As the Premier League edges nearer and nearer to what promises to be a pulsating climax, all 20 clubs still have something to play towards – whether it be pride in the case of Portsmouth, safety for those clubs towards the bottom of the table or glory for Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Having dropped to second last weekend – after Arsenal overcame West Ham – Manchester United resumed what has become one of England’s most fierce rivalries with Liverpool and despite going behind within just six minutes, the Red Devils mounted a spirit comeback to run out 2-1 winners and claim three points which would move them back into the title driving seat. There’s no room for complacency at this stage however, especially on Saturday when United take on Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium. Owen Coyle’s side looked in deep trouble just a few weeks ago – with just a point separating them from the relegation zone – but three wins from their last five games has helped them move seven points clear of the bottom three. Coyle will be determined that his side maintain that level of comfort throughout the run-in.
Fellow title challengers Arsenal also face a tough assignment on Saturday with an away encounter at Birmingham. The Gunners once again confirmed they are realistic title winners last weekend, showing calmness and composure to see off West Ham 2-0 at the Emirates, despite playing more than half the game with 10 men after Thomas Vermaelen was given his marching orders in the first half. With the Belgian defender unavailable as a result and William Gallas likely to miss out through injury, Mikael Silvestre should partner Sol Campbell in the defence. Birmingham’s brilliant form towards the end of 2009 has allowed them to play with freedom in 2010 as any relegation fears have been comprehensively squashed. Alex McLeish’s side produced a lacklustre performance last Saturday when they were beaten 3-1 by Sunderland and failed to prevent successive defeats on Wednesday night when they were narrowly edged out 2-1 by Blackburn Rovers. Saturday sees a return to their own playing field where they have thrived this season and motivation certainly will not be a problem as they look to dent the Arsenal’s hopes of Premier League glory.
Chelsea put a miserable week behind them on Wednesday when they brushed aside Portsmouth with a confidence boosting 5-0 score line at Fratton Park – they will be keen to gather more momentum in the title race with three points on Saturday when they welcome Aston Villa to Stamford Bridge. At the opposite end of the Premier League table, West Ham United take on Stoke City at Upton Park and after five consecutive league defeats, failure to pick up any points on Saturday could see the club fall into the drop zone and heap further pressure on manager Gianfranco Zola. Two of the form sides in the Premier League meet at Molineux on Saturday when Wolverhampton Wanderers entertain Everton. Wolves have struck a good run of form at a crucial time in the season and have pulled seven points clear of 18th place, unbeaten in their last three games. Everton provide stiff opposition at the weekend and after a superb run of results in 2010 have their sights firmly on European qualification.
Game of the weekend: Chelsea vs Aston Villa
A massive game for both clubs as Chelsea pursue the league title while Aston Villa still have hopes of Champions League football next season. Chelsea look firm favourites in the build up after an impressive performance against Portsmouth in midweek while their opponents have been frustrated in their previous two league games failing to pick up all three points.
Blast from the past: Sunday 25th February 1996 – Bolton Wanderers 0-6 Manchester United
Manchester United produced a scintillating display to demolish relegation bound Bolton Wanderers by six goals to nil. Paul Scholes completed a brace while David Beckham, Andy Cole, Nicky Butt and Steve Bruce were the other scorers as United took a massive step towards securing their third Premier League title.
On this day : 10 years ago – 1999/00
Manchester United defeated Bradford by 4-0 with Yorke (2), Scholes and Beckham on the score sheet while Jamie Redknapp broke Newcastle hearts with an 88th minute winner in a 2-1 win for Liverpool at Anfield.
Five years ago – 2004/05
Norwich City recorded a historic 2-0 victory over Manchester United with goals from Dean Ashton and Leon Mckenzie ending any hopes of a late title challenge from United.
One year ago – 2008/09
Chelsea survived an almighty comeback from Bolton Wanderers to keep their title challenge on track with a thrilling 4-3 victory at Stamford Bridge. Seemingly cruising at 4-0, three Bolton goals in 10 minutes made for a tense finale.
Week 32 fixtures
Saturday March 27th
Birmingham vs. Arsenal – 15.00
Chelsea vs. Aston Villa – 15.00
Hull vs. Fulham – 15.00
Tottenham vs. Portsmouth – 15.00
West Ham United vs. Stoke City – 15.00
Wolves vs. Everton – 15.00
Bolton vs. Manchester United – 17.30 – Live on ESPN
Sunday March 28th
Burnley vs. Blackburn Rovers – 12.00 – Live on Sky Sports
Liverpool vs. Sunderland – 16.00 – Live on Sky Sports
Monday March 29th
Manchester City vs Wigan – 20.00 Live on ESPN