Manchester United V Manchester City
United will also want to take revenge for City’s 3-1 win when the sides met earlier this season at Maine Road. That match represented a nadir for United, but they have bounced back from the loss and are once again looking like the side that dominated the Premier League for the past decade.
United defender Phil Neville spoke of the disappointment of losing to City.
“After the game at Maine Road I was as disappointed as any fan in the street,” said Neville.
With leaders Arsenal facing 3rd placed Newcastle on Sunday, a win for United would see them draw level with Gunners – for 24 hours at least – on 56 points.
The omens look good for United: they have not lost both home and away derby ties for 33 years. Victory for United would also mark their 50th win over Man City. Moreover, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men are the form team in the country and come into this match on the back of six successive league victories.
City have performed erratically of late, taking just three points from a potential nine in their last three league games.
United reserve Goalie, Roy Carroll, could be set to make his first derby start in place of the injured Fabien Barthez.
Kevin Keegan meanwhile awaits results from fitness tests on keeper, Peter Schmeichel and midfeilder, Eyal Berkovic.
With Arsenal facing a potentially tricky encounter on Sunday, this weekend could prove pivotal in the race for the Premier League. A seventh consecutivewin for United will certainly support Sir Alex Ferguson’s assertion that, unlike last year, this season’s title race will go down to the wire.
Manchester United (from): Carroll. G Neville, Ferdinand, Brown, Silvestre, Beckham, Keane, Veron, Giggs, Scholes, van Nistelrooy, Solskjaer, P Neville, O’Shea, Forlan, Butt, Ricardo, Barthez.
Manchester City (from): Schmeichel, Nash, Weaver, Dunne, Sun, Howey, Sommeil, Distin, Wiekens, Wright-Phillips, Foe, Benarbia, Horlock, Jensen, Berkovic, Huckerby, Belmadi, Anelka, Goater, Fowler.
Newcastle United v Arsenal
Premiership leaders Arsenal must win against a Newcastle side that has won their last 11 home games if they are to stay ahead of second place Manchester United.
Arsenal, who top the league with 56 points, have suffered a slump in their form in recent weeks, drawing with an out-of-sorts Liverpool team and scraping a last minute win against lowly Fulham.
Newcastle on the other hand, head into the match on a roll, having collected 16 out of a possible 18 points in recent weeks and are now being discussed as possible title contenders.
Sir Bobby Robson’s Newcastle side also come into the game refreshed after enjoying a short break due to the postponement of last week’s match against Middlesbrough.
Newcastle striker, Craig Bellamy, believes his side, who lie third, 8 points behind Arsenal but with a game in hand, have a great chance of winning the league.
“We might thinking we’ve got a chance but we’ll just get on with it quietly. You won’t find us shouting about things.We’re happy for Arsenal to keep on about United.”
For Newcastle Gary Speed returns after a hernia operation as do Aaron Hughes and Steve Caldwell. Reserve keeper Steve Harper also comes back from suspension.
Arsenal may well have Freddie Ljungberg back after he played for Arsenal reserves against Chelsea on Tuesday night.
This match carries echoes of the last time the two sides met at St James Park 12 months ago. Then, Newcastle were gamely chasing a rampant Arsenal, only to come unstuck at the hands – or more precisely the feet – of Dennis Bergkamp at hisbest. Should history repeats itself, it could go some way to deciding the destination of this season title.
Leeds United v West Ham United
At the other end of the table, crisis clubs Leeds United and West Ham meet at Elland Road both hoping for a quick pick-me-up.
Leeds who lie 13th have troubles off the pitch but for 19th-placed West Ham, the problems liealmost exclusively on it. Despite a talented core of players in midfield and up front, West Ham continue to struggle defensively – a fact illustrated by their abject defensive performance against Liverpool last week.
Last time the clubs meet Leeds won 4-3 in a thrilling clash at Upton Park. During that match, Leeds raced into a 4-0 win before a spirited fightback from Glenn Roeder’s men, gave the scoreline a veneer of respectability. A repeat would satisfy the neutral supporters but would do little for the job prospectsof Roeder.
After the well-documented financial problems afflicting Leeds, coach Terry Venables will be relieved to have got a win under his belt – albeit against first division Gillinham in the FA Cup in midweek.
Venables faces a striker crisis for the visit of the Hammers, and he will have to cope without Mark Viduka (suspended), Alan Smith (virus) and Harry Kewell (Hamstring). Eirik Bakke, Jason Wilcox and James Milner are all vying to fill the striking void.
Despite their financial woes and the furious reaction of the club’s supporters to the sale of key players, Leeds have shown signs of becoming a more stable unit on the pitch and should be too good for what looks like a demoralised West Ham ooutfit. One bright note for the visitors is that all their best performances this season have come away from home.
February 8 (Kick-off 15-00 unless stated)
Birmingham City v Chelsea
Charlton Athletic v Everton
Leeds United v West Ham United
Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland
Newcastle United v Arsenal (16-05)