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Premier League: Ten things to look forward to this weekend | Louise Taylor

2nd November 2012

Robin van Persie against his old Arsenal team-mates, Demba Ba auditioning for Liverpool and Argentina’s newest striker

1: Friends reunited at Anfield on Sunday

Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers once served as Alan Pardew’s youth coach during the Newcastle United manager’s time in charge at Reading. It will be intriguing to see whether “Pardiola” or the man he calls “my friend Brendan” ends up winning the tactical battle but, whatever the result, mutual admiration is likely to remain strong. “Brendan was my youth coach at Reading and I know him very well,” Pardew said. “He always had a clear vision of how the game should be played. He’s stuck to his principles and I admire him for that.”

2: Will Demba Ba play and/or score at Anfield?

Newcastle’s Senegal striker has a £7m release clause in his contract which will be re-activated in January and, judging by the number of times Alan Harper, Liverpool’s chief scout has watched him in recent weeks, Rodgers is likely to be bidding. While an amalgam of the striker’s knee condition and his wage demands could well see such a move ultimately founder, all eyes will be on Ba should he feature. It is a big ‘if’ though as he damaged a nerve in a shin last weekend and is rated “50/50”.

3: Darren Bent’s reception at the Stadium of Light

If visiting Aston Villa fans are likely to give their former manager Martin O’Neill a mixed reception, Bent’s promises to be hot. The England striker’s defection to Villa for £24m in January 2011 hurt Sunderland supporters who had swallowed Bent’s claims to have fallen in love with both the club and north-east England. Wearsiders will be delighted if Villa’s manager Paul Lambert keeps him on the bench. That is where Bent has started for five of the last six games, with his old place going to Christian Benteke.

4: Mirror mirror on the wall who is the most boring of them all?

Sunderland and Aston Villa seem to be locked into a private duel to be acknowledged as the Premier League’s dullest team but, after worryingly poor starts to the season, this is a big game for both O’Neill and Lambert. Coincidentally Lambert played for Sunderland’s manager at Celtic and was recommended for an earlier job at Wycombe by O’Neill. The Sunderland fans booed their side off following Tuesday’s 1-0 home defeat to Middlesbrough and O’Neill will be anxious to avoid a repeat against his old club.

5: Will Robin van Persie score against Arsenal at Old Trafford?

The Manchester United striker faces his former employers for the first time since his £24m move north in August. Arsène Wenger has urged travelling Arsenal fans to show their former idol “respect” but such restraint may prove difficult should Van Persie remind them of what they are missing by scoring.

6: Might Arsenal highlight Manchester United’s weakness in central midfield?

Even Sir Alex Ferguson’s shiniest diamond may struggle to out-dazzle the visiting midfield skills offered by Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and, if he starts at Old Trafford, the returning Jack Wilshere. And will it be a case of the lesser-spotted Nani after United’s winger was blamed by Ferguson for his side’s midweek League Cup defeat at Chelsea?

7: Mark Hughes

Tony Fernandes, QPR’s owner, has rubbished reports that Sunday’s home game against Reading will be Hughes’s last should his manager fail to secure the Premier League’s bottom side a first league win of the season. However, doubts linger, especially as Fernandes said “trust me on this”, and Harry Redknapp is making increasingly loud noises about wanting to return to management.

8: Fulham’s defending of dead balls at home to Everton

Sascha Riether, Martin Jol’s German right-back, is candid about his new side’s failings at set pieces but believes that if this weakness is corrected a European challenge beckons. “We have to defend free-kicks and corners much better and we have to train harder to find a way to do better,” Riether says. “That must be our work ethic now. If we can do that, we will be pushing for the Europa League.”

9: Matthew Etherington at Norwich

Tony Pulis is close to naming the once seemingly indispensable left-winger in Stoke’s starting XI for the first time since the season’s opening day after Etherington’s thrilling cameo as a substitute against Sunderland last weekend. “Matty needs to be loved and I think he’s feeling that love again,” Pulis says. “Over the past couple of weeks Matty has shown us what he’s all about once more.” One man who knows all about Etherington is Norwich’s manager Chris Hughton – his former coach at Tottenham.

10: Franco Di Santo

There have been celebrations at Wigan, who visit Spurs on Saturday, after their 23-year-old striker received a first senior callup for Argentina. Di Santo is in the squad for this month’s friendly against Saudi Arabia and his manager could not be more delighted. “We’re very proud of Franco,” Roberto Martínez said. “It’s a huge compliment to everyone here to have a Wigan player in the Argentina squad.” Spurs will need to be mindful of Di Santo’s dangerous attacking club partnership with Arouna Koné. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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