Premier League, Week 6: A big early test for title hopefuls

Ben Hoskins

Chelsea and Tottenham get a chance to show if they can challenge the Manchesters against each other, while City and Arsenal have to go away.

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea

White Hart Lane; Saturday, 12:45 GMT/7:45 AM ET

We don't have to wait long for the weekend's most attractive matchup, with Chelsea making the interminably long trek to North London to take on Spurs. Andre Villas-Boas' side has started the post-Gareth-Bale era quite well thanks in large part to their former talisman's nominal replacements, with Spurs sitting level with Arsenal on points and just a hair behind on goal difference. The second Jose Mourinho era hasn't gone quite as well as hoped, but that's a relative judgment; the Blues have been largely up to snuff in the Premier League, with the narrative turning against them largely because of a slip-up in their first Champions League test against Basel.

In any event, these are two incredibly talented teams with title aspirations-of different stripes, to be fair-squaring off against one another in a weekend largely full of otherwise underwhelming fixtures. It's a pity (for those of us in the US at least, and especially those of us on the west coast) that it's the early Saturday game, but it's an early-season contest between two potentially elite sides that are a bit of a mystery, and that's always worth watching.

Aston Villa vs. Manchester City

Villa Park; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

One of the more unexpected storylines of the season's first month was the genuine proficiency shown by Aston Villa in their first three games against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. Though they managed just three points from a possible nine thanks to a stunning opening-day win over the Emirates, Villa were worthy adversaries against Chelsea and Liverpool, and perhaps good enough to have earned another point or three for their efforts.

And then Villa went and messed the bed against Newcastle, lost Christian Benteke for six months in their win over Norwich City, and were soundly thumped by poorly-rested Spurs B-Side in the League Cup. That's certainly not to say that it's back to the relegation heap for Villa, but it's clear that there's still lots of work to be done. Unfortunately, it's not the kind of work Manchester City are very much capable of doing.

Fulham vs. Cardiff City

Craven Cottage; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

It's been a very rough start for Martin Jol's Fulham, with an opening day victory over Sunderland the only real bright spot so far in the season. (Depending upon how you feel about the Michael Jackson statue, I suppose.) Cardiff has looked relatively formidable to this point in their Premier League debut, but they're certainly a side Fulham should be capable of beating at home. With the Premier League's first axe having already fallen, it would probably be to Jol's great relief if his side could manage to do just that.

Hull City Tigers vs. West Ham United

K.C. Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Hull has to this point had the best luck of the newly promoted sides, scoring wins over Norwich City and Newcastle, a draw against Cardiff City, and respectably losing two games they really had no right winning to Chelsea and Manchester City. That's just about the ideal scenario for a team in Hull's position; winning games that are winnable, playing level with sides on equal footing, and keeping the big boys close enough that the goal difference doesn't get too far out of hand. West Ham does kind of the same thing, but it's awful when they do it because Sam Allardyce is a thief of joy.

West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester United

The Hawthorns; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

United is boring and kind of ordinary and West Brom is just awful to watch. Have fun.

Southampton vs. Crystal Palace

St. Mary's Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Southampton's rebirth seems to be going swimmingly so far, with their win over Liverpool last weekend-the only loss for the Reds so far-standing out as a statement win. It's been less of an easy road for Palace, with their only points of the season courtesy of a 3-1 win over Sunderland on the last day of August, something of an oasis of hope in a desert of underwhelming football. Still, this is the kind of game Southampton tended to lose last season; they've got the edge in talent on most teams in the middle of the table, but if they're going to take a step forward this season they'll need to show a bit more polish in games such as this one.

Swansea City vs. Arsenal

Liberty Stadium; Saturday, 17:30 GMT/12:30 PM ET

Despite an off-season that bordered on the comical at times, Arsenal find themselves at the top of the league and looking as good as anyone in England five games into the season. A whole lot of games still remain of course, but this is probably a better team than many thought at the outset of the season. Swansea is still largely impossible to figure out, but even when they're bad they're fun to watch, so this is a pretty solid late Saturday game.

Stoke City vs. Norwich City

Britannia Stadium; Sunday, 13:30 GMT/8:30 AM ET

"Well Mark Hughes has certainly gotten Stoke playing better footb-"


"I mean I know he still has a lot of Tony Pulis' players but they're passing the ball a bit and it's not quite as bad as it use-"


"Well, at least they're playing Norwich. They've got some really nice young strikers and that Leroy Fer is a real playe-"



Sunderland vs. Liverpool

Stadium of Light; Sunday, 16:00 GMT/11:00 PM ET

Well, the Paolo di Canio experiment is over. It ended about as well as any sane human being would have predicted, with Paolo di Canio being exposed at the highest level and sealing his fate by acting like an absolutely insane person at the end. Kevin Ball takes the lame-duck reigns until Sunderland settles on its new boss, and given di Canio's di-Canio-ness, it wouldn't be stunning to see the home side respond with a stirring performance. Of course, it also wouldn't be surprising to see them break down in tears of joy as soon as the opening whistle blows, thanks to the realization that no matter what happens they won't be forced to deal with a raging lunatic come full time.

Everton vs. Newcastle

Goodison Park; Monday, 20:00 GMT/3:00 PM ET

It's somewhat easy to forget, given their start to the year and lack of cutting edge early on, that Everton remains the only unbeaten side in the Premier League. And after a win over Chelsea in which the Toffees looked splendid and a win over West Ham in which they looked downright scary in the attack-in spite of some poor moments defensively-they've certainly emerged as an intriguing side. Newcastle has had their moments so far this year, but at Goodison Everton really ought to expect to win. If they get it, they're going to be looking very formidable.

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