Team rivalries return to the field as transfer window closes
United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs will be glad when the transfer window finally closes, but focus will be on the pitch alone this weekend
Tedious transfer sagas will make way for the fire and commitment of a local derby match for four of the Premier League's leading lights tomorrow.
Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have all had very different experiences over the past three months, but all will have reason to feel relieved when the transfer window finally closes on Monday.
Liverpool and United resume one of the fiercest rivalries in European football at Anfield, with both clubs hoping their battles to retain the services of unsettled strikers are at an end.
Both Luis Suarez and Wayne Rooney looked destined to leave their respective clubs a few weeks ago, but the two giants from the English northwest girded their loins and refused to yield to their demands.
Having briefly been forced to train with the Liverpool reserves, Suarez has now been reintegrated into the squad, while Rooney demonstrated his commitment to the United cause with a determined display in Monday's 0-0 draw with Chelsea.
Suarez will not feature tomorrow due to his ongoing ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic, but he could yet make his return against United after the teams were drawn together in the third round of the League Cup.
Rooney should play, however, having taken to Facebook to thank United's supporters for the rousing reception he received against Chelsea.
"It was an unbelievable reaction from the fans, so thank you," he wrote. "I really appreciate your support. It means a lot."
Liverpool have enjoyed successive 1-0 wins over Stoke City and Aston Villa in the league, although they needed extra time to see off third-tier Notts County in the League Cup on Wednesday.
Arsenal and Tottenham have had starkly contrasting experiences during the transfer window, which has witnessed Spurs doggedly clinging to their star player in a manner more typically associated with their north London rivals in recent times.
Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas has since admitted defeat in the club's attempts to fend off interest in Gareth Bale from Real Madrid, but they continue to invest money in their squad.
Argentine forward Erik Lamela and Romanian centre-back Vlad Chiriches both completed moves yesterday, following the signings of Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, Roberto Soldado and Etienne Capoue.
Were it not for the enmity that exists between the teams, Arsenal's fans might sympathise with their Spurs counterparts over the Bale saga, but the days of their own leading players being courted by Europe's top clubs are fading.
Having lost Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie in recent years, Arsenal now find themselves struggling to attract new signings of their own, having missed out on both Suarez and Napoli new recruit Gonzalo Higuain.
Former midfielder Mathieu Flamini returned to the club on Thursday after being released by AC Milan and Wenger hopes the 29-year-old will make an immediate impact.
"Physically, he is perfect. He was tested, prepared and he is physically in fantastic shape," Wenger said.
"He knows how we play football, knows the club and had a huge desire to come back."
Elsewhere, Manchester City will expect a strong reaction to last weekend's shock 3-2 defeat at Cardiff City when they host another promoted side, Hull City, today.
Hull's 1-0 win over Norwich City last weekend means that Crystal Palace are the only team promoted from the Championship last season yet to secure a win in the top flight.
Palace were also knocked out of the League Cup in mid-week, by Bristol City, but ahead of today's visit of Sunderland, manager Ian Holloway is confident he will be able to improve his squad.
"By the end of this week we will have a few more [players]," he said.
"I'm not frustrated, it's just getting them over the line which is difficult. We're probably under more pressure than anyone to do that.
"We're full of optimism and hope, but we've got to get some players over the line before Monday."
Chelsea's engagement in the European Super Cup against Bayern Munich last night means that neither they nor Aston Villa are in action this weekend, with their fixture having been fulfilled last week.