The weekend’s highlight is no doubt the clash between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday and defeat for the hosts would see them drop 10 points behind their bitter rivals at this early stage of the season.
Saturday, October 24
Birmingham v Sunderland
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce returns to his old club on Saturday and will be hoping that his new side can push on from last week’s superb 1-0 home win over Liverpool. The loss of Lee Cattermole is a massive blow, though Kenwyne Jones is expected to play despite being stretchered off against Liverpool. Gregory Vignal, Stuart Parnaby and Franck Queudrue could return for Birmingham to add to their defensive options but Keith Fahey is a major doubt.
Fantasy player pick: Andy Reid
Burnley v Wigan
Burnley will be looking to continue their 100% home record when they host fellow midtable side Wigan. The Clarets could welcome back Fernando Guerrero from injury, though Martin Paterson, Chris McCann and Jay Rodriguez are all still sidelined. Chris Kirkland (dislocated finger) and Paul Scharner (hip) are both rated as no better than 50-50 to be fit by Wigan manager Roberto Martinez following injuries sustained in last Sunday’s draw with Manchester City.
Fantasy player pick: Charles N’Zogbia
Chelsea v Blackburn
Chelsea will looking to get their title charge back on track at Stamford Bridge when they entertain Blackburn. Jose Bosingwa and Yuri Zhirkov miss out through injury while John Obi Mikel and Alex are short on match fitness. Blackburn striker Franco Di Santo, on loan from Chelsea, is ineligible so Jason Roberts could get the nod up front. Pascal Chimbonda and Vince Grella are both struggling with injuries.
Fantasy player pick: Didier Drogba
Hull v Portsmouth
Jimmy Bullard could start for Hull this week after a successful return from injury against Fulham, while skipper Nick Barmby has recovered from a calf problem to take his place in the squad. Michael Brown serves a one game suspension for Pompey following his red card last weekend, while Papa Bouba Diop and Richard Hughes are still a week or two away from full fitness.
Fantasy player pick: Geovanni
Tottenham v Stoke
Top scorer Jermaine Defoe is suspended meaning Peter Crouch will start up front alongside Robbie Keane for Spurs. Jonathan Woodgate is welcome addition to the squad. Stoke’s Robert Huth begins his three game ban for striking Matthew Upson in last week’s game against West Ham so Andy Wilkinson is expected to deputise at right back. Glenn Whelan returns, though fellow Irish international Liam Lawrence is a doubt after missing training with a virus.
Fantasy player pick: Robbie Keane
Wolves v Aston Villa
Wolves welcome back striker Chris Iwelumo for this Midlands derby. The Scottish international has been out since preseason after suffering a broken metatarsal. Stefan Maierhofer is suspended after last week’s red card. Villa are expected to field the same starting eleven that beat Chelsea last week, though fit-again Luke Young will be hoping for a place on the bench.
Fantasy player pick: James Milner
Sunday, October 25
Bolton v Everton
Bolton will be looking to take advantage of an Everton side still licking their wounds after an embarrassing 5-0 Europa League defeat to Benfica on Thursday. The hosts performed well against Manchester United and could welcome back both Johann Elmander and Andy O’Brien. Everton meanwhile are going through a mini injury crisis at the moment with Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Joseph Yobo , Leon Osman and Leighton Baines all doubts, though John Heitinga and Lucas Neill return.
Fantasy player pick: Matt Taylor
Liverpool v Manchester United
This week’s biggest game is a must win for Liverpool following a horrible recent run of form. Manager Rafa Benitez is still undecided on whether key duo Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres will be fit to play. Gerrard lasted less than half an hour of the midweek defeat to Lyon in the Champions League. Wayne Rooney is a major doubt for United with a calf injury picked up while on international duty. Ryan Giggs and Patrice Evra are set to return however.
Fantasy player pick: Antonio Valencia
Manchester City v Fulham
Skipper Kolo Toure and in-form Craig Bellamy could return for Manchester City against Fulham after missing last week’s draw at Wigan. Emmanuel Adebayor faces a late fitness test while Robinho is still out with a stress fracture in his foot. Fulham rested a number of key players against Roma in the Europa League midweek so they will all return. Simon Davies, Andrew Johnson and Dickson Etuhu are all out however.
Fantasy player pick: Emmanuel Adebayor
West Ham v Arsenal
Struggling West Ham have only picked up one point at home so far this season and will be doing well to add to that tally against Arsenal. Scott Parker returns for Gianfranco Zola’s men, while Kieron Dyer and recent signing Guillermo Franco could feature. Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia is fit again after six weeks out. Striker Eduardo is also back, though Tomas Rosicky and Niclas Bendtner are both doubts.
Fantasy player prediction: Robin Van Persie