Premier League: Key battles on Saturday

Sports Mole picks out three key on-field battles from Saturday's Premier League games.

There are now just two - or in rare cases three - games left for Premier League teams to vie for the points that could see them move up a place or two in the league table, win the title or avoid the drop into the Championship. The title race is still a three-horse race, while as many as five teams are still embroiled in the battle at the bottom.

Here, Sports Mole picks out some key on-field battles in the Premier League on Saturday in games in which there is still plenty to play for.

1. Juan Mata vs. Lee Cattermole - Manchester United vs. Sunderland

Sunderland clawed themselves back from the brink with their recent shock victory at Stamford Bridge, inflicting Jose Mourinho's first Premier League defeat at home as Chelsea manager. Temporary Manchester United manager Ryan Giggs has not been defeated at home either, although he has presided over just once game so far. The 4-0 win against Norwich City was a perfect start, but it will likely be a lot tougher for them against the Black Cats on Saturday.

Juan Mata of Manchester United celebrates scoring their second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Manchester United at St James' Park on April 5, 2014© Getty Images

One player in particular who looked rejuvenated after the dismissal of David Moyes was January signing Juan Mata. He enjoyed plenty of freedom to attack and create against Norwich, with the new system allowing him to get furthest forward on two occasions to add gloss to the win. He started on the bench last weekend, but Giggs is likely to have seen enough to unleash him from the start against Sunderland.

The visitors they will not be expected to enjoy too much in the way of attacking space and as such the performance of their central midfielders will be key for them. Lee Cattermole, should he start, will need to be disciplined, tidy on the ball and well-timed in the tackle. If he does all three successfully, he might well be able to limit Mata's space.

2. Marc Muniesa vs. Hugo Rodallega - Stoke City vs. Fulham

Fulham's survival hopes are out of their own hands following their throwing away of a 2-0 lead at home to Hull City last Saturday. They still need to win their remaining two games, but they must also hope that at least one of Sunderland and Aston Villa do not pick up many, or any, more points. It is a big ask, especially winning at the Britannia Stadium, but with Stoke's defensive issues - Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross are both out - there is a chance.

Hugo Rodallega of Fulham celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Capital One Cup fourth round match between Leicester City and Fulham on October 29, 2013© Getty Images

Hugo Rodallega is no stranger to dramatic escapes against the drop as he has been involved with them in the past playing for Wigan Athletic. Interestingly, he scored a crucial goal against Stoke in a 1-0 win in May 2011 to keep his then side in the Premier League. A similar performance on Saturday would go a long way to helping Fulham stay in the league. There is a situation in which relegation could be confirmed for Fulham and Rodallega is a pressure player.

He will be up against a less established centre-back pairing on Saturday, which again could go in his favour. Of course Marc Muniesa, who is likely to replace Shawcross for the game, will have a point to prove so could quickly look to shut out the Colombian. If Rodallega is kept quiet and isolated then Fulham will struggle, but if he gets space early on then Stoke's defence might be in for a tough time.

3. Romelu Lukaku vs. Yaya Toure - Everton vs. Manchester City

With Chelsea playing on Sunday and Liverpool on Monday night, Manchester City can put some early pressure on their two title rivals with a victory on Saturday. There are not many tougher places to get three points that are very much needed than Goodison Park. However, with Chelsea's win over Liverpool last week, this is a huge opportunity for them.

Romelu Lukaku of Everton celebrates scoring their second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Everton at St James' Park on March 25, 2014© Getty Images

Key to their performance will be their best player this season - Yaya Toure. Although in the last few months he has slightly gone off the boil, the fact remains that if Toure plays to his ability then City will control the midfield. He is not only strong in the tackle and runs all day long, but he can take set pieces and arrive late in the box unmarked. He is very hard to keep track of on the pitch.

If Everton are to take anything from this game you would think that their on-loan Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku will have to be on form to take some of the chances that come his way. It could be his last favour to his parent club if he stops Manchester City winning, which would be a final twist in the Premier League tale.

Fulham manager Felix Magath prior to kick-off against Hull in the Premier League match on April 26, 2014
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