With just 11 rounds of the Barclays Premier League to play it certainly is “Squeaky Bum Time” both at the top of the league and at the bottom. This weekend will see some vital games and here I take a look at the fixtures that could change the shape of the league as we head into the final straight.
Race for the Title
1. Manchester City, 66 points
2. Manchester United, 64 points
After Manchester United’s win away at Spurs last weekend this is surely now a 2 horse race between the 2 Manchester clubs. This weekend will see both clubs kick off at the same time (Sunday at 2pm) with Manchester City travelling to Swansea while Manchester United entertain in form West Brom at Old Trafford.
Swansea have only lost twice at home this season, a 0-1 defeat against Manchester United and a surprise 2-3 loss to Norwich while City’s awayform has been their downfall this season with 3 draws and 3 losses on the road so far. This game will see the start of a tough run for Manchester City with fixtures against Chelsea, Stoke, Sunderland and Arsenal in their next four league games. It could prove to be make or break for City in this crucial period. Captain Vincent Kompany misses out after limping off in City’s 1-0 loss against Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League on Thursday night while Pablo Zabaleta is out with a thigh strain so the expected return of Micah Richards is well timed and he is expected to start in place of Zabaleta.
Swansea will be without the suspended Nathan Dyer following his red card in last weekend’s win over Wigan and also Kemy Agustien who is out with an ankle injury. Brendan Rodger`s side are 11 points clear of the relegation zone and just 7 points from the magic 40 point mark which they will be looking to reach as soon as possible.
In form West Brom visit Old Trafford on Sunday following 3 straight wins in the Premier League scoring 10 goals in the process. Two of those games led to the sacking of opposing managers, a 5-1 win away at Wolves proved the end to Mick McCarthy`s reign and last weekend’s 1-0 home win over Chelsea led to the dismissal of Andre Villas Boas. Sandwiched in-between those two impressive wins was a 4-0 home win over Martin O Neil’s rejuvenated Sunderland, can they continue this form when they visit the champions on Sunday? Steven Reid is out for the midlands club and doubts hang over the fitness of defender Billy Jones and winger Jerome Thomas who was forced off for the second successive game last weekend with a niggling hamstring injury.
West Brom were the only side to take a point at Old Trafford last season in a 2-2 draw but you have to go back to December 1978 for the Baggies last win over United in the league, a 5-3 win at Old Trafford. When these two sides met in the opening game of the season it took a late Steven Reid own goal to give United the 3 points in a 2-1 win despite the Red Devils only having one shot on target in the game.
Tom Cleverley looks set to return to the squad for this weekend but it looks to have come too soon for Antonio Valencia while Chris Smalling is a doubt after coming off in United’s 3-2 home defeat against Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League on Thursday night. While Manchester City face into a tough run of games United on paper have arguably their easiest run of fixtures all season coming up but those fixtures include in form West Brom and Fulham as well as games against sides fighting for Premier League survival against Wolves, Blackburn, QPR and Wigan.