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The Malaysian Insider :: Sports

Title looms for Man United while Arsenal crumble

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 08:01 PM PDT

Arsenal's fortunes have slumped in recent weeks following their earlier run of form. — Reuters pic

LONDON, April 28 — Sunday's Premier League clash between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates looked a potential title decider a month ago but, on the back of Arsenal's plummeting form, it now has the feel of a coronation.

In mid-March Arsenal were three points behind United with a game in hand and had real belief that they could win the league for the first time since 2004.

With four games remaining for both, Arsenal trail the leaders by nine points and are also three behind second-placed Chelsea.

With Chelsea facing a tough home game against fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, United could potentially end the weekend with the title all-but wrapped up before they host Chelsea next Sunday for a timely changing of the guard.

Even if Chelsea beat Spurs, wins over their two main rivals for United would secure their record 19th English championship with two games to spare.

With United playing Schalke 04 in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final yesterday it is a huge week for Alex Ferguson's team — and all achieved by a side we are constantly told is "not vintage."

"People can have those opinions and keep talking like that. We just try to win games," said centre back Rio Ferdinand. "If we win games and end up winning titles we won't be thinking about what people have said about us.

"What sets us apart from other teams is that the hunger never dies. It stems from the manager and filters down.

"We have players who want to win things. There are still players in this squad who have not won the league. There are others who have won it a few times who want more. That is the basis on which we do our work every single day."

That killer instinct was on show last week when, against an in-form Everton, United kept fighting, pressing and throwing men forward until they finally got their decisive goal six minutes from time.

The next day Arsenal conceded a stoppage time goal to lose 2-1 at Bolton Wanderers to cap an horrific seven-week period which began when they were beaten in the League Cup final by Birmingham City.

Subsequently knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona and the FA Cup by United, their league form has been poor with five draws and a single win over Blackpool in six games before defeat at Bolton finally ensured that their wait for a trophy would extend to a seventh year.

United have won six of their past seven meetings with Arsenal in all competitions, including their last two at the Emirates.

Chelsea have not entirely given up hope of retaining their title but clearly need to beat Spurs and hope Arsenal do them a favour to keep their Old Trafford showdown meaningful.

Spurs look to have lost out to Manchester City in the battle for fourth place as they now trail them four points.

City host bottom club West Ham United on Sunday and, with a game in hand on Arsenal, who they trail by five points, are eying a third-place finish and its direct path into the Champions League group stage. — Reuters

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Stoke’s Etherington in race to be fit for FA Cup Final

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 04:21 PM PDT

The winger pulled his hamstring in the league game against Wolves. — Reuters pic

LONDON, April 28 — Stoke City's in-form winger Matthew Etherington faces a race against time to be fit for the FA Cup Final against Manchester City at Wembley on May 14, manager Tony Pulis has said.

Etherington, 29, damaged a hamstring in the first half of Stoke's 3-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League on Tuesday and the full extent of the injury will not be known until he has a scan later.

Pulis told Stoke's website ( "It would be a massive disappointment if Matty misses the final but we will know more when he has the scan. We've got seven or eight days to get it right then 10 days to get it as strong as possible."

Etherington, who scored the opening goal in Stoke's 5-0 rout of Bolton in the semi-final, was the second Stoke player to suffer a major injury in three days after Ricardo Fuller damaged his Achilles tendon.

Manchester City forward Carlos Tevez is also battling to be fit for the final with a similar injury to Etherington's and missed their semi-final win over Manchester United. — Reuters

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