Liverpool v Man City will decide title at emotional Anfield
Huge clash at the top of the Premier League overshadows this weekend's FA Cup semi-finals
IT MAY be FA Cup semi-final weekend, but with Arsenal and Hull the only two top flight teams left in that competition, there is also a full programme of Premier League action to look forward to, and it promises to be a decisive weekend in the title race.
There is plenty at stake for the four teams hoping for cup glory, but the biggest game of the weekend takes place not at Wembley but at Anfield on Sunday, when Liverpool take on Man City in what is basically the title decider.
Before that Arsenal could see their place in the top four taken by Everton, and there could be some major developments at the foot of the table.
Here's the best of the weekend action:
Liverpool v Man City
There may be a month left of the season but, make no mistake, this is the game that should ultimately decide the title. Man City lie four points behind Liverpool with two games in hand and the equation is simple: a win for Liverpool would put them seven points ahead of Man City, and out of reach of Manuel Pellegrini's team. If City win or claim a draw then they will be within striking distance of Liverpool and will win the title if they win all their remaining games. In short, whoever triumphs will have their fate in their own hands. The stakes could not be higher. But if that's not enough, there are plenty of other reasons to watch this game. Firstly there is the likelihood of goals. Between them these two teams have scored 174 goals in 64 games this season. Liverpool have the devastating trio of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling up front, while Man City can welcome Sergio Aguero back to the fold. Both sides peddle exciting football and a 0-0 draw looks out of the question.
If the football will be electric then what about the atmosphere? This weekend sees the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives. Like all the games this weekend, this one will kick off seven minutes later than scheduled to mark the moment that the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on 15 April 1989 was abandoned when it became clear a disaster was unfolding on the terraces. The emotion around Anfield will be intense. It all makes the result impossible to predict.
Swansea v Chelsea
The Premier League's afternoon game on Sunday sees Chelsea, the only other side in with a shout of winning the title, travel to Swansea. Jose Mourinho has written off the Blues' chances of triumph this season, but if the earlier match finishes in a draw his ears might prick up a little. In that scenario, a Chelsea win would leave them level on points with Liverpool and four ahead of Man City. However, having made the semi finals of the Champions League that will now be the Blues' priority for the season. Mourinho is likely to rest some of his key players after their exertions against Paris Saint-Germain and ahead of the battle with Atletico Madrid. Eden Hazard will also be absent. It leaves the Blues looking vulnerable, but they should still prevail.
Sunderland v Everton
With Arsenal in FA Cup action, Everton are poised to capitalise on their victory over the Gunners last week and take their place in the top four, provided they can overcome relegation-threatened Sunderland. Buoyed by their success against Arsene Wenger's sorry bunch, and with the likes of Romelu Lukaku in fine form, they should succeed. Sunderland are bottom of the table, and although they have games in hand they are not in good shape. Gus Poyet's magic has started wearing off at the Stadium of Light, and after four straight defeats another setback beckons for the Black Cats on Saturday.
Fulham v Norwich
Neil Adams will take charge of Norwich for the first time against Fulham in a bona fide six pointer at Craven Cottage. This game could be as crucial to the relegation situation as Liverpool v Man City is at the top. Fulham appear dead and buried, but if they can win this match then the great escape will be on. Why? Because this is the last realistic chance for Norwich, currently five points above Fulham, to pick up any points this season. After this match the Canaries end the season with games against Liverpool, Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal. Fulham face Spurs, Hull, Stoke and Palace. Win here and Felix Magath's team will need only one more win to overhaul Norwich and, as the pair look to be battling for the third and final relegation place, that is all they need to do.
Arsenal v Wigan
If it wasn't for all the drama in the Premier League this weekend, this would be the big ticket. Injury ravaged Arsenal, 17th in the Premier League form table and without a win since mid-March, face defending cup holders and giant killers extraordinaire, Wigan, at Wembley on Saturday evening. Defeat would extend Arsenal's trophyless run to nine seasons. It is an unthinkable situation, and it could even spell the end for Arsene Wenger. How will the Gunners react? It's a must watch encounter.
Hull v Sheff Utd
The second semi-final on Sunday is bound to be overshadowed by events in the Premier League, as unfashionable Hull face League One Sheffield United for a place in the final. Hull are not quite safe from the drop but Steve Bruce will not be tempted into leaving out any of his stars for this match, particularly as United have bested some big names during their excellent cup run. They are managed by Nigel Clough, son of managerial legend Brian, who famously never won the FA Cup. Hull will be favourites, but United could pull off a shock.