Seven storylines to watch during the weekend's Premier League fixtures

Evra And Fellaini

Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal, Aston Villa, QPR, Manchester City and Manchester United feature.

Forget the international break, the Premier League is back. There are some cracking fixtures too, what do you need to look out for?

Here are seven storylines to follow...

How will Spurs replace Jermain Defoe?

Wouldn't you know it, Tottenham decide to gamble on not signing a striker during the transfer window and their main frontman goes down injured at the first possible chance. Spurs edged past West Brom 1-0 last week, through a goal from Gareth Bale. Andre Villas-Boas has said that he will consider playing the Welshman up front, and may be required too with Clint Dempsey coming off a long-haul flight from a World Cup Qualifier in Honduras. The trump card is Emmanuel Adebayor, who was scheduled to take part in his first training session this morning. Whether he is fit enough for the 12.45 Saturday kick-off against Newcastle is another matter, and the Toon's newly shaped defence makes Spurs' life even more difficult.

Is a masked Ba better than Torres?

Rafa Benitez has had a few days off to think about things at Chelsea, and we could learn a lot about his striking prefernces this weekend. Demba Ba started against Newcastle only to suffer a broken nose and have to come off in the first half, replaced by Torres. The Spaniard did not feature for Spain in midweek so is fresh and raring to go. Demba Ba will have to wear a mask to enable him to play. If he is still picked ahead of Torres in the home clash with Wigan, it will tell us that Benitez really has lost faith in his fellow Spaniard.

Can Wilshere and Walcott back-up the Brazil show?

Arsenal's English duo were the two outstanding performers against Brazil, but it must be remembered that the game was a friendly, and this is where it really matters for both players. Arsenal have defensive injury worries going into their away visit to Sunderland. The Gunners need the three points to stay in touch with the top four, and if Spurs win the early game the pressure will really be on. This is where it matters for Wilshere and Walcott, if they can't help Arsenal to three points at Sunderland, their midweek exploits will count for nothing.

The QPR fightback; is it on?

Harry Redknapp has steadied the ship at QPR, but they are still four points adrift at the bottom. This is despite not losing a Premier League game in 2013. The problem is, they are also winless in four, drawing each of them, and losing to the MK Dons in the FA Cup in between. So it's a confusing time for QPR right now, and the chances to pick up points are ticking down. They face a tricky trip to Swansea, who are coming off the back of their first league loss in eight games. QPR can hope that Swansea, who sit in eighth, are distracted by the upcoming Capital One Cup Final, and that new signing Loic Remy can regain fitness in time to play. If they get the win, then the fightback really is on.

Can Yaya Toure re-ignite Manchester City's title charge, or will Pochettino score first win?

Manchester City turned around an eight point gap last season, right now they are nine behind United, but have been without star man Yaya Toure for the last month. This weekend he returns, after his Ivory Coast side were knocked out of the AFCON by Nigeria last Sunday. City play in Saturday's evening kick-off away to Southampton, where Nigel Adkins' replacement Mauro Pochettino will be keen to score the side's first win. It's a tall order against the champions, but Southampton pushed them close on the opening weekend, losing 3-2. It may just be that Toure is the difference maker.

Just how bad is it at Aston Villa?

On Sunday Aston Villa, winless in the Premier League since early December, have a good chance of getting back on track. They face a West Ham side who had been struggling for form, until Andy Carroll popped up with a winner against Swansea last weekend. Despite Carroll, Villa must fancy their chances at home here, West Ham have lost four of their last five away matches, drawing the other. If Villa are to drag themselves out of their rut, this is a game they need to win. If Christian Benteke can play as he did against Everton last weekend, they should get the three points they need which can help turn their season around. If they lose, then they really are in big trouble.

If Manchester United get a lead against Everton, can they keep it this time?

If there was a moment when Manchester United really will kick themselves after blowing their lead in the final month of last season; it was the game at home to Everton. United had seemed to be cruising at 4-2 up until a late double from Steven Pienaar and Nikica Jelavic brought the game level at 4-4, and the two dropped points were crucial in the title race. On Sunday at 4pm, Everton re-visit Old Trafford, further boosted by the confidence they beat United 1-0 earlier in the season, and have their own Champions League aspirations to fight for this time, rather than just pride. With Marouane Fellaini's fitness uncertain, could it be old-boy Darron Gibson who pops up to dent his old club's title chances?

What are you most looking forward to this weekend?

image: © gordonflood

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