Crucial games for Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Chelsea and Everton this weekend

Premier League Preview: Di Canio ready to prove a point, Last chance for QPR and a Manchester derby.

As the Premiership comes into its last two months every fixture has significance at both the top and bottom of the table. Here is a look at the key fixtures this weekend.

Chelsea v Sunderland

After a week of talking about his political beliefs, Paolo Di Canio finally gets a chance to focus on what he wants as he makes his managerial debut in the Premiership. He certainly couldn’t have asked for a much harder task as he takes his Sunderland side to Stamford Bridge. There is no doubt Di Canio will have his side well organised defensively, as he left a Swindon side with the best defensive record in the country.

Paolo Di Canio

He is also well known for watching hours of video of the opposition looking at collective and individual strengths and weaknesses. The only problem may well be working out what team Chelsea will play, as it is their fourth game in just over a week. With the incentive of impressing their new manager and Chelsea’s possible weariness it would not be a surprise to see Sunderland take a point here.

QPR v Wigan

This is surely the last chance for Harry Redknapp’s side to make up ground on the teams above them. They are currently seven points behind a Wigan side, who are in 17th. A defeat would leave them ten points behind with just six games left and surely facing an impossible task.

Roberto Martínez

This Wigan side are starting to hit form at just the right time with back-to-back home wins over Newcastle and Norwich. Home advantage may just sway this in QPR’s favour and the first goal will be vital. If Wigan get it then the home fans will be on their teams back but if Rangers can get it the fans may well inspire them to a vital home win.

Tottenham v Everton

The race for the European places enters another crucial weekend and there is no game bigger than at White Hart Lane. Everton travel to a Spurs side that may have Manchester City in their sights if results go their way this weekend. Before Thursday night Spurs were full of confidence and a home win was extremely likely, but after a poor defensive showing against Basel and injuries to key men Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale, this fixture is looking a lot more troublesome.

Andre Villas-Boas

Everton have responded well to their FA Cup humiliation against Wigan with back-to-back home wins against Manchester City and Stoke. Everton know a win here would leave them just three points behind Spurs with a game in hand and right in the thick of the race for the Champions League places. This will be a hard fought game but with Tottenham having played on Thursday and the injuries to key men Everton may well pick up an away win here.

Manchester United v Manchester City

While the title may well be pretty much won by the Old Trafford side, this game is still important for a number of reasons. Manchester United will see this as a chance for revenge for last season’s 6-1 defeat to their nearest rivals and an opportunity to do the double following their 3-2 win at the Etihad earlier this season.

Roberto Mancini

For City it is about laying down a marker for next season and proving that they can still match United. This game is also vital for the blue half of Manchester to keep the teams behind them out of reach. If results don’t go the right way for City before they play, then Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal may well be within a few points of them and City will find themselves in a fight for an automatic Champions League place.

By Chris Newman

Wigan’s destruction of Newcastle shows that the Latics belong in the Premier League

Wigan put on a show on Saturday to all-but-secure their Premier League status for another year, and delighted the DW Stadium and onlookers in the process. A 4-0 win over Champions League qualification hopefuls Newcastle mixed a determined and dogged defensive approach with sublime attacking play, and Roberto Martinez’s men were good value for their comprehensive victory.

With Newcastle undoubtedly the surprise package of the season, and Alan Pardew crafting a team of rough-around-the-edges players into some of the most sought-after stars in the league, the victory is all the more impressive. The first-half showing by the hosts was nothing short of masterful, as Wigan were quite simply too good for their Tyneside opponents.

A Victor Moses brace and goals from Shaun Maloney and Franco Di Santo gave the home side an unassailable lead, and in truth Wigan could have scored more in the first 45. The win sends Wigan up to 16th place and 37 points, three ahead of the bottom three, and three adrift of the holy grail of 40.

Wigan’s escapology act from last season had the club’s fans on cloud nine, but this season seems to be even more of an achievement. Given the fact that the Latics were bottom of the pile not too long ago, and faced a stern fixture list, Martinez and his team should be proud of their end of season heroics.

