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Premier League: Preview- Everton take on champions Manchester City, Chelsea play West Ham and Liverpool take on Southampton

 

Competition at both ends of the Premier League table looks set get even more interesting with an intriguing set of fixtures over the next couple of days.

The early kick off on Saturday concerns the race for Europe, with champions Manchester City going to Goodison Park to take on Everton. For City, anything but a win from now until the end of the season will extinguish any hopes they have of retaining their title, but they will also be weary of the chasing pack closing the gap, with Spurs only five points behind them in third.

Everton got back on track with a win last time out after two defeats, but they have slipped to seventh with their Mersyside rivals moving ahead of them. Speculation still surrounds the future of David Moyes, with the Everton boss waiting to see if his club will be playing European football next year before making a decision on a new contract.

Then comes a crucial relegation six-pointer at Villa Park, where Aston Villa and QPR will both be hoping to use the momentum from their respective wins last week to boost their survival hopes.

Villa sit in 17th place, 3 points above the relegation zone, but only four ahead of rock bottom QPR. With Wigan and Reading both facing tough away days at Newcastle and Manchester United respectively, the opportunity for Villa or QPR to put some distance between them and their relegation rivals is there for the taking.

Southampton sit only a point above Villa and they face a tough trip to Anfield where they will take on a resurgent Liverpool side. Three straight wins has put Brendan Rodgers' men right back in the hunt for European football, and being back above rivals Everton will no doubt please the Anfeild faithful.

Stoke take on West Brom on the back of three straight defeats, with Tony Pulis looking to silence the critics on the terraces at the Brittania Stadium. Whilst relegation is more than likely not to be a threat at this stage, the third longest serving manager in the Premier League is still under pressure from the home fans, despite being on course to keep them in the Premier league for the sixth season running.

Arsenal will need to bring the kind of display that they put on in Munich during the week if they want to keep their Champions League ambitions for next season on track when they visit Swansea. The Gunners were unfortunate to go out of Europe despite their battling win in Munich, but they are currently five points outside the top four, and will need to recover if they are to qualify next season.

The league leaders Manchester United take on Reading in the late kick off, who parted ways with manager Brian McDermott in the week. They will certainly not be relishing the prospect of going to Old Trafford at this time, given that United have won their last five in the league, whereas Reading have lost four on the bounce, no doubt part of the reason for McDermott's departure.

Sunday sees two London derbies as Tottenham take on Fulham and Chelsea host West Ham. Spurs and Chelsea will both be buoyed by their progression to the quarter finals of the Europa League, where they will play Basel and Rubin Kazan respectively.

The third English club still in the Europa League, Newcastle, will host Wigan at St. James Park after their European success on Thursday. Newcastle were given arguably the toughest tie out of the three English clubs in the Europa League, drawing Portuguese side Benfica, who are currently top of their league.

Wigan are three points adrift of safety and will be hoping to get any kind of result against Newcastle, who will be looking to finish the season as high up the league as possible.

Two sides who will want to avoid being sucked into the relegation battle late on are Norwich and Sunderland, who meet in Norfolk on Sunday. Sunderland's form and slide looks ominous, with no wins in over five games, and six points between them and the bottom three. Norwich, who sit one place and three points ahead of Sunderland, will be hoping for a win which should be enough to keep them in the Premier League for a third season. 
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