LONDON, September 26- Age-old derby rivalries will take centre-stage in the Premier League on Saturday, with Liverpool hosting Merseyside neighbours Everton and Tottenham Hotspur visiting sworn north London enemies Arsenal.
The fixtures are among the most colourful in the English football calendar and they carry extra weight this weekend as all four teams are seeking to kick on after underwhelming starts to the season.
Liverpool narrowly lost out to Manchester City in last season’s title race and Everton finished fifth with a record points tally, but they are currently 11th and 14th respectively ahead of their showdown at Anfield.
Liverpool have lost three of their opening five games and needed penalties to see off second-tier Middlesbrough in the League Cup on Tuesday, edging a remarkable shootout 14-13 after a 2-2 draw.
Everton, meanwhile, have won only once in the league and saw their League Cup hopes ended by a 3-0 defeat at
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has described his team as a “work in progress”, but he believes that the visit of Everton can act as a springboard for the season.
“We know we need to be better. We know we need to improve our performance levels,” Rodgers said.
“The derby gives us an opportunity to do that. It provides a platform to go on a good, consistent run.”
Everton went down 3-2 at home to Crystal Palace last weekend, but although they have not won at Anfield for 15 years, manager Roberto Martinez says they will approach the game with a positive attitude.
“The defeat against Crystal Palace, there was something spooky about it,” he said, in reference to the fact that Palace had also won 3-2 on their previous visit to Goodison Park in April.
“The last time we beat Liverpool at Anfield was September 27 (in 1999), so I hope the spookiness carries on at the weekend.”
Having won 3-0 at Aston Villa last weekend following three consecutive draws, Arsenal are starting to move in the right direction and go into the game with Tottenham in fourth place.
But they lost 2-0 at Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and were dumped out of the League Cup in mid-week by Southampton.
– Defensive crisis for United –
Tottenham have now gone three league games without victory, but manager Mauricio Pochettino remains determined to see his side finish above Arsenal for the first time in 19 years.
“We are ambitious,” he said after Spurs beat Nottingham Forest 3-1 in the League Cup.
“We (Pochettino and his coaching staff) arrived three months ago and we need to make our way, but we are focused on the game and know the history. But it is also important to write the history, starting now.”
Three points clear after a 1-1 draw at defending champions Manchester City last weekend, leaders Chelsea host third-place Villa. Second-place Southampton, level on points with Villa, tackle Queens Park Rangers.
City, meanwhile, visit Hull City, having demolished second-tier Sheffield Wednesday 7-0 in the League Cup in mid-week.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal faces an injury crisis in central defence ahead of his side’s home game with West Ham United.
The Dutchman will hope to see a vastly improved defensive display after United let slip a 3-1 lead to lose 5-3 at Leicester City last weekend.
But with Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling injured, and Tyler Blackett suspended following his dismissal at the King Power Stadium, Marcos Rojo is United’s only available senior centre-back.
“All the three right-sided centre-halves are out,” Van Gaal told his weekly press conference on Thursday.
“I don’t know how long they will be out for. Evans is a very difficult one. His (ankle) bone is bruised a lot and we have to wait and see, to evaluate it.
“Smalling yesterday (Wednesday) ran out of the training session because he had stiff legs. We have to see what that means. But I don’t take risks with players.”
Second-bottom Burnley will go in search of their first win of the campaign when they visit West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, while under-pressure Newcastle manager Alan Pardew takes his side to Stoke City on Monday.
Saturday (1400 GMT unless otherwise stated)
Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur (1630 GMT), Chelsea v Aston Villa, Crystal Palace v Leicester City, Hull City v Manchester City, Liverpool v Everton (1145 GMT), Manchester United v West Ham United, Southampton v Queens Park Rangers, Sunderland v Swansea City
Sunday (1500 GMT)
West Bromwich Albion v Burnley
Monday (1900 GMT)
Stoke City v Newcastle United