Premier League weekend previews

After two glorious Olympic weeks when cycling, rowing, athletics, swimming and boxing have captured the public's imagination, Premier League football emerges from the shadows and back into the spotlight this weekend.


For once, in England at least, the trials and tribulations of the big clubs, and their close-season transfer spending sprees have been pushed off the back pages by the exploits of Usain Bolt, Mo Farah, Michael Phelps, David Rudisha and the others.

But it will be the usual frenetic, high-octane business on the field when Manchester City kick off their title defence against newly-promoted Southampton and European champions Chelsea visit Wigan Athletic this weekend.

Once the Olympic glow has faded, all the fans will probably learn over the next few weeks is what they knew already.

That is that the title will go to either Manchester City or Manchester United, that Chelsea and Arsenal will finish in the top four and that promoted Reading, Southampton and West Ham United will all fight against an immediate return to the Championship.

City, who clinched their first title for 44 years last May with Sergio Aguero's last-minute winner in their final match against Queens Park Rangers, warmed up for the new season with a 3-2 win over FA Cup winners Chelsea in the Community Shield on Sunday.

They have made only one major signing so far, buying England international midfielder Jack Rodwell, 21, from Everton on Monday for £12 million pounds.

Meanwhile, Robin van Persie has joined Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa at Old Trafford in a £24m deal.

Kagawa, 23, moved from German champions Borussia Dortmund for a reported fee of £17m to boost United's bid to take the title back from City which begins at Everton on Monday.

Arsenal, who finished third last season, have had a busy summer with French forward Oliver Giroud from Montpellier, German striker Lukas Podolski from Cologne and Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla from Malaga all moving to north London.

Wenger hinted that Podolski would make his debut on Saturday against Sunderland, although he is not fully match fit, when Arsenal set out on their campaign to end a seven-year trophy drought.

Chelsea, who won two trophies last season, will be without long-term talisman Didier Drogba after he left for Shanghai Shenhua in China, but have been busy spending £64m on new players, including exciting Brazilian playmaker Oscar, Belgium striker Eden Hazard and Germany winger Marko Marin.

Billionaire owner Roman Abramovich kept faith with Roberto di Matteo after their Champions League success, while Andre Villas-Boas, who was replaced at Chelsea by Di Matteo midway through his first season in March, has a new job, replacing Harry Redknapp as Tottenham Hotspur look to improve on their fourth place last season.

Liverpool, still chasing former glories, have signed Joe Allen from Swansea City for £19m, and begin life under new manager Brendan Rodgers against West Bromwich Albion, managed by former Liverpool assistant boss Steve Clarke, on Saturday.

PREVIEWS (all 3pm kick-offs unless stated):


Arsenal v Sunderland

Fulham v Norwich City

QPR v Swansea City

Reading v Stoke City

West Brom v Liverpool

West Ham v Aston Villa

Newcastle United v Tottenham (5.30pm)


Wigan Athletic v Chelsea (1.30pm)

Manchester City v Southampton (4pm)


Everton v Manchester United (8pm)

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