Hammers host United, Blackburn go to Gunners
West Ham striker Carlton Cole is hoping the east London club can repeat their League Cup victory over Manchester United when they host the Premier League leaders on Saturday.
The Hammers thrashed a much-changed United side 4-0 in the quarter-finals but will likely face a stronger line-up this time round with Sir Alex Ferguson's men looking to regain the title from Chelsea.
Seventeenth-placed West Ham are among the ten teams still in the relegation dogfight and Cole is optimistic they can produce a repeat of that November performance, providing they continue to give their all. He told the club's official website: "It was a wonderful game. You just need to put in the hard work and the luck will be there with you.
"All the boys really tried hard and we need to show that again. We are building on our performances and we are all working towards moving the club up the table as quickly as possible."
Ferguson will watch his side from the stands as he continues to serve a five-match touchline ban imposed following his remarks about referee Martin Atkinson. United's closest challengers Arsenal host struggling Blackburn in the late game on Saturday.
Boss Arsene Wenger, whose side are five points adrift but do have a game in hand, will have to decide between returning goalkeeper Jens Lehmann and Manuel Almunia. Almunia was unimpressive in the 2-2 draw at West Brom last time out but Lehmann struggled for the reserves in the midweek defeat at Wigan.
The Gunners are also awaiting news on the knee injury striker Robin van Persie suffered in Tuesday's UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier between Holland and Hungary. Third-placed Chelsea have won their last three Premier League games but face a tricky trip to Stoke at the weekend.
Stoke's former Chelsea defender Robert Huth is relishing the opportunity to dent the Londoners' title ambitions. He said: "The fact that we are playing Chelsea doesn't give us fear.Yes, they are a top team with world class players, but here on our own turf we believe that we can beat any team.
"We have done well at home recently, and just as importantly we have looked good against the bigger teams this season. We want to make sure that continues to be the case when we play Chelsea at the weekend."
Manchester City, in fourth, will have to wait until Sunday to meet Sunderland while fifth-placed Tottenham will surely have one eye on next week's Champions League quarter-final at Real Madrid when they go to rock-bottom Wigan 24 hours earlier.
The battle to stay in the top flight intensifies this weekend with the biggest game coming on Sunday lunchtime with 12th-placed Fulham hosting Blackpool in 15th. The bottom ten sides are separated by just six points with home form likely to be key.
The pressure is therefore on West Ham, Wigan, Birmingham, Newcastle, West Brom and Fulham. Birmingham take on Bolton at St Andrew's, 18th-placed Wolves visit Newcastle's St James' Park and West Brom host resurgent Liverpool.
Aston Villa, still firmly in the relegation shake-up as the pressure continues to grow on manager Gerard Houllier, face a difficult trip to Everton.