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City eye return to top

23 March 2012, 12:13

England - Manchester City will look to return to the top of the Premier League and pile the pressure on title rivals Manchester United when they travel to Stoke on Saturday.

Victory at the Britannia Stadium would put City two points in front of current leaders and reigning champions United, who are not in action again until they host Fulham at Old Trafford on Monday.

However, for many fans attention will turn to the Reebok Stadium.

Normally, a match between the relegation threatened Lancashire duo of Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers would only be of local interest.

But this will be Bolton's first match since Fabrice Muamba collapsed with a cardiac arrest during last week's subsequently abandoned FA Cup quarterfinal at Tottenham.

Bolton postponed Tuesday's scheduled league match against Aston Villa but, with medical bulletins on 23-year-old midfielder Muamba increasingly encouraging, they have decided to go ahead with Saturday's fixture.

Legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly was quoted as saying "football is not a matter of life or death, it's more important than that".

But Bolton boss Owen Coyle, unsurprisingly, disagrees.

"Football is not more important than what has happened," said Coyle.

"Nobody is more passionate about football than me. Is the game important? Yes in the context of the Premier League, and we will do our best.

"But football is not the be all and end all. What happened to Fabrice on Saturday puts everything in perspective and our first thoughts will be with him," Coyle added.

Manchester City's 2-1 win over Chelsea at Eastlands on Wednesday witnessed the return of controversial striker Carlos Tevez after three months of self-imposed exile in his native Argentina following a falling-out with manager Roberto Mancini.

There are many – including former City favourite Rodney Marsh – who fear Tevez's return for the final nine league games of the season could destabilise the club's bid for a first English title since 1968.

But, with Tevez coming off the bench to lay on the winner for Samir Nasri against Chelsea, it appears the forward is well and truly back in the fold.

"I don't know if it was a champions' performance but we gave a very good performance in a difficult game," said Mancini after the Chelsea match.

"We have a very difficult game on Saturday against Stoke and this game was important for the three points."

Arsenal, back in third and on course for a Champions League place, will look to continue their recent resurgence at home to Aston Villa with Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, whose judgment was being called into question earlier in what was a faltering season, warning his team not to let-up now.

"We want to keep going and we must not think now that the most difficult thing is done," Wenger said.

"Probably the most difficult thing still remains to do, and to achieve it it is important we keep humility, focus and fight for each other," the Frenchman added.

Tottenham were looking as if they would end the season as London's top club, but their recent dip in form has come at just the wrong time for Harry Redknapp's side, with the manager insisting speculation linking him with the England job is not behind their slump.

They face Chelsea on Saturday with both clubs now battling for a top four finish and the Champions League place that goes with it.

Chelsea were given a lift when inspirational captain John Tery returned to training on Thursday after missing their last two matches with calf cramps.

Meanwhile fellow Blues defender Gary Cahill said of Tottenham: "You'll always have a blip in the season and maybe theirs has come now.

"We're at home, where we have some confidence now, and we are looking to get the positive result we need."

Liverpool have won the League Cup and are in the semifinals of the FA Cup but their league form remains frustrating, as demonstrated by a midweek 3-2 loss away to strugglers QPR in a match where they were 2-0 up.

Kenny Dalglish's men will look to restore order against relegation candidates Wigan at Anfield while QPR, now out of the bottom three, travel to Sunderland.

Basement club Wolves are away to Norwich while stylish Swansea, the surprise package of the season so far, will look to follow-up a 3-0 win over Fulham at home to Everton.

Sunday sees West Brom host Newcastle.


Arsenal v Aston Villa
Bolton v Blackburn
Chelsea v Tottenham
Liverpool v Wigan
Norwich v Wolves
Stoke v Man City, Sunderland v QPR
Swansea v Everton

West Brom v Newcastle

Man Utd v Fulham

- Sapa / AFP


WRAP: English Premiership

23 October 2016, 09:33

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