5 things to know about the Premier League
LONDON (AP) Chelsea’s loss at Aston Villa last weekend has thrown the Premier League title wide open. Jose Mourinho’s team recovered with a 2-0 win over Galatasaray to reach the Champions League quarterfinals but the Blues’ cushion at the top of the Premier League could be reduced to one point if they lose at home to bitter rival Arsenal on Saturday. The game at Stamford Bridge will mark Arsene Wenger’s 1,000th match in charge of Arsenal.
Second-place Liverpool travels to Cardiff looking for a sixth consecutive win while Manchester City – six points behind Chelsea but with three matches in hand, hosts last-place Fulham.
Here are five things to know ahead of this weekend’s Premier League matches:
NO GIFT FOR ARSENE
Earlier this season, Wenger was branded a ”specialist in failure” by Mourinho and all eyes will be on the two managers when their sides clash at lunchtime on Saturday. Wenger, who has been in charge at Arsenal since 1996, has not won a trophy since the 2005 FA Cup. Mourinho led the Blues to their first two English league titles since 1955 during his first stint at Chelsea before returning to the west London club last June.
The two managers have a long history of confrontational relationships and it is unlikely that Mourinho will take part to the celebrations surrounding Wenger’s 1,000th match in charge. Asked if he will give the Frenchman a present, Mourinho said he has not planned anything special.
”Because the best present is to have 1,000 matches in the same club,” Mourinho said. ”If Chelsea gives me the chance to arrive to 1,000 matches, I’ll be the happiest man there is in the world.”
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SOLACE
If both Arsenal and Manchester City win their games on Saturday afternoon, defending champion Manchester United will be trailing 15 points adrift of the top four by the time they face West Ham in London in the evening. But the 3-0 win over Olympiakos that booked the Red Devils a spot in the Champions League quarterfinals has lifted the gloom surrounding Old Trafford and manager David Moyes hopes the win can be a turning point in his dismal first season in charge.
”I don’t want to come out here and say this is the moment but at the same time, I really hope it is. We know it is a work in progress and it is going to take time to get things the way we want it,” Moyes said.
The only blight on Wednesday night was Robin van Persie’s knee injury, but Moyes hopes the Netherlands striker will be fit on Saturday despite being carried off the pitch on a stretcher following his hat trick.
”I don’t think Robin’s too bad,” Moyes said. ”He’s got a knock just behind his knee. We’ll know more in the morning – we’ll assess it – but he had a knock in the back of his knee. We hope it’s not too bad.”
SHERWOOD FIGHTING FOR HIS JOB
Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood is going through hard times but expects to be in charge next season despite Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal’s reported interest in his job.
Sherwood has been unable to reinvigorate Spurs since replacing Andre Villas-Boas and his team has been virtually knocked out of contention for a top-four finish after losing 1-0 at home to Arsenal last week. Spurs host Southampton on Sunday.
Van Gaal is the bookmakers’ favorite to replace Sherwood but the former Spurs midfielder, who signed an 18-month deal in December, insists he is not going anywhere.
”People ask me this all the time, (Van Gaal) is obviously destined to want to manage in England,” Sherwood said. ”He has got a good track record, he is a good manager and I’m sure he’ll get his opportunity: he’s been shouting loud enough for it. It’s out of my hands but I believe I’ll be here next year. I’m planning for next season. The players are playing for their futures.”
MANCINI BELIEVES IN CITY
Roberto Mancini says his former club Manchester City has the best chances in the Premier League title race.
Quizzed about his predictions after his current Galatasaray side was ousted by Chelsea in the Champions League, Mancini said he expects City to come out on top.
”I think that Manchester City’s the best team,” said Mancini, who won the Premier League with the club in 2012 before being fired following the next season. ”They have the best players. I don’t know if Liverpool, also doing very well in this moment, can win. I think it will be a fight till the end between City and Chelsea.”
CRUCIAL 10 GAMES
With 10 games still to play this season, Everton still has a chance of securing European qualification. The Merseyside club has extended its shirt sponsorship deal with Thai beer company Chang, which is now worth more than 16 million pounds ($26 million) over the next three years. But club manager Roberto Martinez insists his team’s results in its final matches will have a stronger impact on his transfer plans during the offseason.
”Obviously the sponsorship deal with Chang is a relationship which has been over 10 years and you don’t get these relationships in Premier League clubs and we value that,” Martinez said. ”We are in that key moment of the campaign with 30 points to play for. Whatever happens in the summer will be the next step but many of the decisions will depend on how we do in the next 10 games so you can imagine the focus goes into those games.”
Everton hosts Swansea on Saturday on the back of two consecutive wins.