5 things to know about weekend English Premier League matches
24 April 2014, 15:48
Manchester - It takes something pretty special to overshadow Ryan Giggs' first game as manager of Manchester United.
A potentially title-defining match between Liverpool and Chelsea can be described as just that.
Liverpool can eliminate Chelsea from the title race — and move to the brink of a first English championship in 24 years — with a win at Anfield on Sunday in a contest that will capture the world's attention. The Reds hold a five-point lead over Chelsea with three games remaining, with Manchester City a point further back in third but with a match in hand.
United is usually in title contention at this stage of the season. Not this time.
David Moyes was fired on Tuesday with the team seventh in the standings and with no chance of qualifying for next season's Champions League. Giggs, a United great, has taken temporary charge of a team he has graced for 23 years and his first match is against Norwich on Saturday.
Here are five things to know about the Premier League's upcoming games:
Perhaps Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was just trying to lull Liverpool into a false sense of security by saying this week that the Champions League was his priority this season and that he'd prefer to pick a weakened team for the Liverpool match.
All will be discovered with his team lineup on Sunday.
The timing of the match is unfortunate for Chelsea, coming between the two legs of the Champions League semifinals against Atletico Madrid. Mourinho is sure to make changes to his team to give several players a breather, but how many?
Captain John Terry and goalkeeper Petr Cech will definitely miss out after being hurt in Tuesday's first leg.
It all puts Liverpool in a very strong position as Brendan Rodgers' team goes for a 12th straight league win that would put it in sight of the title. A victory for Liverpool and a slip-up by Manchester City at Crystal Palace later Sunday would mean the Reds having a chance to clinch the title with a match to spare.
NO ROOM FOR ERROR
Aside from maybe Liverpool, was there any team Man City would prefer not to play against this weekend than Crystal Palace? Probably not.
Under the wily stewardship of manager Tony Pulis, Palace has won its last five games to climb away from the relegation zone and secure Premier League football for another season. It's a remarkable feat, given that the promoted team had only four points when Pulis was hired in November.
City stayed in realistic title contention by beating West Bromwich Albion 3-1 on Monday but it came at a cost, with David Silva injuring his right ankle. The absence of the Spain playmaker for this weekend would be a huge blow as he makes City's attack tick.
Key midfielder Yaya Toure could return for City, though, and striker Sergio Aguero is slowly getting his match fitness back after a long lay-off. City realistically needs to win all four of its remaining matches to stand a chance of winning a second league title in three years.
Perhaps the final vestige of David Moyes' woeful reign at Man United was removed on Thursday when the "Chosen One" banner was finally brought down from the Stretford End at Old Trafford.
Will it be replaced by another sign in honor of Ryan Giggs?
Saturday marks another new start for United in the gloomy post-Alex Ferguson era, with Giggs taking charge of his first game as the club's interim manager when Norwich visits Old Trafford.
Assisted by Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Phil Neville, Giggs' priority will be to start picking up some wins and also to bring a smile back to United fans, many of whom have never seen the club so low.
Seventh-place United still has sixth position, which likely offers the final Europe League berth, to fight for. Tottenham is three points ahead in sixth.
RACE FOR FOURTH
Arsenal is in command of the race for the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot, holding a one-point advantage over Everton with both having three games remaining.
And the Gunners have much the easier match coming up, with Newcastle visiting Emirates Stadium on Monday on the back of five straight losses which has piled the pressure on manager Alan Pardew.
With attacking midfielders Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey back fit, some cutting edge has returned to Arsenal's attack just in time for a crucial last month of the season when the team looks to seal a 17th straight campaign in Europe's top competition and to win the FA Cup final against Hull.
Everton plays at Southampton on Saturday. With its next match being at home to Man City, it's easy to see why the Merseysiders are underdogs for fourth.
Sunderland has proved to be a nemesis for the big teams this season — it's time for Gus Poyet's last-place side to show its mettle against the Premier League's strugglers if it is to preserve its top-flight status.
Nothing can be decided this weekend in the increasingly fraught relegation battle that still contains nine teams, but the outcome of Sunday's crunch match between Cardiff and Sunderland — two members of the bottom three — will have a huge bearing on who goes down.
Sunderland has taken four points from trips to Man City and Chelsea over the past week — following up earlier victories over Everton and City in the league and triumphs against Chelsea and Man United on its path to the League Cup final — but is still bottom by a point behind Cardiff and Fulham.
Fulham is at home to 14th-place Hull, which would be only three points off the relegation zone with a loss. Fourth-to-last Norwich, who is two points from the bottom three, won't expect to get much out of a trip to Old Trafford and fifth-bottom West Bromwich Albion hosts West Ham.
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