MX23RW : Wednesday, September 19 09:33:48

Premier League: Key battles on Saturday

Sports Mole picks three of the on-pitch or sideline battles in Saturday's Premier League clashes.

For the vast majority of teams in the Premier League there are just three games left to play. Unusually for this time of season, nothing has yet been decided. There are still three teams in with a chance of claiming the title, and all the relegation places are still up for grabs - or able to escape from, perhaps.

Once again the fixtures at the weekend have the chance to change a great deal about a number of clubs' fates. Here, Sports Mole picks out some of the key battles on the pitch - or the sidelines - that could decide the destination of the three points on offer in a number of games.

1. Ryan Giggs vs. Neil Adams - Manchester United vs. Norwich City

This week has seen David Moyes's disappointing spell in charge of Manchester United come to an end as he was fired with the club in seventh in the Premier League. The club was left with little choice once qualification for the Champions League was no longer possible, and he has been replaced on a temporary basis by Ryan Giggs and a coaching team made up of ex-players from the club's hugely successful 1990s and early 2000s era.

Norwich manager Neil Adams prior to kick-off against Liverpool in the Premier League match on April 20, 2014© Getty Images

Norwich City, too, made the decision to dismiss their manager late in the season, with Chris Hughton being shown the door at the start of the month. He was replaced, again on an interim basis, by Neil Adams - presumably to lift the players ahead of a cruel run-in, which they are right in the thick of. Adams has lost both his games in charge so far by a single goal and with a trip to United on Saturday things are not about to get any easier.

With United's poor record at Old Trafford this season under Moyes, Norwich may well have fancied their chances with the Scot still in charge. However, Giggs will bring fresh ideas and will be likely to boost the players to some strong performances from now until the final day of the season. Adams has his team playing more attacking football, but they remain the club to catch in the relegation battle. Another defeat could see them slip into the bottom three. Whichever temporary boss gets a bigger performance out of his players is likely to be most happy on Saturday.

2. Mahamadou Diarra vs. Tom Huddlestone - Fulham vs. Hull City

One of the three teams desperately trying to catch Norwich in 17th place is Fulham, who are currently 19th. Their home game represents a real chance of finally getting out of the relegation zone after several months and really in the context of just three games remaining must go down as a must-win. They also have a trip to Stoke City and a final-day clash with Crystal Palace to come, and seven to nine points from said games could well be enough.

Fulham's Mahamadou Diarra in action during the match against Norwich on August 18, 2012© Getty Images

Standing in their way on Saturday, however, are Hull City. Steve Bruce's side are a few positions better off than Fulham and do have an FA Cup final to prepare for, but as they are not yet safe this remains an important game for them. A win would almost certainly see them survive and getting it at Craven Cottage on Saturday would ensure that preparations for the cup would be a lot smoother.

Key for the Whites, should he be deemed fit, will be Mahamadou Diarra. He started both of Fulham's recent wins over Aston Villa and Norwich and it is hardly a coincidence that the team looked a lot less leaky with him in the middle. He has the brain and the passing ability to control the midfield and that will be vital on Saturday. Likewise for Hull, Tom Huddlestone has steered games with his array of passing, including the 6-0 win over Fulham earlier in the season. Whichever of the two remains most calm in this clash should see his team get on top of the game.

3. Wilfried Bony vs. Ron Vlaar - Swansea City vs. Aston Villa

Swansea City and Aston Villa are separated by just one point in the league table, with 36 and 35 respectively. For both, one more win should be all they need to ensure that they hold off the teams below them in order to survive, and they will be looking towards this game as a big chance to do exactly that. It might well be a tense affair, but key to it is likely to be the performance of Swans striker Wilfried Bony.

The big Ivorian scored both his side's goals in the huge win away to Newcastle United last weekend and might fancy his chances of more against Villa. Up against him will be Ron Vlaar, who has been inconsistent this season, but does possess the kind of strength needed to stop a striker such as Bony. Who comes out on top of that clash could turn the game in his team's favour on Saturday afternoon.

Wilfried Bony of Swansea City celebrates with Jonathan de Guzman of Swansea City as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Swansea City at St James' Park on April 19, 2014© Getty Images

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Manchester United's midfielder Ryan Giggs controls the ball during a friendly football match between AIK and Manchester United on August 6, 2013
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Preview: Man United vs. Norwich
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Chelsea55001441015
2Liverpool5500112915
3Manchester CityMan City54101431113
4Watford5401105512
5Bournemouth5311107310
6Tottenham HotspurSpurs530210649
7Arsenal530210919
8Manchester UnitedMan Utd53028809
9Wolverhampton WanderersWolves52215508
10Everton513189-16
11Leicester CityLeicester520389-16
12Crystal Palace520346-26
13Southampton51226605
14Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton512279-25
15Fulham5113712-54
16West Ham UnitedWest Ham5104511-63
17Cardiff CityCardiff502339-62
18Huddersfield TownHuddersfield5023211-92
19Newcastle UnitedNewcastle501448-41
20Burnley5014310-71

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