Six Premier League clubs are in action today in matches with huge relevance at both ends of the standings. Here’s the run-down:
West Ham v Manchester United (2.45pm ET): The visitors are 15 points clear of second-placed Manchester City, so they can afford to slip up here and still cruise to the title. Not that history suggests they will: West Ham haven’t beaten United in the league since December, 2007. United knocked Sam Allardyce’s men out of the FA Cup in January, but first they needed a late equalizer from Robin van Persie to force a replay.
Van Persie scored in the first minute and it was the only goal when these teams met in the league at Old Trafford last November. Three points for West Ham would all but guarantee their Premier League survival. Their defenders, James Tomkins, Winston Reid and George McCartney are fitness doubts. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to rotate his team after Sunday’s 2-0 win over Stoke City. Rio Ferdinand (pictured) could be rested against his former club.
Manchester City v Wigan Athletic (2.45pm ET): The identities of next month’s FA Cup finalists were only revealed at the weekend, and already the fixture list has provided us with a dress-rehearsal. City are odds-on favorites for then and now, having won their past six games against Roberto Martinez’s club without even conceding a goal.
A win for City today would help cement second place, while three points for Wigan would see them move above Aston Villa on goal difference and exit the relegation zone. Wigan have no injury worries but City are likely to be without David Silva, who has a hamstring problem. Defender Micah Richards is back in contention after being sidelined since October last year with a knee injury.
Fulham v Chelsea (3pm ET): These West London clubs are only two miles apart, though the gap in size, wealth and talent is just a little bigger. Yet Chelsea haven’t beaten Fulham in the Premier League since November, 2010. The four subsequent fixtures have been draws, most recently a goalless encounter last November. Chelsea will look to rebound quickly from Sunday’s FA Cup exit to Manchester City by capitalizing on their game in hand over fifth-placed Tottenham, while Fulham are safely mid-table.
A win lifts Rafael Benitez’s side (that’s something we can’t write for much longer) above Arsenal into third. Fulham could leapfrog Swansea into ninth. For the home team, former Chelsea winger Damien Duff is out with a thigh strain and midfielder Steven Sidwell is suspended. Benitez may recall Frank Lampard and John Terry after leaving them out of the Cup tie at Wembley.
Marek Hamsik hit a ball with such momentous force that we’re not sure it rotated more than three full turns on its 20-yard flight into the goal.
The Slovakia star’s goal equalized a friendly with Germany at 1, and Repre went on to hammer the reigning World Cup champs by a 3-1 score.
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I mean, really, what a hit. Bernd Leno had little hope of touching it.
Longtime Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick spoke glowingly of new boss Jose Mourinho amidst rumors he’ll sign a one-year extension with the Old Trafford set.
Carrick, 34, joined United from Tottenham in 2006, and has won major trophy after major trophy with the club. He wants more, and he doesn’t care how.
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The 34-times capped English midfielder has 421 appearances for United, and could fit neatly into a Mourinho system.
From The Mirror:
“You have to be number one and winning trophies and if you can do that with a bit of style and a bit of flair then that is the perfect match but first and foremost it is about winning and getting back on top.
“There is going to be change without a doubt because he is coming in and he is his own man.
“He has got an unbelievable track record and everyone is looking for quick results and that’s how it is.”
We have to wonder how the United fans who booed Louis Van Gaal after every turn will react to these comments, although wins cure everything, right?
There were many rumors than N'Golo Kante had a deal that would allow him to leave Leicester City, but the midfielder doesn’t sound like the leaving type.
According to L’Equipe, Kante isn’t looking to leave the Premier League champions, and is content to play in the UEFA Champions League with the Foxes next season.
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He’s been tipped to move to Real Madrid and Manchester City amongst other potential stops.
“For now, I am happy at Leicester,” he said. “I do not pay too much attention to everything that is said.”
That vibe is running through the headlines today, as UEFA Champions League winners Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez say they want to stay at Real Madrid, and Isco is also happy to come back to the Bernabeu to make a run at a first La Liga title since the 2011-12 season.
Steve Bruce saw Hull City go down to the Championship, and pulled the Tigers right back up the Premier League.
Hull won promotion at the first time of asking after defeating Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 on Saturday, but Bruce wants to see stability at the KC Stadium.
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The club remains up for sale after owner Assem Allam saw his request to change the team name to Hull Tigers denied by the English Football Association.
From the BBC:
“I’ll sit down with the owners. It’s not often you walk away from the Premier League – that’s where I want to manage,” Bruce told BBC Radio 5 live.
“But I have to be given certain assurances that we’re all moving in the right direction.
“I keep hearing too many stories that there’s a takeover imminent. We’ll see what develops,” added the 55-year-old.
The longtime Manchester United back has been around the managerial block a few times, and it’d be nice to see him stay at Hull for the long term. He’s led the Tigers into the Premier League on two occasions, and is — seriously — the seventh longest tenured manager in the Football League. He would enter the Premier League as the second-longest serving manager, to Arsene Wenger.