There could be a goalfest at the Emirates; Paul Lambert's Hi Viz army will be out in force; Fernando Torres can continue his form; and Joe Hart faces an anxious wait
Liverpool used to enjoy their trips to Arsenal: five wins in eight seasons between 1993 and 2000, with only one defeat. But after Titi Camara's Celebratory Millennium Skitter at Highbury, they didn't triumph again in the fixture until Luis Suárez set the seal on a 2-0 win in 2011. But after that long wait, the recent trend is currently in their favour. That win forms part of a three-game unbeaten run for Liverpool at the Emirates, although how much one can read into the other two games, which featured a penalty equaliser in the 12th minute of injury time and the comprehensive bottling of a seemingly unassailable two-goal lead from a position of dominance, is a moot point. Still, trends are trends, and while Liverpool are coming off the back of Suárez and Daniel Sturridge's masterclass against West Brom, Arsenal have lost their last two at home, albeit to Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea.
The fact that Liverpool's centre midfield, built carefully around the proud but slowly crumbling Steven Gerrard, doesn't quite have the requisite snap, despite the resolute efforts of Lucas and the increasingly impressive Jordan Henderson, might give the home side succour, especially if Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere are in the mood to run at it. The fact that Arsenal's midfield is without the influential Mathieu Flamini, with the SAS in this unforgiving and upbeat mood, might give the Gunners nightmares. Try to call the result? No thanks! But there were four goals in this fixture last season. There's no reason why a similar tally won't be run up this weekend. SM
Aston Villa's luminous lime green kit won't take much looking out for this weekend, because it'll be very difficult to miss. Last season's away strip, the lurid shirt prompted a new terrace chant: "We're Aston Villa, we glow in the dark!" This season, the arresting attire has been relegated to third choice kit on the back of the contractual diktat from shirt manufacturers Macron that stipulates the club must wheel out new home and away kits each season. Villa's players get to wear it again at Upton Park this Saturday because the claret quarters in their away kit could clash with the identical colour in West Ham's home shirts and cause confusion among players, officials and supporters.
Whatever their attire, Aston Villa have enjoyed a lot more success on the road than at home this season, having won two, drawn one and lost one of their four Premier League games away from Villa Park. Against a West Ham side that has lost three of its four matches at the Boleyn Ground, Paul Lambert's Hi Viz army (you can have that one, travelling Villa fans) will fancy their chances. BG
Manchester United always used to use the League Cup as an opportunity to give a few squad members a much-needed run-out. Times change, of course, and while David Moyes doesn't yet have the capital to treat English football's third trophy with such reckless insouciance, the line-up he sent out against Norwich City on Tuesday, set alongside the one he selects at Fulham tomorrow, might prove instructive. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were the centre backs for the Capital One Cup, but Phil Jones and Jonny Evans are currently his preferred pairing in the league. The XI for Fulham could offer further evidence that one of the great partnerships is on its last legs. Few United fans would take issue with that decision, agreeing with a heavy heart. Many more, however, would object if Rafael, named alongside Ferdinand and Vidic in the "second XI" on Tuesday, is disposed with in the league. The best right back at the club, Rafael is popular enough with the support for such a decision to cause waves. If the rumours suggesting Moyes doesn't fancy him and is willing to sell are true, the manager might lose a fair bit of goodwill, a commodity he can ill afford to shed right now. SM
Having seen off Newcastle with a thud-and-blunder performance that was more brave than bravura, it will be intriguing to see how Sunderland fare on their travels to the KC Stadium. Despite their long overdue first win of the season, Gus Poyet's side remain deep in the relegation mire but will fancy their chances of securing another three points against a Hull City side that suffered a wearying and dispiriting Capital One Cup defeat on penalties against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night.
Sunderland, by contrast, have had the week off and will be jubilant after winning their second consecutive derby against their local rivals. Indeed, in an interview that may prompt the drug-testers to scurry to the club's training ground sample jars in hand, Gus Poyet has been busy describing the transformation in the mood among his players. "They have been on a high all week and that has been great, but by the end of Wednesday they had come down a bit," he said. "Thursday is about being calm and composed, and we turn our mind on Hull then for Friday."
