Premier League Preview – May 1-3
What, exactly, is a Liverpool fan to do?
A win over Chelsea at Anfield Sunday would probably mean another title for Manchester United – which would send United past Liverpool’s 18 first division titles.
A quick look at the table a few paragraphs below suggests that the Reds are still very much alive in the race for fourth place, so you’d imagine they’ll be trying to win.
Even if it helps Manchester United claim the title.
As I write this, Liverpool and Fulham are playing in home Europa League matches, so fatigue and/or future considerations might also play a role in Rafa Benitez’s team sheet for the match.
Chelsea Salomon Kalou knows that the table leaders will have to play well to escape Merseyside with a positive result.
“We have to go there and take control of the game,” Kalou told The Independent. “I feel at Tottenham, we let them play. We let them get comfortable with the ball and we have to go to Liverpool and play differently. We need to keep the ball and play our own game and not wait for Liverpool to take the initiative.
“Anfield will be a difficult journey, but we will be very motivated and know that if we win there, everything can be in our hands at home against Wigan.”
Will Liverpool come out and play? Can Chelsea win anyway?
Time will tell.
Here’s that table:
And here’s a look at the rest of the matches:
Birmingham vs. Burnley
With Manchester City loanee Joe Hart still in the side, Birmingham hopes to wrap up its home schedule with a win against Championship-bound Burnley on Saturday.
Without much else to play for, Birmingham manager Alex McLeish is looking forward to a good time.
“We are going into our last home game of the season and should reflect on a magnificent Premier League adventure,” McLeish told the Birmingham Mail. “We look forward to the fans – without anybody being disrespectful to Burnley on the day – enjoying themselves and looking back on what we have done.
“We have earned a right to thank them this weekend and we hope we get a resounding reception too. They have given us power and energy this season.”
Manchester City vs. Aston Villa
City has been in the news this week for its goalkeeper woes, but it faces a crucial match at home against Aston Villa this weekend.
It seems that Emmanuel Adebayor and Gareth Barry are injury doubts for City, who are still fighting with Liverpool, Villa and Spurs for fourth place.
Martin Fulop, the emergency loanee from Sunderland, may start in goal for City.
Villa’s Stilian Petrov likes where his team lies, quietly in the hunt for that final Champions League spot.
“We’re still in the mix and it’s up to us now,” he told The Guardian. “I think the other teams are worried as well because they were probably looking behind thinking we weren’t in it.”
Portsmouth vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Pompey welcomes in Wolves as it treads water until its FA Cup final with Chelsea next month.
For Wolves, a second straight season in the top flight is now assured. Music to the ears of the manager, Mick McCarthy.
“It is kind of sinking in now that we are going to be there next season, there is a warm glow of satisfaction that is for sure,” he told Sky Sports. “But that will all change as we go to Pompey and we want to finish 14th.”
Stoke City vs. Everton
Aside from a chance to finish in the top half of the table for the Potters, it’s Everton that’s facing a must-win at the Britannia.
The Toffees are five points back of their Merseyside neighbors, so only a win will do.
“It’s massive for us – we’re fighting for Europe and with another place up for grabs, I think it’s pivotal that we win,” Everton’s tim Cahill told the Liverpool Daily Post. “If we lose then we’re out the race for Europe. At this stage in my career, I think it’s really important that I keep playing in Europe at every opportunity and we have to start at Stoke.”
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Bolton Wanderers
Spurs are still in the drivers’ seat for the fourth and final Champions League place as they welcome the Trotters to White Hart Lane.
Tottenham’s home form has been good of late, and Spurs’ manager Harry Redknapp credits the fans for the team’s rise.
“The fans really made the difference against Arsenal and Chelsea and we need that again,” he told the team’s Web site. “The atmosphere in those two games was something special and the players can only be inspired by that.”
Bolton manager Owen Coyle, on the other hand, isn’t ready to rest on his achievement of keeping his team in the top flight.
“Somebody mentioned about champagne, but for me, coming in as manager with us in the bottom three, it was a good achievement that we stayed up but I don’t want people to be happy just to be in the league,” Coyle told the team’s Web site.
Fulham vs. West Ham United
Not much happening here, as both teams are fairly locked in to place in the league table.
Even after keeping the Irons up, it seems that manager Gianfranco Zola might still be on his way out.
So maybe there’s something going on…
Sunderland vs. Manchester United
By the time Manchester United walks out on to the field at the Stadium of Light on Sunday, it will know its table position in relation to Chelsea – and whether or not it can move into first.
Red Devil midfielder Darren Fletcher knows the challenge that faces his club, telling the team Web site, “we are relying on a favour from another team, which is not the best position to be in, but we are coming into form. We had that week where things didn’t go well, against Blackburn and Bayern, and there was a real low in the squad.
“But we had to pick ourselves up. There was a conscious effort around the place not to feel sorry for ourselves. We couldn’t afford. We needed to put some pressure on Chelsea, which is what we have done.”
Wigan Athletic vs. Hull City
Much like the West Ham/Fulham fixture, this is a case of a safe team playing a doomed one.
Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan plans to have a chat with manager Roberto Martinez about the plans for next season in the top division.
“I will be sitting down with Roberto Martinez very soon to discuss budgets,” said Whelan in the Daily Mail.
“Some players will be staying, some will be going. But one thing we won’t do is go the way of Portsmouth and Hull, and just throw money around. We won’t be stupid about it.”
Blackburn Rovers vs. Arsenal
With nothing much left to play for, the team sheets in this one could be interesting.
Gunners’ boss Arsene Wenger would like Russian international Andrey Arshavin to stop talking about playing for Barcelona.
“Yes, I am very disappointed because he shows a completely different attitude,” Wenger told The Guardian. “He wants to extend his contract with us and stay with us, so the noise coming out of Russia is very difficult to explain.
“He looks to be very happy here, so you should ask him where it comes from. We do not, of course, accept that. When you are at Arsenal, you are at Arsenal. When you are somewhere else, you are somewhere else. I believe that your pride makes first that you defend your club.”