Premier League preview: Man City players feel the heat
Underperforming stars may be sold off over the summer, according to the latest reports from the Etihad
With no English clubs left in either the Champions League or the Europa League, the Premier League's – if the not Europe's – finest can focus fully on the title race and the scramble for places in next season's Champions League. Pick of this weekend's fixtures is the mouthwatering match-up in the north-west as Liverpool host Manchester United.
Manchester City v West Bromwich Albion, Saturday 12.45pm
Not so many months ago this would have been a nailed-on victory for the Sky Blues, but their dreadful slump in form, which has seen them lose four of their last five matches, will give West Brom hope when they arrive at the Etihad. Newspaper stories suggesting City will offload some of their underperforming stars in the summer will do little to lift morale, although goalkeeper Joe Hart – one of the few City players to live up to his reputation of late – is in defiant mood. "We know who we are and what our objectives are and we aim to win the next nine games," he declared. "I will never give up [on the title], ever, and I can safely say that nobody in our dressing room will ever give up either. We will see where that takes us." City can choose from a full squad but WBA are without the suspended duo of Chris Bunt and Claudio Yacob, while keeper Ben Foster is out with a knee injury.
Newcastle v Arsenal, 3pm
Arsenal have won their last five league matches but the Gunners will need to pick themselves up after the disappointment of failing to overcome Monaco in Tuesday's Champions League clash. The 2-0 win wasn't enough but at least Arsenal travel to St James' Park without any fresh injury concerns. The same can't be said for Newcastle, with the Magpies able to muster only 13 fit outfield players including one specialist central defender. Boss John Carver will be hoping comments made by Phil Neville on last week's Match of the Day will inspire his players after the pundit accused Newcastle of playing as if they were wearing 'flip-flops'. "I was pretty angry when I heard it because he couldn't be any further from the truth," Carver said. "I think it's insulting and it's wrong."
Liverpool v Manchester United, 1.30pm
Liverpool welcome United to Anfield in the knowledge that if they avoid defeat they will equal Chelsea's Premier League record this season of 14 consecutive games unbeaten. Liverpool's last reverse in the league was against United, a 3-0 drubbing at Old Trafford in mid-December, but since then the Reds have been on fire, climbing up to fifth in the table, just two points behind United in fourth. Louis van Gaal's side are also on something of a run themselves, having won their last three league games, including last weekend's impressive 3-0 defeat of Tottenham. But Liverpool will test their new-found form with Reds' striker Daniel Sturridge warning United they'll run out on Sunday "with a confident mentality and a positive attitude".
Hull v Chelsea, 4pm
Beaten just once in the league this year – the 5-3 defeat to Tottenham on New Year's Day – Chelsea go to the KC Stadium looking to extend their six point lead at the top of the table. But they will encounter a Hull side in a good run of form, with just one defeat in their last six matches helping them climb out of the relegation zone. Chelsea captain John Terry has told his side to guard against complacency on Sunday, saying: "We are in a comfortable position at the moment, at the same time you don't want other clubs to narrow that gap… we have to get back to basics, have those fundamentals of hard work-rate, moving the ball quicker, fundamentals that got us to where we are."
Aston Villa v Swansea
Southampton v Burnley
Stoke v Crystal Palace
Tottenham v Leicester
West Ham v Sunderland
QPR v Everton