Premier League preview
Manchester United entertain Everton and struggling Aston Villa face West Ham United on a potentially pivotal Super Sunday.
Last Updated: 10/02/13 4:36pm
Manchester United entertain Everton and struggling Aston Villa face West Ham United on a potentially pivotal Super Sunday, while Tottenham Hotspur kick off the weekend's action against a resurgent Newcastle United.
A tight battle is developing at the bottom of the table and Queens Park Rangers will be keen to boost their survival hopes with victory at Swansea City, as Wigan Athletic travel to Stamford Bridge to tackle Chelsea and their beleaguered boss Rafa Benitez.
In-form Reading visit Stoke City, while Southampton have a tough challenge on their hands against a Manchester City side targeting maximum points for the remainder of the season to stay in the title race.
Manchester United opened up a nine-point lead at the top of the table last weekend and Sir Alex Ferguson has praised the appetite shown by his squad to pick up some silverware. It is a crucial stage of the campaign for the Red Devils, with a UEFA Champions League clash at Real Madrid next Wednesday, but they will be keeping their focus on Everton's visit to Old Trafford. David Moyes' men ran out winners in the first meeting between the sides this season and have only lost three league games to date, while they are still in the running for a top-four finish as they currently trail Tottenham by just three points.
Sunday's first fixture, also live on Sky Sports 1HD, pits together Aston Villa and West Ham in a crucial contest for Paul Lambert's side. Villa have slipped into the relegation zone following a run of eight games without a win and were criticised in some quarters for the business they did in January, but there were signs of encouragement in a 3-3 draw with Everton last time out. With matches against Arsenal and Manchester City next up, there is pressure on Villa to stop the rot at home to a West Ham side comfortably placed in mid-table following a 1-0 win over Swansea.
The opening match of the weekend, live on Sky Sports 2HD, sees Tottenham welcome Newcastle to White Hart Lane for a clash that will have a major impact on the race for Champions League qualification. Spurs, unbeaten in nine, can climb above Chelsea into third, at least temporarily, by beating the Magpies, although they have been dealt a blow with the news that Jermain Defoe is set to be sidelined for three weeks due to an ankle injury. There has been a sense of optimism around Newcastle since they made a number of exciting signings last month and a thrilling 3-2 victory at home to Chelsea lifted them further clear of the bottom three.
Chelsea will be desperate to get back on track when they host Wigan on Saturday afternoon. The Blues have had a difficult couple of weeks, having been pegged back to 2-2 by Reading before their loss to Newcastle, while speculation continues over the future of key midfielder Frank Lampard and interim boss Benitez. Wigan are two points adrift of safety and without a league win in 2013, but they have salvaged draws from losing positions in their two most recent outings.
Southampton were denied victory by Wigan last weekend and their next task is to try and overcome Manchester City, in a vital match at both ends of the table. Roberto Mancini has insisted his City side can defend their title despite losing ground on United after a 2-2 draw with Liverpool, but Saints will be in no mood to hand out any favours and have produced a couple of fine performances under Mauricio Pochettino to remain just outside the drop zone.
Bottom club Queens Park Rangers are four points behind nearest rivals Villa and six away from fourth-bottom Reading, but they are on a five-game unbeaten stretch and have become difficult to break down. Harry Redknapp takes his troops to Wales this weekend to face a Swansea side eager to return to winning ways following a defeat at West Ham.
Work to do
Brian McDermott and Adam Le Fondre have been recognised for their achievements in January with monthly Premier League awards, but everyone at Reading will know there is still a lot of work to do after climbing out of the bottom three and will be seeking to extend a fine run of form against a Stoke team on a six-match winless streak.
Arsenal edged out Stoke 1-0 last time out to cut the gap on fifth-placed Everton to a single point, but it is a place in the top four that they will be targeting. Arsene Wenger's men head to the Stadium of Light on Saturday to take on Sunderland, who remain in the lower half of the standings as they continue to struggle for consistency.
Norwich and Fulham are level on points, seven clear of the relegation zone, ahead of their meeting at Carrow Road. Chris Hughton will be concerned by a run of eight games without a win from his side and determined to halt the slide against a Cottagers team narrowly beaten by Manchester United last weekend.
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