Hope for shake up

LONDON - This has not been a classic Premier League season but the consolation for neutrals was supposed to be an end to the Big Four's stranglehold and at least a couple of heroic survival stories from the newcomers.

LONDON - This has not been a classic Premier League season but the consolation for neutrals was supposed to be an end to the Big Four's stranglehold and at least a couple of heroic survival stories from the newcomers.

With over two thirds of the season gone, a more familiar climax is looming, and buoyed by midweek wins in the Champions League, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal can all strengthen their claims for top four places this weekend.

Manchester United face Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup final on Sunday and Liverpool, who have not quite given up hope of catching them, have a chance to close to within four points when they play at Middlesbrough tomorrow.

They will certainly be in good heart after seeing off Real Madrid 1-0 at the Bernabeu on Wednesday, although Fernando Torres will be a doubt after he came off with an ankle injury.

Chelsea were also 1-0 winners at home to Juventus on Wednesday. They will also be chasing a third victory from three under new coach Guus Hiddink when they host Wigan Athletic, also tomorrow. With apologies to injury-ravaged Everton, Aston Villa are the one remaining hope for a shake-up in the established order. Arsenal, in fifth, trail Villa by six points but after a 1-0 win over Roma in the Champions League, and with players returning from injury, they should be confident of staying in the hunt when they host Fulham tomorrow. - Reuters

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