Premier League preview
Liverpool stand on top of the Premier League ahead of another vital weekend in the title race, battle for top four and relegation scrap.
Last Updated: 06/04/14 3:03pm
Liverpool stand on top of the Premier League ahead of another vital weekend, when Everton's clash with Arsenal could decide who finishes in the top four and three clubs will be desperately trying to stay in touch at the bottom of the table.
A season of dramatic twists and turns took another sudden swing in the last round of matches when Chelsea suffered a shock defeat and Manchester City drew with Arsenal, allowing Liverpool to move two points clear after notching their eighth straight win.
Liverpool have a chance to make it nine in a row against West Ham United on Sunday, but their rivals can put the pressure on a day earlier as Man City host Sunderland in the early kick-off and then Chelsea entertain Stoke City in Saturday Night Football.
The relegation battle will take centre stage for the 3pm kick-offs as bottom club Fulham go in search of an urgently-needed win at Aston Villa and Cardiff City welcome Crystal Palace to Wales, while Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion are both hovering precariously just above the drop zone ahead of their encounter at Carrow Road.
Elsewhere, Hull City take on Swansea City and Manchester United put their UEFA Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich temporarily on the backburner to visit Newcastle United, before Everton host Arsenal in the first part of Super Sunday and Tottenham Hotspur play Sunderland on Monday evening.
The mind games may be continuing over who holds pole position in the title race and who is out of the running, but the momentum is certainly with Liverpool after a blistering run of form and Brendan Rodgers' men have their fate in their own hands as they hunt a first league crown since 1990. The next challenge is a trip to Upton Park to tackle West Ham in Super Sunday, when former Liverpool striker Andy Carroll may provide the greatest threat after scoring in Monday's 2-1 win over Sunderland to lift Sam Allardyce's team to the relative safety mark of 37 points.
Liverpool could find themselves back in second by the time they take to the field, if Chelsea can bounce back from two consecutive defeats to beat Stoke on Saturday night, live on Sky Sports 1HD at 5.30pm. Jose Mourinho declared that the title was now 'impossible' after a 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace last weekend, and Chelsea are in danger of failing to win any silverware after going down 3-1 at Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final. Stoke are not to be underestimated, either, having gone five games unbeaten to climb into the top half and overcome Chelsea 3-2 in December's reverse fixture.
Manchester City are currently third in the standings but, like Liverpool, they are in control of their own destiny. Four points behind the Reds but with two games in hand, Manuel Pellegrini's men had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Arsenal last Saturday and will not want any more slip-ups in the next two months. City have won 13 of their 14 home matches this season and Southampton will have to defy the odds to get anything at the Etihad Stadium, although they are in fine fettle after beating Newcastle United 4-0 and have a host of players gunning for places in the England World Cup squad.
Arsenal's title hopes have faded over the past few weeks and their main concern now is holding off the challenge of a resurgent Everton to clinch Champions League qualification. The two teams meet at Goodison Park on Sunday, live on Sky Sports 1HD at 1.30pm, and after picking up just two draws from their past three matches the pressure is on the Gunners. Everton are four points further back with a game in hand, so if they can register a sixth successive victory they will become favourites to finish fourth.
Time is running out for the sides at the bottom to pull clear of trouble, and Fulham need to start putting their escape plan into action with a win at Aston Villa. Felix Magath's Cottagers have just six games left and are five points from safety, but they may sense an opportunity against a Villa side reeling from back-to-back 4-1 losses against Stoke and Manchester United.
Cardiff are a couple of points better off than Fulham after staging a late rally to hold West Bromwich Albion 3-3 last weekend, and another crunch fixture looms this weekend as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men take on Crystal Palace. The Eagles eased their own relegation worries with a stunning 1-0 victory over Chelsea to end a five-match winless run, but they remain just five points clear of the bottom three and would be sucked deeper into the scrap for survival if they lose in Wales.
There is a clash between two sides just above the relegation zone at Carrow Road as West Brom make the trip to Norwich. The Baggies are at the most risk, just three points higher than the trapdoor, while their preparations for this weekend have been overshadowed by reports of a dressing-room bust-up after the draw with Cardiff. Norwich, who have a six-point cushion over the bottom three, will be looking to pile further pain on West Brom and get back on track after a 3-0 loss to Swansea.
Swansea's victory lifted them seven points away from danger and they will be determined to push on now with another good performance against Hull. Steve Bruce's Tigers are level on points with the Swans after a couple of recent defeats and will be aiming to return to winning ways ahead of the FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield United a week later.
Manchester United are at the midway point of their Champions League tie against Bayern Munich after a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on Tuesday, and will be seeking a morale-boosting win ahead of their trip to Germany. Revenge may also be on their minds as they head to Tyneside after a 1-0 loss to Newcastle in December, and Alan Pardew's men appear to have started their summer holidays early after a couple of heavy defeats in the past fortnight.
The weekend concludes with Monday Night Football, when Tottenham will hope to respond to a dismal 4-0 loss at Liverpool by further damaging the survival chances of Sunderland. Gus Poyet's Black Cats lost 2-1 at home to West Ham last time out to stretch their winless run to seven games and leave them four points from safety.