Arsenal try to salvage season as Chelsea push on to the title
Weekend preview: defeat to Everton could capsize Gunners as City keep cruising
THIS weekend offers a mixed programme of Premier League and FA Cup action. League leaders Chelsea are the only top four team in league action this week and that gives them the chance to extend the gap at the top of the table to seven points.
Liverpool have a week off, while Arsenal and Man City are both in action in the FA Cup. Both are at home but City have the easier task, against Championship side Wigan, in a re-run of last season's final. City will see their game as an opportunity to avenge last season's defeat and take a step towards another trophy.
Arsenal will be rather tenser going into their match against Everton, as defeat could realistically mark the end of their trophy hopes for another year.
Here's the best of the weekend action:
Arsenal v Everton:
FA Cup This Saturday lunchtime clash is huge for the Gunners and could determine the outcome of their season. After a campaign that had gone so well, the wheels are slowly coming off the Gunners’ bandwagon. They are all but out of the Champions League and are gradually falling off the Premier League pace. Mesut Ozil is out of sorts and now Jack Wilshere has been ruled out for six weeks. But if Arsenal go into this game feeling sorry for themselves their best chance of a trophy this season will slip between their fingers. Everton will also fancy their chances of lifting the FA Cup and will see the Gunners as ripe for picking. With Romelu Lukaku back in the side Roberto Martinez's side could pull off a shock... and God only knows what that would do to Arsene Wenger's blood pressure.
Man City v Wigan:
FA Cup The second big cup tie this weekend is a re-run of last year's final, with Man City taking on Wigan. On paper this should be a walk in the park for City who are six points off the top of the Premier League, but have two games in hand, and are also chasing a domestic treble and an unlikely quadruple if you count the Champions League. Wigan, on the other hand, are down in Championship after relegation last season. However, the Latics are in fine form at the moment and four wins on the trot, including a 4-1 victory over Nottingham Forest last time out, have propelled them into the play-off places. City may have won the Capital One Cup last weekend, but they are in mixed form with four points from their last three league matches and face elimination from the Champions League. That said, anything other than a City win would measure on the Richter Scale.
Chelsea v Tottenham
The importance of this Saturday evening London derby should not be underestimated. Chelsea have established themselves as favourites for the title, and Jose Mourinho has never lost a Premier League match at Stamford Bridge. It means that the Blues, with Eden Hazard in scintillating form, will be massive favourites. However, Chelsea still have problems up front and Spurs will present them with a real test. It is also worth considering that if Spurs do win, then the title could become, in the eyes of some at least, a five-way race. It's a prospect that will spur both sides on. More realistic for Tottenham is the prospect of a hard-fought draw, a result that would delight City, Arsenal and Liverpool.
West Brom v Man Utd It could be argued that West Brom precipitated the crisis that has engulfed Old Trafford this season. Away defeats to Liverpool and Man City in September could be excused, but losing at home to the Baggies back in the autumn was not in the script for David Moyes, and it feels like it has been downhill all the way since then. However, things are not as bad as they may seem for United. Victory would send them up into sixth spot and, thanks to Man City's League Cup win, that would mean European football next season. Standing in their way will be a West Brom side that has not won since New Year's Day and has picked up just three points since then. Cue this season's catchphrase: "Surely United can't mess this one up."
Cardiff v Fulham
It's a simple equation really, whoever loses this match will be relegated... but the caveat is that whoever wins it will probably be relegated as well. The division's two bottom clubs battle it out in Cardiff knowing that winning this one will only be the first step towards survival. Both these sides have played more games than the teams above them in the table and they are effectively six points from safety. Fulham are on their third manager of the season in Felix Magath, and Cardiff could be on the lookout for theirs if Ole Gunner Solskjaer's troops lose this one. It will be a tense affair and a draw, which is no good to anyone, could be the most likely outcome.
The weekend's other fixtures:
Saturday, Premier League:
Crystal Palace v Southampton
Norwich v Stoke
Sunday, FA Cup: Sheff Utd v Charlton
Hull v Sunderland