With only around six weeks to go of the Premier League season every game at top and bottom is vital for the teams involved. There are three teams still in with a real chance of winning the title and six who could still realistically go down.
On Saturday there are fixtures between teams at the top, the bottom and even one of each, as mind games are ramped up and team selections become ever more important. Here, Sports Mole takes a look at some of the key on-pitch battles that could settle the points one way or the other.
1. Tomas Rosicky vs. Yaya Toure - Arsenal vs. Manchester City
In Saturday's evening kickoff Arsenal will either be out of the title race or right back in it after an inconsistent run of form. With Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil all missing from the midfield Arsene Wenger's side have a lack of pace and creativity, which is showing on the pitch. Of the two squads, City's expensively assembled one is stronger, but that does not necessarily decide Saturday's result.
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Tomas Rosicky has been a loyal servant to the club since joining from Borussia Dortmund in 2006. He scored in the 1-0 win against Tottenham Hotspur, but has since been a little quiet. He is the type of player who, on his day, can unlock defences and particularly up against Martin Demichelis could cause trouble for City, who are free-scoring but less strong at the back.
If Rosicky is to see much of the ball on Saturday, however, he will need his teammates to keep Toure quiet. Of course, stopping the top midfield scorer in the league this season from finding the net is another matter entirely. In his roaming role alongside Fernandinho this season, Toure has restored himself as arguably the best midfielder in Europe and has bagged three goals in two games going into the clash at the Emirates.
2. Thomas Ince vs. Eden Hazard - Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea
The current league-leaders Chelsea are also in action on Saturday and they face a tricky prospect away to fellow London side Crystal Palace. Apart from the blip of defeat to Aston Villa two weeks ago Chelsea have been on a fine run of form at just the right time, with 10 goals scored in three league games.
Key to their attacking prowess has been Eden Hazard. With 14 goals and seven assists so far this season, including a penalty in the recent 6-0 win against Arsenal, Hazard has been comfortably Chelsea's best attacking player. Palace have only conceded three goals in their last four league games, but Hazard is the exact type of player who is able to unlock a Tony Pulis defence.
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For Pulis's side an attacking outlet will be vital as they will likely spend the majority of Saturday's game defending. Thomas Ince has been excellent for them since joining on loan in January, which includes a goal, plenty of successful dribbles and a very good crossing record. If he is able to get onto the end of clearances to run at Chelsea then Palace could well threaten on the break.
3. Michael Carrick vs. Fabian Delph - Manchester United vs. Aston Villa
With the rumours doing the rounds that Manchester United fans had paid for a 'Moyes Out' banner to be flown over Old Trafford on Saturday, this game is a huge one for manager David Moyes. The away side Aston Villa have the best away record in the bottom half of the league and might well fancy their chances to cause another upset at Old Trafford.
It is vital that United keep control of the midfield to limit as much as possible the pace that Villa possess on the break. Key for them in this area will be Michael Carrick, who has been a mainstay through the recent successful years for the club. Carrick's work is often underrated, but his ability to keep the ball moving and away from the opposition will be a huge part of whether United can finish strongly this season.
For Villa, it will be Delph trying to pull the strings. Not only does he possess the quick thinking and vision to begin counter-attacks, but he has the knack of arriving late in the box to become an extra attacker. He does have good and bad days, as well, but on his game there is no reason why he cannot ruffle some more feathers at Old Trafford on Saturday.
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