LONDON - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has faith his side will cope with a string of difficult fixtures to extend its slim lead at the top of the English Premier League, starting with a trip to fourth-place Liverpool on Saturday.
Chelsea takes on Newcastle at Stamford Bridge, looking to build on its victory over Manchester City that left both of them two points behind the Gunners.
City, meanwhile, hopes to bounce back with a win at Norwich. Tottenham hosts Everton on Sunday, with both teams battling with Liverpool for the fourth Champions League place.
Here are five things to know about the English league this weekend.
NO REGRETS OVER SUAREZ: Wenger has no regrets over Arsenal's failure to sign Liverpool forward Luis Suarez, the league's top scorer with 23 goals. Wenger just hopes his defenders can shut him down at Anfield. "If you want to win the game, what is for sure is that he is one of the players that you have to keep quiet," Wenger said.
Arsenal made two offers for Suarez, the second in excess of 40 million pounds ($62 million), which were rejected by Liverpool. "It is just a situation that did not come off and that is it," Wenger said. Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere may return from a recurring ankle injury, while Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said injured defenders Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson won't feature because they will return to full training next week.
CITY REBOUND: Manchester City's experiment with Martin Demichelis looks unlikely to be repeated at Norwich. The Argentine centre back was used in a defensive midfield role with Fernandinho injured, and the 33-year-old Demichelis was perhaps responsible for letting Eden Hazard get clear to set up Chelsea's lone goal in a 1-0 win. Jack Rodwell and James Milner are expected to be back on Saturday, when City will need to reassert its title credentials despite also missing Samir Nasri, Javi Garcia and Sergio Aguero. "The team is motivated to get back to the level it was at," winger Jesus Navas said. "We're on the right path."
CHELSEA'S NEW MOTIVATOR: Jose Mourinho normally relishes taking full credit for his team's victories, but the Chelsea manager shared it with an unlikely figure after beating Manchester City: The team's masseuse. Mourinho said Billy McCulloch's pre-match pep talk helped the Blues in their 1-0 win over City on Monday. "He was screaming in his Scottish accent so much I didn't understand him. The players were clapping. It was Billy's team talk," Mourinho said. "Billy was fantastic. I didn't understand, but it looks like the players understood." Mourinho didn't reveal whether McCulloch, who is actually English, has earned a steady speaking role. Chelsea striker Fernando Torres returns from a knee injury against an opponent which has won only once in seven games.
LAUDRUP'S SWANSONG: Michael Laudrup is taking legal advice after he was fired as Swansea manager, saying he's asking the club for a clear explanation. The 49-year-old Dane delivered Swansea's first major trophy last year, winning the League Cup. But the team has been slumping in recent weeks and is two points above the relegation zone in 12th place. "I am deeply disappointed to have been dismissed as manager of Swansea City," Laudrup said in a statement. "In particular, the manner in which it happened and the actions the club has taken since notifying me in the briefest of letters which gave no reasons why such hasty and final action was deemed necessary." Laudrup also revealed he was banned from Swansea's training ground to bid farewell to the players.
PARDEW'S BLUES AT KINNEAR EXIT: Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is sad about Joe Kinnear's resignation as the club's director of football. Some observers believed Kinnear's appointment in June to lead the Magpies' player recruitment had weakened Pardew's authority. Newcastle sold its best player, Yohan Cabaye, to Paris Saint-Germain and failed to replace him. But Pardew said, "I'm just sad to see anybody lose their job, as Joe has. He did a lot of good work here." Newcastle is in eighth place before the team's visit to Chelsea. Midfielder Cheick Tiote will miss up to three matches with a hamstring injury.
Frank Griffiths can be followed at www.twitter.com/fgriffithsap