League leaders Chelsea kick off proceedings this weekend as they make the long trip to Newcastle in Saturday's lunch time meeting, with Jose Mourinho's men having had a day less to prepare for the game than their hosts. The Blues boss does, however, have a luxury that he has not had up to now, able to focus solely on the league for the time being given that they have already won their group in the Champions League.
Nevertheless the Portuguese will have bad memories of St. James Park, having suffered a 2-0 defeat to Newcastle almost exactly one year ago. That match represented the Magpies' second consecutive home win against the West Londoners and was confirmed courtesy of a late goal from Loïc Remy, who could face his former club this weekend. His chances will be reduced though, given that Diego Costa will be back available following a suspension off the back of 5 yellow cards, each of which were picked up in his 5 appearances away from home.
Alan Pardew's men have secured three successive 1-0 wins at home and will hope that they can become the second team in a week to keep out the title favourites after Sunderland achieved that feat in the North East last weekend. However, Chelsea quickly looked back to their clinical old selves against Spurs in midweek with Eden Hazard, who struck a hat-trick in the last meeting between these two, in red hot form.
Manchester City vs Everton
Manuel Pellegrini's side are beginning to find their rhythm in the league, securing a third successive win in midweek, and their form in front of goal is certainly ominous for an under performing Everton side. Sergio Aguero is at the forefront of everything good about Manchester City this season, taking his league tally to 14 in as many matches last time out, and the Argentine netted in both meetings between these two sides last season.
Another player that notched in the two fixtures between City and Everton in 2013/14 was Romelu Lukaku, and the main positive to take from this latest league blip from the Toffees has been the Belgian's improving form. It's not been enough, however, to prevent Everton from dropping points in 4 of their last 5 league matches, though they, like Chelsea, can relax ahead of their midweek European commitments having already secured top spot from a tough group.
The same certainly cannot be said for Manchester City, who must return from Rome with a positive result and hope that Moscow don't pull off a better one in Munich. It would be naive to think that the home side won't have an eye on next Wednesday's encounter in turn but they can't allow Chelsea to pull any further clear in the league either. With Kompany still sidelined we can expect action at either end from a fixture that heralded 9 goals over the two meetings last season.
Southampton vs Manchester United
While the prospect of a meeting between two sides occupying places in the top four is an intriguing one, plenty of the attention will focus around the relationship, or lack thereof, between the two Dutch coaches in Monday night's showdown. The pair came to blows during their time at Ajax having previously worked alongside one another at Barcelona and there is more than just league standing at stake in this one.
It's true, though, that United could leapfrog Saints with a win and the two are in contrasting form going into the game, with the Red Devils having won 4 on the bounce, while high-flying Southampton are now without a win in 3. The home side's struggles have correlated with those of their new target man, with Graziano Pelle now without a goal in 5 games, while they now have real problems in midfield after injuries have begun to mount against them.
Nevertheless that's certainly something that Van Gaal can relate to and neither side will be at full strength at St. Mary's. It should, however, be an entertaining affair regardless, with each of the last 5 meetings between the sides seeing both register on the scoresheet. Ahead a match where two Dutchman will no doubt be in the headlines off the field, the visiting manager will be hoping his man on the inside can do the damage on it and return to form, with Van Persie having scored 4 goals in his last 4 appearances against Southampton.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.