THE PREDICTOR: Mour will be content with a draw as Barca win El Clasico

Champions Manchester City will be looking for their fourth successive league win when they visit Boleyn Ground for the lunchtime kickoff.
Diego Costa has a 'chance' of facing Manchester United at Old Trafford. (Net photo)
Diego Costa has a 'chance' of facing Manchester United at Old Trafford. (Net photo)

Saturday

West Ham       0-3       Man City         1.45pm          

Champions Manchester City will be looking for their fourth successive league win when they visit Boleyn Ground for the lunchtime kickoff.

But in-form West Ham is not the kind of side City are taking for granted. Sergio Aguero scored four times in City’s last league outing and will be expected to lead the lines of a side seeking to bounce back from midweek Champions League disappointment in Moscow.

The defending champions have not lost in their last 10 games against West Ham and will have happy memories of their last meeting – a 2-0 win in May which saw City clinch their second Premier League title in three seasons.

However, the Hammers are a different proposition this season to the side that took on City four times last term and were beaten on every occasion, including a two-leg League Cup semifinal that ended in a 9-0 aggregate humiliation for Sam Allardyce’s side.

Even then, Big Sam should not expect his luck to turn for the better after such a run. Manuel Pellegrini will want to cut the gap on Chelsea to two points and then count on Louis van Gaal to outwit Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford tomorrow.

Saturday

Sunderland      1-3       Arsenal           4pm  

Arsenal are increasingly dipping. Seventh place and eleven points adrift of leaders Chelsea with barely half a quarter of the season gone is not a good stat. Worse still, the Gunners are strapped with injuries as nearly half of their regular starters are sidelined.

Theo Walcott could be included in Arsenal’s squad for the first time in 10 months after recovering from a knee ligament injury but Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Mathieu Debuchy and Laurent Koscielny are still out of action.

The positive for Arsenal is that they are coming up against a side that will walk into the stadium with heads bowed. The Black Cats suffered their heaviest league defeat at St Mary’s Stadium when Southampton walked them to baby steps with 8-0.

The humiliation saw the team refund fans who travelled for the fixture. Gus Poyet will hope for a positive response as he retains the bulk to the players that played like kindergartens last week. But can they bounce back from 8-0 to beat Arsenal?

Sunday

Man United     2-2       Chelsea           6pm

Diego Costa left hospital yesterday, but that does not make him fit to play.

Didier Drogba scored his first goal for Chelsea since the start of his second spell at the club in the 6-0 Champions League win midweek, and will want to use that as a springboard to resume tormenting English Premier League opponents.

And what better time to try that dream than against a club whose defence is only better than Liverpool’s? Louis van Gaal starts the big fixtures after largely having ‘undercard’ fixtures against ‘small’ opponents.

First is Jose Mourinho’s side that is unbeaten and five points clear at the top before City and Arsenal knock on United.

Chelsea will want to count on Cesc Fabregas’ mercurial display as a playmaker along with the incisive runs of Hazard, but who can United count on? Captain Wayne Rooney returns from suspension and Radamel Falcao will be fit enough to start.

Angel Di Maria is still a doubt but with the team has had enough rest and should take the game to the league leaders.

United must score first to have a chance of outwitting Mourinho who will park the bus if his side score first. But a draw is most likely.

Saturday

Bundesliga

Gladbach             1-3          Bayern     3.30pm

Lucien Favre’s Borussia Mönchengladbach are unbeaten in 13 competitive outings at home and abroad, but this record faces acid test when champions Bayern Munich visit Borussia Park today.

The Swiss tactician has chalked up four wins and four draws in the opening eight fixtures and will fancy his chances so he can go within a point of Bayern.

Naysayers say Bayern does not win the league in a season following the World Cup and this will be the first test for the Bavarians who are in the finest of form having scored 13 goals in their last two outings.

A 6-0 league win at home was followed by 7-1 midweek mauling of Roma in Italy. Favre is known to rotate his squad for every game, apparently, to respond to the strength of each opponent. Yet for a Bayern side with illustrious talents, it will take more than good tactics to stop Bayern.

Saturday

Bayer    1-2          Schalke                6.30pm

Roberto di Matteo has brought back the confidence that had deserted Schalke 04. The team is making a steady return to winning ways although they were lucky to get a ghost penalty that sealed their 4-3 win in Champions League midweek.

On the other hand, sixth placed Bayer Leverkusen are on a run of disappoints. Even after outplaying VfB Stuttgart last week, they still drew 3-3 and coach Roger Schmidt will want to see a change of fortunes when Schalke visit Munich.

But Schalke are yet to lose to the big guns after a draw with Bayern and beating Dortmund. This could be another fixture where the blues get their way in.

Saturday

La Liga

Real Madrid       0-2          Barcelona            6pm

The first El Clasico of the season is here. Barcelona are yet to concede a goal, Messi and Neymar just won’t stop linking up and scoring, and, at the other end, Cristiano Ronaldo is in scintillating form that is a complete turn-around from the shadow that went with Portugal to the World Cup.

But will Barca’s rearguard finally be breached? Will Messi stop scoring? Can Ronaldo be tamed? As if these are not enough questions, Luis Suarez makes his long-awaited debut for the Blaugrana.

Suarez has been restricted to a few friendly games for club and country since sealing a $127 million move from Liverpool after receiving a four-month ban for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.

The Uruguayan’s return will be tested by the red-hot atmosphere at the Santiago Bernabeu, but he will be overshadowed by teammate Lionel Messi.

The four-time World Player of the Year is just a goal shy of matching the 251 goals Telmo Zarra scored for Athletic Bilbao between 1940 to 1955 to become the all-time leading goalscorer in La Liga.

Barca is looking to continue its fine recent record at the Bernabeu, where they have won four of the last six league meetings. Defender Sergio Ramos returned to training but remains a doubt.

Barca’s only injury doubt is Sergio Busquets, who missed Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Ajax due to a knock on his hip, but is expected to recover to take his place in the starting line-up.

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