Premier League Preview – April 17-19
The latest installation of the Manchester Derby will be played at Eastlands this weekend, and as usual, the stakes are high.
This will be the 155th meeting in all competitions, and United has the edge with 63 wins to City’s 42. There have also been 49 draws, a result that won’t be good enough for the Red Devils in their chase for a fourth consecutive Premier League title.
United is four points back of Chelsea with just four game to play, so picking up all 12 points left on offer – while hoping for quite a bit of help – is the only play they’ve got left.
A draw won’t really suit Roberto Mancini’s squad either, as they hold a slim one-point lead over Tottenham for the all-important fourth and final Champions League slot.
There are no shortages of story lines, with Mancini hoping to avoid having to watch the match from the stands to Wayne Rooney’s possible involvement and all sorts of other drama.
It’s all yours in beautiful HD on the four-letter on Saturday.
Here’s a look at the table:
The Derby is always hard to figure, but make sure you give it a try…
There are other games this weekend, some vital to one end of the table or the other, some not so much…
Birmingham vs. Hull City
Dropping those three points at home to Burnley may have Hull City playing in the Championship next season, but there are still 15 points to be had for the Tigers, and they’ll be pushing hard for some at Birmingham on Saturday.
Birmingham will try to bounce back from last week’s thumping at the hands of Manchester City, and midfielder Lee Bowyer thinks they will.
“You have to learn from a result like we had, especially the boys at the back, the two centre-halves,” Bowyer told the Birmingham Mail. “That’s the first time they’ve tasted something like that this season. ‘They should come back bigger and stronger and put in a better performance, as should all the lads. No-one likes to lose, especially by that amount of goals.
“We will be at home, it will be a different game this weekend.”
Hull manager Iain Dowie has different ideas, telling the Hull Daily Mail, “In dark times you look around the dressing room to see who has got the strength of character.
“You learn a lot about people in adversity and I’m looking for a reaction now. We’ve got to train at intensity, work hard and be brave to get on the ball. You’ve got to be able to grind results out and (on Saturday) we just didn’t do that.”
Blackburn Rovers vs. Everton
Everton has an outside shot at reaching a Europa League place, but this one figures to be mostly for pride at Ewood Park.
The Toffees are coming off a 2-2 draw against Aston Villa on Wednesday, a result that suited Everton manager David Moyes just fine.
“I’m not disappointed about how we played tonight, not at all,” Moyes said. “The last three games being draws make me feel that we’re playing well but maybe if we could have got one win out of them it would have made a big difference. I think it was an end-to-end game, there were lots of opportunities. I thought we played really well and got into good positions and didn’t always make a chance from it.”
Fulham vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Fulham has an eye on its April 22 date with Hamburg in the Europa League semifinals, so it will be interesting to see what sort of squad Roy Hodgson puts out for this one.
Wolves’ defender Ronald Zubar isn’t buying the hype, telling Eurosport, “Fulham are playing us at home, where they’re very strong and as they’re playing well, they will be on the front foot. I think to have the confidence they need against Hamburg it’s best if they go there with a win, so they will be fully committed to beating Wolves.”
Hodgson was cleared this week of West Ham’s weak team complaint, but there may be more on that subject come Monday.
Stoke City vs. Bolton Wanderers
The Potters are as mid-table as you can be, sitting 10th, as they host Bolton this weekend.
With 32 points, the Trotters look to be safe, but technically speaking, they’re still in the relegation discussion.
Sunderland vs. Burnley
After picking up a surprisingly easy three points at Hull, the Clarets will try to repeat that feat at the Stadium of Light against the Black Cats.
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce isn’t overlooking Burnley, telling Sky Sports, “On paper, we have got the bottom teams, but they can be very difficult. They are fighting for their lives. We have played very well against the so-called bigger teams, so it will be an interesting run-in and I hope we can finish strongly.
“My aim is can we catch Fulham, can we catch Stoke, can we catch Blackburn?”
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea
After a thrilling win in the North London Derby, Tottenham welcomes front-running Chelsea into White Hart Lane in a huge game for both sides.
As you can see from the table, this one mirrors the Manchester Derby in terms of its importance to the races for first and fourth.
“I said to the players if we could beat Arsenal we could still get fourth place,” Spurs’ manager Harry Redknapp told ESPN. “It’s still going to be hard but we’re right in there and this will give us a big lift now for Chelsea on Saturday. It will be another difficult game against a strong team but on the back of this we will go into it with a bit of confidence. We are in great form with six wins in the last seven in the league. The crowd will be with us again as they were tonight so it’s a game to look forward to.”
Chelsea captain John Terry is trying to keep his troops motivated, telling the Telegraph, “You compete and you compete, always at 100 percent, and then, when the opportunity arises, you have to seize it.
“When you seize it, you can make history. We’ve never won the league and cup double. In my lifetime only Liverpool, Man United and Arsenal have. We weren’t at our best. Nerves, with us not winning the Premier League for three years, took their toll late on but we managed to hold on.”
Wigan Athletic vs. Arsenal
With their title hopes all-but-dashed, Arsenal faces a trip to Wigan on Sunday.
While it may not rise to the Gunners’ level of disappointment after losing a derby match, the Latics can’t be thrilled with the 0-0 draw with Portsmouth on Wednesday.
“It was a very tricky game,” Wigan manager Roberto Martinez told the Daily Mail. “The amount of changes that Portsmouth had to make didn’t help at all. They are used to adversity this season and you saw the reaction of the players. It was the game of their lives and if you don’t get the first goal we knew it was going to be very hard.”
Portsmouth vs. Aston Villa
I keep wanting to write off Pompey, and they keep picking up points in places I think they shouldn’t. Still, since they’re welcoming a frustrated Aston Villa to Fratton Park on Sunday, anything can happen.
Considering the turmoil that Portsmouth has endured this season, manager Avram Grant is holding things together remarkably well.
“The Premier League need not say anything about Portsmouth,” he told the team’s Web site. “They need to give us an award because we are playing as we play with a lot of injuries – it is not ideal for us.”
There is still an outside chance that Villa could climb back into the race for fourth.
“Now I would say we have to win the whole lot from here,” Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill said. “It is not impossible but it will be tough. We will just give it all that we can.”
Liverpool vs. West Ham
Even with the Europa League semifinal approaching, Liverpool needs every league point it can get to keep its flickering top-four hopes alive.
West Ham, four points clear of the drop zone, will be trying to put even more distance between itself and chasers Hull City and Burnley.
Reds’ boss Rafa Benitez told the Mirror, “we have to keep going until the end and if we win our games then we will have a chance. We will be ready to play against West Ham and it’s important to win so we will have more confidence to play against Atletico. Hopefully we can keep that momentum going.
“All the players know how important it is to progress in the Europa League and to try to be in the top four. We will try to do our best.”