London: Tuesday’s Manchester Derby is the highlight of five midweek matches as the Premier League continues almost without pausing for breath following another eventful weekend’s football in England.
Manchester United, 18 points behind leaders Chelsea, have no chance of retaining their title, but are keen to stop third-placed Manchester City succeeding them as champions.
Badly beaten 1-4 by their local rivals in September, United have home advantage this time and go into the game buoyed by successive victories over Olympiakos, to reach the Champions League quarter final, and West Ham.
Saturday’s 2-0 win at Upton Park, where acting captain Wayne Rooney scored one of the goals of the season from more than 50 metres, helped ease the pressure from manager David Moyes, who has struggled in his first season after taking over from Alex Ferguson.
Moyes has urged United players to repay the support of the fans by delivering on Tuesday.
“I’ve said many times how well the fans have reacted to what is a difficult season,” he said.
“They have been great, and the atmosphere’s been great inside Old Trafford. They have played their part in helping the team. We’ve not always done the bit our side of it. Recently we have and the supporters have responded to that as well.
“We will do everything we possibly can. We go out to win every game, not just the derby — every game. It’s not any different, but obviously it means a lot more to supporters and in the city if you win a derby game.
“I think in the last couple of games the players have really stepped up to the plate and have performed. But I’m not surprised by that. That’s what they are capable of. We have a good squad and good players.
“We maybe haven’t played as well as we should. I do think we’ve got those capabilities in the squad.”
City trail Chelsea by six points, but have three games in hand and with a superior goal difference would go top by winning two of them. They will again be without their leading scorer, Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero, who has a hamstring injury but captain Vincent Kompany is available after suspension.
City’s Yaya Toure, who scored a hat-trick against Fulham, insisted his side were in no mood to ease up despite having already lifted the League Cup this season.
“I think the club and the fans need trophies, need history and need great players to come here and try to make this club great,” he said.
“We have the team, we have the players, we have the manager (Manuel Pellegrini) as well.”
City have been solid in defence, not conceding in the last three league games, but despite scoring five times without reply against bottom-of-the-table Fulham on Saturday, their total of 76 goals is now six fewer than rampant Liverpool.
Arsenal will fancy their chances against a Swansea side only four points above the relegation zone following a 2-3 loss to Everton.
But even a win over the Welsh club won’t answer the questions about Arsenal’s fragility against major opponents and Wenger’s future in north London.
“What is important is to give a response on Tuesday night and that is it,” said Wenger, whose side have also been thrashed 1-5 at Liverpool and 3-6 at City this season.
One consolation for the Gunners is that Kieran Gibbs, sent off in a bizarre case of mistaken identity when it was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s handball that led to Chelsea’s third goal, from the penalty spot, should be available once the formalities of an appeal have been completed.
In another match, Newcastle play Everton who are challenging for a Europa League place.