The Man United v Chelsea top-of-the-table clash eclipses all other fixtures this weekend
THERE may be ten games playing in the Premiership this weekend, but only one is dominating all the attention. Come Saturday night, we should be a lot clearer in knowing which direction the title is heading.
Manchester United v Chelsea is just about as good as it gets. Chelsea will be the fresher of the two teams as United played in Munich on Tuesday. Old Trafford can sometimes be lack voice, but on Saturday the Stetford End will be in full voice and should give United a twelfth man as the fans roar their side on to keep the title in Manchester for yet another year.
A draw for either side keeps things evenly balanced, but hopefully we will not see a cagey affair with both teams playing at a high tempo from the kick off. This dramatic and pulsating game should be the highlight of the weekend.
Ancelotti will play four in the Chelsea midfield and this will be the key battle. If United can suffocate Chelsea’s ball players then they can sever the supply line to Drogba and Anelka. Malouda and Lampard are on fire at the moment, and after thumping seven past Villa, they should be oozing confidence.
Arsenal’s Samir Nasri (above) scored against Birmingham last weekend, and will look for more goals against struggling side Wolverhampton at the Emirates Saturday. AFP
Man United boss Sir Alex Ferguson will hope his squad, devoid of star striker Wayne Rooney, can overcome Chelsea. AFP
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti will want his team to continue their top form of late against Man United Saturday. AFP
Tottenham striker Jermaine Defoe should be back from a lengthy absence through injury to face Sundarland. AFP
Fletcher and Park will do all the running in midfield to provide Berbatov with service. Sitting on the fence is not very bold, but it’s difficult to see much between the two teams and a draw will increase the tension as the season nears its thrilling climax.
Arsenal slipped up last week conceding a late goal to drop two vital points against Birmingham. At home to Wolves they should steam roll Mick McCarty’s side and stay in the contention for the title. Nasri is the pick of Arsene’s players right now and even with the exertions of the midweek tie against Barcelona, it is hard to see how Wolves can get anything from this game.
Aston Villa were well and truly humbled at Chelsea last weekend. Fourth spot is a long shot now and Martin O’Neil should be more worried about Everton creeping up on them and stealing the final Europa League place.
Bolton have been playing with Elmander and Davis up front, and at home to Villa they could be a handful. Villa’s Dunne and Collins are strong in the air at the back, and I fancy Martin O’Neil’s side to use their aerial dominance to gift them the opportunity to grab three vital points.
Birmingham proved once again against Arsenal that they are a tough nut to crack. They host Liverpool in a game Benitez cannot afford to even draw. Liverpool have sorted out their home form but still look fragile on the road. I doubt this game will be one for the football purists, and could turn out a scrappy fixture.
Gerrard still doesn’t seem at his best and Torres can’t carry the side on his own. Birmingham come into this game with no pressure on them and I think their endeavour will grant them another home point.
Zola’s West Ham are into the abyss with the real danger of being relegated. They travel to a buoyant Everton who have dramatically turned their season around. Neutrals may want the Hammers to stay up but this should be another game where they get humiliated. Arteta is purring right now and, with his team mates playing at their peak at present, this should be a comfortable three home points for David Moyes boys.
Wigan are far from safe and they’ll want to get something out of their trip to Fulham. Roy Hodgson doesn’t have the luxury of rotating his players and, after another midweek European adventure, there is a strong possibility of fatigue playing a factor.
Zamora, Duff and Murphy have all had a fantastic season for the Cottagers, and it would be a shame to see their season end on a whimper. Most of the time Wigan don’t look that threatening, but every so often they pull off a shock. Fulham have an excellent home record and despite their tiredness they should still have enough in the tank to beat the Latics.
Spurs have a daunting run in and will be desperate to take a win from their visit to the Stadium of Light. Sunderland have improved over the last month or so, and their top goal scorer Darren Bent will be eager to find the net against his former club, who never really allowed him to blossom.
Tottenham’s injury problems are slowly clearing up and Redknapp’s players have more riding on this tie. With Defoe likely to return, I fancy Tottenham to sneak another precious victory.
Burnley can’t buy a win at present. At home to Man City, they will once again be the underdogs. Tevez was fantastic against Wigan Monday night, giving his boss Mancini a vital victory by scoring a hat trick. Tevez will once again be the main threat and, along with Bellamy, the gulf in class should be all too apparent.
Portsmouth v Blackburn is a game of little significance. Pompey are not only already condemned to relegation with a monster debt, but are struggling to get eleven fit players onto the pitch. Blackburn are poor on the road, but with Dunn pulling the strings from midfield, you have to fancy Blackburn to beat a crippled Portsmouth side.
Hull travel west to Stoke hoping to pull off another remarkable escape. Bullard could be the catalyst to save the Tigers season, but Stoke are unlikely to give him the time and space to dictate the game. You never get an easy game at the Britannia Stadium, and with Delap launching his missiles, Hull’s weak back bone should once again crumble.