The first sign of weakness from either of the title challengers was exposed last weekend when Arsenal had their hopes dented after being held to a 1-1 draw by Birmingham City. Manchester United and Chelsea made sure they didn’t follow suit, both securing impressive victories, taking them clear of Arsenal for the time being.
Manchester United suffered a 2-1 Champions League first leg defeat in Munich on Tuesday night and discovered yesterday they would be without Wayne Rooney for around 3-4 weeks, as a result of the ankle injury he sustained during Tuesday’s encounter. Chelsea on the other hand have no European distractions and with a near fully fit squad at their disposal, will look to capitalize when the two sides meet on Saturday in a titanic clash at Old Trafford.
Arsene Wenger is sure to be an interested spectator on Saturday afternoon, with a stalemate the ideal result in terms of the Gunners’ title prospects. Wenger will make sure his players’ focus is firmly on their own game on Saturday when they take on Mick McCarthy’s Wolves side at the Emirates stadium. Arsenal like Manchester United had European distractions in midweek and although two late goals made sure they go to the Nou Camp next week with some chance of progressing to the last four of the Champions League, it looks to have come at a hefty price with Gallas, Arshavin and Cesc Fabregas all to be assessed in the coming days after picking up injuries on Wednesday night. Mick McCarthy will be delighted with recent performances from his side, with eight points from a possible twelve, helping them move five points clear of the relegation zone. The job is far from complete though and they could still end up plying their trade in the Championship next season should their form deteriorate over the coming weeks.
Burnley welcome Manchester City to Turf Moor in Saturday’s late kick off, two sides with firm targets they will be keen to fulfil by the end of the season, albeit at different ends of the Premier League table.
Since the appointment of Brian Laws, Burnley have struggled to keep tabs on the sides above them as their woeful away form continues, and even victories at Turf Moor have been hard to come by. Defeat at home to Blackburn on Sunday extended their winless run to eight games, a streak that must be ended sooner rather than later if they are to escape relegation.
In contrast, Manchester City arrive on the back of a much needed 3-0 win over Wigan on Monday night which closed the gap between them and Tottenham in fourth place to just two points. The return of Emmanuel Adebayor from injury will provide a welcome boost and with Carlos Tevez continuing his impressive form this season with a hat-trick on Monday night, they are likely to prove a handful on Saturday evening.
Fellow relegation candidates Hull and West Ham United are also in action at the weekend and face equally tough tasks with Hull travelling to Stoke and West Ham facing Everton at Goodison Park. The three remaining sides pursuing fourth place Tottenham, Aston Villa and Liverpool all take on tough opposition away from home in Bolton, Sunderland and Birmingham.
A game that is sure to have a massive impact on the outcome of the title race and if either side emerges victorious they are likely to be strong favourites to capture the Premier League title. Wayne Rooney’s absence leaves Sir Alex short of attacking options lighter and they may just lack the firepower that Chelsea possess.
Blast from the past: 10th May – Manchester United 1-3 Chelsea
Chelsea capped off a record breaking Premier League campaign with a comprehensive victory at Old Trafford as Jose Mourinho continued to gain the edge over Sir Alex Ferguson. Ruud Van Nistelrooy opened the scoring for United after just 7 minutes before goals from Tiago, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Joe Cole helped Chelsea secure three points that would set a new total points record for a Premier League season, a record United previously owned.
On this week : 10 years ago – 1999/00
Aston Villa produced an extraordinary comeback, scoring four second half goals in the space of 12 minutes to come from 2-0 down to defeat Tottenham 4-2 while a historic 1-0 win over Chelsea kept Sheffield Wednesday’s hopes of Premier League survival alive.
Five years ago – 2004/05
Crystal Palace and Norwich played out a thrilling 3-3 draw at Selhurst Park, Palace coming from 3-1 down to snatch a vital point with both sides desperate to escape from the relegation zone.
One year ago – 2008/09
Andrei Arshavin produced a stunning individual display, scoring all four goals in a stunning 4-4 draw with Liverpool at Anfield, a result that all but ended Liverpool’s hopes of a first Premier League title.
Week 33 fixtures
Saturday April 3rd
Arsenal vs. Wolverhampton – 15.00
Bolton vs. Aston Villa – 15.00
Burnley vs. Manchester City – 17.30 – Live on ESPN
Manchester Utd vs. Chelsea – 12.45 – Live on Sky Sports
Portsmouth vs. Blackburn – 15.00
Stoke vs. Hull – 15.00
Sunderland vs. Tottenham – 15.00
Sunday April 4th
Birmingham vs. Liverpool – 15.00
Everton vs. West Ham – 16.00 – Live on Sky Sports
Fulham vs. Wigan – 15.00