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Saturday, 19 April 2014, 15:00

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With the transfer window having slammed shut, Premier League bosses turn their attention back to the pursuit of points.

Last Updated: 04/02/13 at 10:04

Harry Redknapp: QPR boss may field new signings against Norwich

Harry Redknapp: QPR boss may field new signings against Norwich

A busy weekend programme is likely to see a number of debutants unleashed, and all eyes will be on those taking to the field in new colours.

While attention has been dominated by comings and goings over recent days, it is worth nothing that there is still a title race unfolding and a basement battle hotting up.

It is possible that the picture could alter at opposing ends of the division over the weekend, with potentially crucial fixtures lined up at the top and bottom.

Standing at the summit at present are Manchester United, with the Red Devils having opened up a seven-point lead. They could pull 10 clear on Saturday, with Sir Alex Ferguson's men offered another opportunity to put down a marker to their rivals. United did drop points on their last visit to the capital - at Tottenham - but will fancy their chances of making amends when they go to Fulham. The Cottagers will have been buoyed by their midweek derby win over West Ham, but will also be aware that a visit from United presents an entirely different challenge.

Chelsea's faint title hopes now appear to be over, with the dropping of another two points at Reading on Wednesday leaving them 13 points off the pace. Cementing a top-four standing is now the priority at Stamford Bridge, with that particular race still keenly-contested. Newcastle were involved themselves last season, but have suffered a dramatic fall from grace. A welcome midweek win has edged them four points clear of the drop zone, but they could do with another shot in the arm when Chelsea arrive on Tyneside.

Arsenal displayed commendable battling qualities to take a point off Liverpool in their last outing, but Arsene Wenger will be concerned that his side continue to give themselves a mountain to climb. The Gunners have picked up an unfortunate habit of starting games slowly, and they must kick that if they are to push on and retain their place at European football's top table. A visit from Stoke is arguably the last thing Wenger and his troops need right now, with the Potters having caused them plenty of problems in the past, but Tony Pulis' side are winless in five and may be there for the taking.

Everton continue to grind out results and have plodded along relatively unnoticed in the race for UEFA Champions League football. Those above and below the Toffees continue to dominate the headlines, and David Moyes will be hoping that remains the case until the end of the season. Just one point separates Everton from the top four at present and they will move into that grouping on Saturday if they can take three points off struggling Aston Villa - a side that has gone seven games without a win, slipped to second from bottom in the standings and piled pressure on the shoulders of boss Paul Lambert.

Queens Park Rangers are the only side keeping Villa off the foot of the table at present, but they have brought in considerable reinforcements in an effort to steer a course to safety. Harry Redknapp was expected to be busy on deadline day, and he did not disappoint. The challenge now is how to integrate the new boys into an underachieving squad and get them turning the corner. Norwich will be keen to ensure that those questions remain on Saturday lunchtime, with the Canaries having gone seven games without a win to slip back into relegation trouble themselves - with only seven points keeping them clear of the trapdoor. You can see how they get on at Loftus Road live on Sky Sports 2 HD.

The third side inside the drop zone is Wigan, with Roberto Martinez finding himself back in an all too familiar predicament. The Latics have battled relegation on an almost annual basis during their Premier League stay, and 2013 looks like being no different. There is, however, plenty of time in which to clamber clear of trouble, and games against those in and around you provide the best chance of picking up points. That makes a home date with Southampton on Saturday vital to the Wigan cause. The Saints have only suffered one defeat in seven - to table-topping Manchester United - but they have been unable to pull away from danger and could be dragged back into the mix by the Latics.

Sunderland have shown how it should be done, with Martin O'Neill having put talk of a potential basement battle firmly to one side at the Stadium of Light. He has also been able to bolster his ranks since the Black Cats' last outing and may decide to field a new-look strike force at the Madejski Stadium. Reading have, however, moved out of the bottom three for the first time since November, with Brian McDermott's side having become a tough nut to crack, and they will be in buoyant mood after snatching a dramatic point off Chelsea last time out.

The wheels have come off West Ham's campaign somewhat and they have issues to address heading into a home date with Swansea. Of greatest concern to Sam Allarydce will be a leaky defence, with the Hammers having kept just one clean sheet in their last 13 Premier League outings. Unsurprisingly, they have struggled to pick up wins during that run and are now caught in a position just below mid-tableĀ  where they need to ensure that they continue to look upwards rather than nervously over their shoulder. A meeting with Swansea will be no walkover for West Ham, though, with the Swans unbeaten in seven and handily-perched on the edge of the European-chasing pack.

Turning attention to Sunday's fixtures, and Tottenham will hope to end the weekend where they start it - in fourth place. Another slip up from capital rivals Chelsea would allow them to edge closer to a top-three finish, but for now returning to UEFA Champions League competition is the sole target. Victory for Everton on Saturday would knock them off their lofty perch, but Andre Villas-Boas will know that a win over West Brom at White Hart Lane will make other results irrelevant. You can see how the out-of-sorts Baggeis fare in the capital live on Sky Sports 1 HD - with Steve Clarke's side having suffered four defeats in five.

The final fixture on an action-packed weekend is the one likely to generate the most interest, with title-chasing Manchester City set to welcome North West rivals Liverpool to the Etihad Stadium - for a game which can be seen live on Sky Sports 1 HD as part of a Super Sunday double-header. City remain confident that they can defend their top-flight crown, but a 0-0 draw at lowly QPR in their last outing has cast doubt over those claims. Liverpool will be looking to make life difficult for the Blues once again over the weekend, with Brendan Rodgers still looking for consistency from a side which could surge towards the top four over the second half of the season, or slump back towards halfway.

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Readers' Comments

I

may well get slated by other United fans for this, but out of the three contenders, I'd far prefer Liverpool to win the title. Yes some elements of their fanbase can be a bit OTT, yes they're our biggest rivals and yes it will make our poor season feel even more like the end of an era (Fergie's gone, Liverpool are back on top). However I just have to applaud Brendan Rodgers and the way he's turned Liverpool around in just a couple of seasons. It...

Mike_Christie
Please Stop Telling Us What To Think

H

ooray! We are all excited now, we beat a very mediocre team! With all due respect to WHU supporters, not winning that game shouldn't even be a consideration. This is the problem, there is no winning mentality at the Emirates - we're all congratulating ourselves beating a team that we have a winning record against.

TheWhiz
Wenger hails important win

I

s this meant to be an aspiration for United supporters? Moyes mediocrity strikes again. I see the Bayern boys don't want to sign for him, and his reputation amongst the senior European coaches make other key signings unlikely.

redbornandbred
De Gea's Europa League target

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