The 2009/10 Premier League season is entering its final stages, but there’s no shortage of action to be had yet as this week it’s first against second as Manchester Utd face Chelsea in a huge title race clash.
It has been 0ne eventful season, but you can’t help but feel that there’ll be another twist in the plot on Saturday lunchtime when Manchester United host Chelsea at Old Trafford. With one point seperating the two, and just six games remaining games for both, it’s all to play for in one of the most hotly anticipated games on the campaign. Just days after losing out to Bayern Munich at the Allianz in the Champions League, the freshness will be on Carlo Ancelotti’s side who had an extra week to prepare. United also suffered the enormous loss of Wayne Rooney to an ankle injury during the week, so Chelsea will be relieved to see their opponents without their biggest star. Chelsea meanwhile will have a fresh front pairing to choose from as both Didier Drogba and Nicholas Anelka will spearhead their formidable attack, the former recovering from a training ground knock after sitting out last week’s hammering against Villa. Chelsea’s other casualties include long term absentees Ashley Cole, Michael Essien and Ricardo Carvalho, meanwhile Bratislav Ivanovic is also out with a knee injury. The Red Devils are without two of their main striking components, Owen and Rooney, so the attention will be put on Dimitar Berbatov to produce goals. Sir Alex might also have to put his side’s hope on the shoulders of some of his young strikers, you never know, there could be Kiko Macheda-like heroics again this season…
Turning our attentions away from the title race, the battle for fourth place is heating up with Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool and Aston Villa all chasing vital wins this weekend. Aston Villa travel to the Reebok Stadium to face Bolton, and will be more then keen to get over last week’s shocker against Chelsea. Villa still have doubts over the availability of top striker Gabby Agbonlahor, while the fitness of James Milner and Richard Dunne will have to be assessed before the game.
The current holders of the coveted fourth spot Tottenham will be hoping to strenghten their hopes of Champions League football next season as they travel up North to face Sunderland who are on the back of a demoralising 3-0 defeat to Liverpool last week. Spurs are missing a number of important players including Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone and Aaron Lennon, however are bolstered by the availability of Jermain Defoe in attack.
It’s then onto Saturday’s evening kick-off at Turf Moor where Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City meet Burnley who will feel robbed after last Sunday’s game against Blackburn. City struggles Monday night against Wigan, and could only break down the Latics when they were reduced to ten men, so Burnley will be confident of doing the double over Manchester sides at home in their first season back in the Premier League. City are without the suspended Pablo Zabaleta who received his tenth card of the campaign against Wigan, while Stephen Ireland is another absentee. Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor and City’s other striking options are all available.
Finally on Sunday the last of the top four chasers Liverpool will be in action away to Birmingham City who are on the back of a 1-1 tie against Arsenal at St Andrews. Summer signing Alberto Aquilani is again a doubt after missing the Europa League loss to Benfica in Lisbon, while Maxi Rodriguez will return to the squad after being cup-tied on Thursday. Ryan Babel and Emiliano Insua will both feature before they are ruled out for the second leg clash at Anfield next Thursday due to suspensions.
This week’s fixture list in full: (3PM unless otherwise stated)
Saturday 3rd April 2010
Manchester United v Chelsea (12.45PM)
Arsenal v Wolves
Bolton v Aston Villa
Porstmouth v Blackburn
Stoke City v Hull City
Sunderland v Tottenham
Burnley v Manchester City (5:30PM)
Sunday 4th April 2010
Birmingham v Liverpool
Fulham v Wigan
Everton v West Ham (4.00PM)