Paul Parker

Chelsea pedigree should see them past City

Paul Parker

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Match of the weekend: Chelsea v Manchester City

This will be a huge fixture in determining the final reckoning at the top end of the table this season, which is just as well. There aren't too many other games this weekend which - on paper at least - will raise the pulse too much.

Sadly, I can't see this being a classic, but the implications of the result are enough to make it worth watching.

The way both sides played in midweek does not bode well for an entertaining match. Whoever can get the upper hand in an attritional midfield battle will come out on top in this one.

I see that side being Chelsea. They are at home and have a squad which is well-used to getting the big results when they count at this stage of a campaign, and many of them have done that together for a number of years.

If City were a West End show then the punters would be asking for their money back every night. It's an expensive production with big star names which just doesn't provide nearly enough entertainment.

Now Roberto Mancini has got another problem on his hands after having a go at Mario Balotelli in public, and it seems he will not pick him at the weekend. He cannot afford to have that row rumble on for the rest of the season.

However, they do have a great recent record over Chelsea, having beaten them in their last three meetings, so all hope is not lost.

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Adam Johnson, Manchester City
Player to watch: Adam Johnson (Chelsea v Manchester City)

Another real cause for City optimism came with Adam Johnson's introduction from the bench in Thursday's Europa League exit to Dynamo Kyiv.

The England winger has been out injured for almost three months, and his return to fitness is perfectly-timed for the season run-in.

As well as this Sunday's match, City have their FA Cup semi-final against United at Wembley to come as well as a league game at Liverpool and one at home to Spurs which is yet to be given a rearranged date.

Johnson is one of the few truly exciting players in the City squad - especially with Carlos Tevez cutting such a jaded figure of late.

He has been criminally under-utilised by Mancini, but he could be the key to City clinging on to third place and avoiding a play-off for the Champions League.

Upset of the weekend: Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United

The Hammers won the reverse fixture back in September, and for a long time that was their only win in the league this season.

However, they now look a reinvigorated side ready to fight relegation with real gusto.

The signing of Demba Ba has helped give them a goal threat they didn't possess before, while the addition of Gary O'Neil and Thomas Hitzlsperger's return to fitness have given them a midfield able to support Scott Parker's almost weekly heroics.

I am still far from convinced about their defence, especially the centre-back pairing of Matthew Upson and James Tomkins, but Tottenham have struggled against 'lesser' opposition at times this season.

Spurs have often had to fight back from losing positions to claim wins, but they cannot rely on that resolve forever. Plus, it being a particularly bitter London derby, anything could happen.

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Photo 1 - Arsenal's French Manager Arsene Wenger Looks On<br />
FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY Additional Licence Required For Any Commercial/ AFP/Getty Images" height="263" hspace="20">Under pressure: Arsene Wenger (West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal)

I am not suggesting that the Arsenal manager's position is under threat, but ever since the Carling Cup final defeat to Birmingham questions are being asked of him.

There is no shame in any team losing to Barcelona, but it was the manner of that defeat which was the worrying thing. Regardless of Robin van Persie's red card, Arsenal were battered with 11 men on their side as much as with 10.

The fallout from that match at the Camp Nou, with UEFA charging him and Samir Nasri with misconduct, is making it harder for them to banish the spectre of that defeat at a time when they must focus all their energy on trying to topple Manchester United.

Speaking of United, Arsenal should by rights have wiped the floor with them in the FA Cup, but yet again they somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

It is imperative that Arsenal - having not won or even scored a goal in any of their last three matches - get back to winning ways at West Brom.

Were it not for the Baggies winning at the Emirates back in September, Arsenal would be level on points at the top of the table with a game in hand.

Wenger and his players cannot afford any more slip-ups like that as they chase the one remaining trophy on offer to them and try to end that six-year wait for silverware. 

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