Premier League preview
Manchester City can return to the top of the Premier League this weekend with Manchester United not playing until Monday.
Last Updated: 31/03/12 9:46am
Manchester City will look to return to the top of the table with rivals Manchester United not in action until Monday.
City host Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, while the race for a top four place in the Premier League continues.
Chelsea, fresh from victory over Benfica in Lisbon, travel to Aston Villa hoping to keep their ambitions alive, with Arsenal facing relegation-threatened QPR.
Super Sunday sees Tottenham take on Swansea at White Hart Lane, with Newcastle and Liverpool locking horns earlier in the afternoon on Tyneside.
Peter Crouch's stunning goal frustrated Manchester City last weekend but if Roberto Mancini's side pick up three points against Sunderland then they will go top of the table on goal difference, above rivals Manchester United who play Blackburn on Monday. Sunderland might be carrying a few tired legs following their exertions in the FA Cup on Tuesday evening - Martin O'Neill watched his side drop out of the competition following a 2-0 home defeat to Everton. O'Neill must now rally his troops once again but with Sunderland well-placed in the top-half and with little to play for, there is perhaps an argument that they may take their foot off the gas. City need a win and will be expected to keep the pressure on at the top.
Tottenham are unbeaten in their last three matches in all competitions but their place in the top four this term is far from assured. Spurs may be five points ahead of fifth-placed Chelsea yet there are 24 points left to play for this season and the battle for a UEFA Champions League spot is set to go right to the wire. Having dispatched of Bolton in the FA Cup this week, they return to the bread and butter of the league against Swansea City - who were beaten 2-0 by Everton last time out. It was only the third time the Swans had lost at home in the league this season and their last trip to the capital ended in a 3-0 demolition of Fulham. Expect an open game at White Hart Lane.
Across London, Queens Park Rangers host Arsenal at Loftus Road on Saturday afternoon. After their stunning victory over Liverpool, Rangers took a step back following a 3-1 defeat at Sunderland in their last match. Mark Hughes saw Djibril Cisse sent off for a reckless challenge and the Frenchman will miss this crucial encounter with the Gunners. It is an important fixture for both sides, QPR currently occupying 18th place in the Premier League, with Arsenal third and looking to consolidate their position at the top. Arsene Wenger's charges are on a fine run - seven consecutive victories have silenced the dissenting voices from earlier in the campaign and only a disaster would surely see them drop out of the top four.
Looking to claw back Tottenham in fourth are Chelsea, who have improved during Roberto Di Matteo's short reign as interim manager. A decent display in Portugal against Benfica puts them in the driving seat ahead of their return leg in the Champions League quarter-final tie, while they are already in the semis of the FA Cup. However, they have not exactly set the world alight in recent league games. They lacked a cutting edge against Spurs in a game they needed to win, while before that they let a lead slip at Manchester City. They go to Aston Villa on Saturday and Di Matteo will be expecting three points from this one - Villa have had a disappointing season and if Chelsea can find some consistency they should prevail.
At the other end of the table Wolves and Bolton prepare for a crucial six-pointer. The Molineux outfit have been in woeful form of late, four straight defeats leaving them rooted to the foot of the Premier League. Terry Connor needs a positive result as Wolves are four points behind Bolton in 17th, with Wanderers having played a game less. It was an emotional match with Blackburn last weekend following the collapse of Fabrice Muamba at White Hart Lane in the Cup. Bolton returned to the Lane on Tuesday but were unable to get a result, yet if they can reproduce their performance against Rovers then Wolves may be in trouble.
Wigan will be flying high after their shock victory over Liverpool at Anfield, but Roberto Martinez knows that result now needs to be forgotten when Stoke make the journey to the DW Stadium. Tony Pulis' men proved their mettle with that draw against Manchester City, and are just pushing for a top-half finish in the league now that they are out of the FA Cup. Indeed, a win for the Potters could see them rise to eighth. Wigan, meanwhile, seem to have hit some form at the right time but are still second-bottom. Back-to-back wins would be a real boon for the Latics at this stage of the campaign.
Fresh from their FA Cup success over Sunderland on Tuesday night, Everton host West Brom at Goodison Park. The Toffees may have one eye on their upcoming derby with Liverpool at Wembley and the Baggies will look to take advantage of possible rotation from David Moyes. Albion were torn apart by Newcastle in their last game - three first-half goals seeing the Magpies clinch a comfortable 3-1 victory. Roy Hodgson will be hoping for a response and a win that would move them back to mid-table.
Finally, expect an entertaining encounter at Craven Cottage when Fulham host Norwich City. Both these sides play the ball on the deck at a high tempo and like to get forward whenever possible. One would think, therefore, that goals are on the cards and the last time Fulham played at home they were embarrassed 3-0 by Swansea. Norwich have lost their last two away fixtures 1-0 and may look to be more adventurous away from Carrow Road.