Premier League preview: Seven questions as the top flight returns after the international break

We look at the key question with the Premier League back this weekend

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The Independent Football

The Premier League is back after the international break but it hasn't been smooth sailing for club managers.

Arsenal have picked up injuries, question marks remain over new signings at Liverpool and Newcastle and Everton are not living up to expectations.

Here we look at the big questions ahead of the return of top-flight football at the weekend.

Have Tottenham improved under Mauricio Pochettino?

In their last two matches, Spurs have picked up two excellent results; a point away at north London rivals Arsenal and a win over high-flying Southampton. But Mauricio Pochettino’s squad will be tested again when they visit the home of the Champions Manchester City.

Last season City thrashed Spurs 5-1 at White Hart Lane and 6-0 at the Etihad, in fact, Spurs have beaten City just once in their last eight matches, also drawing one, with City running up an aggregate score 23-8.

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Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs need to make a statement at the Etihad

Spurs have top four aspirations, but have an awful record when they face the big boys – since the start of the 2010-11 season, they have won just nine of 34 matches against City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Manchester City will be desperate to keep the pressure on Chelsea, but a positive result for Spurs at the Etihad would be a big statement.

Will Arsenal’s injuries catch up on them?

Arsenal suffered another three injuries during the international break and now have nine first-team players out, equal with Manchester United and Newcastle for the most in the league.

The Gunners face a Hull City side quietly putting together a decentseason, while Arsene Wenger may be forced to field left-back Nacho Monreal in the centre of defence and Calum Chambers on the right because of the injuries.

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Mesut Ozil is one of a number of Arsenal players missing

Arsenal may too have a shortage of midfielders with Mesut Ozil, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky all likely to be out. This one has the feeling of a banana skin.

Will Newcastle finally win a game?

Injuries haven’t helped but Alan Pardew’s Newcastle have been terrible this season. Along with newly-promoted Burnley, Newcastle are the only team in England’s top four divisions without a win yet this season.

Mike Ashley spent £35m this summer and many were tipping Newcastle for a run at the European places but as with Liverpool, new signings have not yet settled in or.

A very winnable game against Leicester City takes place at St James’ Park on Saturday afternoon, a poor result could signal the end of Ashley’s patience.

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Alan Pardew remains under enormous pressure

Can Chelsea continue their march to title?

A 1-0 defeat at Selhurst Park last season was one of the turning points in Chelsea’s season. Unable to break down Crystal Palace, along with defeats to Aston Villa and Sunderland and a draw with Norwich, ended up costing Chelsea the title, despite their dominance against the other ‘big’ clubs.

The combined talents of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa have seen Chelsea show off a new brand of buccaneering attacking football, with a league-leading 21 goals after seven matches.

In their last game against they proved they can mix it with the best – Jose Mourinho’s team must again prove they can beat the teams who will set out to frustrate.

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Chelsea will want to continue their unbeaten run at Selhurst Park

Will Everton live up to expectations?

The Toffees came ever so close to breaking into the top four last season under Roberto Martinez.

The Spaniard's attacking football won admirers from all over the land and after ambitious investment in the summer, it seemed as if the grand old team would make a real move on the hegemony at the top of the Premier League.

But it hasn't happened this season; after making Romelu Lukaku's loan move a £28m permanent deal, the Belgian is yet to fire with just two goals in 10 matches in all competitions and Martinez's men have sunk from having the third best defence in the league to having the worst after seven matches.

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Everton have been a huge disappointment this season

The 6-3 defeat to Chelsea skewed that figure and Everton have faced arguably the hardest fixture list in the division with the Blues, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United already out of the way.

But if they are to forget the worry of their early season form, they must beat Aston Villa at Goodison Park.

Can Liverpool turn a corner?

Brendan Rodgers’ side are looking a far inferior team to the one that was just two points away from winning the league last season. New signings always take time to settle in and gel but now, two months into the season, Liverpool fans will be looking for signs of improvement from the new players.

After a hard-fought win against West Brom, the Reds face a QPR side who have been awful so far this season.

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Brendan Rodgers must find a way to get his new-look Liverpool firing

This was the kind of opposition that Luis Suarez would have torn apart last season – Mario Balotelli, or whoever else leads the line for Liverpool on Sunday, must show signs of life against arguably the worst defence in the Premier League.

The involvement of Raheem Sterling will also draw attention.

Are Manchester United staying in the top four?

The international break came entirely at the wrong time for Louis van Gaal, who had just led his team to two wins in a row and three out of the last four.

United were not entirely convincing against Everton, but did enough to get the job done, despite missing captain Wayne Rooney. He will again be missing for the visit to West Brom – and the crunch clash against Chelsea on 26 October – but United should have more than enough in reserve to beat the Baggies.

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United will be looking to win their fourth out of the last five against West Brom

After an early season ‘crisis’ United are back at a familiar end of the table, they will want to keep up their momentum at The Hawthorns.

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Fixtures

Saturday 18 October

Man City vs Tottenham (12.45pm)

Arsenal vs Hull (3pm)

Burnley vs West Ham (3pm)

Crystal Palace vs Chelsea (3pm)

Everton vs Aston Villa (3pm)

Newcastle vs Leicester (3pm)

Southampton vs Sunderland (3pm)

Sunday 19 October

QPR vs Liverpool (1.30pm)

Stoke vs Swansea (4pm)

Monday 20 October

West Brom vs Manchester United (8pm)

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