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Friday 30 November 2012

Barclays U21s: West Ham aiming to end on a high

A preview of the weekend's action in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League

Striker Paul McAllum has been in free-scoring form for West Ham United

West Ham United are aiming to preserve their unbeaten home sequence to five matches against Blackburn Rovers on Friday evening.

Ian Hendon’s charges have clinched top spot in Barclays Under-21 Premier League Group 1 with two matches to spare and will want to sign off with a victory in their last home match of the group stage against Rovers.

The Lancashire club are in resurgent form, however, having won two of their past three matches. Rovers are two points behind third-placed West Bromwich Albion and require a win in their last group match, and hope for other results to go their way, to secure a top-three berth that would book their passage into the Elite Group Stage.

The match takes place at Rush Green Road, where adults can watch for £3, under-16s pay just £1 and entry is free for season-ticket holders.

Madejski welcomes Gunners

One of the teams that can deny Rovers qualification to the Elite Group Stage is Reading, who are a point behind West Brom. The Royals will be hoping for a good turnout for the 1pm kick-off on Sunday at the Madejski Stadium, where they need to overcome Arsenal, and a run of just one win in five matches, to stand a chance of third spot.

Entry can be bought at the ticket office or online at £4 for adults and £2 concessions.

Canaries in the hunt

On Sunday Everton host another side in with a chance of finishing third. A win for Norwich City, who trail West Brom by two points, will boost their prospects of reaching the Elite Group Stage, as will wins for West Ham, Arsenal and Bolton Wanderers, who face West Brom on Monday.

Norwich, though, have a game in hand over their rivals for third place, so there is still everything to play for.

Magpies' mission

The battle for a runners-up spot in Group 2 is intensifying with fourth-placed Newcastle United striving to edge a point ahead of second-placed Manchester United with a home win against Aston Villa at Northumberland FA on Sunday morning.  

The visitors won away at Manchester United in their last sortie. The young Villans also know that victory will take them to within two points of leaders Tottenham Hotspur with two matches remaining.

The knockout stage

The sides who finish in the top three places in Group 1 qualify for the Elite Group stage, along with the top two teams and the best third-placed finisher from Groups 2 and 3.

The remaining third-placed team from Groups 2 and 3 and clubs who finish fourth, fifth and sixth in the three sections go through to Qualification Group Tier 1, while the seventh-placed clubs plus the side to finish eighth in Group 1 go to Qualification Group Tier 2.

The two teams who top the Qualification Groups will compete in a play-off to reach the first semi-final, where they will meet the team that finishes top of the Elite Group Stage. The teams that finish second and third in the Elite Group Stage play in the other semi-final .

Barclays U21 Premier League fixtures

Friday, 30 November

Group 1
West Ham v Blackburn Rovers, 7pm, Rush Green Road

Sunday, 2 December

Group 1
Everton v Norwich City, 1pm, Finch Farm
Reading v Arsenal, 1pm, Madejski Stadium

Group 2
Newcastle United v Aston Villa, 11am, Northumberland FA

Monday, 3 December

Group 1
West Bromwich Albion v Bolton Wanderers, 1pm, WBA Training Ground

Group 2
Southampton v Manchester United, 7pm, St Mary's Stadium
Sunderland v Stoke City, 1pm, Academy of Light

Group 3

Fulham v Liverpool, 2pm, Motspur Park
Middlesbrough v Chelsea, 7pm, Riverside Stadium
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester City, 7pm, AFC Telford United

For all the fixtures and the latest league tables, click here

You can follow developments on Twitter with the Premier League's account @premierleague or via the hashtag #BU21PL

Key Points

  • Group 1 winners West Ham host Blackburn Rovers at Rush Green Road on Friday evening
  • The Madejski Stadium opens its doors to Reading v Arsenal on Sunday lunchtime
  • Newcastle host Aston Villa on Sunday morning in a very tight Group 2

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