The international break is over and it’s time to separate the men from the boys.
Can Spurs keep up their blistering start? Check back after their date at White Hart Lane with Manchester United.
Can City keep up in its race to crack the top four? A home game with Arsenal might provide some early answers.
And it’s all on tap for this weekend.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United
These teams have met 22 times in all competitions since Spurs last notched a victory over the Red Devils, but there could be no better time to buck that trend than Saturday.
Table watch: Spurs are second on goal difference with a max 12 points from four games while United sits in third on nine points.
Medical update: Tottenham’s Jemaine Jenas and Gareth Bale are injury doubts while Jonathan Woodgate (hernia), Michael Dawson (Achilles) and Heurelho Gomes (thigh) will likely not play this weekend. Meanwhile, Rio Ferdinand will likely have to pass a late fitness test to join in the United backline.
They said it: “I watched a couple of videos yesterday and they’ll be a handful for us,” Sir Alex Ferguson said to the team’s Web site. “But that’s the nature of the Premier League. Hopefully I can pick the right team and get a good result.”
Manchester City vs. Arsenal
Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor have changed shirts for this fixture and the former Gunners will look to take three points off their old mates this weekend at Eastlands.
Table watch: City is in the fourth spot on nine points while Arsenal is in sixth place with as many points.
Missing in action: The international break claimed a goal scoring threat from each side as City’s Carlos Tevez and Arsenal’s Andrei Arshavin both picked up knocks playing for their respective countries in mid-week.
A simple plan: “Adebayor has started the season on fire and we have to put that fire out,” Arsene Wenger said to the team’s Web site.
A pin-up quote: “There’s nothing better than beating your old teammates, I used to find that and I used to love it. I’m sure Kolo and Ade are no different,” Mark Hughes said to the team’s Web site.
Portsmouth vs. Bolton Wanderers
It’s a something’s-got-to-give game as Pompey entertain Bolton in a clash of teams still seeking their first points of the new campaign.
Table watch: Look low and you’ll find Bolton in 19th place ahead only by goal difference on 20th-place Portsmouth.
No place like home: Bolton has yet to score an away goal in Premier League play this season, and has only one win at Fratton Park since 2003.
Blackburn Rovers vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce will be hoping his club can get into gear as they host Wolves Saturday.
Table watch: Blackburn is in 18th place with one point while Wolves are holding down 13th place on four points.
Praise for England: “I don’t know Fabio Capello, but it was almost like the players’ reaction mirrored him – ‘job done, shake hands with the lads, get on with it and get back to your clubs,'” Wolves manager Mick McCarthy said of England’s recent thumping of Croatia.
History lesson: Last time Wolves visited Ewood Park, they left with a 5-1 defeat in 2003.
Wigan Athletic vs. West Ham United
Wigan will try to start a climb up the table at home against the Hammers this weekend.
Table watch: Wigan is 17th on three points while West Ham is 11th place with four points.
An explanation: “Our start does possibly reflect the amount of changes we have had to make within the club,” Martinez told the Manchester Evening News. “Players need time to gel but with hard work and a winning mentality it will come. If we are to go onto the next level we have to be successful in the next six months.
“We have to work towards eventually becoming a top seven club – that is my aim.”
Looking out for No. 1: West Ham’s Robert Green has aspirations of minding the goal for England next summer in South Africa.
“We’ll see whether I’m involved next summer, but the team has qualified and that’s the main thing. I think, the way we played, we justified our qualification. I’ve got a nice quiet cup of tea, I’ll relax tonight and I’ll get my head down and go into work,” he told the team’s Web site.
Liverpool vs. Burnley
Burnley will try to impress an ESPN audience with a good showing at Anfield against the Reds on Saturday.
Table watch: Both teams are on six points with Liverpool in seventh and Burnley in 10th on goal difference.
Hot and cold: Liverpool has struggled to find consistency in its first four matches, picking up two wins and two losses along the way.
From the boss: “The team as a team has not played at the level we can, but hopefully the win against Bolton will be a lift for us,” Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said in his weekly press conference. When you are not doing well you always need character – and the players showed character against Bolton.
“We controlled the game and although we conceded two goals, we scored three and came from behind to win. That is very positive and hopefully it will be a different situation for us now.”
Ready for the challenge?: “We are looking forward to the game,” Clarets’ gaffer Owen Coyle told the team’s Web site. “Liverpool have got some unbelievably gifted players – Torres and Gerrard for two could play for anybody in world football – but as a player, coach or manager you want to play against the best players and the best teams and Liveprool tick every box that’s required in that department.
“The atmosphere will be fantastic and we want to play a big, big part in that. We will go and try and play our game.”
Stoke City vs. Chelsea
The Potters hope to continue their fast start with a good effort at home against table-topping Chelsea.
Table watch: The Blues are in first with 12 points while Stoke City is sitting in fifth with seven points.
Shaking off controversy: Chelsea will have to get past FIFA’s sanctions and focus on the business of winning matches.
“A lot of things have happened to me in my career with England and Chelsea and whenever it’s backs to the wall, it brings a togetherness and it can be used as a positive,” Frank Lampard told ESPN. “You certainly can’t let it be used as a negative.
“It’s something that is out of the players’ control anyway, so all we can do now is make it a positive.”
Sunderland vs. Hull City
A pair of mid-table clubs dreaming of better things will hook up at The Stadium of Light Saturday.
Table watch: Sunderland is in ninth place on six points while the Tigers are in 14th place on four points.
A new captain: The Black Cats have a new captain as Lorik Cana will now wear the armband.
Who’s in goal?: Third-choice keeper Trevor Carson might be called into action for Sunderland, due to injuries to Craig Gordon and Marton Fulop.
“It’s the goalkeeping position that’s the area which is most in our mind but it’s likely to be a case of leaving a lot of things to the last minute before being able to make some decisions,” Steve Bruce told the Sunderland Echo. “Even so, we’ve still got a squad here that should allow us to put out a very strong side, regardless of any injuries for the visit of Hull.”
They said it: “We belong here,” Stephen Hunt told the Hull Daily Mail. “We have earned the right to be here and the ones who were here earned the right to get into the division.
“You still have to earn the right to stay in the division and if you don’t, you will struggle at the bottom. You have to earn the right again and again to cherish what you’ve got or you fall behind.”
Birminghan City vs. Aston Villa
The Second City Derby kicks off Sunday action as Birmingham and Villa collide.
Table watch: Birmingham occupy 12th place on four points while their neighbors dwell in eighth place on six points.
Derby stats: Villa owns 49 wins in this series while Birmingham has 37. Twenty of those wins for City have come at home.
No Young for Villa: “Having given it a bit more thought, I think Sunday may be a little too soon for Luke. There’s no point rushing him through,” Martin O’Neill told soccer365.com. “He’s getting there and he’s not feeling too bad at all.”
Fulham vs. Everton
The final game of the weekend features a clash of Europa League teams that aren’t quite matching last year’s output just yet.
Table watch: Fulham is in 15th place on three points ahead by goal difference over the 16th-place Toffees.
Match facts: The Toffees swept Fulham last season and the Everton win at Craven Cottage snapped a 15-game winning streak for home teams in this series. … Fulham has only three shots on target this season, which might account for the fact that it only has one goal.