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5 things to know about the Premier League

December 5, 2013

Manchester United has swayed from crisis to recovery in a turbulent first few months of David Moyes’ tenure at Old Trafford.

A week ago, the English champions were celebrating early qualification from the group stage of the Champions League after its biggest away win in Europe in nearly 50 years. Seven days later and their Premier League title chances appear to be in tatters after a 1-0 home loss to Everton that left United in ninth place, 12 points off leader Arsenal.

With the top three of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City finding some good form, United cannot afford another slip-up at home against Newcastle on Sunday.

Here are five things to know about this weekend’s matches in the Premier League:

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ROONEY OUT

United has picked up only two points from its last three matches to slip way off the pace set by Arsenal, and the frustration at the club’s slide is showing on Wayne Rooney.

In the 2-2 draw at Cardiff on Nov. 24, the England striker was fortunate to escape with a booking after kicking out at an opponent as he chased a long ball forward. Then, against Everton, he earned another yellow card for leading with his elbow on Phil Jagielka, his fifth booking of the season, leading to a suspension for this weekend.

That’s a major blow for Moyes, with Rooney having been easily United’s best player this season with 10 goals in all competitions. Throw in fellow striker Robin van Persie’s continued absence with toe and groin injuries and United’s problems in central midfield that have been exacerbated by an injury to Michael Carrick, and Moyes has problems ahead of the Newcastle game.

History in on United’s side, though — Newcastle hasn’t won in the league at Old Trafford since 1972.

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BUOYANT EVERTON

After ending a 21-year wait for victory at United, is it too much to ask for Everton to secure a first win at Arsenal since 1996?

Probably, given Arsenal’s recent run that has seen the team win its last four games without conceding a goal, but Everton is in good form itself after backing up a 4-0 victory at Stoke with that win at Old Trafford.

In Roberto Martinez, Everton has one of the country’s most highly rated young managers. And he is getting the best out of a young, hungry squad. The team is currently fifth and a top-four finish is not out of the question.

“I have always felt this squad is capable of going anywhere in this league and playing teams eye-to-eye,” Martinez said after beating United. “I told the boys afterwards that this gives a real indication of what can be achieved.”

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SUPER SUAREZ

First it was Sergio Aguero at Man City. Now it’s Luis Suarez being compared to Spanish league stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo by his manager after a four-goal show for Liverpool in the 5-1 thrashing of Norwich on Wednesday.

After a 45-yard volley, a sublime solo effort and then a curling free kick, it was no surprise to see Brendan Rodgers purring at the striker who wanted to leave Anfield during the off-season.

“I think you have to hold up Luis as one of the best strikers in the world,” Rodgers said. “I think if you look at Messi and Ronaldo they have been out on their own for a couple of years. Luis is only 26 and I think he will make improvements to his game over the coming years.”

With Daniel Sturridge out injured, Suarez will again lead the line for Liverpool in Saturday’s home match against struggling West Ham. He is the league’s top scorer with 13 goals, despite missing the first five matches of the campaign while he served out a suspension for biting carried over from last season.

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SLIDING SOUTHAMPTON

Two weeks ago, Southampton headed to Arsenal seeking a win that could have lifted the team into first place.

After three straight defeats, Mauricio Pochettino’s side is now down in eighth place and it could get worse considering in-form Man City visits St. Mary’s Stadium on Saturday.

Along with Chelsea, City is leading the challenge to reel in Arsenal and found a cure to its problems away from home with a win at West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday.

Having captain Vincent Kompany back fit is also crucial to City, which has scored at least three goals in six of its last seven matches.

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STRIKER DROUGHT

With just four goals between them in 14 games this campaign, Chelsea’s three strikers — Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba — continue to fluff their lines in the Premier League.

Chelsea beat Sunderland 4-3 on Wednesday, but once again it was Jose Mourinho’s midfielders who came to the team’s rescue with Eden Hazard scoring twice and Frank Lampard also netting.

Mourinho continues to rotate between Eto’o and Torres, so it will probably be Eto’o’s turn to start at Stoke on Saturday as second-place Chelsea looks to stay in touch with Arsenal.

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