United count on Rooney effect

Manchester United are hoping to reap a dividend from Wayne Rooney's goalscoring form for England as they seek to close the gap on Premier League pacesetters Chelsea and Liverpool this weekend.

Rooney's midweek double against Belarus made it five in three internationals, and the United striker has also hit the net in his last three matches for his club. All of which augurs badly for West Brom, visitors to Old Trafford on Saturday.

Having endured a fallow spell, Rooney is delighted with the turnaround in his form in front of goal. "I've worked a lot on my finishing and it's starting to pay off on the pitch now, which I'm happy about," said the 23-year-old. "I believe I'm going to score in any game anyway. I'm a confident person and I'm delighted they are going in at the moment. Hopefully I can keep it going."

United kick off the weekend six points adrift of the leaders, but with a game in hand over rivals who both have serious injury problems. Liverpool are likely to be without both Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel for the visit of Wigan following injuries picked up on midweek international duty.

Walking wounded
Liverpool's injury woes pale into insignificance, however, when compared with the situation at Chelsea, who could be missing eight first-team players for their trip to Middlesbrough, where they have lost on two of their last three visits.

Captain John Terry and Didier Drogba are among the walking wounded, but manager Luiz Felipe Scolari is refusing to be downbeat about a situation which could force him to throw young Argentinian forward Franco Di Santo into the fray at the Riverside.

"We are trying to give him 20 minutes or 45 minutes whenever we can," Scolari said of the 19-year-old. "He needs to understand the way we play but we have chances for players like him."

Arsenal's title credentials have taken a hammering already this season, as a result of having suffered defeats at the hands of Hull City and Fulham before they have had to face a club from last season's top six. That changes on Saturday when Everton visit the Emirates and Arsene Wenger will be acutely aware that his attractive side's margin for further error has been sharply reduced.

Everton will arrive in north London buoyed by manager David Moyes having finally signed a new long-term contract, and the Gunners will be weakened by the loss of French defenders William Gallas and Bacary Sagna and attacker Nicklas Bendtner, all of whom picked up injuries while playing for their countries in midweek.

Hull, the high-flying newcomers, entertain West Ham on Sunday looking to sustain an extraordinary start to their season which has seen them beat both Arsenal and Tottenham away already. Rock-bottom Tottenham visit Stoke City in Sunday's other match, while troubled Newcastle entertain Manchester City on Monday evening.