Premier League preview and fixtures, Week 8: A soft run for the title contenders?

Shaun Botterill

None of the Premier League's top sides have particularly difficult matches this weekend. Of course, one of them is probably going to drop points where they shouldn't.

Newcastle United vs. Liverpool

St. James' Park; Saturday, 12:45 GMT/7:45 a.m. ET

Liverpool's rebuild seems to be coming along nicely, what with their record and goal difference matching league leaders Arsenal and the quality of play living up to -- if not exceeding -- the expectations of even the most optimistic of the club's fanbase. Newcastle still doesn't look good, but they certainly don't look cataclysmically bad in the same way they did last season (at least so far.) Liverpool definitely appear to be a top-tier team while Newcastle just as clearly look like a mid-table team, but the matchups are there to make this one potentially quite good. Of course, given these sides' propensity for playing football that doesn't exactly qualify as exhilarating, it could also be a complete and total snorefest. Sports!

Arsenal vs. Norwich City

Emirates Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10 a.m. ET

The Gunners are flying quite high so far, top of the Premier League after an offseason that was condemned in the public opinion as disastrous up until the very end. Norwich City had what was widely hailed as one of the more productive transfer windows in the Premier League, and to this point they've looked largely average (at best) and though the table placement is at this point mostly irrelevant, the relegation places are never an especially happy place to be.

The Gunners look to be easy favorites in this one, but with all of that attacking talent at the Canaries' disposal, one imagines that they will spark into life at some point. Whether or not they'll be able to do so at the Emirates remains to be seen, but the needle certainly tilts towards doubtful. Still, the Canaries are a bit of a powder keg, and Arsenal's start does have a whiff of the "too good to be true" about it, which makes this a game at the very least worth keeping an eye on.

Chelsea vs. Cardiff City

Stamford Bridge; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10 a.m. ET

Both of these sides have been somewhat difficult to get a pulse on so far this season, though they're clearly chasing different objectives. Playing at home and holding a clear edge in talent, it's tempting to call this an easy win for the Blues, but Cardiff has shown themselves capable of hanging with the elites this season. They might not look to be upset threats to the same degree as Norwich, but it seems unlikely that they'll roll over and die quite as easily as might be imagined.

Everton vs. Hull City

Goodison Park; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10 a.m. ET

Everton lost their first game of the Roberto Martinez era their last time out, going down somewhat sheepishly to a Manchester City side that looked to finally be aware of the level of talent with which they're working. They'll face much less talented competition in Hull City, but the Tigers aren't likely to make things easy on them. Hull is no slouch of a side, and though they'll likely end up battling for their lives before the year is out, they seem less likely to go down without a fight than any team in the league.

That's not to say that this game will be a must-watch affair. Though both sides are capable of scoring goals and taking the game to the opposition, each has shown their strength to be in winning tactical battles. Those games aren't always the most exciting, but they can be quite interesting.

Manchester United vs. Southampton

Anfield; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10 a.m. ET

Champions League hopefuls doing battle with mid-table also-rans. Yawn. Wake me up when there's any interesting change in the Premier League's power dynamic.

Stoke City vs. West Bromwich Albion

Britannia Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT 10 a.m. ET

Do we have to do this? No one wants to do this. I'm guessing even the teams don't want to do this. These teams have 11 goals between them! And what's worse, they've only allowed a combined 13, so it's not like a hilarious derpfest is on the cards. This is just going to be bad.

Swansea City vs. Sunderland

Liberty Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT 10 a.m. ET

Were I a fair and reasonable man, I'd treat this game as though it were just as likely to be terrible as Stoke-West Brom. I'm not, though. I actually remember Swansea being something better than terrible to watch, and I'm hopeful that they'll find their way towards being so once again. I don't have much forgiveness or faith where Stoke and the Baggies are concerned, and in spite of Gus Poyet, the jury is still very much out on Sunderland as well. You're our only hope, Swans!

West Ham United vs. Manchester City

Upton Park; Sunday, 17:30 GMT/12:30 p.m. ET

After what his side did to Spurs last match day, if West Ham manage a win in this one Big Sam will walk around looking like he's enjoying his own farts for a solid year. Which, honestly, would be pretty great. For all of the grief he gets, there is nothing better than smug, self-satisfied Sam Allardyce. He is very content in the knowledge that we are all idiots who take this stuff way too seriously, and it's just the best.

Aston Villa vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Villa Park; Sunday, 16:00 GMT/11 a.m. ET

These teams played at this same venue three weeks ago in the Capital One Cup, and Spurs absolutely ripped Villa apart to the tune of a 4-0 victory. But Villa's depth -- who heavily featured in the matchup -- is clearly no match for Spurs', and the home side may well see the return of Christian Benteke after missing nearly a month. Is that likely to matter? Probably not. But Villa's just weird enough to make it an interesting prospect in any case.

Cystal Palace vs. Fulham

Selhurst Park; Monday, 20:00 GMT/3 p.m. ET

Well, this is one hell of a marquee matchup to close out the week. On the plus side, there's literally no possible way that this game won't live up to the hype.

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