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Sunday sees top of the table clash

Sunday sees top of the table clash

The weekend’s standout fixture is obviously Arsenal v Man United, and they follow the result of Chelsea as all three still have a chance at the title

chris_dring


Wayne Rooney has been in imperious form and will look to find the net again Sunday. AFP

With Chelsea playing Saturday, Man United and Arsenal have that little bit of extra incentive to take all three points off each other in Sunday’s super showdown. Sir Alex’s United were beaten by two Nasri strikes last season at the Emirates, and he’ll want revenge.

Arsene Wenger is still scarred by Chelsea’s brutish domination of his young guns earlier in the season. If Arsenal are to become champions, then this is the type of fixture that they have to win.

The Gunners are a different team when Fabregas is calling the shots. If they realistically believe they can win the title, then Fabregas must not only remain injury free, he must also maintain his current sparkling form.

Likewise for United, Rooney is on fire at present, but this game is more than just Fabregas v Rooney with matches of this magnitude seeming to be won and lost by the narrowest of margins.

Often one piece of magic is enough to settle a game when two sides are so evenly balanced. Arsenal don't lose many games at the Emirates, but despite home advantage, Man United have that extra experience that always seems to bear significance on the outcome of top of the table clashes. Arsene Wenger still needs to find an out-and-out striker to complete his team, which is a work in progress. A draw will suit Chelsea perfectly, and perhaps the biggest winner come Sunday will be Ancelotti.

After every Liverpool victory comes the optimism that they have finally turned the corner, but inevitably it seems that they try their hardest to go back a few steps. One week they beat Spurs, the next they fail to take three points against relegation threatened Wolves. Even against Tottenham they missed countless chances, and their failure to score at Molineux proved Benitez’s promise of fourth will need Torres to return and stay fit. At home to Bolton should be a walk in the park for the Red’s, but they can take nothing for granted this season.

Gerrard will lead out Liverpool Saturday, and he will have to lead by example to spur his teammates on. Reina in goal has been their outstanding player this campaign, which is certainly not ideal. Aquilani seems close to finding his feet in the Premiership, and along with Gerrard and Kuyt they should have too much for a workman like Bolton outfit, who will be rejuvenated after their midweek victory over Burnley.

Chelsea , Tottenham and Aston Villa all face away trips, which they can’t afford to lose Saturday. Brian Laws has been in charge of Burnley for two matches, suffering two defeats. The last thing he needed was the Chelsea express train turning up at Turf Moor. All football romantics might dream of a gigantic shock, but you’d be a fool to bet against an ever impressive Chelsea.

Ancelotti’s squad were expected to wobble due to African Cup of Nations absentees, but instead have appeared more unified and focused. Lampard, Ballack and Malouda have slipped through the gears and, with Anelka up front, the Burnley players will be chasing shadows.

Birmingham have been undoubtedly the surprise package of this season. Midweek their visit to Stamford Bridge ended their impressive unbeaten run, but now host an inconsistent Spurs team.

Blues manager McLeish will energise his troops from kick off as they try to stifle Redknapp’s entertainers. Tottenham temporarily regained some momentum by beating a toothless Fulham side Tuesday night, and Lennon needs to regain his fitness sharpish if Spurs are going to maintain their fragile hold of the final Champions League spot.

The north London club are going to struggle to pass their way through an organised Birmingham team, so Crouch is likely to be the key as he offers Spurs a more direct route to goal. With Bale from the left, and Bentley from the right offering decent service, I fancy Birmingham to fall to another defeat, as Crouch and Defoe keep up their goal a game average as a pair.

Roy Hodgson has done wonders with his Fulham side and is perhaps suffering from overachievement. Last season, he had the luxury of having an injury free campaign, but with a congested treatment room list and the fact that they are battling on three fronts, one might fear for Fulham.

Martin O’Neil’s Aston Villa need to go on an unbeaten run if they don’t want a repeat of last season’s mini-collapse, after a promising start. Villa have been struggling to score in recent matches, and with the Cottagers coming off the back of four straight league defeats, this game has 0-0 written all over it, with defenders ruling supreme.

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