Soccer

5 things about the English Premier League

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — It takes something pretty special to overshadow Ryan Giggs' first game as manager of Manchester United.

A title-defining match between Liverpool and Chelsea can be described as just that. Liverpool will eliminate Chelsea from the title race — and move to the brink of a first English championship in 24 years — with a win at Anfield on Sunday in a contest that will capture the world's attention. The Reds hold a five-point lead over Chelsea with three games remaining, with Manchester City a point further back in third but with a match in hand.

United is usually in title contention at this stage of the season. Not this time. David Moyes was fired on Tuesday with the team lying seventh and with no chance of qualifying for next season's Champions League. Giggs, a United great, has taken temporary charge of a team he has graced for 23 years and his first match is against Norwich on Saturday.

Here are five things to know about this weekend's round:

MIND GAMES

Perhaps Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was just trying to lull Liverpool into a false sense of security by saying this week that the Champions League was his priority and he'd prefer to pick a weakened team for the Liverpool match.

All will be discovered in lineup on Sunday.

The timing of the match is unfortunate for Chelsea, coming between the two legs of the Champions League semifinals against Atletico Madrid. Mourinho is sure to make changes to give several players a breather, but how many?

Captain John Terry and goalkeeper Petr Cech will definitely miss out after being hurt in Tuesday's first leg.

It all puts Liverpool in a very strong position as Brendan Rodgers' team goes for a 12th straight league win. A victory for Liverpool and a slip-up by Manchester City at Crystal Palace later Sunday would mean the Reds having a chance to clinch the title with a match to spare.

NO ROOM FOR ERROR

Aside from maybe Liverpool, was there any team Man City would prefer not to play against this weekend than Crystal Palace? Probably not.

Under the wily stewardship of manager Tony Pulis, Palace has won its last five games to climb away from the relegation zone and secure Premier League football for another season. It's a remarkable feat, given that the promoted team had only four points when Pulis was hired in November.

City stayed in realistic title contention by beating West Bromwich Albion 3-1 on Monday but it came at a cost, with David Silva injuring his right ankle. The absence of the Spain playmaker for this weekend would be a huge blow as he makes City's attack tick.

Key midfielder Yaya Toure could return for City, though, and striker Sergio Aguero is slowly getting his match fitness back after a long lay-off. City realistically needs to win all four of its remaining matches to stand a chance of winning a second league title in three years.

GIGGS TAKES CHARGE

Perhaps the final vestige of Moyes' woeful reign at United was removed on Thursday when the "Chosen One" banner was brought down at Old Trafford.

Saturday marks another new start for United in the gloomy post-Alex Ferguson era, with Giggs in charge for the visit of Norwich.

Assisted by former teammates Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Phil Neville from the so-called 'Class of 92,' Giggs' priority will be to pick up some wins and also to bring a smile back to United fans, many of whom have never seen the club so low.

"We walked in here together when we were 12 and to be here now . together is a very proud moment," Butt said. "We're here to try to help the club and get the results that we want from now until the end of the season. What happens after that, who knows?"

Seventh-place United can still fight for sixth position, which likely offers the final Europe League berth. Tottenham is three points ahead in sixth.

RACE FOR FOURTH

Arsenal is in command of the race for the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot, holding a one-point advantage over Everton with both having three games remaining.

The Gunners have much the easier match coming up, with Newcastle visiting Emirates Stadium on Monday on the back of five straight losses which has piled the pressure on manager Alan Pardew.

With attacking midfielders Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey back fit, some cutting edge has returned to Arsenal's attack just in time for a crucial last month of the season when the team looks to seal a 17th straight campaign in Europe's top competition and to win the FA Cup final against Hull.

Everton plays at Southampton on Saturday. With its next match being at home to Man City, it's easy to see why the Merseysiders are underdogs for fourth.

RELEGATION BATTLE

Sunderland has proved to be a nemesis for the big teams this season — it's time for Gus Poyet's last-place side to show its mettle also against the strugglers if it is to stay up.

Nothing can be decided this weekend in the increasingly fraught relegation battle that still involves nine teams, but the outcome of Sunday's crunch match between Cardiff and Sunderland — two members of the bottom three — will have a huge bearing on who goes down.

Sunderland has taken four points from trips to Man City and Chelsea over the past week but is still bottom by a point behind Cardiff and Fulham.

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