Crunch time in top four race


A recent 13-match unbeaten run lifted Liverpool to within two points of fourth-placed Manchester United in the Premier League.

That streak ended with a 2-1 home loss to United two weeks ago and another setback at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday could leave the Reds eight points off the top four with seven games remaining.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers called for his team to react just as they did after a 3-0 drubbing at Old Trafford in December that started the unbeaten streak.

“We must use this in the same way; refocus, get over the disappointment and then come back into a tough game next against

Arsenal and really look to get the points there,” he said after the United match. “It’s still very much [possible] for us to go where we want to go, which is the top four.”

Rodgers will be without captain Steven Gerrard and defender Martin Skrtel, who are both suspended. Skrtel’s stoppage-time goal

gave Liverpool a 2-2 draw when the teams met in December.

“Both are very important players for us as one can change a game and the other gives us stability at the back, but we have other players as well who can step in,” midfielder Lucas Leiva said. “It’s always been the case for the group that if someone gets injured then someone will step in and do the job.”

Additionally, forwards Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge and midfielder Adam Lallana face a race to fitness after injuries forced

them out of the England squad over the international break.

Arsenal also have a lot on the line as they look to continue their climb up the table. Six wins on the bounce have moved them to third place, one point behind Manchester City and a point ahead of Manchester United in a heated battle for the Champions League places.

“We have Manchester City in front of us but if you look behind us it is tight as well, so the important thing is to win our games,”

manager Arsene Wenger said after the most recent win at Newcastle on March 21.

“We are in the fight. We just have to go for the next game and win it.”

Both Arsenal and United, who host Aston Villa, would leap above Manchester City with wins as the champions don’t play until Monday at Crystal Palace.

After beating top-four challengers Tottenham and Liverpool, and with a clash against rivals City next week, United must avoid slipping up against a Villa squad just above the relegation zone.

“We are in the last stage of the Premier League, with just eight weeks ahead,” midfielder Juan Mata said on United’s website. “Eight

crucial games to determine where we will finally stand on the table.”

The rest of the Easter weekend schedule has Southampton at Everton,Tottenham visiting Burnley, Leicester hosting West Ham, Hull away to Swansea, West Brom hosting QPR, and Newcastle at Sunderland. – ANA-DPA

Original source: Crunch time in top four race