The Big Weekend Preview: Can Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea or Spurs stamp their mark?

Ahead of the upcoming weekend of European football, Thomas Woods addresses some of the biggest talking points and picks the standout fixtures.

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Ahead of the upcoming weekend of European football, Thomas Woods addresses some of the biggest talking points and picks the standout fixtures.

Who will stamp their mark on the Premier League title race?

One point separates the top five teams in the Premier League — Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Tottenham — after nine games. As many predicted pre-season, this is shaping up to be the tightest and most widely-contested title race in years.

Each team have had impressive results and all have demonstrated certain flaws. Will we see one team establish themselves as favourites over the next nine games? This weekend could see some movement.

Tottenham could move top on Saturday (kick-off 6pm UAE) when they host champions Leicester City, who have been woeful on the road so far this season, losing all four games and conceding 13 goals in the process.

However, rivals Arsenal, contesting the early game at Sunderland (kick-off 3.30pm), will fancy their chances of three points at the Stadium of Light. Arsenal have the joint-best away record in the Premier League, collecting 10 points from a possible 12, while Sunderland have the joint-worst home record in the league, picking up a single point from four games.

Meanwhile, City travel to West Bromwich Albion seeking to end a six-game winless run — the longest stretch of Pep Guardiola’s managerial career without a victory. City have won three of their away matches, with their only defeat coming against title rivals Tottenham, while West Brom have won just once at home.

The form book also favours Liverpool on their visit to Crystal Palace. Jurgen Klopp’s side, like Arsenal, have 10 points from their away fixtures this season, albeit having played an extra game, and will come up against a Palace team who have fared better on the road than at Selhurst Park, where they have won once. Alan Pardew will also be looking for his team to bounce back from successive defeats to Leicester and West Ham United.

Chelsea arguably have the toughest fixture of the five leading title contenders when they travel to St Mary’s stadium to face Southampton. Antonio Conte’s men have only the seventh best away record in the league, although four of the clubs above them have played one more match, while Southampton remain unbeaten at home.

Are RasenBallsport Leipzig potential champions?

The disdain among rival fans in Germany for Bundesliga new boys RB Leipzig is well documented due to their backing from Red Bull. As Ian Hawkey explained, their promotion to the German top-flight has been met with derision, rather than celebration.

After an unbeaten start to the season that sees Leipzig sit second in the Bundesliga table, two points behind Bayern Munich, there are early signs of a sustained title challenge.

They have already beaten Borussia Dortmund, Hamburg and Wolfsburg and are two games from setting a new record for an unbeaten start by a promoted club, set by MSV Duisburg in 1993/94.

With Dortmund down in sixth, four points behind Leipzig, and suffering an injury crisis, Leipzig could well end up being Bayern’s nearest challengers for the title.

How many goals will Granada let in?

Granada have not had a good time of things since being taken over by Chinese owners in the summer.

An encouraging 1-1 draw from their opening Primera Liga match against Villarreal has made way for a series of heavy defeats to Las Palmas, Deportivo Alaves, and most recently a 7-1 hammering by Atletico Madrid.

Granaday are bottom of the Primera Liga table, winless and have let in 23 goals, scoring just six.

What a time to travel to Camp Nou then to face Barcelona, who have won their past three league matches, scoring 11 goals.

It’s not unfeasible that Barcelona hit double figures on Saturday.

Aberdeen v Celtic, Saturday, 3pm

The return of Rangers to the Scottish Premiership has taken attention away from Aberdeen, who are the team most likely to challenge Celtic for the title. The champions already have an eight-point lead in the table so Aberdeen really need to take something from them this weekend to save the title race. They beat Celtic twice at home last season and have Adam Rooney, who netted 20 league goals last season, spearheading their challenge.

Manchester United v Burnley, Saturday, 6pm

United must be seething from the 4-0 humiliation at Chelsea last Sunday and could take it out on Burnley. The 1-0 League Cup victory over rivals Manchester City should also provide a timely boost. Sean Dyche’s side have taken six points off Liverpool and Everton at home, but are pointless on the road. They will have a tough task to stop this turning into a goalfest. This could be the highest scoring game of the Premier League weekend, if United click as they have done occasionally this season.

Alaves v Real Madrid, Saturday, 6.15pm

For all the panic over Madrid’s recent run of three straight draws, Zinedine Zidane’s team are top of the Primera Liga. They lead rivals Barcelona, in third, by two points. Zidane played mostly backup players in a 7-1 Copa del Rey win over Leonesa on Wednesday. Alaves will feel the full force of his regular starters coming off a rest.

Juventus v Napoli, Saturday, 10.45pm

So Juventus are fallible. The Italian champions have been beaten twice already this season — by both Milan teams — which suggests the title race will be tighter this season than in 2015/16. Napoli will fancy their chances of taking something away from Turin and getting one over on their former striker, Gonzalo Higuain, who is now knocking in goals for Juventus.

Birmingham v Aston Villa, Sunday, 5pm

This may be a second-tier game in England, but the Second City derby is a huge match. Birmingham were relegated from the Premier League in 2011, but they are currently doing better than their rivals, who went down last season. Villa have already sacked Roberto Di Matteo as manager, replacing him with Steve Bruce, while Birmingham are just outside the play-off spots. It could get heated in Birmingham.

Plan your weekend — pick of the TV games

(Kick-off times UAE time, all games on BeIN Sports)

Friday

Ligue 1 — Lille v PSG, 10.45pm

Saturday

Scottish Premiership — Aberdeen v Celtic, 3pm

Bundesliga — Augsburg v Bayern Munich, 5.30pm

English Premier League — Sunderland v Arsenal, 6pm

English Premier League — Manchester United v Burnley, 6pm

English Premier League — Tottenham v Leicester, 6pm

English Premier League — West Brom v Manchester City, 6pm

Primera Liga — Alaves v Real Madrid, 6.15pm

English Premier League — Crystal Palace v Liverpool, 8.30pm

Bundesliga — Borussia Dortmund v Schalke, 8.30pm

Primera Liga — Barcelona v Granada, 10.45pm

Serie A — Juventus v Napoli, 10.45pm

Sunday

English Premier League — Everton v West Ham, 5.30pm

English Premier League — Southampton v Chelsea, 8pm

Serie A — Sampdoria v Inter Milan, 11.45pm

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