English Premier League Week 23 Preview

The English Premier League presses on this weekend with a top four clash and four local derbies. Sunday's Premier League action will be the kind of day football fans often dream of, get occasionally on some level, yet rarely encounter fully. Not just a couple, but four headlining games are scheduled for Sunday including top of the table Manchester United traveling to White Hart Lane to face fourth place Tottenham Hotspur. The outcome of this match will have implications on the title race and ambitions for both teams.

Miraculously, Sunday also witnesses three massive local derbies play out to the tune of second installments of the Merseyside, Second City and Tyne-Wear derbies.

Chelsea versus. Blackburn - Stamford Bridge, London, Saturday, 15:00 GMT - Champions Chelsea are enduring their worst run of form in the league for 15 years and will look to win only their second league match in ten when Blackburn come to the Bridge on Saturday. Blackburn have been equally as poor on the road, winning only once in their last five attempts away from Ewood Park but have claimed all three points in two out of the three matches since caretaker Steve Kean has been in charge.

Manchester City versus Wolverhampton - Eastlands, Manchester, Saturday, 15:00 GMT - City's aim in this fixture: simply win by whatever means necessary. With three points, City will again reach top spot, if only for a day before United's trip to North London. And win they should as Wolves have lost eight of nine on the road and are level with Aston Villa on 21 points with only goal difference keeping them out of the drop.

West Bromwich Albion versus Blackpool - The Hawthorns, West Bromwich, Saturday, 15:00 GMT - The Baggies have lost five in a row in the league as their up and down season under Roberto Di Matteo continues to roll on. This match in particular looks set to be an open and entertaining one as both side's reputations lend zero belief that the match will play out any other way. Blackpool won last time out against WBA earlier in the season and are coming off of a midweek home win Vs. Liverpool.

Wigan Athletic versus Fulham - DW Stadium, Wigan, Saturday, 15:00 GMT - Saturday's best shout for a relegation six-pointer comes in the form of Fulham's trip to Wigan. A point separates the two while a win for either side would be enough to reach temporary safety. Fulham won this fixture earlier in the season at Craven Cottage, 2-0 but over half of the last nine matches between these two have ended in a draw, the most likely outcome on Saturday.

Stoke City versus Bolton - The Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent, Saturday, 15:00 GMT - Bolton will have to settle into life without Lee Chung-Yong as the winger has traded Bolton for Qatar in hopes he can lead South Korea to the 2011 AFC Asia Cup. Bolton are currently in a mini slump, having earned just a point from a possible nine which makes Saturday's trip to the Britannia that much more daunting. Stoke are comfy in mid-table just as their recent form proves: out of their last four, the Potters have won two and lost two.

West Ham United versus Arsenal - Upton Park, London, Saturday, 17:30 GMT - Arsenal have won only once out of their last five matches. Granted, two of those were Cup matches, which leaves a league run of two wins from four, but are Arsenal starting to hit some form of a slippery slide we've all seen before? A trip to bottom of the table West Ham will surely prove the litmus test to Arsenal's 2011 form. Although the Hammers are still bottom, they've been playing better football in recent weeks having claimed seven points from a possible 12 in their last four league matches.

There's little that can replace the feeling of a local derby especially if you take a glance at the current table and see just how close in the standings the teams that will be playing each other are. For instance, the Second City Derby sees Aston Villa head to St. Andrew's to take on Brum as Villa sit 18th on 21 points while Brum is 15th on 22. So not only will passions be raging in Birmingham, a relegation six pointer will also be on offer. Everton and Liverpool are closer, 12th and 13th respectively, and level on 25 points a piece while sixth against eighth will take place when Sunderland host Newcastle.

Sunderland versus Newcastle United - Stadium of Light, Sunderland, Sunday, 12:00 GMT - Fans of Newcastle and Sunderland only care about one thing all season and it's getting one over on each other in the Wear-Tyne derby. What makes it different from a Manchester United versus Liverpool or Arsenal versus Tottenham match is the fact that both of the North East clubs ONLY care about beating each other and as recent events have proved, the derby has become more aggressive and heated. You feel the nerves for weeks ahead and when the 90 minutes are played, your heart can’t stop beating; it takes over the whole of the region and everything comes to a stop. In all actuality, it’s an odd fixture as I think people are more scared of their team losing than being confident of a win.

Birmingham City versus Aston Villa - St. Andrew's, Birmingham, Sunday, 12:00 GMT - The Second City Derby is one of the dirtiest in football, unfortunately known more for fan behavior than on the field play. League matches between Aston Villa and Birmingham are always scheduled to end before nightfall, with the Carling Cup quarter-final between the two demonstrating exactly why that is: Villa fans sending off flares, Birmingham fans chucking them back and seats being ripped out and hurled about. The Villa fan allocation has been restricted for Sunday's match, yet it's almost inevitable that violence will continue. The dirty behavior is not just restricted to the stands and streets of Birmingham but most likely will continue on the pitch as well.

Liverpool versus Everton - Anfield, Liverpool, Sunday, 14:05 GMT - Sunday will see the most tense and desperate Merseyside Derby since these two sides were battling for a Champions League spot, and frankly the consequences of this one are much larger. Both teams hover far too close to the relegation zone, and defeat for either side Sunday is going to make things itchy, regardless of if you're a Red or Blue.

Everton have shown slight improvement lately, but come in without defender Phil Jagielka and Tim Cahill, who's off at the Asian Cup. Liverpool have lost their first two matches under returning legend Kenny Dalglish, though looked improved doing it. This will be his first home match, and what was already guaranteed to be a boiling atmosphere is now going to be hazardous. It won't be pretty, but it'll be passionate, as neither team can afford to lose, and both will look at a win as a turning point

Tottenham Hotspur versus Manchester United - White Hart Lane, North London, Sunday, 16:10 GMT - League leaders United will hope to extend their recent good form over Spurs and remain unbeaten in the league on Sunday. Wayne Rooney looks set to make his return to the first team after an ankle injury has kept him out of action since United's 1-2 win against West Brom. Tottenham, however, have lost only once all year at home and have won four of their last five in the league.

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