Sat, Apr 18, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Chelsea host in-form Red Devils

EYE ON THE PRIZE:With second-placed Arsenal on FA Cup duty today, the leaders can edge one step closer to the title if they can defeat Manchester United

AFP, LONDON

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, left, vies for the ball with Clint Hill of Queens Park Rangers in their Premier League match at Loftus Road in London, England, on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

Chelsea face an in-form Manchester United as they try to move one step closer to the English Premier League title at Stamford Bridge in London today.

Jose Mourinho’s table-toppers are currently seven points in front of second-placed Arsenal, who are involved in an FA Cup semi-final against Reading this weekend.

Third-placed United are a point further back, having played a game more than Chelsea, but Louis van Gaal’s men arrive in London on a run of six successive wins.

Chelsea need just 12 points from their seven remaining matches to win their first league title since 2009-2010 and while a defeat today would not spell the end of their challenge, it would give the chasing pack a glimmer of hope.

The Blues’ form over the whole season was reflected on Thursday when the Chelsea pair of striker Diego Costa, the Premier League’s joint top-scorer on 19 goals with Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, and the gifted Eden Hazard were among the six nominees for the Professional Footballers’ Association Premier League Player of the Year award.

Last week, Mourinho said Hazard was “by far the best player” in the league and it was a view backed up by Chelsea’s attacking midfielder Oscar.

“In my opinion he [Hazard] is the best player in the Premier League at this moment,” Oscar told the Goal Web site. “Hazard has been so consistent and he deserves to be considered as the best player in England.”

Meanwhile, former United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar said fellow Dutchman Van Gaal is the right man to bring the glory days back to Old Trafford.

Van der Sar, who won four titles at Old Trafford, said his old club would be in serious contention to lift the Premier League trophy next season, even if it is likely to prove just beyond their grasp this term.

“With a little bit of luck, they could have done that this season, but for Chelsea winning a lot of those games with late goals — but let’s hope so,” Van der Sar told United’s Web site. “Believing in the philosophy of Louis, at the start of the new season, I think he can bring the club back to the place where it belongs.”

Faltering champions Manchester City, now 12 points off top spot, will look to ease the pressure on manager Manuel Pellegrini with victory at home to West Ham United tomorrow following last week’s 4-2 derby defeat by Manchester United.

Pellegrini received support from an unlikely quarter on Thursday when former Manchester United and England fullback Gary Neville urged City to keep the Chilean at the Etihad Stadium.

“I hope they don’t change manager,” Neville said on Thursday. “He [Pellegrini] used the term ‘garbage’ in recent weeks when discussing City’s form, and four wins in 15 games for a club like Man City is not right, and I hope he stays to correct the performances and can complete the job.”

Sixth-placed Southampton will look to continue their quest for European soccer — and possibly even a place in the UEFA Champions League — away to Stoke City today.

Meanwhile, bottom club Leicester City are only three points adrift from safety heading into their match at home to Swansea City today.

The Foxes will kickoff buoyed by last week’s 3-2 win over West Bromwich Albion.

“Our future is in our own hands and if we go into the last game with that we have given ourselves a realistic chance,” Leicester manager Nigel Pearson said. “It’s great when results go your way, but they only help if you’ve done your own job.”

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