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Premier League, Week 9: Marquee game is blue vs. blue

Sunday's clash between Manchester City and Chelsea could be huge in the title race.

Michael Steele

Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal

Selhurst Park; Saturday, 12:45 GMT/7:45 AM ET

Arsenal suffered a bit of a disappointment in the Champions League, but they'll enter the weekend still top of the Premier League table, unbeaten since the season's first week and winners of six of their last seven games. Crytsal Palace are...none of those things, or anywhere close to them (though they do know something about disappointment.) Now without a manager following Ian Holloway's resignation earlier in the week, things are looking pretty bleak. There are times when clubs respond positively to a change at the top, but this doesn't seem likely to be one of them..

Aston Villa vs. Everton

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

On the surface, Aston Villa's chances in this game might seem decent; it's been a better than expected start for Paul Lambert's side, with a pair of shock wins and to this point none of the disasters that threatened to knock the rebuilding process off of its rails before it ever really got going. Everton's clearly the better side, but the gap isn't extreme and despite the decent results the Toffees have yet to really dominate any of their opposition. Still, Aston Villa has been quite bad at home for quite some time now; their upset over Manchester City is an outlier here, and until they demonstrate that they don't face a home field disadvantage, they're not going to be given the benefit of the doubt.

Liverpool vs. West Bromwich Albion

Anfield; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Despite what appears to be a genuine and sustainable step forward taken by Liverpool, it's clear that Brendan Rodgers' side is going to be in for a fight if they hope to return to the Champions League. The seeming contraction at the top of the table if a double-edged sword for the Reds; a top four finish seems, at this early stage, to be more attainable than in the recent past, but that's true of several other clubs that have been similarly on the outside of the Champions League race. To get there, Liverpool needs to win games like these. West Brom isn't a bad team, but they're a team the Reds should be able to dispatch comfortably at home.

Manchester United vs. Stoke City

Old Trafford; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

United's relative struggles to this point in the season would be significantly less of a story were they any other club at any other point in their history. Though the Red Devils currently sit 8th in the table, the eight point gap between themselves and first-placed Arsenal is far from insurmountable. Still, these are not normal circumstances, and these are games David Moyes' side need to win if the new manager hopes to ease some of the scrutiny and relieve some of the pressure. Stoke City isn't an easy team for anyone to beat, but Moyes doesn't have the luxury of excuses. That's not exactly fair, but it is reality.

Norwich City vs. Cardiff City

Carrow Road; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

It's too early on to say definitively that these are two very poor sides, but all signs point to these being to very poor sides. In Cardiff's case that's somewhat understandable given their newly promoted status, but it's a bit more puzzling where the Canaries are concerned; the talent is seemingly there, but they just haven't been able to make it work. There's still plenty of time for them to manage to do so, but until theory is put into practice on a more regular basis, the jury remains out.

Southampton vs. Fulham

St. Mary's Stadium; Saturday, 17:30 GMT/12:30 AM ET

Fulham came alive in their Monday night thumping of Crystal Palace, and on the back of a grinding win over Stoke City the Cottagers are beginning to look downright respectable after a wholly uninspiring start to the year. But it's still hard to believe that they have what's needed to take down Southampton, who have clearly been the story of the season so far. If the visitors do manage an upset, or even a draw with the right kind of circumstances, it would be tempting to believe that their early form was somewhat misleading. But given the way the Saints have been playing, that's going to be no simple task.

Sunderland vs. Newcastle

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

Well, this is certainly a rivalry game, you've got to give it that. Newcastle's form could perhaps be best described as schizophrenic, while Sunderland has just been downright horrendous for the better part of a year now. If Newcastle plays as well as they're capable this could get quite ugly for the home side, but with so many unknowns surrounding Sunderland at the moment is impossible to predict.

Chelsea vs. Manchester City

Stamford Bridge; Sunday, 16:30 GMT/11:30 AM ET

Clearly the weekend's marquee matchup, if there's a winner in Blues vs. Blues it could turn out the be a significant result once the end of the season rolls around. Both sides are coming off of Champions League wins in mid-week, and Chelsea's stingy defense will get its toughest test yet against a City team that's averaging over two goals per match. It is of course always possible that games like this will fail to live up to the hype, but it's pretty rare that they aren't a whole lot of fun on some level.

Swansea City vs. West Ham United

Liberty Stadium; Sunday, 16:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

(Beauty and the Beast analogy.)

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Hull City

White Hart Lane; Sunday, 16:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

Spurs have now had a bit of time between that embarrassing result against West Ham, and things looked pretty much back to normal in last weekend's win over Aston Villa. Hull City has been a nice surprise to this point, and there's little doubt they'll give Spurs something of a test. But unless there's a recurrence of whatever it was that caused Tottenham to play like they'd never met one another before, this is one they should take rather comfortably.

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