Chase for Manchester supremacy continues
Title rivals Manchester City and Manchester United will continue their pulsating battle for supremacy at the top of the table this weekend in what is set to be a crucial round of fixtures in the Premier League. City will be hoping they can return to the league's summit, at least temporarily, when they host Sunderland, who will want to bounce back after their disappointing FA Cup exit at the hands of Everton in midweek.
Manager Roberto Mancini is set to be boosted by the return of captain Vincent Kompany, who has recovered from a calf strain, while Sergio Aguero and Joleen Lescott could also feature. Controversial striker Carlos Tevez is also in contention for a place in the starting line-up after impressing in a 6-1 reserve win over Morecambe.
Meanwhile, Manchester United's Chris Smalling believes his side's determination to pip City to the title will see them through when they visit Blackburn Rovers on Monday night, who claimed a shock 3-2 victory at Old Trafford earlier in the season. "It definitely means more because it's City," said Smalling. "It's down to us two now and it's massive.
"We've probably had enough injuries for most of the teams in this league. Luckily we have the squad to be able to cope but it says a lot about Manchester United that no matter the adverse conditions we have, whether it's injuries or a tough run of games, we tend to come through it."
At the other end of the table, Terry Connor's struggling Wolverhampton Wanderers take on Bolton Wanderers at Molineux in another crunch relegation clash. Wolves are currently four points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table, but Connor insists his squad will not shy away from the task at hand.
He said: "We might be bottom of the league with seemingly everyone having written the lads off. But not one player has said, 'I can't make it this week TC, count me out'. Everyone wants to play and that can only be good."
Both sides may be keeping half an eye on proceedings at Loftus Road where Queens Park Rangers take on a rampant Arsenal, who will be looking for their eighth consecutive win in order to cement third place ahead of north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs striker Louis Saha believes his team can still catch the Gunners, though, as they take on Swansea at White Hart Lane on Sunday searching for their first league win since a 5-0 mauling of Newcastle in February.
Saha said: "It is football, with lots of paradox and things can quickly change. Arsenal have had a run so they are confident. They are in the front seat, they are in a good position but it doesn't mean we cannot do the same. We have shown consistency during the season. We may have dropped a few points during the past weeks but we have shown that we have closed the gap in terms of our performances."
Chelsea will look to continue the momentum from their 1-0 UEFA Champions League win over Benfica in midweek when they travel to Aston Villa. Midfielder Juan Mata is hopeful the Blues can still claim a top-four finish, as well as a trophy.
"We will try to finish the Premier League in third or fourth position and will fight for that," he said. "Every player is involved to achieve our objectives in the FA Cup, Champions League and Premier League."
In Sunday's other game, Newcastle United host Liverpool in what could finalise the race for a top-six finish, and will also see the return of Andy Carroll to the north-east. The Magpies are currently eight points clear of their opponents, but will be without skipper Fabricio Coloccini, who limped out of last Sunday's 3-1 win at West Bromwich Albion. Liverpool midfielder Charlie Adam is unlikely to feature again this season after suffering a knee ligament injury in the 3-2 defeat to QPR.
Roberto Martinez will hope his Wigan Athletic side can conjure up another result at home to Stoke City after the Latics' shock victory at Anfield last weekend kept them in touch with their relegation rivals.
Fulham take on Norwich in a mid-table battle at Craven Cottage, while Everton host West Brom. David Moyes' side will be on a high after a 2-0 FA Cup win over Sunderland set up a semi-final trip to Wembley to face local rivals Liverpool, and could climb above the Reds with a win.