Chelsea can more or less end Arsenal's pursuit of the English Premier League title this weekend with a victory against them at Stamford Bridge
Arsenal's Andrey Arshavin vies with Man United defender Wes Brown during a match last month in London. AFP
LAST weekend, Man United deservedly stole the show as they proved they are still a force to be reckoned with in the post-Ronaldo era. This weekend they step out of the limelight as the Premiership delivers three storming games that should go a long way to deciding who takes the glory come May, and who guarantees themselves Champions League football.
On Sunday, a shell shocked Wenger takes his side across town, as Chelsea host Arsenal in a mouth watering London derby. The Gunners have already been torn apart by both Chelsea and Man United at home. If they lose at Stamford Bridge, it would appear the title will be a two-horse race.
You can never count Arsenal out of any game due to their obvious talent, but inexperience and a cutting edge in big games is clearly apparent. In Arsenal’s favour, they come into the fixture as underdogs, but defeat would leave them nine points off the summit, and would be incredibly difficult to claw back.
John Terry’s personal life and a mid-week draw at Hull will be playing on Ancelotti’s mind. However with Drogba back in a team that is arguably the most powerful in the division, they’ll want to banish any hopes of the title going up to North London. Ancelotti is likely to play his preferred 4-4-2 in comparison to Wenger’s recent decision to field five men in the middle. Chelsea can become rather narrow at times, but they have so many match winners.
If you compare the two teams man for man, you’d have to place your bet firmly on the Blues. Anelka, Drogba and Lampard are the obvious threats going forward, and it is very doubtful that Arsenal will be capable of keeping a clean sheet.
I’m astonished that Wenger didn’t buy a target man in the January sales. Arsenal's neat and tidy passing game can be very one dimensional at times, and aside from a piece of individual magic from the likes of Fabregas or Arshavin, I struggle to see how they will match the more direct but breakneck force of Chelsea.
The early kick off on Saturday is a Liverpool derby that should be the hardest to call for many a year. Everton had a slow start to the season, but with their injury list gradually diminishing they’ve turned the corner.
The recent acquisition of Landon Donovan seems to be paying off and they are currently on a nine games unbeaten run. With their new found confidence, they’ll believe Liverpool are there for the taking. Cahill, Saha and Fellani are all in form, and we know although Everton may not be the prettiest side to watch, they have started to show more class.
Liverpool under Benitez have finally sorted out their home form and, despite the absence of Torres, they will remain favourites simply because the match it’s at Anfield. This game will be played at such a high tempo, it is likely to prevent Gerrard and Aquilani from creating numerous chances and dominating procession.
A tough game to call that could go either way and, despite all the talent on show, I fear both sides will cancel each other out to prohibit it from being a classic. Kuyt has regained his shooting boots in recent weeks, and either he or Gerrard should just be good enough to steal a bruising encounter.
Redknapp must still be frustrated by Spurs’ inept defending that saw them drop two priceless points at Birmingham last Saturday. With Keane’s departure, Crouch and Defoe should settle down into Harry’s preferred striking option.
They host Aston Villa in a game which should allow us to see who is the most likely to challenge for the final Champions League spot. Spurs appear to have the better squad on paper but, despite their promise, seem to lack the ruthlessness that leads to success.
Villa prefer to play on the counter attack, and O’Neil’s team may have to surrender possession of the ball throughout the ninety minutes. However, they should pose Tottenham enough problems to test a back four that has tightened up of late.
If you add Heskey and Agbonlahor to Spurs’ striking duo, that’s four real candidates for England’s world cup squad. This match will likely to be won by the service to strikers. It’s Young, Milner and Downing for Villa against Modric, Bentley and Huddlestone for Spurs. Again another tie that could go either way, but Spurs might just finally offer more substance than promise.
Man United will still be buzzing after their triumph at the Emirates, and it’s hard to see the league’s bottom club Portsmouth halting Rooney and co at Old Trafford. Meanwhile Hull City, despite a valiant draw against Chelsea midweek, may just find their luck has run out as Mancini’s Man City visit the KC Stadium.
Burnley v West Ham at the wrong end of the table is a huge game for both sides as they struggle to beat the drop. Considering their predicament, both sides are still trying to play their way out of trouble and it should be the undercard of the weekend as these sides must attack to keep themselves in the Premiership.