It’d be too dramatic to call Wednesday something snappy like “Manchester’s Last Stand”, but it’s difficult to ignore how important the day could be for the fortunes of the city’s two Premier League giants.
[ MORE: Tuesday’s PL roundup ]
With Chelsea drawing Liverpool, Arsenal losing to Watford, and Spurs drawing Sunderland, the Premier League’s Top Four collected a total of three points, waving Manchester United and Manchester City toward the open door that leads to the Top Four.
While neither side can finish the day any higher than fifth — City could pass Liverpool if it beat West Ham by 10 — creeping to the precipice would feel just fine for managers Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho.
West Ham United vs. Manchester City — 2:45 p.m. EDT
City starts 15 minutes before its crosstown rivals, and faces a side it blasted 5-0 in the FA Cup last month. But Slaven Bilic‘s Irons aren’t pushovers, and have been making moves up the table since a dreadful start to the season.
The visitors will be within a point of second if they can manage to beat West Ham, maybe even scrounging up a bit of title hope considering Chelsea remains on its schedule. But it all starts with the Hammers, who will likely hand debuts to Jose Fonte and Robert Snodgrass.
Manchester United vs. Hull City — 3 p.m. EDT
The red side of Manchester can move to within a win of second and two points of fourth by besting the Tigers, who barely resemble the club that begin the Premier League campaign. Full marks to Marco Silva, but he’ll only be thinking that the three teams above him in the relegation battle all snared at least a point on Tuesday.
Stoke City vs. Everton — 3 p.m. EDT
Another big debut is coming at the Britannia Stadium, where Saido Berahino will pull on the red and white for the first time. Stoke and Everton both would like to shake the midtable label at some point, and showing superiority in this one would be a good start. Seventh place Everton opens the day with a eight-point advantage over 10th place Stoke.