What you need to know:
Arsenal’s injury woes have eased up a little, and they will be especially happy about the return of Calum Chambers at the back and Aaron Ramsey in the middle.
Man Utd vs Chelsea
Chelsea seem to have a striker crisis on their hands, with Jose Mourinho saying Diego Costa is out, while Loic Remy limped out of their midweek game and Didier Drogba is not at 100 percent. I do however have the sneaky feeling that Costa will show up on match day, but even if he doesn’t Mourinho can lead with the same Drogba or push Andre Schurrle into the role of spearhead.
Either way, the league leaders are favourite because of the superiority of their midfield, their better team shape, their by far more solid defence, and the attention to detail of their manager who will have seen the glaring weaknesses in United’s transition game (the switch from attack to defence) as exposed by West Brom. Away Win
West Ham vs Man City
This a supremely confident West Ham side that is creating chances and taking them, thanks to new boys Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia. They however can be breached at the back too and have not been keeping clean sheets, a notion Man City and all their firepower will warm up to.
By tomorrow they will have shaken off the fatigue from travelling to Russia on Tuesday, as well as the psychological knocks they always seem to take in Europe, and so they should edge this shootout. Away win
Sunderland vs Arsenal
Arsenal’s injury woes have eased up a little, and they will be especially happy about the return of Calum Chambers at the back and Aaron Ramsey in the middle. Theo Walcott is knocking on the door too, and the Gunners should be buoyed by the form of Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck, as well as a morale-boosting comeback win in Belgium Wednesday night. Pit this against a Sunderland side low on confidence and it is hard to call for any other result but the Away win
Liverpool vs Hull
Having leaked goals at QPR and got away with it last weekend, the Liverpool defence was particularly disappointing in conceding from crosses and scrappy set pieces against a finesse side like Real Madrid in midweek. Against Premiership sides for whom that kind of thing is bread and butter, they are likely to continue to struggle.
Brendan Rogers is also having problems picking the right combinations in midfield, and seems to be siding with the Balotelli bashers and so should go for Rickie Lambert. Should Hull apply themselves the way they did at the Emirates, and draw on the midfield strengths of Diame, Huddlestone and Livermore, they are capable of at least a point. Draw
SPANISH LA LIGA
Real Madrid vs Barcelona
In the personal battle between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo that has reached one of several climaxes this time with all the records at stake, I feel that the Argentine has the slight advantage tonight as I explain in the My Mark column in the SCORE Magazine tomorrow. There are several others, but one such advantage could manifest itself in the introduction of Luis Suarez at some point, the kind of man made to steal the show on his debut on a stage like this. Away win
Getafe vs Atletico Madrid
This will not be an easy one for Atletico Madrid to negotiate as Getafe have had some good recent results, but the La Liga champions are beginning to look like the relentless, dogged opposition of last season, and Diego Simeone’s side are not going to let their guard drop because of a great second half in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
PSG vs Bordeaux
A tough test for PSG comes in the form of the early season pacesetters Bordeaux who have however since been usurped by Marseille.
The French champions continue to have to dig out results without their star man Zlatan Ibrahimovich, and it looks like they will have to wait for a lot longer as surgery is now being discussed.
They have done admirably under the circumstances, and between them Cavani, Lavezzi, Moura, Pastore, Veratti, Matuidi and the rest should continue to on the winning trail in the meantime. Home win
Bastia vs Monaco
Calling Monaco games has become a bit of nightmare this season, as there is no consistency or pattern, with the good and the bad mixing it up unpredictably.
They couldn’t win at home in the Champions League in midweek, but I fancy them to manage that away in the Ligue One this weekend, in line with their trend.
Valencia vs Elche
Almeria vs Bilbao
Sevilla vs Villarreal
Sampdoria vs Roma
Juventus vs Palermo
AC Milan vs Fiorentina
Cesena vs Inter
Napoli vs Hellas Verona
Dortmund vs Hannover
Gladbach vs Bayern
Leverkusen vs Schalke 04
Hoffenheim vs Paderborn
Wolfsburg vs Mainz
[email protected], @markssali on twitter