United poised for Fulham rematch
London, England (Sports Network) - One week after squaring off against one another in FA Cup action, Manchester United will take on Fulham in Premier League play on Saturday with a chance to go 10 points clear at the top of the table.
United claimed a 4-1 win over the Cottagers at Old Trafford last week to advance to the fifth round of the FA Cup, but this time around the Red Devils will head to Craven Cottage to face Martin Jol's side in a league encounter.
Both sides are coming off of important midweek league wins, albeit in different fashions. United was pushed to the brink in its 2-1 victory over a much-improved Southampton side under the guidance of new manager Mauricio Pochettino, while Fulham cruised to a comfortable 3-1 defeat of West Ham.
"Wednesday was important for us and we really dug in defensively," said United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. "We blocked shots and cleared headers. I was impressed with that but we were a bit lucky to win the game. The first half, we could have been five up at halftime, but a one-goal lead isn't enough."
Fulham's win impressed Ferguson, who stated that he hopes his team can find a way to take all three points to maintain the sublime form that the club has been known to hit heading into the final stretch of the season.
"Fulham got a fantastic result midweek and we hope we can navigate this trip," the boss said in his pre-match press conference on Friday. "We're at the stage where every result is important."
The Cottagers come into Saturday's meeting having taken seven points from their last four league games. It is a decent run of form, but Jol will be hoping for all three points to provide a massive lift for Fulham in its quest to climb back into the hunt for a European spot.
Fulham will have to do it without the club's leading scorer in Dimitar Berbatov, who has been ruled out for the match with a minor hamstring injury. But it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise as the Bulgarian was a virtual ghost last weekend at Old Trafford, failing to get many touches on the ball.
A win for United would see the Red Devils improve to 62 points to go 10 points clear at the Premier League summit on the eve of Manchester City's massive clash with Liverpool on Sunday. Both clubs are coming off of midweek draws as City was held scoreless by QPR at Loftus Road while Liverpool threw away a two-goal lead to settle for a point in a 2-2 draw with Arsenal.
Liverpool is looking to nail down a spot it Europe next season, but it will have to compete against Tottenham for that honor. Spurs have drawn three straight league matches to maintain their fourth-place position, and they will look to retain their place in the table on Sunday with maximum points against a West Bromwich side that has managed just one point from its last five league games.
On Saturday, Arsenal will try to inch closer to a Champions League berth with maximum points against Stoke City, which is winless in its last five league contests. The two sides will meet at the Emirates.
QPR will hope to build upon its four-game unbeaten run on Saturday when it hosts a struggling Norwich City side at Loftus Road. Rangers were quite busy at the close of the January transfer window, picking up Christopher Samba, Andros Townsend and Jermaine Jenas, though it is unclear how soon the trio will be integrated into the side.
Also on Saturday, Everton will try to make it five league matches without a loss when it welcomes lowly Aston Villa to Goodison Park, third-place Chelsea looks to maintain its league position with a positive result at Sports Direct Arena against Newcastle, Reading will attempt to pull further away from the relegation zone when it welcomes Sunderland to the Madejski, Swansea City hopes to prolong its impressive form when it heads to Upton Park to face West Ham and Wigan looks to get into survival mode when it hosts Southampton at the DW Stadium, a match with massive relegation implications.