United eye derby delight, Arsenal in damage control
24 March 2014, 08:44
London - Four of the Premier League's biggest clubs will go in search of victory in upcoming midweek matches as the race for the title enters the home straight.
Tuesday sees third-placed Manchester City, six points behind leaders Chelsea but with three games in hand, up against a resurgent Manchester United in an eagerly-anticipated derby at Old Trafford.
Meanwhile Arsenal will try to recover from a 6-0 defeat by Chelsea last weekend -- a humiliating way to mark Arsene Wenger's 1,00th match in charge of the Gunners -- at home to Swansea.
And Wednesday could witness second-placed Liverpool move to within a point of Chelsea, having played the same number of games, if Brendan Rodgers' in-form side defeat relegation-threatened Sunderland at Anfield.
Last week, United kept those doubting the wisdom of appointing David Moyes as their manager in succession to Alex Ferguson at bay by advancing to the Champions League quarter-finals and seeing off West Ham, courtesy of a Wayne Rooney double that included a long-range wonder goal.
However, they are still 11 points behind fourth-placed Arsenal and now, without injured striker Robin van Persie, face a City side who thrashed bottom-of-the-table Fulham 5-0 last weekend.
City triumphed in the first of this season's Manchester league derbies with a 4-1 win at Eastlands in September.
United have won just once against teams in the top nine so far this season, a fact not lost on former Everton manager Moyes.
"In the end you get three points for winning any game but there is an added importance of winning the big games," the Scot said. "It's not been something we have done well enough this season."
City's Yaya Toure, who scored a hat-trick against Fulham, insisted his side were in no mood to ease up despite having already lifted the League Cup this season.- 'We need trophies' -
"I think the club and the fans need trophies, need history and need great players to come here and try to make this club great," he told City TV.
"We have the team, we have the players, we have the manager (Manuel Pellegrini) as well."
Arsenal will fancy their chances against a Swansea side only four points above the relegation zone following a 3-2 loss to Everton.
But even a win over the Welsh club won't answer the questions about Arsenal's fragility against major opponents and Wenger's future in north London.
"What is important is to give a response on Tuesday night and that is it," said Wenger, whose side have also been thrashed 5-1 at Liverpool and 6-3 at Manchester City this season.
One consolation for the Gunners is that Kieran Gibbs, sent off in a bizarre case of mistaken identity when it was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's handball that led to Chelsea's third goal, from the penalty spot, should be available once the formalities of an appeal have been completed.
If Arsenal's expectations have been shattered, Rodgers wants to keep a lid on the rising hopes of the Anfield faithful, who are in buoyant mood after Saturday's 6-3 win away to Cardiff that included a Luis Suarez hat-trick.
"We are focusing on the immediate future," Liverpool manager Rodgers said.
"The fans can believe and dream, and when you come to see your team play away from home and they score six goals, you've got every right to do that."
Other matches see sixth-placed Everton continue their quest for European football away to Newcastle on Tuesday with West Ham and Hull both looking to move further away from the bottom three on Wednesday.
Fixtures (1945GMT unless stated)
Tuesday: Arsenal v Swansea, Manchester United v Manchester City, Newcastle v Everton
Wednesday: Liverpool v Sunderland (2000GMT), West Ham v Hull