Old foes collide, discarded players set out to prove a point, and a Sunday football schedule that has just about everything.
Sam Allardyce vs Arsene Wenger
I thought nothing would make me hanker for the days of Allardyce's Bolton, then Stoke got promoted. Since their arrival in the Premier League Allardyce's side have looked like Barcelona in comparison, but there is a still a great deal of ground between his and Arsene Wenger's footballing philosophies. His Bolton side against Arsenal was one the great match ups in the Premier League, and will be good to see battle recommence on Saturday evening. Arsenal will surely be hoping Mertesacker is fit to face the Hammers, with Andy Carroll likely to be the man leading West Ham's attack. Allardyce's team's long ball style has always been somewhat exaggerated, and Mark Noble will be key in ensuring they compete in the midfield passing battle against Arteta and Cazorla. Without Diaby, Arsenal may struggle to keep West Ham at bay.
Newcastle vs Manchester United
Whatever the relative statuses the two clubs have had recently, this is a fixture that all fans usually can enjoy, with both sides usually capable of scoring plenty of goals. Last year Manchester United went to Newcastle on the back of an unexpected 3-2 home loss, as they will this year. Ferguson will be hoping for a different outcome this time around, after United received a 3-0 mauling at the hands of Demba Ba and co. Whether Cheick Tiote can once again dominate United's midfeld will be key to deciding this one.
Adam Johnson returns to Manchester City
Sunderland were the only team to take four points off the champions last season, though there was a fair slice of luck in their 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light. Johnson left City this summer having never really been given a run in the first team, primarily used as an impact sub or when resting key men. One of the luxuries of their money is that City have been able to bring someone in to fulfill Johnson's duties, Scott Sinclair has even managed a couple of early season starts. Johnson has started his season well, and now fit again, he will be looking to prove to his former employers that he should have been given more chances, and that he is not so easily replaced.
There are so many good matches on Sunday that I'm going to break them up into great derbies, and great matches. Two of the very biggest derbies take place in the evening on Sunday, with Real Madrid travelling to the Camp Nou, and the San Siro hosting both of its famous residents. Real Madrid are in desperate need of a win to regain some of the ground lost already this season. Inter and AC Milan have both started poorly, particularly at the San Siro, so it will be interesting to see which can win a match at the ground that until recently was being decried as cursed by their supporters.
If those matches weren't enough, there are some other great looking games this Sunday. In Spain, second plays third as Athletico Madrid host Malaga. Both won in Europe midweek, but Athletico are showing signs of their fast start slowing down in the absence of Falcao, who may not be fit for the weekend either. In Italy, Napoli take on Udinese in what is usually a close encounter, though Napoli have started much the stronger of the two sides so far. Finally in France, PSG take on Marseilles, who are currently top of the table three points clear of Ancelotti's side. A win for PSG would see them top for the first time this season, and it would be difficult to see anyone knocking them off that perch.
image: © Ben Sutherland