Manchester — Manchester City are aiming to avoid a third straight Premier League defeat for the first time in seven years when they host Brighton on Saturday, while Arsenal will provide a stiff test for resurgent Chelsea.
Four sides are in the running to top the table at some stage this weekend, starting with Liverpool when they take on Everton in the Merseyside derby.
AFP Sport looks at the pick of the action.
Can City halt slide?
City’s defeats by Wolves and Arsenal before the international break were the first back-to-back losses in the league for Pep Guardiola’s men since 2018.
You have to go back to the days of Manuel Pellegrini in early 2016 for the last time the champions lost three in a row, but Brighton pose a significant threat to City, who are on a run of 20 straight home wins in all competitions.
Guardiola has hailed Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi as “one of the most influential managers in the last 20 years”.
City have even appeared to copy the Seagulls’ trait of trying to bait sides into pressing before quickly moving the ball into space this season.
However, Brighton have struggled to cope with the demands of the club’s first-ever European campaign on top of their Premier League commitments.
De Zerbi’s men are without a win in their past four games in all competitions, though they are still sixth in the table.
Chelsea’s true test
Arsenal’s late winner against City two weeks ago has fuelled the Gunners’ belief that they can end a 20-year wait to win the title.
Mikel Arteta’s men are second, behind north London rivals Tottenham only on goals scored, and will end Saturday top of the table if they win because Spurs are not in action until Monday.
The international break came at the wrong time for Chelsea after they posted back-to-back league wins under Mauricio Pochettino for the first time.
The Blues have finally found their scoring touch, netting six times in victories against Fulham and Burnley, but Arsenal will provide a much sterner test of whether Chelsea really have turned the corner.
Chelsea have not beaten their London rivals in the league at home since 2018.
Should he end that barren run, Pochettino will go a long way to winning over the Stamford Bridge crowd after a frustrating start to his reign and do his old club Spurs a favour at the top of the table.
Klopp’s quandary over South American stars
Another season of contrasting fortunes appears to be unfolding on Merseyside.
Liverpool have shown signs of being back to their best under Jurgen Klopp and are just three points off the top.
Everton, by contrast, look set for another relegation battle after taking just seven points from a soft schedule in their opening eight games.
The Toffees have not won at Anfield in front of a crowd since 1999.
“Their record is very strong, they are a very good outfit, we know that,” said Everton boss Sean Dyche. “Our record needs changing there, we know that.
“It’s been a long time with not many wins but it’s a tough place to go.”
Klopp, whose team have taken just one point from their past two games, has a selection headache — he is unhappy at the 11:30 GMT kick-off on Saturday, just days after some of his key players represented their countries in South America.
Alexis Mac Allister, Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez all played 90 minutes for Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay respectively in matches that finished in the early hours of Wednesday UK time.
Fixtures (14:00 GMT unless stated)
Liverpool v Everton (11:30), Bournemouth v Wolves, Brentford v Burnley, Manchester City v Brighton, Newcastle v Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest v Luton, Chelsea v Arsenal (16:30), Sheffield United v Manchester United (19:00)
Aston Villa v West Ham (15:30)
Tottenham v Fulham (19:00)
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