Manchester United face old foes Arsenal again
LONDON, Sep 14 (Reuters) Manchester United's 100 percent start to the season will be tested by old foes Arsenal, while champions Chelsea host rivals Liverpool in this weekend's showcase games in the Premier League.
Both matches will be played on Sunday before packed crowds, with United looking for a fifth consecutive victory this season after a start that has had manager Alex Ferguson purring.
This fixture has proved a particularly acrimonious one in past seasons but the departure of the two long-time captains, United's Roy Keane and Arsenal's Patrick Vieira, has taken much of the sting out of the latest encounters.
Arsenal, who were humiliated in a 6-1 drubbing at Old Trafford in 2001, will not have forgotten that United ended their record unbeaten league run of 49 matches in October 2004.
That game was followed by the infamous 'Battle of the Buffet' in which pieces of pizza were allegedly thrown at Ferguson in the players' tunnel.
A more serious blow-up, though, in September 2003 led to four Arsenal players being banned and the club fined for the ugly scenes at the end of a 0-0 draw in Manchester.
Sunday's game is likely to be competitive, but less rancorous than its forerunners.
United will be missing two players -- Ryan Giggs, who will be out for three weeks after suffering a hamstring injury in Wednesday's 3-2 Champions League win over Celtic, and South Korea's Park Ji-sung, who faces surgery on ankle ligaments.
The better news for the league leaders is that Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes, who both played against Celtic, will be back on domestic duty on Sunday while winger Cristiano Ronaldo returns after being suspended on Wednesday.
UNFORTUNATE UNITED ''It's very unfortunate for us and Ryan,'' said Ferguson. ''But thankfully we'll have Cristiano Ronaldo available.'' Arsenal's start to the domestic season has been poor by the club's high standards, with just two points from three games and 17th place in the table.
However, Arsene Wenger's side were convincing in their 2-1 Champions League win at Hamburg SV on Wednesday and will hope to have talismanic striker Thierry Henry back after missing the trip to Germany with a minor foot injury picked up in training.
Chelsea, who also made a winning start to their Champions League campaign against Werder Bremen, will hope for some more of the slack Liverpool defending that cost Sunday's opponents a 3-0 derby defeat at Everton last weekend.
Chelsea should still have enough firepower, even if winger Arjen Robben does not return after injury, to inflict real damage on Rafael Benitez's hesitant side.
Ukraine captain Andriy Shevchenko and Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba should be available to lead the Chelsea attack at Stamford Bridge, with Salomon Kalou watching from the bench.
Saturday's action gets underway with Harry Redknapp's Portsmouth, a surprising second in the table and the only Premier League side yet to concede a goal, facing Charlton Athletic at The Valley.
Everton, third on goal difference and also two points behind United, host Wigan Athletic at Goodison Park.
REUTERS PDS PM0950