This weekend in the Premiership sees an important clash between Glenn Roeder’s West Ham and Mick McCarthy’s Sunderland.
With both teams facing possible relegation this season, the game at Upton Park is a clash neither side can afford to lose.
With Sunderland appointing new manager Mick McCarthy only last week to replace Howard Wilkinson, Sunderland’s players will surely be buoyed by his appointment. After a poor first game defeat at the hands of Bolton last week, McCarthy will be looking for more from his team this time round.
Sunderland are currently stranded at the foot of the table and are 10 points away from safety and nothing less than victory will almost certainly mean Division One football for the Black Cats next season.
Sunderland player Thomas Butler has warned his team that the game with West Ham is a vital one and has emphasized the need to come out fighting.
“We are playing for our futures here,” he stated. “We have got to start picking up some results. If we are not up for a fight, we might as well not be here.”
West Ham, who are two points away from survival, have started to show some form recently and a victory would be expected at Upton Park tomorrow.
West Ham boss Glenn Roeder has decided to leave star forward Paolo Di Canio out of his side to face Sunderland, a fact that the Italian is aware of and apparently has no problem with.
“I’ve had a chat with Glenn and it has been agreed that I won’t be in the team tomorrow. I don’t have a problem withthat.”
At the top of the table, leaders Arsenal face a tough game against 5th placed Everton. Earlier this season, Everton hadstopped Arsenal’s 30 game unbeaten run, and Arsenal will be fully aware of Everton’s threat.
Starting the game for Everton, should be English sensation Wayne Rooney, who scored the winner when the two sides met at Goodison in November. With Everton chasing a UEFA Cup place, David Moyes would welcome a repeat of Rooney’s heroics.
Arsenal in the meantime, having crashed out of Europe on Wednesday will see this game as a chance to gettheir season back on the rails. Having lost to Blackburn last week and with Manchester United only 2 points behind the Gunners, Arsene Wenger’s men can ill afford any slip-ups.
Arsenal though could be without a clutch of players due to injury, and with Patrick Vieira and Sol Campbell also doubts due to their excursions in the Mestalla on Wednesday, Wenger will have to rely on a weakened team.
Other doubts include David Seaman, Martin Keown, Ashley Cole and Oleg Luzhniy.
Elsewhere, Manchester United take on Fulham at Old Trafford. With Alex Ferguson having rested most of his first team in the Champions League this week, United would expect to win relatively easily.
Birmingham will host Black Country neighbours West Bromwich Albion this weekend with Gary Megson’s men desperate for a win. West Brom are currently second from bottom of the league and 8 points adrift of safety. Steve Bruce’s Birmingham are by no means out of the fight, with only 5 points separating them from the relegation zone. Steve Bruce will have a full team to pick from but West Brom’s Gary Megson has to make do without 7 first team players, including powerful centre-back Darren Moore who could be out for up to a year with cruciate ligament damage.
Chelsea take on Manchester City in a clash at Stamford Bridge. With Chelsea lying 4th and very much in contention for a Champions League place, coach Ranieri will be hoping his side can get all three points from Kevin Keegan’s men. With England coach Sven Goran Eriksson rumoured to be watching Chelsea skipper John Terry, all eyes will be on the young defender tosee if he justifies an international call-up.
Bobby Robson’s Newcastle will be looking to Saturday’s game with Blackburn as a chance to forget the 2-0 home defeat by Barcelona in midweek. With Newcastle virtually at full strength and Jonathan Woodgate expected to return after being ineligible to play on Wednesday, Robson will be hoping for a solid professional performance to keep Newcastle in 3rd place.
Blackburn manager Graeme Souness looks set to call on Andy Cole after they settled their differences in the week. After a training ground bust-up after which Cole was dropped, Souness has decided to bury the hatchet and looks set to start Cole with either Dwight Yorke or Hakan Sukur.
Newly-installed Leeds manger Peter Reid will take his team to Anfield in his first game to play Liverpool. With Liverpool eliminated from the UEFA Cup on Thursday by Celtic, they will be eager to change their fortunes against Reid’s struggling team.
In other games in the Premiership, Middlesbrough will face Charlton, Southampton will play Aston Villa, and Tottenham travel to relegation-threatened Bolton Wanderers.
Chelsea v Man City
Middlesbrough v Charlton
Southampton v Aston Villa
Sunday March 23
Liverpool v Leeds United
Monday March 24