Man United seek to maintain six-point lead

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> The Premier League title is so close the Manchester United players can almost touch it.

Updated: March 22, 2007 06:37 IST
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The Premier League title is so close the Manchester United players can almost touch it. By beating fifth-place Bolton on Saturday, the Red Devils will maintain at least a six-point lead over Chelsea with eight games left. The two-time defending champion Blues host Sheffield United at the same time. "We have not had that trophy for four years now - that's too long. It is a trophy we desperately want to win back," veteran United midfielder Paul Scholes said. Trailing Liverpool by six points, Bolton still has an outside chance of finishing in the top four to clinch a Champions League qualifying spot. The stakes have turned the game at Old Trafford into the marquee matchup of the weekend. The Red Devils top the table with 72 points from 29 games, while Chelsea has 66. Third-place Arsenal is already well back at 55 and has a two-point edge over Liverpool. Bolton has 47 points. On Sunday, Liverpool travels to Aston Villa and Arsenal is at Everton. In the relegation battle, all eyes will be on Manchester City, where manager Stuart Pearce is under intense pressure after a string of five defeats. City is at Middlesbrough and still holds a six-point edge over relegation rival Charlton, which is third from bottom. While all of City's momentum is negative, Charlton has a win and a draw from its last two games and hosts sagging Newcastle. The two bottom teams, Watford and West Ham, already seem condemned to go down Man U looking solid Manchester United has won five straight and increasingly looks as solid as Alex Ferguson's champions of old. This weekend, though, the depth of its squad will be tested. Scholes is suspended and Darren Fletcher, Mikael Silvestre, Louis Saha, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and goalie Edwin Van der Sar have already been ruled out. Patrick Evra is doubtful too. On top of that, striker Henrik Larsson has gone back to Sweden after his loan spell at Old Trafford. But few coaches would complain if they could count on an attacking lineup with Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. Jose Mourinho's Chelsea has not given up the chase, though. The Blues are also on a five-game winning streak and beat Manchester City in midweek to cut the difference to six points. And Chelsea still has a home game against United to come next month. While Ferguson has injuries to deal with, Mourinho is happily welcoming back trusty veterans. Chelsea captain John Terry played a full game in midweek on his first appearance since his head injury at the February 25 League Cup final against Arsenal. Andriy Shevchenko also should come back from a minor ankle injury sustained last week and continue building on his form. Unbeaten in 14 league games at home, Chelsea should get its 11th win at Stamford Bridge this season against Sheffield United. Despite having Thierry Henry out for the rest of the season, Arsenal jumped above Liverpool into third place on Wednesday by winning 1-0 at Aston Villa and still has a game in hand on its three traditional rivals. Saturday's other games are: Blackburn vs West Ham, Reading vs Portsmouth, Tottenham vs Watford, Wigan vs Fulham.

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