London derby takes the spotlight

Fox Sports pundit Steve McMahon believes Chelsea will face a tough examination of their title credentials on Saturday against Arsenal.

Football News: Arsenal vs Chelsea
Steve McMahon

By Steve McMahon

By Steve McMahon

They may have beaten Wolves 6-0 in the League Cup, but Chelsea will face a far sterner test against Arsenal on Saturday.

The Gunners gave a good account of themselves against defending champions Manchester City last weekend, and they will be keen to do well once more against the Blues. Unlike the leaky Wolves defence, the Arsenal backline have been a cohesive unit so far, and they will prove a much tougher test for the Blues.

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo will take heart that his team managed to fire in the goals prior to their clash against Arsene Wenger's squad, after watching the Blues struggle to a 1-0 victory over Stoke and fire blanks against Queens Park Rangers.

Main striker Fernando Torres was amongst the goals against Wolves, ending his recent drought. However, even if the Spaniard fails to hit the back of the net this weekend, I don't think it will bother Di Matteo much as Torres has been playing well and getting into dangerous positions. The Blues can also rely on other players as a source of goals, with Juan Mata and Oscar looking particularly threatening.

Unlike Chelsea, City lost their Capital One cup fixture against Aston Villa. While Roberto Mancini's squad have not been achieving the desired results recently, I maintain that they are still a good team. They did well against Real Madrid in the Champions League, and they went on to play an in-form Arsenal within the same week. I believe their loss to Aston Villa will be of little consequence to their upcoming Premier League game against Fulham, especially since the tournament was never one of Mancini's priorities.

The only thing on the Italian's mind will be his rapidly deteriorating relationship with striker Mario Balotelli. The former Inter Milan player scored the opening goal in City's game against Paul Lambert's men, but even that is unlikely to be good enough to dislodge Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez from Mancini's starting 11 this weekend. There is no doubt that Balotelli is a good player, and it remains to be seen how long the City manager can keep the forward content with his bit part role.

City's main title rivals Manchester United are in action against a Tottenham side buoyed by their first home win. After watching his side barely edge Liverpool last weekend, Sir Alex Ferguson is aware that United are not going into the game against Spurs in the best of form. Should Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas decide to go for a positive result, his team will give the Red Devils a hard time at Old Trafford.

Ferguson had to call upon the experience of Paul Scholes against Liverpool, and I would do the same for their upcoming game. There is no other player who can dictate play and keep the game flowing quite like Scholes.

With the Red Devils expected to monopolize the centre, I am expecting most of the threat from Tottenham to come from the flanks. The speed and penetration provided by Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon will definitely prove a handful for Rafael and Patrice Evra, as the Red Devils duo have not looked at all convincing defensively. In addition, the loss of captain Nemanja Vidic to a knee injury and Spurs striker Jermain Defoe finding form could swing the game in Villas-Boas' favour, but only if they do not set up too defensively against United.

Steve McMahon's BPL Predictions (Sep 29 - Oct 1)

Saturday, September 29, 2012
Everton 2-0 Southampton (HT: 1-0)
Fulham 0-2 Manchester City (HT: 0-1)
Norwich City 1-2 Liverpool (HT: 0-1)
Reading 1-1 Newcastle United (HT: 0-0)
Stoke City 2-0 Swansea City (HT: 1-0)
Sunderland 2-0 Wigan Athletic (HT: 1-0)

Sunday, September 30, 2012
Aston Villa 1-1 West Bromwich Albion Villa Park (HT: 0-1)

Monday, October 1, 2012
Queens Park Rangers 2-1 West Ham United (HT: 1-0)

Key Focus
Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea (HT: 1-0)

Steve McMahon is tipping Arsenal to take full advantage of their home game this week by beating Chelsea 2-1 on Saturday. A win for the Gunners would move them within a point of current leaders Chelsea.

"Absolutely, [Arsenal are serious title contenders]. Five games played and they have done really well," McMahon said.

He added that the Gunners are "playing more like a team now" as they do not have to rely on last season's top scorer Robin van Persie anymore since the striker has left the club.

Manchester United 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur (HT: 1-0)

Steve McMahon believes Tottenham Hotspur will lose at Manchester United 2-0 on Saturday because of Andre Villas-Boas' tactics.

"Spurs will play defensively and make the mistake of trying to get a draw," McMahon said.

He believes that the visitors can trouble United if they adopt a more positive approach.

"Not too sure they [United] have got it right in midfield. They seem fairly disjointed," he said.

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