August 29, 2013 / 3:42 AM / 4 years ago

Arsenal, Liverpool face local credentials' tests

Arsenal's Theo Walcott lies on the pitch with a ball during a training session ahead of a friendly match against Urawa Reds in Saitama, north of Tokyo July 25, 2013.Yuya Shino

LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal will be eager to show the north London balance of power has not shifted to Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool face a test of their top-four credentials against Manchester United as traditional local rivals clash in the Premier League on Sunday.

Arsenal pipped their neighbours to a Champions League qualifying spot last season, but while Arsene Wenger's team have been thwarted in their efforts to strengthen their squad, Tottenham have liberally splashed the cash.

Argentina international Erik Lamela is set to become Spurs' fifth transfer-window signing, taking their spending to more than 90 million pounds ($140 million), and Spurs fans are optimistic for the season ahead.

Two wins from their opening two matches have added to the positive vibe emanating from White Hart Lane, which has not been dampened by the impending world-record transfer of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid.

Things could not be more different at Arsenal, who have added a solitary new face to their ranks, the free transfer of Yaya Sanogo.

Manager Arsene Wenger has been rebuffed in his efforts to bring in a marquee signing with reported efforts to recruit Liverpool's Luis Suarez and now-Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain coming to nothing.

Although they reached the Champions League group stage with a comfortable win over Fenerbahce and beat Fulham in the Premier League last weekend following the shock opening home loss to Aston Villa, there is still frustration among supporters.

It is a feeling not shared by Arsenal forward Theo Walcott, who rejected suggestions that Tottenham's activity in the transfer market makes them stronger than their rivals.

"Not at all. I feel we're very, very strong," he was quoted as saying by British media.

"Everyone makes out our squad is very weak and there are not many of us, but we showed in the last few games that we can bounce back from a bad result, proving a lot of people wrong.

"Every club is different and Tottenham invested their money very well. For us players we just want to do a job on Sunday, we don't care if they have brought in 30 million pound stars."

RIGOROUS EXAMINATION

Liverpool are also bathing in optimism after winning their opening two Premier League matches but are set for a rigorous examination when they host champions and bitter rivals United.

Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger reacts before their English Premier League football match against Fulham at Craven Cottage in London August 24, 2013.Stefan Wermuth

The Merseysiders have also not snared a big-name signing to excite fans, but the goal-scoring form of January recruit Daniel Sturridge and positive start made by keeper Simon Mignolet bode well for manager Brendan Rodgers.

One close-season signing he will probably have to do without, however, is centre back Kolo Toure who was carried off when what should have been a straightforward League Cup clash against third-tier Notts County turned ugly on Tuesday.

Liverpool were also awaiting news of injuries to new loan signing Aly Cissokho and midfielder Joe Allen following their bruising 4-2 extra-time win.

"We've got plenty of recovery time now for the players. That was the idea - that I could put some of the senior guys in knowing there was enough recuperation period after the game, and obviously to give our young players good experience playing in a competitive game," Rodgers said on the club website (www.liverpoolfc.com).

"They'll all be fine, they'll recover well and we'll be excited now looking forward to that game on Sunday."

United manager David Moyes, used to a heated Anfield atmosphere after 11 years at Everton, will be satisfied with his opening two competitive games at his new club.

A stylish win over Swansea City was followed by a solid goalless draw against likely title rivals Chelsea.

Speculation surrounding the future of striker Wayne Rooney also seems to have quietened after his hard-working display against the team who have been trying to sign him.

Manchester City will look to shake off the defensive vulnerability they showed in losing to promoted Cardiff City last weekend when they host Hull City on Saturday.

Having splashed around 90 million pounds ($140 million) on bolstering up their attack, they need to demonstrate that they have not missed a trick by penny-pinching at the other end, following their embarrassing 3-2 loss to Cardiff.

With first-choice centre backs Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic out injured, City, who were undone twice at set-pieces against the Welsh side, could be forced to call on midfielder Javi Garcia as a stand-in defender once again.

Cardiff play Everton on Saturday, with the Liverpool club's new manager Roberto Martinez still looking for his first win after two draws, and Newcastle United, also winless, host Fulham.

Saturday's action is completed by Norwich City taking on Southampton, West Ham United play Stoke City and Crystal Palace face Sunderland.

West Bromwich Albion meet Swansea City on Sunday.

Editing by Ed Osmond

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