Premier League: Key battles on Saturday

Sports Mole looks at three battles that could decide Saturday's Premier League fixtures.

The Premier League season is now into November and the table is beginning to take shape. Arsenal have become the early pace setters while at the other end there is already panic for Sunderland and Crystal Palace.

A new round of fixtures allows the sides on form to continue it and the teams in trouble start to turn it around. Here, Sports Mole takes a look at where some of Saturday's fixtures could be won or lost.

1. Fulham vs. Manchester United - Martin Jol vs. David Moyes

Martin Jol's Fulham side are in trouble. They might well be out of the bottom three by two points but they have the lowest number of shots on target in the league and at St Mary's became the first Premier League team not to have a effort at goal in the first half.

Manager Martin Jol of Fulham looks dejected during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Cardiff City at Craven Cottage on September 28, 2013© Getty Images

These are not statistics that Jol will be proud of, because on paper his team has an abundance of attacking talent that he appears unable to get to work. The corner appeared to have been turned with consecutive wins against Stoke City and Crystal Palace, but they were then outplayed by Southampton before going out of the League Cup to Leicester City. He needs to very quickly figure out his best XI or he will be out of a job.

A manager with quite the opposite problem is David Moyes. His United side are scoring plenty at the moment - three against Stoke and four against Norwich City in the cup - but are incredibly leaky at the back. If his side are able to plug the holes and keep out what should be a strong Fulham attack then the points will certainly go back to Old Trafford.

2. Arsenal vs. Liverpool - Luis Suarez vs. Per Mertesacker

Saturday brings a clash between perhaps two of the more surprising teams inside the current top three, but both are there by way of brilliant football so far. Arsenal have suffered two defeats in three - neither in the league - while Liverpool have been really firing with the goals and have 12 from their last four in all competitions.

While Liverpool's style of football does tend to leave gaps at the back, what will be vital on Saturday is how Arsenal can cope with the dynamic front pairing of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. Arsene Wenger is confident in his defence, but it will be one of the biggest tests of the season for Per Mertesacker.

Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool celebrates his team's second goal with team-mate Luis Suarez during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James' Park on October 19, 2013© Getty Images

The German does not get a great deal of credit, possibly because it looks as though he plays in roller skates, but what he lacks in agility he makes up for in positioning and reading of the game. Suarez is one of the best strikers in the league for drifting into space and Mertesacker will need to keep close enough yet leave enough of a gap so not to be caught out for pace. It will be a good battle to watch.

3. Stoke City vs. Southampton - Marko Arnautovic vs. Victor Wanyama

It has been impressive to see how quickly Mauricio Pochettino has developed his high-tempo, high-fitness pressing game at Southampton, which has lifted them into an early European spot in the Premier League. He has brought in the right players in the right areas for his style to be effective and a key part of that is the defensive work done by Victor Wanyama.

The summer signing from Celtic has managed to put an end to the threat of many players so far who play in the number 10 role, which in turn leaves the more advanced players to push right up the pitch to win the ball back. His role is vital and will be again on Saturday against probably Marko Arnautovic.

Arnautovic loves to roam. For Werder Bremen he often started on the right, but was allowed the freedom to drift and create and he will look to do this if he plays against Southampton. How well he is tracked by Wanyama could make the difference to whether Stoke score or not. If Wanyama is troubled Stoke's battling midfield could begin to have a say on proceedings.

Southampton midfielder Victor Wanyama in action against West Brom on August 17, 2013© Getty Images

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on the touchline during his team's Champions League group match against Napoli on October 1, 2013
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City65102121916
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd65101721516
3Chelsea6411125713
4Tottenham HotspurSpurs6321105511
5Liverpool63211211111
6Watford6321910-111
7Arsenal631298110
8Huddersfield TownHuddersfield62315329
9Burnley62316519
10Newcastle UnitedNewcastle63036519
11Southampton622245-18
12West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom622246-28
13Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton621357-27
14Everton6213411-77
15Swansea CitySwansea612337-45
16Stoke CityStoke6123510-55
17Leicester CityLeicester6114912-34
18West Ham UnitedWest Ham6114613-74
19Bournemouth6105411-73
20Crystal Palace6006013-130
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