Premier League hots up at both ends of the table
LONDON (AFP) –
The battle for the Premier League title may be compelling, with three heavyweights in contention, but the fight to avoid relegation from English football’s top-flight is nearly as fierce.
At the top, leaders Manchester United travel to Norwich on Sunday with a two-point advantage over champions Manchester City, at home to Aston Villa.
Man United vs Norwich fixture was originally arranged to be played at Carrow Road on Saturday but, due to live broadcasting on ESPN, it was moved to a new scheduled date — Sunday, at 01:30pm, according to EPL website.
European champions Chelsea, a point further back in third, travel to surprise package West Brom, an impressive fifth in the table, in a match that pits Blues boss Roberto di Matteo and the Baggies Steve Clarke, once an assistant manager at Stamford Bridge, against their former clubs.
In an era where Premier League players are routinely criticised for being primarily concerned with their pay packets, United veteran Rio Ferdinand said the lure of silverware remained as strong as ever.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you have, at the end of your career, what you will be most proud of are your achievements,” said Ferdinand.
“If you have won things and continue to win things for this great club, that is something to talk about. I wouldn’t sit down and talk about how much money I have.”
It was a point echoed by City winger James Milner, who said: “Our fans turn out in big numbers.
“They were here when we weren’t winning things for so many years so it’s nice that we are now and as I say, that’s not a feeling we could ever get tired of,” the England international added.
There will be plenty of attention at Eastlands on City and England goalkeeper Joe Hart, beaten on four occasions by striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic during Sweden’s 4-0 friendly international win in midweek, with the striker’s stunning scissor-kick fourth set to become a staple of all great goal compilations.
But there will be a different sort of grim fascination in watching bottom of the table QPR welcome second-bottom Southampton to Loftus Road as both clubs battle to remain in the lucrative top flight.
West London club QPR have yet to win in 11 Premier League matches this seasn while Southampton have just one victory to show for their efforts since ending seven years’ of Premier League exile.
QPR’s Malaysian owner Tony Fernandes, the man behind budget airline Air Asia, has been steadfast in his support of manager Mark Hughes.
Meanwhile Southampton boss Nigel Adkins has been similarly well supported by his board.
But the temptation for one side or other to change manager in a bid to fashion a rally against relegation should they suffer defeat in Saturday’s ‘six-pointer’ could prove irresistible.
However, Adkins was convinced both he and Hughes would still be in their respective posts after the weekend.
“I am pretty sure, I am pretty confident that both managers will be in situ come on Monday.
“I am looking forward to another game. It has been a good week’s training. I feel fit, I feel fresh and I’ve got an energy about myself.
“I feel stimulated and I am looking forward to the next game in the Barclays Premier League game, which is away to Queens Park Rangers.”
The North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham sees both clubs battling to get back into the four while Everton will look to maintain their place among the leading quartet at home to strugglers Reading.
Liverpool will look to Luis Suarez to continue the form that has already yielded 11 goals this season, eight in 11 Premier League matches.
Reds manager Brendan Rodgers has denied reports the Uruguay striker is on his way out of Anfield in a big-money move to City.
And Suarez, who has four years left on his Liverpool contract, said: “I have a very long contract here and it’s a dream come true to be playing at a club like Liverpool because, as I’ve said, as a boy I dreamt of playing for a team like this.”
Fixtures (1500GMT unless stated)
Arsenal v Tottenham (1245GMT), Liverpool v Wigan, Manchester City v Aston Villa, Newcastle v Swansea, QPR v Southampton, Reading v Everton, West Brom v Chelsea
Norwich v Manchester United (0130GMT), Fulham v Sunderland (1600GMT)
West Ham v Stoke (2000GMT)