It’s Week 35 in the English Premier League this weekend and although there are no top of the table clashes or relegation six-pointers, a number of matches this weekend could clear the fog at either end of the table.
The most significant match this weekend in terms of the title race is at Ewood Park on Saturday when mid-table Blackburn Rovers host Manchester United. United are still in the pole position in the Premiership but their lead was tailored to just 2 points by Chelsea who defeated Everton 1-0 away on Thursday. Sir Alex’s Ferguson’s side though would’ve one eye on next week’s UEFA Champions League semi-final tie with FC Barcelona but the Scotsman knows that maximum points against Mark Hughes’ side would inch them closer to their 10th Premiership title.
Last weekend’s 2-1 defeat to Man United at Old Trafford knocked the wind out of the sails of Arsenal and demolished the Gunners’ last remaining hopes of the league championship. Arsene Wenger’s men are now 9 points off the pace and need to regroup their confidence when Reading visit the Emirates in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off. Reading’s 2-0 defeat to Fulham at home last week dragged them back into the relegation mire and Steve Coppell’s man are now just 3 points above the bottom three in 16th. Fourth place Liverpool can stretch the gulf between them and their rivals for the prized final Champions League spot Everton to an almost unassailable 8 point with a win at Fulham who are second from bottom, 2 points off safety.
The attention then shifts to the bottom end of the table. Bolton Wanderers, who occupy the final relegation berth, must be eager to eke out encouragement from their last week’s 1-0 home victory over West Ham United by traveling to the now safe Middlesbrough. Bolton manager Gary Megson have had to come in for much flake by the club’s supporters but is confident of making it two wins on the spin at the Riverside.
Should Bolton indeed manage to pull off a victory against Boro, then both Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic would get sucked into the trap. Birmingham are just 2 points and 1 place above Bolton and travel to Aston Villa on Sunday. Wigan, meanwhile, play 24 hours later against nothing-to-play-for Tottenham Hotspur at the JJB Stadium on Saturday. Wigan are 5 points above Bolton in 15th pace. Already relegated Derby County are on the travel to West Ham and the first priority for manager Paul Jewell would be not to get hit for a sixer again; last week Aston Villa thrashed Derby 6-0 at Pride Park.
In the remaining fixtures in the Premiership this weekend, Manchester City host Portsmouth at the City of Manchester Stadium and Newcastle United welcome Sunderland at St. James’ Park.