With the Manchester clubs tied on points at the top of the table and only Tottenham with an outside chance at the title, this year’s Premier League is almost guaranteed to be Manchester-bound.
But it’s not an easy road – Manchester United still have City, Tottenham and Chelsea (this weekend) away, plus Liverpool home. This weekend may be United’s best chance of beating Chelsea (in the league) since Roman Abramovich first arrived at Stamford Bridge. You have to remember that they won here in the Champions League last season (en route to progressing to the final) and drew in the league. Could this be the first win in so many years?
Chelsea v Manchester United
No doubting the big clash this weekend as Chelsea play host to arch rivals Manchester United in a Super Sunday double header (4pm KO, Live on Sky Sports 1).
It’s true to say Stamford Bridge hasn’t been a pay hunting ground in the league for United in recent years, with their last win in the PL against them coming 10 years ago.
However they have actually won five of the last six matches in all competitions against the Blues, and that makes them look overpriced at 2.9 with Betfred and worthy of a punt.
Having played Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool in quick succession, and with Liverpool coming up again, United are now at a crucial stage of their season having hauled themselves level on points with Roberto Mancini’s men at the top of the Premiership.
It’s vital that they keep up the pressure on their neighbours who are now beginning to wobble at one point looked invincible, and Sir Alex is sure to have them primed for this now that the league is their sole focus.
The home side come into this in shaky form having lost three out of their last seven home games, and they will once again be without their key striker as Didier Drogba is still away on duty in the Africa Cup of Nations.
John Terry, who has been making the headlines off the pitch this week, has also been ruled out due to an knee injury.
As far as the United teams news is concerned, Tom Cleverley is available for the first time since October, while Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney and Nani are also fit.
Sadly Anders Lindegaard faces six weeks out with an ankle injury, so David de Gea is set to return in goal.
Rooney has scored four goals in his last seven Premier League appearances against Chelsea and also netted on his last two visits to Stamford Bridge, one in the league and one in the Champions League.
He is a top priced 7 with Boylesports to net the opener, but from a punting perspective I like the look of him in the anytime scorer market at a generous looking 2.6 with the same firm.
Newcastle United v Aston Villa
The first game on Sunday sees Newcastle take on Aston Villa at St James’ (1.30pm KO, Live on Sky Sports), and I like the look of the draw at 3.4.
This game may have ended 6-0 in favour of the Magpies last season, but they have not looed as sharp in front of goal in recent cup games, and the Villans have been in terrific form on the road.
Alex McLeish’s men have lost just two of their last 12 Premier League away games (W4 D6 L2) and none of the last five (W3 D2).
Among those victories was a win at Stamford Bridge, and they were arguably unlucky to go down 3-2 to Arsenal at the Emirates.
A repeat of either of those performances will, in my opinion, be good enough to give them a share of the spoils.
They also have an in-form striker in the shape of Darren Bent who has scored in four of his last five Premier League appearances.
I can’t see there being many goals in this one, and for those that like to play the correct score market 1-1 appeals at 7 with Betfred.
Arsenal v Blackburn
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal need to get back to winning ways in the league and they are a top priced 1.3 with Betfred to just that in their game against Blackburn at the Emirates on Saturday.
The Gunners have not won any of their last four games in the Premiership and currently sit in seventh place as a result.
That is the lowest they have been in the table at this stage of the season since Wenger took over in 1996, and three points are vital if they are to close the game on fourth placed Chelsea to try and automatically qualify for the Champions League.
They are currently five points behind the Blues, and given that their next four league games after this are against a rejuvenated Sunderland on Wearside, Tottenham at home, Liverpool at Anfield and Newcastle back at the Emirates, they simply can’t afford not to win this.
So far as the stats are concerned everything looks rosy for Arsenal.
The Gunners had won the last seven successive home league games against the Lancashire outfit – scoring 25 goals – prior to their goalless draw last season.
They have also not lost in seven home games against sides from the bottom half of the league, winning five and drawing two.
Robin van Persie has scored 10 goals in 12 games in all competitions against Blackburn, while Mikel Arteta has scored five goals in the Premier League against them.
Split stakes on both looks the way to play.
Weekend Premier League Fixtures: