• Premier League preview

United hoping for six of the best

ESPN staff
September 23, 2011
Dimitar Berbatov will be aiming to be the main man once again for Manchester United © Getty Images

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Manchester United remain the team to dethrone at the top of the table and their 3-0 defeat of Leeds in the Carling Cup was another eye-catching display, even if it was Sir Alex Ferguson's second-string. Stoke will look to put the brakes on the champions' charge in front of the ESPN cameras, while Arsenal will look to build on their midweek victory over Shrewsbury. All eyes will be on Fernando Torres as Chelsea host Swansea, while Spurs will aim to continue their revival at Wigan.

Premier League betting preview


Stoke City v Manchester United - Live on ESPN

Form: Despite sporting 11 changes to the side that dispatched Chelsea 3-1 last weekend, United continued their brilliant start to the season with another eye-catching performance in their Carling Cup triumph at Leeds. Sir Alex Ferguson's focus returns to the Premier League, where his team have racked up five wins from five, scoring 21 goals in the process. Stoke may sit fifth in the table, but their form has been patchy to say the least.
Key battle: With United's big guns set to return, Stoke's defenders could be in for a long afternoon - particularly with a rampaging Wayne Rooney on the look-out for a 10th goal in the league. Ryan Shawcross' ability will certainly face the toughest of examinations.
Player to watch: With Javier Hernandez still nursing a knee injury sustained under the challenge of Ashley Cole, Dimitar Berbatov will get a rare chance to press his claims for a more regular starting berth.
Talking point: Nani has stated he wants to be the best player in the world. A couple of years ago the Portuguese flyer appeared to have no future at Old Trafford but his current form suggests the world is at his feet.
Bet of the day: Man United to win 3-1: 11/1 at bet365
Prediction: 1-3

Manchester City v Everton

Form: City's perfect start to the Premier League season was ended at Craven Cottage last weekend, but they returned to winning ways with an Owen Hargreaves-inspired 2-0 Carling Cup triumph over Birmingham in midweek. Meanwhile, seventh-placed Everton have only had one away fixture to date, a 1-0 victory against Blackburn Rovers last month.
Key battle: Sergio Aguero has acquitted himself brilliantly thus far in his short City career, netting eight goals in five matches. Phil Jagielka's name has been mentioned in the same breath as a number of the league's top clubs in recent seasons and, should he keep Aguero quiet, he could be packing his bags for London come January.
Player to watch: Carlos Tevez's love-hate relationship with Manchester is well-documented but it seems the Argentine is content right now. He has struck up a lethal partnership with Aguero and has a great understanding with David Silva. A content Tevez is a frightening prospect for any defence.
Talking point: Hargreaves put in a great shift against Birmingham, marking his City debut with a terrific goal and featuring for almost an hour. With his history of long-term knee injuries, the question is how much will Roberto Mancini use him?
Bet of the day: Aguero to score two goals: 4/1 at bet365
Prediction: 2-0

Even a Carling Cup triumph couldn't lift the gloom around Emirates Stadium © Getty Images

Arsenal v Bolton

Form: Arsenal put their struggles in the league to one side in midweek, putting three past Shrewsbury in the Carling Cup. However, their respite may be short-lived as they welcome a Bolton side, who they have struggled against in the past, to Emirates Stadium. Bolton are two places below their opponents in the table (19th) but a win over Aston Villa may give them a timely boost as they go in search of a second league win of the season.
Key battle: Laurent Koscielny has had his critics when donning the red and white of Arsenal and, arguably, the last player he would want to face is a physical Kevin Davies. The Bolton man thrives on a duel and Koscielny won't have to go looking for the England striker.
Player to watch: Robin van Persie remains Arsenal's star attraction, the Dutchman is capable of producing game-changing moments. If Arsenal can supply him, Van Persie has plenty of goals in him to lift them up the table.
Talking point: Owen Coyle expects Arsenal to continue their pursuit of star defender Gary Cahill in January, with a move to Emirates Stadium likely for the 25-year-old if the Gunners offer an acceptable amount. Get the binoculars out, his performance will make for interesting viewing.
Bet of the day: Arsenal to win 2-1: 15/2 at bet365
Prediction: 2-1

Chelsea v Swansea

Form: Ten-man Chelsea moved into the fourth round of the Carling Cup courtesy of a penalty shootout win over Fulham, but it was another performance that left their supporters frustrated. They are third in the league but already find themselves five points adrift of leaders United. Swansea enter the match on the back of a 3-0 win over West Brom, although they are yet to bank a single point away from home.
Key battle: Scott Sinclair scored Swansea's first Premier League goal and he created another in the drubbing of West Brom. The winger looks destined for bigger clubs and he'll look to add to his growing reputation by exposing Jose Bosingwa down the left flank.
Player to watch: Hard to look past Fernando Torres. He scored a sublime goal against United but then fluffed his lines when presented with an open goal. If he looks at the positives there were plenty to suggest his game is on the up - even if he will never live that miss down.
Talking point: Chelsea look as if they are missing Didier Drogba's power but, with the Ivorian an unused sub against Fulham, will he get a chance to spark Chelsea into life on Saturday?
Bet of the day: Torres to score first and Chelsea to win 2-0: 15/1 at bet365
Prediction: 2-0

