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1. Steve's keen to get off to good start

He was in the hot seat against West Ham last weekend, but Sunday will see newly appointed Blackburn boss Steve Kean take charge of his first match since being given the job full-time.

The Scot was named as the shock replacement for Sam Allardyce earlier this week after new owners Venky’s felt the club wasn’t moving in the right direction. And despite Kean having never managed before, he was handed a deal until the end of the season.

Many have criticised Venky’s for making a change so shortly after their arrival at Ewood Park, but Kean is one of the few people to have benefited - even if Allardyce, who feels his former No.2 Neil McDonald would have been the perfect man to replace him temporarily, isn’t 100 per cent sure about his appointment.

Kean got his managerial career off to a rather disappointing start in one of the few Premier League games to be played last week, being held 1-1 at home to lowly West Ham, and now has the tough task of Stoke City to deal with at Ewood Park.

And if he is going to be considered a serious contender to remain in the job beyond this season, he will have to solve off-field problems, with captain Chris Samba angling for a move, as well as on-field problems following the owners’ target to finish in the top half of the table.

2. Vicious Villa versus spirited Spurs

Aston Villa have had their fair share of squabbles this season, with Richard Dunne reportedly the latest to fall out with the management at the club.

The Irishman was dropped for the win over West Brom a fortnight ago and is now believed to be Gerard Houllier’s fourth choice centre-back after a dispute with assistant boss Gary McAllister.

But it’s not just Dunne who has been causing a stir. James Collins broke a club curfew, John Carew has badmouthed Houllier in the press and is expected to leave, Steve Sidwell is on his way to West Ham, Brad Friedel and Stephen Warnock are reportedly unhappy under the new regime, and Stephen Ireland has made it clear he wants to end his Villa nightmare in January.

While things aren’t exactly running smoothly at Villa Park, things couldn’t be more different at Spurs. Harry Redknapp has put smiles on the faces of the fans at White Hart Lane after guiding his side to the last 16 of the Champions League, while still keeping the club in the hunt for a top four place.

The atmosphere in the Tottenham camp is in stark contrast to Villa’s. Even William Gallas hasn’t started kicking up a fuss as he has done at his previous clubs, with Redknapp using his squad to good effect to keep everyone satisfied.

3. Black Cats aiming to end 42-year drought

May 1968: Sunderland beat Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford on their way to finishing 15th in the First Division. Fast forward 42 years and the Black Cats have failed to win at the Theatre of Dreams since.

The closest the Wearsiders have come to recording a victory over the Red Devils away was last season when Anton Ferdinand’s injury-time own goal rescued the hosts to secure a 2-2 draw.

And Steve Bruce, who is yet to win as a manager against his former boss Sir Alex Ferguson, believes they need to get at United to stand a better chance of ending the hoodoo.

"For me, a lot of teams are beaten in the tunnel. You must, must go and take part in the game; you must go and have the courage to take the ball and take them on, and if you do that, then you have got a chance," he said.

Despite Manchester United’s unbeaten run in the league so far this season, it’s no doubt Sunderland’s best chance to win at Old Trafford in many years, with Bruce’s men currently sixth in the Premier League.

4. Barton to square up against former club

Joey Barton has enjoyed a terrific run of form since returning to the Premier League with Newcastle United.

His performances were so impressive in the first few weeks of the season that he was even rumoured to be set for an England call-up. However, after earning a three-match ban for a punch on Morten Gamst Pedersen, the hype soon died down.

Now he’s back in the starting line-up for the Magpies and pulling the strings once again. But he will surely be disappointed by the departure of Chris Hughton, who Barton revealed had helped shape his future again after his well documented off-field problems over the last few years.

And Barton goes into Sunday’s game against former club Manchester City looking to prove he is worth more than the £5.7 million they sold him for back in 2007.

"It's not as if I'm going to get all tear-jerky and emotional because it's not my way," Barton insists.

But the former City man would surely relish the opportunity to get one over on the club that gave him his first chance in professional football.

5. Postponements…

We’ve had too many postponements already this season, and we’re not even into January yet.

A measly three matches went ahead in the Premier League last weekend, with many clubs citing their stadium’s surrounding areas as being the justification for calling matches off.

Some teams earned criticism for postponing their game well in advance. Chelsea in particular were under the spotlight after calling off their match with Manchester United over 24 hours before it was due to kick off.

Meanwhile, Blackpool warned in the run up to their clash with Tottenham that, like the week before against Manchester United, it was unlikely to go ahead as the pitch at Bloomfield Road doesn’t have under soil heating.

And while the Seasiders fret again over whether their match with Liverpool will be on this weekend, so will many other clubs - if only to avoid a fixture pile up later in the campaign.

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