Premiership Week 34: A Preview

Just 5 more rounds of matches remain in the English Premier League this season and the battle for the title is intensifying. This weekend could just clear up the fog at the top end of the table as first confront third.

Manchester United have swiftly rode their luck and escalated up the table as Arsenal have rapidly climbed down it since February. So much so that United take on Arsenal at Old Trafford on Sunday as league leaders. United have 77 points from 33 matches and qualified for the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League in midweek. On the other hand, the Gunners fell down to Liverpool in the last 8 in the Champions League on Tuesday ad are actually third in the Premiership standings, 6 points behind the leaders. A defeat at Old Trafford would virtually extinguish the Gunners’ title hopes while a draw wouldn’t be good either.

An Arsenal win at Old Trafford of course would make their London rivals Chelsea happier. The London Blues were once 7 points off the pace in the Premiership but have now crept into the second spot just 3 points off the top. They would go level on points with Man United should the Red Devils lose and they themselves wave off 15th place Wigan Athletic at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Wigan are safe from relegation after stretching the gap between themselves ad the dropzone to 8 points.

Fourth place Liverpool might have catwalked into the last 4 of Europe’s top tier club competition but the Reds were rocked on Friday by chairman Rick Parry’s admission that co-owner Tom Hicks had sent him a letter demanding his resignation. This is indeed an unwanted distraction for a club that is now at long last starting to pick up momentum. Liverpool are 3 points clear of fifth place and local Merseyside rivals Everton and would look forward to hold out that advantage by beating 8th place Blackburn Rovers at Anfield.

Everton face a tough trip to Birmingham City on Saturday. The Merseyside Blues are already without Tim Cahill for the rest of the season and there are doubts on the fitness of both Mikel Arteta and Steven Pieneer. Birmingham are 1 place and 4 points above safety and would be hoping that striker Zarate continues his goal scoring panache.

6th place Portsmouth welcome Newcastle United at Fratton Park this weekend and can bag maximum points too. Striker Jermaine Defoe and Nico Kranjcar are in fascinating form but Newcastle are on a three match winning streak with England international striker Michael Owen having scored in all of them. The Geordies have pulled themselves clear of the relegation more and are 14th in the table. Aston Villa in 7th travel to Derby County who have already been relegated.

And both Fulham and Bolton Wanderers could just join them soon. Both have 26 points and while the Fuls travel to Reading this weekend, Bolton entertain nothing-to-play-for-this-season West Ham United at the Reebok Stadium. Reading are virtually safe with 6 points between them and 18th place Bolton. Fulham have the second worst goal difference in the Premiership this season and manager Roy Hodgson has been incompetent in staving the rapidly sinking ship.

Should Bolton lose to West Ham, Sunderland could confirm their top flight status for next season by beating out of sorts Manchester City at the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats are virtually assured of playing Premiership football next season and are 10 points clear of the dropzone. On the other hand, Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Man City side, who have won just thrice away from home this season, have no chance whatsoever of getting into Europe next season via the league after collapsing since last month.

12th place Middlesbrough too have marvelously dragged themselves out of the relegation trap and with Brazilian international striker Alfonso Alves in scintillating form travel to Tottenam Hotspur who are 1 place ad 2 points immediately above them.

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