Manchester City, Liverpool raring to go in final sprint towards EPL title
The English Premier League (EPL) returns this weekend for a final sprint to the title, with champions Manchester City looking to overtake Liverpool at the top.
Liverpool, two points clear having played one game more, host third-placed Tottenham on Sunday.
Manchester City visit Fulham early Saturday, giving them a chance to add to the pressure on a Liverpool side trying to win the title for the first time since 1990.
Pep Guardiola’s men have not lost to Fulham in any competition since 2008 and were last beaten at Craven Cottage in 2005.
The international break has allowed Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne, John Stones and Benjamin Mendy to return to training and each could be involved this weekend.
Fulham, second-bottom and 13 points from safety, look certain to be relegated but midfielder Tom Cairney believes there is still plenty to play for this season.
“There’s a better vibe around the training ground and among the fans (after Scott Parker took over as interim manager),” Cairney said.
“It’s looking unlikely we’re going to stay up. But there’s a bigger picture. We’ve just got to build now. It’s not the season we dreamed of having but these things happen.
“We’ve got to start rebuilding. We lost a bit of what we had last season. It’s mad how fast things can change.”
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp this week urged his side to take advantage of the “wonderful base” as they try to win the title.
And Klopp, like Guardiola, should be boosted by the return to training of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has been out for almost a year after knee surgery, while Gomez missed the last three months.
Liverpool midfielder James Milner, who won the Premier League title twice with Manchester City, believes strength in depth is likely to be key in the last two months of the season.
“I think it’s important that we have everyone available,” he told Liverpool’s website. “That’s why you need a squad when you have these sorts of injuries and stuff.
“Ox has obviously been out a long time and was playing fantastically well before he got injured. The same applies to Joe. He’s been brilliant when he’s played this season and formed a great partnership with Virgil (van Dijk).
“It’s important with the (number of) games you’ve got and the intensity of the run-in that we have the squad and everyone’s going to have a big impact on the end of the season, even if they’re not out on the field — just in training keeping that intensity and pushing people for their starting places.”
Tottenham are third but, with just four points between themselves and Chelsea in sixth, the remaining Champions League places are likely to go right down to the season’s last game.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino will check on the fitness of Eric Dier after the midfielder pulled out of the England squad against Montenegro on Monday with a thigh problem.
Fourth-placed Arsenal have to wait until Monday to face Newcastle United, allowing Manchester United the chance to leapfrog them if they can win at home to Watford on Saturday.
That match will be the first in permanent charge for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after the caretaker manager signed a three-year contract on Thursday.
Chelsea are away to third-bottom Cardiff City on Sunday.
Bottom side Huddersfield, 16 points adrift of safety, are away to Crystal Palace while fourth-bottom Burnley host Wolves.
Southampton, above Burnley only on goal difference, travel to Brighton, while Leicester meet Bournemouth and West Ham face Everton in the weekend’s other matches.