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Friday 29 March 2013

All to play for at both ends during the final stretch

With eight weekends of Barclays Premier League action remaining much is at stake

Southampton's clash with Reading could prove crucial

With the international break over fans of the Barclays Premier League can enjoy unbroken action until the final day of the season, on Sunday 19 May.

For all the teams in the League over the next 84 matches there is a lot still to play for, whether it is the title, a UEFA Champions League place, the one remaining UEFA Europa League spot, or a place in the competition next year.

The race for the title

Manchester United have a 15-point lead and only need 13 points from their remaining nine matches to regain the title they dramatically lost last season but the champions Manchester City will not be giving up their first title in 26 years without a fight.

On paper they have the easier run-in but cannot afford to lose any more points, especially when they travel to Old Trafford on Monday, 8 April. A similar result to their 6-1 victory last season would give the City fans a big boost, even if it failed to stop United winning a 14th Barclays Premier League title.

top2-of-BPL

Remaining fixtures

Man Utd Man City
30 March Sunderland (A) 30 March Newcastle (H)
8 April Man City (H) 8 April Man Utd (A)
14 April Stoke (A) TBC West Brom (H)
17 April West Ham (H) 17 April Wigan (H)
22 April Aston Villa (H) 21 April Spurs (A)
28 April Arsenal (A) 27 April West Ham (H)
4 May Chelsea (H) 4 May Swansea (A)
12 May Swansea (H) 12 May Reading (A)
19 May West Brom (A) 19 May Norwich (H)

 

The race for UEFA Champions League

Each season beneath the race for the title there is heavy competition for the glamour of competing in the UEFA Champions League. This season is no different.

Among the usual candidates of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal are David Moyes’s Everton, who, thanks to their 2-1 defeat of Manchester City two weeks ago, are back in the thick of the fight.

With each of these teams playing another in and around them at least twice in the remaining matches there is much scope for fluctuations to take place. Chelsea fans will be wishing that the imminent fixture pile-up with matches in the FA Cup and UEFA Europa League to come will not affect their league form, while Spurs supporters will hope that a recent blip in form of two league defeats in a row will not be a repeat of past seasons when they lost out on a place in the UEFA Champions League.

Both Arsenal and Everton have purely the Barclays Premier League to focus on but these two have the most to make up.

Remaining fixtures

Chelsea Spurs
30 March Southampton (A) 30 March Swansea (A)
7 April Sunderland (H) 7 April Everton (H)
14 April Spurs (H) 14 April Chelsea (A)
17 April Fulham (A) 17 April  
21 April Liverpool (A) 21 April Man City (H)
27 April Swansea (H) 27 April Wigan (A)
4 May Man Utd (A) 4 May Southampton (H)
12 May Aston Villa (A) 12 May Stoke (A)
19 May Everton (H) 19 May Sunderland (H)
   
Arsenal Everton
30 March Reading (H) 30 March Stoke (H)
6 April West Brom (A) 7 April Spurs (A)
13 April Norwich (H) 13 April QPR (H)
16 April Everton (H) 16 April Arsenal (A)
20 April Fulham (A) 20 April Sunderland (A)
28 April Man Utd (H) 27 April Fulham (H)
4 May QPR (A) 4 May Liverpool (A)
12 May Wigan (H) 12 May West Ham (H)
19 May Newcastle (A 19 May Chelsea (A)

Race for survival

Down at the bottom, there is all to play for as the usual target of 40 points for safety is being revised downwards by many managers to 38. All the teams have eight matches to play, four at home and four on the road.

bottom-of-BPL

Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp, despite being seven points off safety, remains bullish and is looking for the form that brought a recent run of two wins in a row in the Barclays Premier League before the 3-2 defeat by Aston Villa to be repeated.

Of QPR’s remaining eight matches, two are against teams also fighting relegation – Wigan and Reading.

New Reading manager Nigel Adkins faces a tough start away to Arsenal, but if his team claim nothing from the Emirates Stadium, the next fixture, at home to his former club Southampton will be viewed as a must-win.

For Wigan and Aston Villa it may come down to the final fixture of the season as Paul Lambert’s side travel to the DW Stadium in a possible winner-takes-all scenario for staying in the Barclays Premier League.

Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino saw his side beat Liverpool in the previous round of fixtures and a similar result against Chelsea will make survival a much greater possibility. The crucial match could be their trip to Sunderland on the penultimate weekend.

Martin O’Neill’s team are going through a poor run of form and received the blow of losing leading scorer Steven Fletcher, as well as captain Lee Cattermole, for the rest of the season through injury. Sunderland have arguably the toughest run-in with ties against Manchester United, Chelsea, Everton before finishing away to Spurs.

With eight weekends of action to go, it is certainly going to be an enthralling close to the season, with twists and turns aplenty at both ends of the Barclays Premier League table.

Remaining fixtures

Sunderland Southampton Aston Villa
30 Mar Man Utd (H) 30 Mar Chelsea (H) 31 Mar Liverpool (H)
7 April Chelsea (A) 7 April Reading (A) 6 April Stoke (A)
13 Apr Newcastle (A) 13 Apr West Ham (H) 13 Apr Fulham (H)
20 Apr Everton (H) 20 Apr Swansea (A) 22 Apr Man Utd (A)
27 Apr Aston Villa (A) 27 Apr WBA (H) 27 Apr Sunderland (H)
4 May Stoke (H) 4 May Spurs (A) 4 May Norwich (A)
12 May Soton (H) 12 May Sunderland (A) 12 May Chelsea (H)
19 May Spurs (A) 19 May Stoke (H) 19 May Wigan (A)
     
Wigan Reading QPR
30 Mar Norwich (H) 30 Mar Arsenal (A) 1 April Fulham (A)
7 April QPR (A) 6 April Soton (H) 7 April  Wigan (H)
13 April   13 April Liverpool (H) 13 April Everton (A)
17 April Man City (A)        
20 April West Ham (A) 20 April Norwich (A) 20 April Stoke (H)
27 April Spurs (H) 28 April QPR (H) 28 April Reading (A)
4 May WBA (A) 4 May Fulham (A) 4 May Arsenal (H)
7 May Swansea (H)        
12 May Arsenal (A) 12 May Man City (H) 12 May Newcastle (H)
19 May Aston Villa (H) 19 May West Ham (A) 19 May Liverpool (A)

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Key Points

  • Eight more weekends of Barclays Premier League action remaining
  • There is all to play for teams at the top and bottom of the table
  • Expect many fluctuations over the remainder of the season
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