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Man United hope to seal title at Chelsea
April 25, 2008 11:12 IST
Manchester United [Images] will all but retain their Premier League title on Saturday if they become the first English side to win at Stamford Bridge for four years.
The teams, who could meet in next month's Champions League final after away leg semi-final draws this week, go into the match knowing a United win will end any realistic hopes Chelsea have of claiming a third title in four years.
With three matches to play United, bidding for a second consecutive title and their 10th in 16 seasons, lead with 81 points, three ahead of Chelsea, who are undefeated in 80 league matches at home since Arsenal [Images] beat them 2-1 in February 2004.
Their only other defeat since then, apart from a penalty shootout loss to Charlton Athletic in a League Cup match, was to Barcelona in the Champions League in February 2006.
Even if United lose and allow Chelsea to pull level on points, Alex Ferguson's team would stay top with a superior goal difference of plus-54 compared to Chelsea's plus-36.
United would still remain favourites for the title but could not afford to slip up again in their remaining two matches at home to West Ham United or away at Wigan Athletic.
Chelsea's last two games are at revitalised Newcastle United and at home to relegation-threatened Bolton Wanderers.
Both teams go into Saturday's match buoyed by their Champions League results with Chelsea drawing 1-1 at Liverpool and United holding Barcelona to a 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp.
Ferguson said after his team's draw that defender Nemanja Vidic, who missed the game in Spain because of illness, might play on Saturday, but remains a doubt.
"I would think he's doubtful but he's back at the hotel taking plenty of fluids and had some soup this afternoon. That's promising, so let's hope we can get him there on Saturday."
"He will be desperate to play and if we do get him there it will be a bonus to us."
Ferguson added: "It will be a different sort of game on Saturday. We will have to address the way Chelsea play and certainly impose ourselves better than we did against Barcelona."
By the time hostilities are over at Stamford Bridge, the spotlight will switch to the other end of the table with Bolton, Reading, Birmingham City and Fulham all involved in the battle to avoid the fate of already-relegated Derby County.
Bolton, who are 16th with 32 points visit Tottenham Hotspur while 17th-placed Reading, on the same number of points, travel to Wigan who have pulled away from danger in recent weeks.
Birmingham, crushed 5-1 by city rivals Aston Villa last week and third from bottom on 31 points, host a Liverpool side almost guaranteed the final Champions League qualifying spot.
Fulham, who look almost certain to fill one of the two remaining relegation spots having claimed only 27 points from 35 games, travel to Manchester City who still harbour remote hopes of qualifying for the UEFA Cup.
Everton, who are fifth, face sixth-placed Aston Villa on Sunday when FA Cup finalists Portsmouth meet Blackburn Rovers. Derby, with one win all season, host Arsenal on Monday.