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Chelsea close to BPL title

Published:Friday | April 30, 2010 | 12:00 AM

LONDON (AP):

Chelsea will capture their first Barclays Premier League (BPL) title for four years if they beat Liverpool on Sunday and Manchester United lose at Sunderland.

In the closest title race for years, which United is convinced will go to the final round of matches on May 9, Chelsea are a point ahead of the defending champions with two games left. Manager Carlo Ancelotti stands on the brink of winning the championship in his debut season in English football.

Chelsea visit a Liverpool side which could be tired from yesterday's Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, while Ancelotti's players will have had a full week's rest following their 7-0 thrashing of Stoke. Liverpool are striving to finish fourth in the standings and qualify for next season's Champions League.

Ferguson confident

After playing Sunderland, United finish with a home game against Stoke - another mid-table team with little left to play for - and midfielder Darren Fletcher says manager Alex Ferguson is confident the title will only be decided on the final day.

"The manager said before the Spurs game (last weekend) that it might go down to the last 10 minutes (of the season)," Fletcher said. "We keep believing in the way we play. We don't get desperate. We throw players forward but it's not just long balls into the box.

"We believe in passing, getting it wide and creating the right opportunities. Sometimes the fans might want the ball forward early, but 50-50 balls aren't good enough. You need to keep playing football and create good scoring chances."

Ryan Giggs, who has won 11 league titles with United, believes the team's ability to stay in contention until the very end could count in its favor.

"The experience we have got - the players and the management - helps," Giggs said. "We'll try and score an early goal, but we know it can come right down to the last minute, like it did against Tottenham and Man City. We have to play our football and be confident in ourselves."

Although the title race could be over on Sunday, the chase for fourth is set to continue until the final day.

Tottenham and Aston Villa are level on 64 points, Man City are one point behind and Liverpool has two to make up. Spurs and City each have a match in hand.

Tottenham will be confident of beating Bolton at home tomorrow, when City host Villa. City are then at home to Spurs on Wednesday.

Hull relegated

"We know the importance of the games and the reward," said Spurs defender Michael Dawson, whose performances have prompted manager Harry Redknapp to say he should be called up for England's World Cup squad. "We're in the driving seat and it's down to us.

"We need to focus on Bolton and try to get those three points on Saturday. That's all that matters. There are four teams fighting for that fourth spot and it's another massive weekend, but we have to concentrate on what we have to do."

The struggle to avoid relegation is virtually over, however, with Hull now accepting, it is almost certain to go down along with Portsmouth and Burnley.

Promoted to the top flight two seasons ago for the first time in their history, Hull are six points behind 17th-place West Ham with a far inferior goal difference. Hull do not play until they visit Wigan on Monday so will be mathematically down if West Ham get at least a point at Fulham on Sunday.

In tomorrow's other games, Birmingham host Burnley, Wolves go to Portsmouth and Stoke welcome Everton. Arsenal visit Blackburn on Monday.