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Premier League preview

The battle for Premier League supremacy intensifies as Arsenal endeavour to get their faltering title bid back on track in a home date with Manchester City and in-form Liverpool look to stretch their impressive winning run when Tottenham Hotspur travel to Anfield.

Last Updated: 29/03/14 at 15:16 Post Comment

Arsene Wenger and Manuel Pellegrini lock horns at the Emirates

Arsene Wenger and Manuel Pellegrini lock horns at the Emirates

Table-topping Chelsea will attempt to stay one step ahead of the chasing pack when they take in a capital derby with Crystal Palace, top-four hopefuls Everton go to rock-bottom Fulham and Manchester United will look to blow derby cobwebs away against Aston Villa.

Elsewhere, Newcastle United make the long trip to Southampton, rejuvenated Stoke City play host to Hull City, Swansea City will be looking to turn the tide against Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion meet fellow strugglers Cardiff City in a crunch clash at The Hawthorns.

A run of one win in four has rocked Arsenal's challenge for the Premier League crown, with the Gunners now six points off the pace and suddenly looking over their shoulder at those pushing for UEFA Champions League qualification. They will, however, get the opportunity to fire themselves right back into the mix on Saturday evening when they welcome Manchester City to Emirates Stadium. City, though, will arrive in north London moving ominously through the gears, with four straight wins delivering 11 goals, four clean sheets and local bragging rights. Manuel Pellegrini's men are now second in the table, three points off the summit with two games in hand.

The side everyone is chasing at present are Chelsea, with Jose Mourinho keeping his men in pole position. They offered the perfect response to a shock defeat at Aston Villa with a 6-0 mauling of Arsenal last time out and will be hoping for more derby joy when they go to Crystal Palace. The Blues know what is required to come out on top and will be aware that they cannot afford any more slip-ups heading down the final stretch. Palace are scrapping for their top-flight lives, though, and will be in no mood to roll over on home soil. No wins in their last five has dropped the Eagles back into trouble, three points above the relegation zone.

Before the action gets underway at Selhurst Park, Manchester United and Aston Villa will have kicked off the weekend at Old Trafford. The Red Devils desperately need to get back on track in front of their own supporters, with a sixth home defeat of the season suffered in midweek at the hands of arch-rivals Manchester City. Beleaguered boss David Moyes has now endured 10 setbacks in the league this season, the first time United have hit double figures in the Premier League era. Villa will want to keep piling on the misery for the reigning champions, with a disappointing display in a heavy defeat to Stoke last weekend denting their bid to push on into the top half of the standings.

Success for Stoke City at Villa Park last Sunday has them perched in the top 10, with 10 points collected from their previous four top-flight outings. Keeping that run going will be the name of the game when Hull City travel to the Britannia Stadium. Unlike their weekend opponents, the Tigers are struggling for consistency. One step forward is all too often followed by one in the opposite direction, and that is keeping them looking over their shoulder. An eight-point cushion on the bottom three means they have breathing space, but Steve Bruce will want to get to the 40-point mark as quickly as possible and ease any lingering relegation fears.

The same can be said for Swansea City, with the Welsh outfit having spent much of the campaign punching below their weight. An energy-sapping Europa League adventure and a change in the dugout have done their cause few favours, but focus now is very much on ending the season with a flourish. Plenty of positives will be taken from a 2-2 draw away at Arsenal in midweek, but there is no getting away from the fact that Garry Monk's men have gone six without a win in the league, and nine in all competitions. Norwich City, sat just one place and two points better off than the Swans, will believe that they are heading to the Liberty Stadium at a good time, but they are another side who remain infuriatingly difficult to call - with form fluctuating wildly.

Also in the Jekyll and Hyde category - a position they have occupied for some years now - are Newcastle United. Having surged up the rankings to put themselves in European contention, inconsistency has returned to the St James' Park ranks. Two defeats in three have threatened to undo their good work, but Alan Pardew will be back in attendance for a home meeting with Southampton on Saturday after serving his stadium ban. He will not be on the touchline, though, and Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping that the crossed wires on the communication front continue as his Saints look to move back above Newcastle and into eighth place.

The last of the seven games scheduled to be held on Saturday afternoon will be a relegation six-pointer in the Midlands as West Bromwich Albion tackle Cardiff City. Heading into the contest, it is the Bluebirds who find themselves languishing inside the bottom three - three points from safety. Positive results remain hard to come by for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, with four defeats suffered in five, but success this weekend would take them level with the Baggies. Pepe Mel will be all too aware of that fact, with West Brom toasting just one success during his unproductive reign so far. The chances of them ending the weekend inside the relegation zone are slim - taking their goal difference into account - but there is every chance that they could be seriously sweating on their top-flight status come the full-time whistle against Cardiff.

The pick of the two televised Super Sunday fixtures will be staged at Anfield, with Liverpool hoping that their title bandwagon can roll over another visitor to Merseyside. Tottenham Hotspur are the side journeying north, and they have lofty ambitions of their own this season. It is, however, Brendan Rodgers' side who are the talk of the division at present, with a free-scoring outfit securing seven successive victories in the league to suggest that a 24-year wait for top-flight glory could be coming to an end. Spurs, though, will want to play party-poopers this weekend, with Tim Sherwood's side having slipped to sixth - seven points adrift of neighbours Arsenal and the final Champions League spot.

Everton have edged above Spurs in the standings and will now be thinking that a late push for a top-four finish could be on the cards. They are only six points off the pace at present, with a game in hand on fourth-placed Arsenal and a visit from the Gunners to look forward to early next month. They must maintain the standards which have delivered four wins on the bounce, though, and cannot afford to take their eye off the ball when they go to Fulham - in the first instalment of a Super Sunday double-header. The Cottagers remain rooted to the foot of the table, four points from safety and with only two Premier League wins celebrated in 2014.

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Rodgers: No defence coach

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