LONDON - As Chelsea and Manchester United tussle for the Premier League title, a different battle emerges this Sunday when Arsenal visit a Liverpool side aiming to protect their "big four" status.
Pre-season pundits had predicted a five-horse title race involving United and Chelsea, a Liverpool side that finished second last season, Arsenal and big-spending Manchester City.
Instead, City's still- gelling squad have drawn half of their league matches, Liverpool have struggled to win games and Arsenal, eight points off leaders Chelsea with a game in hand, are inconsistent.
Under-pressure Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is enduring a testing campaign. His side has already lost three league games more than last season and will play in the Europa League after failing to progress beyond the Champions League group stages.
Sunday's visit of Arsenal could be just the tonic the Spaniard needs. Arsenal will be looking for a first league win at Anfield since 2003, which would keep them in touch with Chelsea and above north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Defeat for Arsene Wenger's side would move seventh-placed Liverpool within a point of them, having played a game more.
Both sides have endured striker problems in recent months and the return to fitness of Liverpool frontman Fernando Torres could make the difference.
Tomorrow, Chelsea will look to rectify a three-match winless run against an Everton side struggling in 15th place.
Second-placed United, who trail Chelsea by two points, host fifth-placed Aston Villa with a long injury list. Returning centre-back Nemanja Vidic will slot into an unfamiliar United back four.
City travel to Bolton Wanderers hoping last Saturday's 2-1 victory over Chelsea will galvanise their campaign, while fourth-placed Spurs host second-bottom Wolves . - Reuters