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Rediff.com  » Sports » English heavyweights share rare prime time slot

English heavyweights share rare prime time slot

November 18, 2006 10:35 IST

A rare day in English football occurs this Saturday with the three top sides in the Premier League all kicking off at the same time.

Fans longing for a return to the days before staggered kickoffs will savour the 3 p.m. appointments for leaders Manchester United, champions Chelsea and third-placed Arsenal.

They will also be excited by the prospect of a vintage title race that promises to be coming to the boil nicely by next spring, rather than the Chelsea stroll of the last two years.

United travel across the Pennines to struggling Sheffield United with a three-point cushion over Chelsea who host London rivals West Ham United. Arsenal, 10 points adrift, have the chance to stay in touch at home against a Newcastle United side languishing in the relegation zone.

Fourth-placed Aston Villa, who are level on points with Arsenal, are at improving Wigan Athletic on Sunday.

It is more than 10 years since Manchester United and Sheffield United squared off in the league, the Old Trafford side posting two 3-0 victories in the 1993-94 season which ended with the Yorkshire club being relegated.

The Blades have spent the intervening years battling to reclaim their top flight status and a 1-0 victory at Newcastle and last week's 2-2 draw with Bolton Wanderers suggest that Neil Warnock's gritty side will not give it up without a fight.

However, Alex Ferguson's United side are on a roll, winning their last six league games, the last four without conceding a goal.

Chelsea's form has been only marginally less impressive, a 2-1 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur their only recent blip as they chase a third consecutive title.

PARTICULARLY IMPRESSIVE

Four of Jose Mourinho's side were in the England starting team for the 1-1 draw with the Netherlands on Wednesday with Joe Cole particularly impressive.

Cole, who missed the start of the season with injury, has been on the fringes at Stamford Bridge since his return, however, and will probably have to content himself with a place on the bench against former old club.

West Ham appeared to have turned the corner with consecutive victories over Blackburn Rovers and Arsenal after an eight-game losing streak, but defeat by Middlesbrough last weekend has left them just above the relegation zone.

Arsenal cannot afford any more slip-ups like the 1-0 defeat at West Ham if they are to harbour hopes of reeling in the top two.

They bounced back with a 3-0 stroll against Liverpool last week and will need to be in an equally ruthless mood against Newcastle at the Emirates Stadium, although manager Arsene Wenger may have one eye on Tuesday's must-win home match against Hamburg in the Champions League.

Defeat for Newcastle would increase the chances of manager Glenn Roeder becoming the second Premier League managerial casualty of the season, following Charlton Athletic's sacking of Iain Dowie on Monday.

Charlton, bottom of the table although well in touch with the sides around them, face Reading with Les Reed installed as Dowie's replacement.

Elsewhere, Everton will have to do without influential Australian midfielder Tim Cahill as they take on Bolton Wanderers. Cahill faces two months on the sidelines after injuring his knee against Aston Villa last week.

Source:
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