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Chelsea fans ready for festive cheer

Trevor Huggins | December 17, 2004 12:21 IST

Premier League leaders Chelsea will be looking to give their fans some Christmas cheer with a comfortable win over promoted Norwich City this weekend.

Chelsea's four-point lead over second-placed Everton, who play Blackburn Rovers, and five-point advantage over champions Arsenal, who travel to managerless Portsmouth, guarantees their place at the top until December 26 at least.

Manchester United host Crystal Palace, while the most tightly-contested game is likely to be on Sunday at Anfield, where Liverpool host Newcastle United.

Chelsea fans will have no such trepidation, though, about the visit of Nigel Worthington's men to Stamford Bridge.

Jose Mourinho's side came away from Highbury with a creditable 2-2 draw against Arsenal last Sunday, maintaining an unbeaten league run that now stretches back over two months.

His strike force has scored 16 goals in their last five league outings, his defence is the tightest in the Premier League and his treatment room currently has only one occupant, German reserve defender Robert Huth.

Norwich are pinning their hopes on Darren Huckerby and David Bentley, the on-loan striker from Arsenal who engineered all their goals in last weekend's 3-2 win over Bolton Wanderers.

Everton's 1-0 victory over Liverpool in the Merseyside derby has further buoyed a team who are revelling in upsetting the form book this season.

EVERTON'S SUCCESS

Hard graft rather than divine inspiration has been the key to Everton's remarkable success after flirting with relegation earlier in the year.

"We don't maybe have quite the quality of some other clubs," manager David Moyes conceded last weekend. "But we're bridging that gap with every ounce we've got."

They should have little difficulty against a Blackburn side who have only won once at home all season and had to settle for a goalless draw with Crystal Palace last time out.

However, any slip could well allow Arsenal to wrest back second place after their trip to Fratton Park.

The draw with Chelsea by an under-strength side and a resounding 5-1 Champions League win over Rosenborg Trondheim suggest Arsenal are recovering the form which had gone missing after their late October defeat by Manchester United.

Add the return from suspension of skipper Patrick Vieira in central midfield and the travelling Arsenal fans should be celebrating after their day-trip to the south coast.

Liverpool and Newcastle meet on Merseyside with both sides hoping to end a run of three league matches without a win.

Liverpool's problems are up front, with boss Rafael Benitez forced to wait until next month to acquire a much-needed striker after losing France's Djibril Cisse to a broken leg.

Newcastle have worries of their own going forward, with strike pair Alan Shearer and Patrick Kluivert both doubtful after being sidelined by injury.


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