London, Dec. 3, (GNA/dpa) – Joint leaders Manchester City and Leicester go into this weekend’s round of games in the Premier League desperate to stay top as any slip-up could see them hurtle down the table.
With the top 10 separated by just nine points, this season is shaping up to be one of the most open in recent history and that means no room for error from the top teams.
City travel to Stoke on Saturday, a ground where they won 4-1 earlier in the year but where they have often struggled in the past few seasons whiles Leicester are at a Swansea side under pressure after a string of poor results.
Neither side can afford to drop points and City manager Manuel Pellegrini again has to deal with a lengthy injury list which includes captain Vincent Kompany and goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Striker Sergio Aguero could be back but Pellegrini will at least have midfielder David Silva in the starting line-up again after he returned from injury in midweek.
“It was very important for David,” Pellegrini said, after their League Cup win on Wednesday. “The most important thing was to qualify for the semi-final – but it was also important for him to have 80 minutes after a long injury.”
Hart and Aguero would be monitored over the next few days before he finalises his side to face a Stoke team that has beaten Chelsea and Southampton in recent weeks.
Having lost at home to Sunderland last weekend, Stoke also reached the league Cup semis, and manager Mark Hughes said there is a buzz among the players and fans.
“It’s really exciting times here,” he said in midweek. “We’re really pleased with what we achieved against Sheffield Wednesday – it was important to get ourselves in the draw for the semi-finals.”
Third-placed Manchester United and fourth-placed Arsenal are both at home, to West Ham and Sunderland respectively, whiles Tottenham, in fifth, are away to West Brom.
But the top five may all just be looking over their shoulders at an improving Liverpool side who sit sixth, just six points behind the leaders and in the best form of any side in the league.
A 6-1 thrashing of Southampton in midweek put them into the last four of the League Cup, a performance marked by a hat-trick from Divock Origi and two goals from fit-again striker Daniel Sturridge.
“I said to Sturridge after the game ‘now I know what everybody is talking about so thank you’,” manager Juergen Klopp said.
“Of course I knew all about his quality, this was not a problem, but I had not seen it live in a stadium in such an important game.”
Liverpool are away again on Sunday when they take on a Newcastle side that sit second-bottom in the table and though Klopp appears to have worked wonders since taking over earlier in the season, he says it’s just down to diligence.
“There is no magic (formula),” he said. “We are hard workers. We had a game tonight (Wednesday) and now play Newcastle in four days. That’s how it is.”
Champions Chelsea, struggling in 14th place, entertain Bournemouth while bottom side Aston Villa travel to Southampton and Watford play Norwich in the weekend’s other games.