Liverpool v Wolves

Form: Liverpool brushed aside their recent league woes to dump Brighton out of the Carling Cup at the third-round stage, and there was more positive news for Reds fans with the return of club captain Steven Gerrard after his lengthy spell on the sidelines. However, back-to-back defeats to Stoke and Tottenham will be preying heavily on Kenny Dalglish's mind, with the Merseysiders slipping to eighth after a bright start. Wolves may be flexing their muscles after destroying Millwall 5-0 in midweek but, somewhat alarmingly, they have failed to score in the league in 315 minutes.
Key battle:Luis Suarez's clash with Roger Johnson promises much. Suarez has fizzed in fits and starts so far this season, while Johnson has much to do to tighten Wolves' defence after they conceded three against QPR in their last league outing.
Player to watch: After a 15-minute cameo against Brighton on Wednesday, Steven Gerrard looks set for a return to Premier League action after six months out. Ninety minutes may be asking too much but he should get enough game-time to ride to his team's rescue.
Talking point: Kenny Dalglish has insisted Andy Carroll is part of his long-term plans but, after seeing Craig Bellamy mark his first start since returning to the club with a goal, the £35 million man must be starting to question where he fits in this Liverpool side.
Bet of the day: Liverpool to win 2-1: 7/1 at bet365
Prediction: 2-1

Newcastle v Blackburn

Form: Both teams have prevailed in seven-goal thrillers over the course of the last week, Blackburn adding to Arsenal's plight with a 4-3 win and Newcastle leaving it later before edging Nottingham Forest by the same scoreline in extra time. Newcastle are sitting pretty in fourth in the league table and are yet to taste defeat, while Rovers, who are still awaiting their first win on the road, lie in 16th.
Key battle: Leon Best isn't one to shy away from a confrontation, and he will be licking his lips at the prospect of going toe to toe with Blackburn enforcer Christopher Samba.
Player to watch: Yakubu is a striker in form and he'll be eager to make the most of his promising start to life with Rovers.
Talking point: French midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa, who had managed only four competitive appearances for Newcastle before suffering a double leg fracture, started in the win over Forest, but Alan Pardew may be wary of playing him too much too quickly.
Bet of the day: Newcastle to win 1-0 6/1 at bet365
Prediction: 1-0

West Brom v Fulham

Form: West Brom are reeling, sitting bottom of the table after losing four of their first five fixtures. Fulham are the only team still to chalk up a victory and worryingly they've only score once on their travels.
Key battle: Youssouf Mulumbu has called time on his international career to concentrate on his club career with West Brom. He can now put all his energy into stopping Danny Murphy getting on the ball in the middle of the park.
Player to watch: A fit and firing Bobby Zamora is a big bonus for Martin Jol and Fulham. He has started the season with real intent and will be key to Fulham's expected revival.
Talking point: How much will the heartbreaking Carling Cup defeat to Chelsea take out of Fulham?
Bet of the day: West Brom to win 2-1: 8/1 at bet365
Prediction: 2-1

Wigan v Tottenham

Form: Wigan have five points on the board but are without a win since beating QPR at the end of August. Spurs appear to have turned the corner after crushing Liverpool 4-0, although a penalty-shootout defeat to Stoke in the Carling Cup may have eroded some of their confidence.
Key battle: Franco Di Santo will need to produce a performance of note if Wigan are to get anything from this game, but he may not get much change out of Ledley King.
Player to watch: Luka Modric showed the Tottenham faithful what he is all about against Liverpool, and when the midfield maestro is on song there are few better to admire.
Talking point: Harry Redknapp is keen to improve Modric's current deal, but will he pen a new deal at White Hart Lane?
Bet of the day: Spurs to win 2-1: 15/2 at bet365
Prediction: 1-2


Luka Modric is back in business © Getty Images

QPR V Aston Villa

Form: QPR haven't conceded a goal since their 2-0 defeat to Wigan at the end of last month, with their ability to keep the opposition helping to take them up to ninth. Three draws in a row in the league have checked Villa's progress, but they have managed to avoid defeat thus far.
Key battle: Joey Barton scored his first goal for QPR since his summer move from Newcastle in the 3-0 win over Wolves and Fabian Delph will have to be at his tenacious best to stop Barton in his tracks.
Player to watch: Gabriel Agbonlahor has said he has a point to prove this season and he going some way to making it, with three goals to his name already.
Talking point: With QPR's additions, how far up the table can they finish this season. Contenders for Europe or is survival the only goal?
Bet of the day: QPR to win 2-1: 17/2 at bet365
Prediction: 2-1


Norwich v Sunderland

Form: The Canaries notched up their first win of the campaign last time out, securing a 2-1 win at Bolton, but they need to address their home form - and fast. Sunderland bounced back from their loss to Chelsea with an emphatic 4-0 drubbing of Stoke and they'll look to push on from their position of 12th.
Key battle: Sebastian Larsson helped lift the pressure on the squad after a run of five games without a win, scoring his side's fourth against Stoke. Anthony Pilkington has put his injury hell behind him with a string of fine performances and his personal battle with Larsson is likely to prove key to the outcome of this encounter.
Player to watch: Nicklas Bendtner looks to be enjoying getting games under his belt and if he can start finding the back of the net on a regular basis the Black Cats could become something of a force.
Talking point: Larsson said their win over Stoke was "massive" so Sunderland will be desperate to back up that much-needed triumph.
Bet of the day: Bendtner to score first in a 1-1 draw: 30/1 at bet365
Prediction: 1-1
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