hard place to go and the break could be damaging for City given the number of players away. It will be a tough game for Roberto Mancini’s men but providing they are solid in defence they have the quality up top to cause Stoke problems. After drawing with Liverpool City will not want to drop more points this early on. I expect United and Chelsea to win so it’s vital the Sky Blues do too.
Sunderland vs Liverpool: 0-0
A tough one to call. Adam Johnson is a doubt for Sunderland but if he plays he will be a constant threat to the Liverpool defence and provide the service which will allow Steven Fletcher to be so too. Scoring will be Liverpool’s main problem this season but they have proved already they can create chances and they will hope that Luis Suarez can start to convert them. Both will giving their all for their first win but are evenly matched and could have to wait a week longer.
Reading vs Tottenham: 0-2
The Royals will want to make themselves tough to break down this season and they benefit from an industrious midfield. But with Dembele, Dempsey Sigurdsson and Bale lining up for Spurs the attacking ability will be too much for Brian McDermott’s men. The pressure will be on Spurs to get their first win under AVB but they should have enough about them to oblige.
Everton vs Newcastle: 1-0
An intriguing fixture as the two teams best placed to challenge the ‘big club’s’ face off. After a disappointing defeat to West Brom David Moyes will want his players to bounce back. Darron Gibson’s injury is a blow, particularly given the strength of the Magpies midfield. But there is a feel good factor around Goodison Park at the moment and if they can keep Hatem Ben Arfa quiet they stand a good chance of winning.