Arsenal stars look to dazzle United
© AFP

Arsenal's stars have warned Manchester United that Saturday's showdown at Old Trafford will prove that the Gunners are serious contenders for the Premier League title.

The close-season departures of Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure to Manchester City were seen as a sign that Arsenal were no longer a force to be reckoned with. But Arsene Wenger's young team have confounded the critics who wrote them off by making a blistering start to the season.

A stunning 6-1 victory at Everton on the opening weekend set the tone and since then Celtic have been brushed aside in the UEFA Champions League play-off, while Portsmouth were thrashed 4-1 in the league. Those impressive results have raised expectations that Arsenal can end their four-year trophy drought, but United represent the acid test of the north London side's title credentials.

It is a challenge that holds no fears for Wenger's men and midfielder Alexandre Song said: "If we play like we played against Celtic, then we know nobody can beat us. This is a really important game and when you play against Man Utd it's never easy. It's a big game and we just have to keep on improving."

If we play like we played against Celtic, then we know nobody can beat us,
Arsenal midfielder Alexandre Song.

Thomas Vermaelen, the Belgian defender who has made a significant contribution to Arsenal's winning start, added: "It's the biggest game so far this season and it will be a good test for us. Everyone looks forward to playing these kind of games."

While Arsenal have hit the ground running, United have made an erratic start, winning against Birmingham and Wigan but suffering a shock defeat at newly-promoted Burnley. That victory at Wigan included a first United strike for Michael Owen and his team-mate Rio Ferdinand expects a flood of goals from the former Liverpool forward.

"He has been hammered yet he has not even played a full 90 minutes," Ferdinand said. "I think that goal on Saturday will catapult him towards scoring a few more."

Desperate Reds
Liverpool desperately need a positive performance and, more importantly, a victory at Bolton after losing two of their first three matches. Monday's home defeat against Aston Villa equalled the total number of losses suffered by Liverpool in their entire league campaign last season and Bolton boss Gary Megson expects to face fired-up opponents.

"They'll be right at it because they've publicly come out and said that it's a game they must win and that they can't afford to lose another game all season if they are going to win the Premier League," Megson said.

Chelsea will aim to end Burnley's fairytale start in Saturday's early game. The Clarets upset United then defeated Everton at Turf Moor last week and will travel to Stamford Bridge in the belief they can claim another famous scalp.

Table-topping Tottenham host Birmingham as they try to build on their best start to a season for 49 years. Harry Redknapp's team have won their first three league matches and their manager believes a top-four finish is not out of the question.

"It could be open this year," Redknapp said. "Manchester City will certainly be pushing to be a top-four team, and there's no reason we can't push. We've got good players. There's no reason why we can't be up there having a go at it. We only lost one home game last season since I came here - to Everton - including all the cup games."

Meanwhile, England defender Joleon Lescott could make his Manchester City debut at Portsmouth on Sunday after finally completing his protracted £24 million switch from Everton.