Soccer

5 things to know about the Premier League

Even though Arsenal is at the top of the Premier League, questions are being asked of the team's title credentials ahead of Saturday's standout match against Liverpool.

Home losses to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and Chelsea in the last 16 of the League Cup have been seized upon by critics who believe Arsenal still lacks the class and squad depth to last the course in the title race.

Liverpool, which is third in the standings and level on points with second-place Chelsea, is only the second team Arsenal has played with a genuine chance of finishing in the Champions League positions this season.

Chelsea and Manchester United are starting to run into some form ahead of matches at Newcastle and Fulham, while Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has a goalkeeping dilemma for the home game against Norwich.

Here are five things to know about this weekend's matches in the Premier League:

PLEADING FOR CALM

It wasn't the results against Dortmund and Chelsea but the manner of the performances that got many Arsenal fans worried.

Largely outplayed by both visiting teams, Arsenal managed only three shots on target in those games and the dependence on striker Olivier Giroud will be of concern to manager Arsene Wenger.

Wenger, though, has seen his side win seven of its last eight matches in the league and isn't panicking.

"Let's not reach a conclusion too quickly," Wenger said. "I think if you take the points we have made since January 1, it's more than everybody else.

"I believe that, over a longer distance, you'll see more of the quality of the team than in the last two games."

STURRIDGE

SUAREZ

Between them, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have scored 10 goals in Liverpool's last four league matches and their pace, movement and finishing prowess is proving to be a nightmare for Premier League defenses.

Liverpool hasn't kept a clean sheet since Brendan Rodgers' decision to switch to playing five at the back last month, so the two strikers look set to be the key to the team's success this season.

"The link (play) between Luis and Daniel is only getting better," Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva said. "Last year they didn't have a chance to play many games so this season we can see they are scoring goals."

Suarez comes into the game on the back of a hat trick in the 4-1 win over West Bromwich last weekend, while Sturridge has only failed to score in one of Liverpool's nine league games.

LACKING HART?

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has stuck by Joe Hart despite a string of mistakes this season but the goalkeeper's late blunder in the 2-1 loss at Chelsea on Sunday may have been one too many.

Pellegrini said Wednesday he has yet to decide whether Hart or second-choice keeper Costel Pantilimon will start against Norwich on Saturday, and will sit down with both of them on Thursday.

"One goalkeeper can play but the other will have our full support," Pellegrini said. "We will think about it."

Hart's confidence cannot be high after high-profile mistakes against Scotland on England duty in August, then for City in matches since against Cardiff, Bayern Munich and now Chelsea.

Pantilimon, a tall Romania international, did his case no harm by keeping a clean sheet in the 2-0 win over Newcastle in the last 16 of the League Cup on Wednesday. He has yet to play in the Premier League in 2½ years at City, instead only being used in cup competitions.

WELSH DERBY

The English Premier League has a new derby match to look forward to — and it takes place in Wales.

Cardiff and Swansea, Welsh football's two biggest clubs, will meet Sunday for the 106th time in a rivalry that has often been marred by crowd trouble and animosity.

Swansea fans were banned from matches against Cardiff for four years in the wake of a 1993 derby match that was labeled "The Battle of Ninian Park," when troubled flared between both sets of fans.

"They are special games, whether it's Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, Lazio vs. Roma, FC Copenhagen vs. Brondby or Juventus vs. Torino," said Swansea manager Michael Laudrup, who played in a slew of big derby matches over his distinguished career. "You just know how much it means to the people, especially the fans."

It's the first time the two rivals will have met in the top division.

HITTING FORM

Routine victories have been hard to come by for David Moyes since replacing Alex Ferguson as Manchester United manager, so Tuesday's 4-0 win over Norwich in the League Cup will have been gratefully accepted.

It was the third straight win in a week for United, after beating Real Sociedad 1-0 in the Champions League and Stoke 3-2 in the Premier League, so maybe Moyes' ideas are finally kicking in.

"It is your job now to get behind the new man," Ferguson told the crowd at Old Trafford at the end of last season after his final home match in charge.

And United fans have just done that, despite a rocky start to the new campaign that has left United in eighth place after nine games — eight points behind Arsenal.

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