Sat, May 10, 2008 - Page 18 News List

Fight for the title to go to the wire

AFP , LONDON

Liverpool's Peter Crouch, left, shoots and scores for his team during their English Premier League match against Fulham at Craven Cottage in London on April 19.

PHOTO: EPA

Wayne Rooney is set to hand Manchester United a massive boost by declaring himself fit to take part in this weekend's dramatic finale to an exhilarating Premier League title battle.

Rooney has been sidelined since suffering a recurrence of a hip injury in last month’s defeat at Chelsea and there had been fears he would miss both the final day of the domestic campaign and the Champions League final against the Londoners in Moscow on May 21. But the forward has reportedly been flying around in training this week, bolstering morale in a United squad that is also expecting to welcome center-back Nemanja Vidic back to the fold.

For the first time in 40 years, the top two sides in England’s top flight go into the final day of the season on the same total of points. But United’s huge goal difference advantage over Chelsea means Rooney and company will be crowned champions provided they overcome a Wigan Athletic side with only pride left to play for after securing their own Premiership status.

After displaying remarkable tenacity in clinging on to United in the last two months, Chelsea’s hopes of a third title in four seasons hinge on them beating Bolton Wanderers at home, while hoping that Wigan put up a bit more resistance than West Ham United, who surrendered meekly at Old Trafford last weekend.

Steve Bruce’s side are unbeaten in their last five matches and have conceded only once in their last seven home games.

“We have seven clean sheets in our last 11 league games and we’re looking for one more,” Austrian defender Paul Scharner said.

With Arsenal and Liverpool already assured of third and fourth places in the table, Everton need a point at home to Newcastle United to secure fifth spot and a UEFA Cup spot. A defeat would give Aston Villa the opportunity to snatch that prize.

At the bottom, two teams from the trio of Fulham, Reading and Birmingham City will join Derby County in the Championship next season.

After back-to-back wins, Fulham are the best-placed to survive, but have arguably the toughest last-day fixture, away to Portsmouth.

In contrast, Birmingham, who are at home to Blackburn Rovers, and Reading, who visit Derby, will both believe they can pull off wins that might just be enough to ensure they can do it all again next season.

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