title race heats up

LONDON - Seven games to go and the increasingly tense battle for the Premier League title takes another step this weekend as the top three sides all try to avoid the kind of slip-up that could prove fatal.

LONDON - Seven games to go and the increasingly tense battle for the Premier League title takes another step this weekend as the top three sides all try to avoid the kind of slip-up that could prove fatal.

Three points separate leaders Manchester United from Arsenal in third, with Chelsea sitting just one point off the pace.

While Arsenal can only do their part by winning their remaining games and hoping the top two slip up, both United and Chelsea know that the title is in their hands.

Their meeting on April 3 could be the most crucial match of the season.

United, chasing their fourth straight title and their 19th in all - which would overtake the record they share with Liverpool - have the experience for the title run-in.

Said midfielder Darren Fletcher: "The league is in our own hands - if we win all our games we'll be champions, and hopefully we can do that."

United's surge towards another title has been spearheaded by the stunning form of Wayne Rooney, who has now scored 33 goals this season.

But the England striker is reportedly carrying a minor knee injury and United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is thought to be considering resting him for tomorrow's trip to Bolton Wanderers.

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti hopes his side's 5-0 win at Portsmouth on Wednesday will prove to be the turning point in their own bid for the title.

The London side face a tough battle against Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have been quietly going about their business with six straight wins putting them right into contention.

Victory away to Birmingham City tomorrow would maintain their title challenge.

Elsewhere this weekend, the battle for fourth place continues.

Tottenham Hotspur host bottom side Portsmouth, while Manchester City welcome Wigan Athletic on Monday. Liverpool are at home to Sunderland on Sunday, while Villa are at Chelsea. - Sapa-DPA

l See page 38 for log standings and more fixtures

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