As the Premier League enters the final weeks of the season the weekend of the 7/8th April throws up a number of derby battles. For this weekend, though, none compares in significance to the Manchester derby as City aim to wrap up the title by beating their local rivals United.
Manchester City head into the game against their neighbours in the knowledge that a win will bring them the Premier League title. It will be hard enough for United fans to have seen their rivals dominate the league this season, but to watch them claim the title by beating United will be gut-wrenching. Always a fierce rivalry just because of the sheer close proximity of the clubs, it has taken on even greater meaning as City, long in United’s shadow, have become a footballing force. They have come a long way since their first Premier League win over United in 2002 at their old Maine Road ground.
Both sides go into the game in decent form, but City have only lost once in 31 Premier League matches to put themselves 16 points clear of United at the top of the table. Sergio Aguero is their top scorer this season with 21 goals, but he has been ruled out through injury for the game against United. Raheem Sterling has 16 goals to his name and has had an impressive year. City’s attacking play and style has been hard to resist most of the season and it is no surprise City players hold the top 3 places in assists for the season with Kevin De Bruyne on top with 15. Manchester United will be desperate for the win to keep Liverpool at bay and retain second spot. Romelu Lukaku heads their front line with 15 goals for the season.
As football rivalries go the Merseyside derby must rate as one of the most intense on the pitch, often played at a ferocious pace. Liverpool will be looking to keep the pressure up on Manchester United for second position and book their ticket into Champions League football for the following season. Mo Salah has been a revelation for Liverpool as part of their potent front three attacking force. Currently with a remarkable 29 goals to his name he is well positioned to claim the league’s golden boot, although the returning Harry Kane at Spurs may still have something to say about that.
The two rivals face off against each other in a lunchtime kick-off and memories of classic matches such as the FA Cup finals of the late eighties will always come to the mind of spectators. Everton have worked themselves out of relegation danger under the management of Sam Allardyce and came away from Anfield with an unlikely point in the reverse fixture at Anfield. They sit in 9th position in the league boosted by the experience of Wayne Rooney, their leading scorer on 10 goals. They come into the game off the back of a 3-1 defeat at home to champions-elect Manchester City, while rivals Liverpool came from behind to beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park last time out.
London sees a derby of its own with both teams needing the win for different reasons. Chelsea are currently 5th in the league 8 points adrift of Tottenham in their quest for a top 4 finish. It was Tottenham who Chelsea met last time out, only to go down to a 3-1 home defeat. Alvaro Morata continued his return to form in notching his 11th goal of the campaign, the same number as playmaker Eden Hazard. They are likely to still be without the injured Pedro and Ross Barkley, while Willy Caballero may still be required to deputise in goal for the injured first-choice Chelsea stopper Thibaut Courtois.
West Ham look to edge away from the drop zone in what has been a frustrating season for fans, one that boiled over with the recent fan protests during the match against Burnley. They currently sit in 14th place, 5 points ahead of Southampton who occupy the final relegation spot. Yet it was Southampton who West Ham comfortably defeated 3-0 in their last game to help put a little distance between them, with two goals from striker Marko Arnautovic. However, the game also saw Michail Antonio go off with a hamstring injury which looks set to end his season.
Prior to the Southampton game, West Ham had lost their previous three games quite heavily. Defensively they will need to be organised once more and resilient in order to get anything out of the game against their West London rivals.
Saturday 7th April - Kick Off @ 1500hrs (Unless Stated)
Sunday 8th April - Kick-off @1415hrs
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