Five wins in the last eight games has lifted Wigan above their relegation rivals, with three points against Liverpool at Anfield, at home against Manchester United and at the Emirates against Arsenal, along with yesterday’s triumph, sticking out in the memory. The Latics could already be safe, but one win from their last two games against Blackburn and Wolves, will ensure Martinez’s men stay in the top flight for another year.

The manner of the afore-mentioned victories, and Wigan’s play for the majority of the campaign, is the real standout point. Martinez has urged his troops to consistently get the ball down on the deck and play football, even against their supposedly superior opponents, and this must be admired. When a team goes into a spiral of bad results, like Wigan have this season, there is a temptation to try and get the ball forward in a direct fashion rather than keeping possession, and the Latics have resisted this urge for the majority of the campaign.

The likes of Victor Moses, James McCarthy and Maynor Figueroa have all been excellent, and the cash-strapped side may have a battle on their hands to hold onto their best players. Like Wilson Palacios, Antonio Valencia and Charles N’Zogbia before them, the chance to play for a bigger club could be too good to resist.

Looking forward, there could be a few changes at the DW Stadium this summer, and the club’s fans will hope that Wigan can get off to a better start next term. Despite their heroics in escaping relegation through end-of-season wins over the last couple of years, the team will hope to not leave it so late next term, and secure their Premier League status well before the last five games. A sensible summer in the transfer market and a continuation of Martinez’s positive attitude could well see Wigan as more than relegation escapees in 2012-13.

Published – Soccerlens

Race for Premier League survival: Who will stay and who will go?

A scramble for survival at the bottom of the Premier League table is keeping five clubs on their toes and pushing them to the peak of their ability: Who will stay and who will go?

Wolves – 20th – 22 Points

Probably the only certainty for relegation at this stage; Terry Connor’s side have lost eight of their last ten Premier League games, and with a six-point gap separating them and Blackburn, survival seems a million miles away. Along with their position at the bottom of the table, Wolverhampton Wanderers have a particularly difficult run-in, with Sunderland, Manchester City, and an in-form Everton still to face. Given that the Molineux outfit are in terrible form, it looks like Wolves have no chance.

Blackburn – 19th – 28 points

A hard year for Steve Kean has been reflected in Blackburn’s shaky season, but hope can be found in the Rovers’ star men, Yakubu and Junior Hoilett. Although sitting in precarious 19th place, Blackburn will be facing much easier opposition in the next few weeks compared to other relegation candidates. The Lancashire club will come up against a vulnerable Swansea and Tottenham, and will also hope to grab some points against Norwich and Wigan at home. Despite this, Blackburn need to pick up some momentum and get the best out of their danger-man upfront if they are to stave the drop.

Bolton – 18th – 29 points

Although being awarded March’s Premier League Manager of the month award, Owen Coyle has not brought his side out of the drop zone yet; however with a game in-hand Bolton are on the path to survival. Bolton’s starting XI is not the strongest of the bottom five and with a weak attacking force and no prolific goal machine, they need to grit their teeth and play to the best of their ability. With upcoming matches against teams such as Swansea and Aston Villa, the Reebok Stadium side must be optimistic and maybe, just maybe, they could survive another season of top-flight football.

Wigan – 17th – 31 points

A recent run of fantastic form saw Wigan to a 1-0 victory over Premier League champions Manchester United in their last outing, giving the Latics hope. Despite only losing two of their last ten Premier League games, Wigan have one of the hardest run-ins of the bottom five and still have to face opposition such as in-form Arsenal, Fulham, and Newcastle. DW Stadium boss Roberto Martinez will hope his side can keep this run of good form up and will take hope from their “historic” victory over Manchester United. If Wigan can now end their goal drought and keep pushing and striving, they might just avoid demotion.

QPR – 16th – 31 points

A 3-0 win over Swansea City has moved the newly-promoted west London club to 16th. An upturn home form has given Mark Hughes’ side hope after beating Arsenal and Liverpool in consecutive fixtures at Loftus Road. Although having a hard run-in away from home, facing teams such as West Brom, Chelsea and Man City, QPR will hope to claim a scalp or two, and pick up as many points as possible from their home games against Tottenham and Stoke. If they carry on their good-form and keep playing the way they have, QPR could be well on their way to becoming a stable Premier League club.

By Jacob Tucker

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