D-day for Moyes: Man Utd must take revenge on Swansea
Premier League preview: United cannot afford to lose, City and Chelsea aim to overhaul Arsenal
AFTER the romance of the cup, the battle for the Premier League returns this weekend with Chelsea and Man City hoping to leapfrog current league leaders Arsenal, who are not in action until Monday.
It's not just at the top where the action is, there are a couple of massive games at the bottom of the table, and with just nine points separating the bottom ten teams the outcomes of those games could be crucial. And then, of course, there is the small matter of Swansea's return to Old Trafford to face a Man United team that appears to be in freefall.
Here's the best of the weekend action:
Man Utd v Swansea
It might not have any impact on the title race, or even the battle for Champions League qualifications, but the fate of David Moyes could hinge on the outcome of this match on Saturday evening. Manchester United have lost their last three games - against Spurs in the league, Swansea in the FA Cup and Sunderland in the League Cup - and things look ominous for Moyes. The last time United lost four in a row was 1981, even before Fergie arrived on the scene. The visitors, for the second week running, are Swansea, who registered their first ever win at Old Trafford in the cup last weekend. They will now be confident of doing the double over the champions. However, United could welcome back Wayne Rooney, although Robin van Persie is still likely to be out along with Rio Ferdinand. No-one at Old Trafford will be in any doubt about the importance of this match. If United freeze it could spell disaster, but surely they are too experienced for that to happen... aren't they?
Hull v Chelsea
Chelsea kick off the weekend action when they face Hull on Saturday lunchtime. The Blues are looking solid at the moment and have won their last four matches, although they have been beaten by both Sunderland and Stoke on the road recently. A win would send them to the top of the table, and even though Bransilav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard are both out, Jose Mourinho's squad looks strong enough to overcome the Tigers. Hull will be no pushovers however, and their home record this season is impressive. They have only lost twice at the KC Stadium this term and beat Fulham 6-0 over the Christmas period. But Chelsea will be favourites for this one.
Newcastle v Man City
Invincible at home Man City have had problems on the road this season. However, Manuel Pellegrini's side have not lost away from the Etihad since 10 November. That reverse came at Sunderland and the Citizens can expect another stern examination on their return to the North East. Newcastle have been unlucky in recent weeks and have lost their last three games by one goal. Their chances of ending their winless run against City look slim however. The visitors may only have two fit forwards, but they have been scoring for fun this season. The fitness of Yaya Toure will be a concern for Pellegrini, but he will expect all three points, and will need them if City are to keep up the pressure on Chelsea and Arsenal.
Cardiff v West Ham
Saturday's clash between these two strugglers is a real six pointer, and could spell the end of Sam Allardyce's reign as West Ham manager. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a good start to his career as Bluebirds boss with an FA Cup win over Newcastle, and despite all the negativity around the antics of owner Vincent Tan, who sacked previous manager Malky Mackay over Christmas, Cardiff will go into the game feeling confident. The opposite is true for West Ham, who have conceded 11 goals in two games this week. The fans are furious and another sub-standard display on the road could lead to a full-blown mutiny. But quite how Allardyce rallies his troops remains to be seen. Cardiff will be favourites for this one and a win would put them six points clear of the Hammers, who are second from bottom ahead of the weekend.
Fulham v Sunderland
Bottom club Sunderland are four points behind Fulham, who lie in 16th place, and both sides are showing signs of improvement under new managers. Sunderland's cup win over Manchester United in midweek will provide them with a huge fillip, while Fulham bounced back from their 6-0 humiliation at Hull with victory over West Ham and a draw with Norwich. Fulham will consider themselves to be favourites, but Sunderland will believe they can also get something from the game. A draw would not be a huge surprise.
The weekend's other fixtures:
Everton v Norwich
Southampton v West Brom
Tottenham v Crystal Palace
Stoke v Liverpool
Aston Villa v Arsenal