Chelsea and Arsenal hope to take advantage of Manchester City’s League Cup final date by moving clear at the top of the English Premier League this weekend.
City take on Sunderland in the Capital One Cup final on Sunday, giving leaders Chelsea and second-placed Arsenal the opportunity to open up a lead.
Chelsea, one point clear of Arsenal at the top, make the short journey to west London neighbours Fulham, hoping to shake off any lethargy from their midweek Champions League efforts.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is likely to shuffle his attack once more, with Fernando Torres, who scored at Galatasaray, set to make way for Samuel Eto’o.
Mourinho again bemoaned his team’s cutting edge in Turkey and said his side need to be more clinical if they are to stay on top.
“We create but when we arrive in the final third of the pitch, the correct pass and right movement is something we don’t have,” he said.
“We are paying for that. In the Premier League we are losing points.” Bottom side Fulham are desperate for points and new manager Felix Magath believes a new training regime can produce results.
“I did not change too much (in my first week) but we will have time to change things on the training field,” he said.
“We will work on it. We have to improve (fitness) because this season we have conceded a lot of goals in the last quarter of matches.”
Mesut Oezil is back in the Arsenal squad for their trip to Stoke, a team who have given them plenty of dark days in previous seasons.
Arsene Wenger said Oezil was fully rested after a recent dip in form and defender Thomas Vermaelen is also fit to play.
Wenger and Arsenal have not won a trophy since 2005 but the Frenchman is concerned only by his side’s displays as the title run-in gathers steam.
“We cannot speculate too much about other results because we are in a period where we only look forward,” he told a press conference on Thursday.
“We had some bad memories from Stoke but we had some good memories as well, it’s just down to our performance on the day.” Liverpool can also leapfrog Manchester City into third if they win at Southampton in the late kick-off on Saturday.
Liverpool have not won the league since 1991 and manager Brendan Rodgers has been playing down their chances.
Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet believes they have a squad that can last the season but the Belgian also said they were trying to forget about the prospect of winning the title.
“We’ve got Southampton at the weekend and we’re focusing on that,” he said. “The next game is the most important one, not what’s coming after that. We’ll focus ourselves on that single game.” “We just have to prepare ourselves for our own games — I’m sure that we will do that. Like I’ve said on numerous occasions, it’s not about thinking what’s going to happen at the end of the season.”
Second-bottom Cardiff face a perilous trip to Tottenham Hotspur while Crystal Palace could move further away from the bottom three if they can pick up points at Swansea.
Everton play West Ham, Hull City take on Newcastle and Aston Villa face Norwich in the weekend’s other games.