Ailing City bid to steal march on rivals

Playing today Arsenal   vs     Blackburn     15:00    Norwich City vs     Bolton    17:00 QPR    vs     Wolves Stoke City    vs     Sunderland    West Brom     vs     Swansea City    Wigan    vs     Everton    Man City  vs  Fulham    19:30    Playing on Sunday Newcastle vs  Aston Villa 15:30 Chelsea   vs     Man Utd    18:00        Playing on Monday Liverpool  vs     Tottenham     22:00
Sergio Aguero (right) appeared to be City’s most prominent threat in the early stages of the season, but he has been silent in recent weeks. Net photo.
Sergio Aguero (right) appeared to be City’s most prominent threat in the early stages of the season, but he has been silent in recent weeks. Net photo.

Playing today

Arsenal   vs     Blackburn     15:00    Norwich City vs     Bolton    17:00
QPR    vs     Wolves
Stoke City    vs     Sunderland    West Brom     vs     Swansea City    Wigan    vs     Everton    Man City  vs  Fulham    19:30   
Playing on Sunday
Newcastle vs  Aston Villa 15:30
Chelsea   vs     Man Utd    18:00       
Playing on Monday
Liverpool  vs     Tottenham     22:00   

LONDON

Having had their lead wiped out in midweek Manchester City have the chance to steal a march on their Premier League title rivals when they host Fulham on Saturday.

A surprise 1-0 defeat by Everton combined with Manchester United’s 2-0 victory over Stoke City left both clubs on 54 points, five ahead of third-placed Tottenham Hotspur.

However, this weekend’s fixtures offer some comfort for City whose start to 2012 has been anything but impressive.

United face Chelsea on Sunday at Stamford Bridge, where they have not won for 10 years, while Tottenham visit Anfield on Monday for a tough-looking match against a Liverpool side buoyed by the return of Luis Suarez from an eight-match ban.

City, badly missing the midfield authority of Yaya Toure who is still away on African Nations Cup duty with Ivory Coast, have won all 11 home league games this season while Fulham have managed just one victory on the road.

It all points to Roberto Mancini’s side opening a three-point gap, at least for 24 hours, but as United boss Alex Ferguson is never slow to point out, victories in the run-in can never be taken for granted, whoever the opposition.

“Maybe I thought before the game maybe it was easier,” Mancini said after the defeat at Goodison Park. “I don’t want to do the same mistake next Saturday. I’m disappointed for my mistake.”

Mancini has David Pizarro available for the Fulham game after signing the Chile midfielder from AS Roma on loan.

Pizarro, who was with Mancini at Inter Milan when they won the Scudetto in 2006, has not featured much this season but believes he can help City get over the winning line.

“It is a great opportunity to create history and be part of this club’s history, that is my aim, to help the squad achieve the target which is to win the league title,” Pizarro told the Manchester Evening News.

United have not won at Chelsea in the league since 2002 but the Londoners are way off the pace in fourth place and Stamford Bridge is not the fortress it once was.

Chelsea are without England left back Ashley Cole, who was sent off in the 1-1 draw at Swansea City on Tuesday, and Ferguson is confident his side can record a rare win in west London to keep the pressure on City.

TITLE HOPES

Tottenham rekindled their title hopes with a 3-1 home victory against Wigan Athletic and a rare “league double” over Liverpool last season means Harry Redknapp’s side will approach Monday’s game in a positive frame of mind.

They have injury worries over winger Aaron Lennon and striker Jermain Defoe while Rafael van der Vaart hurt his calf against Wigan and is doubtful.

Manager Harry Redknapp may also be struggling to get to the game as his court case for alleged tax evasion continues.

Sixth-placed Liverpool have no such worries with Suarez available again and Andy Carroll back in the goals after his strike in the 3-0 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday.

It was Carroll’s first league goal since October and a brief reminder of why Liverpool paid 35 million pounds ($55 million)for the former Newcastle United striker exactly a year ago.

Fifth-placed Newcastle can exert pressure on Chelsea in Sunday’s lunchtime kickoff at home to Aston Villa while Arsenal, down in seventh, will hope to get back to winning ways in the league at home to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

The Gunners have managed just one point from the last 12 on offer and manager Arsene Wenger knows his team are in a “big fight” to secure a top-four berth.

 

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