Crucial weekend in EPL
MANCHESTER, England (AP):
In the space of a few hours on Sunday, Chelsea could win their first trophy in Jose Mourinho's second spell as manager and take a big step towards capturing the English Premier League (EPL) title.
The first piece of silverware in the English season is up for grabs when London rivals Chelsea and Tottenham meet at Wembley Stadium for the League Cup final.
Mourinho won that competition in his first year at Chelsea in 2005, and also guided the team to the Premier League later that season to launch the most successful period in the club's history.
The same double could be repeated a decade later.
Before starting the cup final, Chelsea will know if their five-point lead in the league has been cut by second-place Manchester City when the champions play away to in-form Liverpool. With only 12 rounds left, Chelsea will be an even bigger title favourites if City draw or lose at Anfield, where they have not won in any competition since 2003.
What plays into the hands of both Chelsea and City this weekend is that Tottenham and Liverpool have little time to rest after playing in the Europa League.
Chelsea's players will have had a full week off before the final, while City played Barcelona at home in the Champions League on Tuesday, losing 2-1.
Arsenal are also looking to make amends for a disappointing home performance in the last 16 of Europe's top competition this week when they host Everton in the league. The Gunners were jeered off the field after losing
3-1 to Monaco on Wednesday.
There are three points between third-place Arsenal and sixth-place Liverpool in the standings. Manchester United and Southampton are fourth and fifth, respectively, and are in action tomorrow.
Chelsea have only lost three games all season - and Nemanja Matic wasn't playing in two of them.
So, the midfield anchorman's absence on Sunday because of suspension will be a major blow to Mourinho, who is likely to replace Matic with John Obi Mikel. Mikel has played only one game in the past month.
The only time Matic was on a losing Chelsea team this season was against Tottenham in a 5-3 defeat on New Year's Day.
A positive for Chelsea is that Spurs have only won four of nine matches that have followed their Europa League outings this season.
Results have been better than performances at Man United in recent weeks and a 2-1 loss at Swansea last weekend cast doubt on the team's capacity to finish in the top four in May.
United are clinging onto fourth - the final qualifying spot for the Champions League after being overtaken by Arsenal. Now Liverpool, unbeaten in the league since losing to United on December 14, are slowly reeling in Louis van Gaal's team.
With Radamel Falcao struggling for form and Robin van Persie leaving Swansea on crutches and with a protective boot on his injured right foot, United could be relying on Wayne Rooney for goals against Sunderland at Old Trafford.
"We need to hit back next week," Rooney said. "There are still a lot of games to go, and we have to bounce back from this quickly, go on another good run and try to keep us in a good position to finish in that top four."
United are a point behind Arsenal and two clear of Liverpool.