With the clock ticking down on the season, there are fewer and fewer chances for teams to catch up on their respective rivals with the races for silverware, European qualification and Premier League survival perilously close to their conclusions. A slip-up from any of the clubs with what are already slim hopes of pulling off any of these successes this weekend could spell the end of their ambitions. Below we take a closer look at some of the games featuring such sides.
Undoubtedly the most attractive game this weekend takes place at Eastlands early on Saturday as Manchester City welcome their much beloved neighbours Manchester United over for a kick around in their shiny new stadium. With both teams still very much having something to play for, there will be no lack of bite in this fixture and with the events of the earlier league fixture and the two-legged Carling Cup affair still likely to be in the minds of both sets of players 9and fans) it will be no surprise should sparks begin to fly in this encounter. Luckily, some of the hard work has been done for me this weekend and I have been saved the task of detailing the rivalry between these two “massive” clubs as BPF’s resident City and United fans Neil Sherwin and Ed Diggins have taken matters into their own hands and delivered a fine preview of the game available here.
The significance of the above game will only truly be known by late Saturday night once the final whistle has been blown in White Hart Lane as Chelsea travel across London to take on Tottenham. Should United fail to get anything but three points their slim hopes of capturing a fourth league title in a row will be all but over, however should they inflict defeat upon their “noisy neighbours” and Chelsea succumb to a Spurs side high on confidence following their victory over Arsenal then there will be fresh life breathed in to United’s challenge, especially given that Chelsea must still travel to Anfield in the coming weeks. Chelsea will enter the game as favourites and will hope that an extra time defeat to Portsmouth in the FA Cup last Sunday and a draining battle against Arsenal in midweek will have sapped a lot of energy from their opponents. Spurs however are just one point behind Man City in the race for the final Champions League spot and will be very much hoping for United to do them a favour earlier in the day and for them then to return the favour. A scrappy and somewhat lucky midweek victory over Bolton was a far from comprehensive performance by Chelsea and despite the possibility of Spurs’ tired legs and long injury list, they will need a big improvement to take the three points.
In team news, Florent Malouda, Joe Cole and Deco who were all rested in midweek for Chelsea are all likely to return. For Spurs Niko Krancjar is the latest player to be ruled out due to a knee injury, as are midweek hero Danny Rose and Wilson Palacios who remains suspended. Ledley King, who was in inspired form against Arsenal is unlikely to feature given his knee problems and difficulties in playing in back to back fixtures.
Now extreme long shots for fourth place, Liverpool face West Ham on Monday night with Zola’s men still in need of points to ensure Premier League survival and Rafael Benitez’s men looking to give a demonstration as to what they can do to any prospective new owners out there. One player who won’t be doing that however is Fernando Torres, who looks set to miss out once againwith yet more knee problems. The final team with any semblance of hope for fourth position are Aston Villa, who aside from needing a miracle to overcome the three teams ahead of them will also need to pick up six points from their two games against Portsmouth and Hull this week. Given the question marks hanging over Martin O’Neill’s future at the club, a strong finish to the season may just help to quell some of the rumours circulating stating that his departure is imminent.
Moving to toward the lower raches of the table, following last week’s massive victory over Hull City, Burnley will be hoping to kickstart a run of results from now until to the end of the season that, however unlikely that it indeed is, may just be enough to save their skins. Sunderland away is what faces the Clarets this weekend and Brian Laws will realise that with West Ham travelling to Anfield and Hull facing Birmingham in fortress St. Andrews that three points will be a massive boost to their survival hopes. Sunderland however are unbeaten at home since December so it will be no easy task for Burnley, especially when their absolutley abysmal away record is taken into account.
This weeks fixture list in full…..
Saturday 17th April
12:45 Man City vs Man Utd
15:00 Birmingham vs Hull
15:00 Blackburn vs Everton
15:00 Fulham vs Wolverhampton
15:00 Stoke vs Bolton
15:00 Sunderland vs Burnley
17:30 Tottenham vs Chelsea
Sunday 18th April
13:30 Wigan vs Arsenal
16:00 Portsmouth vs Aston Villa
Monday 19th April
20:00 Liverpool vs West Ham
Wednesday 21st April
19:45 Hull vs Aston Villa