LONDON - Chelsea head to London rivals Crystal Palace on Saturday eager to maintain or even extend their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League table as domestic action resumes after the international break. Palace surprised Chelsea , and the rest of the league, by winning last season's corresponding clash and Blues captain John Terry has dismissed talk that this season's title-race is already done and dusted. "Clearly it (the title race) is not over," he said.
"Other teams have been in this position. It's nice to have the lead but when you're at the top everyone wants to shoot you down. That's the good thing about the Premier League and why everyone loves it. Teams are out to get us because we are at the top and playing well." Defending champions Manchester City, currently second, are at home to Tottenham Hotspur and on-loan midfielder Frank Lampard has told his team-mates to be wary of a revitalised Spurs.
"They may go through a slight transitional period but I was very impressed with their manager (Mauricio Pochettino) when he was at Southampton and if he can bring the same imprint on Tottenham, who arguably have more quality within their squad, they'll do really well. They are a good side."
Yet one of the success stories of the season so far has been the way in which south coast side Southampton, despite losing their manager and several key players to top-flight rivals, have nevertheless flourished under new manager Ronald Koeman to be third in the table ahead of their match at home to Sunderland on Saturday. Such has been the impact the former Dutch international has made at St Mary's there have been calls for him to take charge of the Netherlands national side, who have lost two of their opening three Euro 2016 qualifiers after finishing third at this year's World Cup in Brazil.
But as far as Koeman is concerned, his country missed their chance to install him as manager when they opted for Guus Hiddink following Louis van Gaal's post-World Cup departure to Manchester United. "I hope to stay here for my whole contract, but it's football," said Koeman, who signed a three-year deal with the Saints. "There's certainly no chance to move now out of Southampton. I was interested in that job, because when I left Feyenoord I was nominated to be the national coach but the federation chose Hiddink."
Arsenal face Hull in a repeat of last season's thrilling FA Cup final where the Gunners came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 and so claim their first major trophy in nine years. Both newly-promoted Burnley and struggling Newcastle have yet to win in the Premier League this season but they will each look to put that right at home to West Ham and Leicester respectively on Saturday. Yet it is Queens Park Rangers, who welcome Liverpool to Loftus Road on Sunday, who are bottom of the table.
There has been growing speculation that QPR's owner, Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes, could sack veteran manager Harry Redknapp. But QPR centre-half Rio Ferdinand, who made his name at West Ham under Redknapp, urged Fernandes to remain patient. "We are not even in double figures for the amount of games played yet," former Manchester United and England star Ferdinand said. "To push the panic button now would be crazy in my eyes. Harry still comes across to me as a fighter and a man with a lot of fight left in him."
After a shaky start, Manchester United under van Gaal are now fourth and amongst the Champions League places. They will look to hold on to that position when they travel to West Bromwich Albion on Monday.

FIXTURES

SATURDAY
Arsenal    v    Hull
Burnley    v    West Ham
Crystal Palace    v    Chelsea
Everton    v    Aston Villa
Manchester City    v    Tottenham
Newcastle    v    Leicester
Southampton    v    Sunderland
SUNDAY
Queens Park Rangers    v    Liverpool
Stokes    v    Swansea
Monday
W Bromwich Albion    v    Manchester United