Premier League preview
City on the brink of title; Bolton or QPR to go down on final day
Last Updated: May 12, 2012 9:08am
The final weekend of the Premier League is upon us and Manchester City are within touching distance of the title.
City are level on points with Manchester United at the top of the table but their superior goal difference means a win over QPR at Eastlands will be enough to claim the trophy this season.
However, QPR will give everything they have to avoid relegation to the Championship. One place in the bottom three is yet to be decided and it will be either Mark Hughes' side or Bolton Wanderers who occupy it come Sunday evening.
Elsewhere, the battle for Champions League football could take a final twist with Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle all hoping to finish in the top four.
It has been a campaign of ups and downs in the Premier League, with Manchester dominating proceedings at the summit. Tottenham briefly flirted with the idea of mounting a title challenge, but there have only ever been two serious contenders for the throne - City and United. Roberto Mancini saw his side produce a landmark 6-1 victory at Old Trafford but the champions then clawed back a sizeable deficit before taking an eight-point lead, which has since been squandered. On this final weekend Manchester City know a win against QPR will secure the title, following their victory against Newcastle. But Mark Hughes, on his return to the Etihad Stadium, and Rangers will have other ideas. A draw would see them stay up but defeat and a Bolton win at Stoke would spell the end of a one-year stint in the top flight. Watch the final act live on Sky Sports 1 and 1 HD from 3pm.
Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted Manchester United are relying on a 'stupid' result at Eastlands for a 20th league title to be possible. It looks like being an unusual trophy-less season for United. On Sunday Ferguson takes his team to Sunderland, hoping they can find motivation and forget what the blue half of Manchester are doing. That may be impossible though, with away fans at the Stadium of Light sure to be tuned in to radio transmitters and online updates for the latest from the Etihad. Sunderland could finish in the top half with a surprise win, which considering their terrible start would be an impressive turnaround. Follow the action live on Sky Sports 2 and 2 HD.
Click below for individual match previews and stats:Sunday
Chelsea v Blackburn
Everton v Newcastle
Man City v QPR
Norwich v Aston Villa
Stoke v Bolton
Tottenham v Fulham
Swansea v Liverpool
West Brom v Arsenal
Wigan v Wolves
Bolton Wanderers need a big performance at Stoke City to save them from relegation. Only a win will do for Owen Coyle and three points should be enough - should Manchester City get their job done against QPR. But the Britannia Stadium is not a welcoming place to go knowing that anything less than victory will mean dropping out of the Premier League. One thing that may work in Bolton's favour is that Stoke could have one eye on the beach, Tony Pulis' side sitting comfortably in the bottom half. They can finish no lower than 14th but if results go their way this weekend an 11th-placed finish is a possibility. The onus will be on Bolton, though. Can they deal with the pressure?
A draw for Arsenal at West Bromwich Albion would secure their place in the top four this season, but Arsene Wenger will be focused on a top-three finish to guarantee their spot in next year's UEFA Champions League. That would ensure that they would not have to go through the qualifying rounds to enter the tournament, and also mean they would not have to cheer on Bayern Munich in the final of this season's competition next Saturday. Wenger insists his players will get the job done at The Hawthorns but Roy Hodgson will want a big send-off in his last game in charge of Albion before taking the England reins full-time ahead of Euro 2012. Chris Hughton is reportedly a leading candidate to replace Hodgson, who has steered West Brom to a respectable 10th. They will want to finish the season in the top half.
Tottenham will be hoping their North London rivals slip up in the Black Country while they host Fulham at White Hart Lane. It has been an eventful season for Spurs and especially for their manager Harry Redknapp, who will be desperate to at least finish in the top four. Newcastle only trail them by one point, however, and anything less than a win on Sunday could result in huge disappointment. Spurs have picked things up in recent weeks and are finishing strongly, although will have to be wary of a dangerous Fulham side. Martin Jol could steer his side to a seventh-placed finish in his first year at Craven Cottage, and Clint Dempsey, who is injured, has undoubtedly been one of the players of the season.
Alan Pardew has done a fine job at Newcastle following his surprise appointment, and even if the Magpies do not finish in the top four they can be justly proud of a fantastic season. All is still to play for, though, going into their clash with Everton at Goodison Park. Whether Pardew can keep hold of his key players in the summer remains to be seen, but the likes of Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Cheik Tiote have taken the Premier League by storm. Only a win will do against the Toffees, who have once again enjoyed an impressive year under David Moyes, despite their trademark slow start. Everton will hope to finish above Liverpool and claim the local bragging rights on Merseyside.
Blackburn are in absolute disarray and the operations of Venky's are coming under increased scrutiny. Deputy chief executive Paul Hunt has left the club although the owners insist it is nothing to do with a letter calling for the departure of Steve Kean, who remains as manager despite Rovers' relegation. Blackburn bow out of the Premier League against Chelsea in the capital, with Roberto Di Matteo concentrating on next weekend's Champions League final. Chelsea rested players against Liverpool in midweek and were duly punished - will they do the same again?
Another side preparing for life in the Championship are Wolves, but they have already moved to appoint a new manager, with Norwegian Stale Solbakken to take the reins at Molineux from 1 July. Their fans will wave farewell to the top flight at Wigan and it may be a difficult afternoon for the Wanderers faithful, given that the Latics could be gloating after their survival. Roberto Martinez has worked wonders yet again and Dave Whelan will hope to hold on to the Spaniard for another year. Let's wait and see.
For Liverpool it has been a year of transition. They may have a Carling Cup in the trophy cabinet but their league form has been extremely disappointing. They finish the campaign at Swansea, who have enjoyed a fantastic first year in the Premier League. Brendan Rodgers' side have sparkled with some remarkable displays, drawing 0-0 at Anfield back in November. Rodgers, along with Pardew, deserves a nomination for manager of the year after guiding the Swans to safety while playing some excellent football. They will hope to avoid second-season syndrome next term.
Finally, Norwich and Aston Villa meet at Carrow Road. Only six points separate these two sides but the feeling around both clubs could hardly be more contrasting. Villa have narrowly avoided relegation under Alex McLeish, who looks drained after a difficult year, facing fierce opposition from the majority of supporters. Paul Lambert, meanwhile, has defied the odds with the Canaries, who have returned to the Premier League in real style.