Premier League Preview - 5/6 February - Manchester divided for crucial derby clash
This weekend’s Premier League action will struggle to scale the heights of last weekend when 43 goals flew in, Manchester United’s unbeaten run finally ended and Newcastle recovered from 4-0 down to hold Arsenal to a thrilling 4-4 draw at St James Park.
Despite losing their unbeaten run last Saturday after a 2-1 defeat by Wolves, Manchester United are still the side everyone has to catch if they’re to claim the Premier League title. They lock horns with local rivals and title hopefuls Manchester City, who closed within five points of their opponents with a comfortable 3-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion last weekend. However, Robert Mancini’s side have only tasted victory over Manchester United once at Old Trafford in the Premier League and a defeat would all but signal the end of their title challenge.
Liverpool took another massive step in their revival under Kenny Dalglish with a memorable 1-0 victory over a Chelsea side that included former Reds number nine Fernando Torres, who made little impact on a debut to forget. Liverpool return to Anfield at the weekend looking to extend their run of four consecutive clean sheets when they entertain a Wigan Athletic side who stayed inside the relegation zone despite a 4-3 victory over Blackburn Rovers last Saturday.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Arsenal will be keen to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s second half collapse when they return to the Emirates to face Wolves, who ended Manchester United’s unbeaten record with a 2-1 victory at Molineux last Saturday and will be looking for more of the same in the coming weeks as they fight for their Premier League survival.
In other games, The Hawthorns looks set to stage a relegation six-pointer when West Bromwich Albion take on West Ham United, Aston Villa travel to Bloomfield Road to face a Blackpool side that shipped five goals in defeat to Everton last Saturday and Tottenham continue their quest for a top four place against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Everton’s Louis Saha stole the show with four goals in his side’s 5-3 win over Blackpool last week and will be looking to continue his red hot streak in front of goal when they take on a Bolton Wanderers side who were cruelly denied a share of the spoils in the dying seconds against Tottenham last weekend and will hoping for a change in fortunes returning to the Reebok stadium on Sunday.
Finally, Chelsea must wait until Monday night before they take to the field against fellow Londoners Fulham at Craven Cottage. New boy Fernando Torres will look to put a lacklustre debut behind him and open his goal scoring account for the reigning Premier League champions.
Game of the weekend: Manchester United vs. Manchester City
The Manchester derby now carries extra significance as Manchester City continue to develop into one of the best domestic clubs in Europe. Their title hopes for this season all but rest on Saturday’s result while, in contrast, Manchester United can pull eight points clear of the chasing pack with a victory over their local rivals at the weekend.
Blast from the past: 20th September 2009 – Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City
Wayne Rooney gave the hosts an early lead after just two minutes but their local rivals were back on level terms just 14 minutes later, Gareth Barry capitalizing on a Ben Foster error. The second half saw Darren Fletcher twice restore United’s lead only for an inspired Craig Bellamy to equalize on both occasions. Manchester United poured forward resulting in a dramatic late winner, substitute Michael Owen slotting home in the sixth minute of stoppage time.
On this day : 10 years ago – 2000/2001
Bradford stayed rock bottom of the Premier League after suffering a 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Aston Villa while a Robbie Fowler brace helped Liverpool move up to third with a 3-0 win over West Ham United.
Five years ago - 2005/06
Fulham demolished West Bromwich Albion 6-1 at Craven Cottage with Heider Helguson and Collins John notching a brace a piece. Elsewhere, Middlesbrough comprehensively defeated league leaders Chelsea 3-0 at the Riverside to move eight points clear of the relegation zone.
One year ago - 2009/2010
Chelsea saw their lead at the top cut to one point after they were beaten 2-1 by Everton at Goodison Park. Manchester United missed out on the chance to go top as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Aston Villa, while West Ham United moved out of the relegation zone with a 2-0 victory over Birmingham.
Round 26 fixtures
Saturday 12th February
Manchester United vs. Manchester City - 12.45 - Live on Sky Sports
Arsenal vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers - 15.00
Birmingham vs. Stoke - 15.00
Blackburn vs. Newcastle - 15.00
Blackpool vs. Aston Villa - 15.00
Liverpool vs. Wigan - 15.00
West Bromwich Albion vs. West Ham United- 15.00
Sunderland vs. Tottenham - 17.30 - Live on ESPN
Sunday 13th February
Bolton vs. Everton - 16.00 - Live on Sky Sports
Monday 14th February
Fulham vs. Chelsea - 20.00 - Live on Sky Sports