Manchester United will hope to profit from title rivals Manchester City’s inactivity by opening up a 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a win at Fulham on Saturday.
Alex Ferguson’s side were made to toil at home to Southampton on Wednesday before eventually emerging with a 2-1 victory that lifted them seven points above their nearest challengers.
With City not in action until a home game with Liverpool on Sunday, United can strike another psychological blow if they prevail at Craven Cottage.
With Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool all dropping points in mid-week, Everton capitalised by winning 2-1 at home to West Bromwich Albion to close to within a point of the fourth spot.
As Spurs do not play until Sunday, when they visit West Brom, David Moyes’ side will move into the top four if they overcome a floundering Aston Villa team that sank into the relegation zone .
Arsenal go into their home game with Stoke City three points below Everton in sixth, after coming back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at home to Liverpool.
Third-place Chelsea also recorded a 2-2 draw on Wednesday, although the context was quite different, as they conceded two late goals in a frustrating stalemate at relegation-threatened Reading.
Ahead of Saturday’s trip to Newcastle United, interim manager Rafael Benitez has urged his players to cut out the avoidable errors that have prevented them from keeping pace with the top two.
With 14 games of the campaign remaining, Reading sit one place above the drop zone thanks to a superior goal difference to Wigan Athletic and Villa.
Queens Park Rangers, who are now just four points from safety and host Norwich City on Saturday, remain bottom of the table despite a creditable 0-0 draw at home to Manchester City.AFP