Everton manager David Moyes is bracing for a Manchester United backlash as the Premier League champions attempt to bounce back from their 6-1 derby humiliation against Manchester City.
United travel to Goodison Park for Saturday's early kick-off knowing that anything less than a victory is likely to see league leaders City increase their hefty five-point lead at the top of the table. If it were any club other than Manchester United, Moyes would be delighted to be facing opponents reeling from a six-goal mauling.
But Moyes knows that United and Sir Alex Ferguson are rarely more dangerous than when backed into a corner and fully expects to feel the force of his counterpart's fury on Saturday. "You would normally think 'Great, they can't be coming with great confidence. They've got to be damaged by that,'" Moyes said referring to United's 6-1 loss.
"But you're talking about Manchester United and you're talking about a manager in Sir Alex Ferguson. So we understand totally they will be desperate to get back to winning ways."
Moyes hopes his side can draw on the memory of the corresponding fixture last season, when Everton fought back from 3-1 down to secure a 3-3 draw. "We had a really good game against them last year," he said. "But when they come off a defeat like the one they've just had, you know it's going to be hard."
Ferguson, who described the derby defeat as his "worst ever result" after more than half a century in football as a player and manager, was reportedly incandescent with his players following the loss.
The Scot is planning to dramatically overhaul his starting line-up for the match against Everton, with veterans such as Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Darren Fletcher and Anderson all risking being dropped. Instead Ferguson will turn to youngsters such as Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and the fit again Tom Cleverley to get United's campaign back on track.
City hunt Wolves
While Ferguson attempts to rework his United side, rivals City have no such concerns as they entertain struggling Wolves just three days after demolishing Mick McCarthy's side 5-2 at Molineux in the League Cup. City boss Roberto Mancini named a completely new starting line-up against Wolves in midweek, and in all probability will ring the changes once more for what ought to be a straightforward three points.
Arsenal meanwhile face the sternest test of their recent run of form when they take on London rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in another early kick-off. The Gunners have won seven of their last eight fixtures in all competitions, a run that has propelled them to seventh in the table. Arsenal were lifted in midweek by the return of Thomas Vermaelen in defence for the League Cup win over Bolton, although the Belgian international failed to last the full 90 minutes after picking up a minor calf strain.
Vermaelen insisted after the Bolton clash however that he was ready to face Chelsea. "I feel great," Vermaelen said. "I trained on Monday with the team and I felt good straight away so I felt confident for Tuesday. It was great to be back and to get time on the pitch. I felt fresh, I'm okay and am available for Saturday."
Chelsea will need to regroup after a bitterly disappointing 1-0 loss to QPR in the west London derby on Sunday that was followed by the spectacle of captain John Terry being dragged into a racism row. Chelsea, who were also hit with an FA charge of failing to control their players, have stood squarely behind Terry since footage emerged of the England captain purportedly hurling racist abuse at QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.
Blues manager Andre Villas-Boas believes his team have pulled together and was delighted with the battling 2-1 away win in at Everton on Wednesday in a League Cup tie that went to extra time. "It was important," he said. "Although the physical effort is immense the emotional benefit you gain from this is tremendous and it helps us to recover for Arsenal and to try to get back to winning ways in the Premier League."