- Associated Press - Thursday, March 13, 2014

LONDON (AP) - When Alex Ferguson took over as Manchester United manager, Liverpool was the dominant force of English football. The Scot made clear that his objective was to take the Reds off their perch, and he succeeded.

His successor, David Moyes, has so far failed to keep Ferguson’s standards of excellence at United as the Red Devils are languishing in sixth place ahead of Liverpool’s visit on Sunday. In contrast, the Merseyside club is in the hunt for its first Premier League title in 24 years, trailing leader Chelsea by seven points with a game in hand.

Here are five things to know ahead of this weekend’s Premier League matches:



A win for Chelsea at Aston Villa on Saturday would lift Jose Mourinho’s team to 69 points and 10 points clear of Liverpool and Arsenal, who don’t play until Sunday.

Whatever the Portuguese manager says about preferring to be in Manchester City’s position - nine points behind Chelsea in fourth place but with three games in hand - there is no doubt that the South London club is ideally placed to win its first title in four years.

Mourinho, though, keeps pretending his team is the one under pressure, despite evidence that City’s form is dipping. After dropping points at Norwich and losing to Wigan in the FA Cup, Manuel Pellegrini’s side has been knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona.

“Our next objective is top three, as that gives us direct qualification (to the Champions League group stage). If at a certain point our distance to fourth is big, I will say we will think a bit more, but objective now is top three. If Man City win three games in hand, which they can, they are top,” Mourinho said.



Liverpool has not finished above Manchester United in the Premier League for 12 years, but the Reds’ agony looks about to end. For once, Brendan Rodgers’ players are travelling to their bitter rivals as favorites, having played a superb attacking football the whole season.

The Reds are 11 points ahead of United in the standings and have scored 73 goals in the league this season, 27 more than David Moyes’ team and more than any other club. United has shown signs of improvement recently but a first loss at Old Trafford against Liverpool since a 4-1 drubbing five years ago would not be a surprise.

“To see Man City doing well, and particularly Liverpool, is really difficult,” United striker Wayne Rooney told Inside United magazine. “It’s not nice when we know we are capable of being up there challenging and we haven’t been doing that this season. However, it means we have to step up and get back up there because the feeling we’ve had this season is not a nice feeling at all to have”



Another fierce local rivalry is taking center stage as Tottenham hosts third-place Arsenal in North London. The derby at White Hart Lane is crucial for both teams as they can’t afford to lose more points in the pursuit of their respective goals this season: the title for Arsenal and a Champions League berth for fifth-place Tottenham.

But pride will also be at stake. Spurs’ hopes of finishing in the top four have been damaged by their 4-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge last weekend, when coach Tim Sherwood criticized his players for their lack of character. Sherwood has told his players they need to show a better face if they want to commit their future to the club.

“We spent more than two hours in a meeting amongst the players and we said what we had to say,” midfielder Sandro said. “Every player had their fair share to say, put it that way. I think that is positive from ourselves and we have to show in the next match that we can do much better. And we will prove that. I am sure we will show much more character in the next matches.”



Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner is facing disciplinary actions for another off-field issue, in a season that has seen highly limited playing time for the Dane. Inconsistent performances have marred the 26-year-old striker’s career in recent years and he has not played for the Gunners since early February.

Bendtner is now also facing a club fine for an alleged drunken incident in Copenhagen earlier this week.

British news agency Press Association reported that Bendtner threatened a taxi driver in Copenhagen on the night his teammates exited the Champions League to Bayern Munich in Germany. The forward is claimed to have unbuttoned his trousers and rubbed against the taxi.



Fulham’s classic stadium Craven Cottage is in danger of losing Premier League football next season as the London club is three points adrift at the foot of the table, four points from safety.

With nine matches remaining before the end of the season, the Cottagers have no room for mistake against Newcastle at home on Saturday. Team captain Brede Hangeland has warned his teammates they need to battle harder to recapture the spirit of 2008, when they escaped relegation in the closing stages of the season.

“The only thing that will pull us out of this situation is hard work and belief that we can do it,” Hangeland told the Daily Mirror. “We have to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and the situation we are in and pull in the same direction. That year when we survived, we slowly turned the ship around in the quality of training, and the belief that we could do it. We had a system and bunch of players who followed it. That is obviously an example that we need to try and replicate.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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