In 10th place and having been cruelly robbed of a point courtesy of a ludicrous penalty decision at White Hart Lane last weekend, Hull's mellow has been well and truly harshed in the past week and Steve Bruce will almost certainly have payback in mind after being sacked by Sunderland in 2011. He has had made no secret of his bitterness over the decision to dismiss him and incurred the wrath of fans on Wearside by foolishly suggesting they had "Champions League" aspirations when, towards the end of his reign, they'd almost certainly have settled for paying to watch a team that demonstrated even half the fight shown by Gus Poyet's men last Sunday afternoon. BG
Here's a question, then. What exactly is Martin Jol doing that's so wrong? He's the manager of Fulham Football Club, and Fulham Football Club – forgive us, but much as we'd like the following not to be the case, we don't make the rules of modern football – aren't expected to win trophies, but merely survive. So while League Cup defeat to second-tier Leicester City is a bit of a pain in the trousers, it hardly represents a statistical outlier at a club without a major trophy to their name. Meanwhile the team are pootling along in mid-table, playing pretty and occasionally spectacular football, as poor old Crystal Palace will attest. There's a good chance Manchester United, three wins on the bounce, will be too good for his Fulham side this weekend. If so, and if the bookies are worth listening to, which they probably are, Jol could easily find himself out of a job, sacrificed in the pursuit of … well, what exactly? SM
The decision to appoint Mike Dean to oversee this potential powder keg is a weird one. In 2009, the whistle-blower from Wirral was understandably shaken after being hit on the forehead by a coin thrown by some eejit during a Championship match between the two sides at Ninian Park. He went on to upset Swansea fans by awarding Cardiff City a penalty which Roberto Martínez, then the Swans' manager, unwisely described as an "emotional decision" made by the referee in order to appease home fans.
There is no suggestion that the unsavoury incident will influence Dean's officiating in any way during Sunday afternoon's encounter, but his presence will provide conspiracy theorists among both sets of fans a stick with which to beat him and others should any contentious decisions go against their team. In a match where tensions on and off the field are guaranteed to be high, the appointment of a different match official would have been more wise. Then again, perhaps all concerned have forgotten about that particular afternoon at Ninian Park; it was more than three years ago, after all, and it's not like a lot of football fans are renowned for their long memories, paranoia or willingness to hold a grudge. BG
Fernando Torres was magnificent against Manchester City on Sunday, burning past Gaël Clichy on an embarrassingly regular basis, setting up one and scoring another. The performance came off the back of a two-goal showing at Schalke in the Champions League, and a recent powerful display against Spurs, the plus points of which were kind of forgotten in the wake of his needlessly getting up in Jan Vertonghen's astonished grill. Tack on some important goals at the business end of last season's Europa League, and a Chelsea career that was beginning to look like a complete personal write-off (no, we're not going to count the medals) looks like flickering slowly into life. But if it's ever going to happen for the 29-year-old £50m man, it's now. His winner against City was his first league goal all year. All year! Another quick goal, followed by another, is vital if he's ever to build some proper momentum at Chelsea and revisit the belligerent brilliance of his peak years at Liverpool. Newcastle, a club at civil war, is as good a place as any to maintain it. Receiving good notices every now and then upon hinting at a return to form is no longer enough; the scoring tally has to keep ticking over. SM
Chelsea are the form team of the division – a perfect October, six wins on the spin – but Spurs aren't too far behind them. They've only failed to win three of their 15 matches in league and cups all season, losing just twice. It's a formidable record that sees them sitting snugly in fourth place, three points behind the leaders Arsenal. The fans aren't in carnival mode yet, though, as André Villas-Boas noted to his chagrin, and they have reason to be anxious, because the happy stats aren't everything. While the Big Book Of Hoary Old Football Platitudes states that playing badly but getting results is the mark of a good team, it's also true that scraping past the likes of Crystal Palace, Swansea, Cardiff and Hull will only get you so far. In the big games so far this season, Spurs have signally failed to impress: they lost to Arsenal, might have been defeated by Chelsea had Torres not launched the aforementioned concerted campaign of terror on Vertonghen, and were humiliated at home to the tune of three goals by West Ham, who didn't even bother playing a striker. Tottenham could do with making a bold statement, their first of the post-Bale era. And where better than at resurgent Everton, who have lost only one league game themselves, and have won the last three times these teams have played at Goodison. SM
Stoke City have scored just twice in four Premier League matches at the Britannia Stadium this season, one fewer than they have conceded at home. This weekend's visitors, Southampton, have conceded an astonishingly paltry three goals in their nine Premier League games at home or away to date and kept clean sheets in five of their last six Premier League outings. A pragmatist could be forgiven for thinking there may not be many goals in this match and put their money on a scoreless draw (7-1) or 1-0 win for either side (Stoke: 7-1, Southampton: 13-2). Idealists, by contrast, might prefer to labour under the logic-free delusion that this trend for parsimony can't possibly continue and look forward to a 10-goal thriller. Hey, a weekly Premier League preview feature can dream. BG
All that there is to say about Joe Hart's career change from title-winning professional footballer to music-hall tumbling act has now been said. There's no point sticking the boot in while the man's down. Still, Manuel Pellegrini's teamsheet on Saturday at home to Norwich could be quite revealing. Selecting Costel Pantilimon in the Capital One Cup tells us nothing – he gets that gig anyway – but if the Romanian doesn't get a run-out against a side in the bottom three, at a stadium where City have scored 13 goals in four matches, in a fixture staged after the latest in a long line of egregious errors by Hart, he may decide once and for all that there's no point waiting around for something that isn't going to happen, and chip off in search of first-team action. If Pellegrini plays his hand badly, he could be looking for not just one but two new keepers very soon. SM