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Stung City eye red hot Chelsea scalp

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HART-SHIELDLONDON, September 19- Stung by a last-minute defeat in the Champions League, Manchester City will attempt to make up ground in the Premier League title race when they host leaders Chelsea on Sunday.

A 90th-minute strike by former player Jerome Boateng condemned City to a 1-0 loss at Bayern Munich on Wednesday and left Manuel Pellegrini’s side without a victory in three matches.

Chelsea can open up an eight-point lead over the champions if they pull off a repeat of their 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium in February and City midfielder Fernandinho says it is a game that his side must win.

“That is not easy for a big team such as City (to lose against Bayern), but the best way to recover our confidence and our best qualities is to win the next game,” said the Brazilian.

“Already we think about the Chelsea game. We have to win this game because we have had a (2-2) draw against Arsenal and a (1-0) loss at home to Stoke. We have to recover points to think about the top of the table.”

Chelsea are gunning for a fifth consecutive league victory, but their momentum took a blow in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at home to Schalke.

A breakaway goal by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar earned the German side a point after Cesc Fabregas had put the hosts ahead and Chelsea captain John Terry has urged his team to cut out the defensive errors that have seen them concede six goals in their first four league outings.

“The first four league games, we’ve been killing teams off. We didn’t do it (against Schalke), but it was disappointing to concede the way we did, from a counter-attack from our own corner,” Terry told the club website.

“It was our corner, we were attacking, and we got caught on the break. It shouldn’t happen. It’s the second time already this season it’s happened.”

City will restore Sergio Aguero to their starting XI and seven-goal top scorer Diego Costa will return for Chelsea after the two players started their respective sides’ Champions League openers on the bench.

– Full debut for Falcao? –

Arsenal also endured punishment at German hands in the Champions League, losing 2-0 at Borussia Dortmund, and have drawn their last three games in the league.

On Saturday Arsene Wenger’s side visit Aston Villa, who climbed to second place in the league table with an impressive 1-0 victory at Liverpool in their last game.

Liverpool survived a scare in the Champions League, winning 2-1 at home to Bulgarian newcomers Ludogorets Razgrad thanks to a 93rd-minute penalty by captain Steven Gerrard.

With Daniel Sturridge sidelined by injury, Liverpool have been labouring in front of goal, but ahead of Saturday’s trip to West Ham United, manager Brendan Rodgers has urged their fans to show patience.

“I remember this time last year I was asked if we were going to score enough goals and we ended up with 101 (league) goals,” he told a press conference on Thursday.

“We’ve had to bring in a lot of new players because of the demands of the Champions League so that naturally takes time and we’ve got players adapting to a new country.”

Having seen their side crush Queens Park Rangers 4-0 last weekend, Manchester United’s supporters will hope their team confirm their return to form at promoted Leicester City on Sunday.

Manager Louis van Gaal must decide whether to hand a first start to new signing Radamel Falcao, who came off the bench in the latter stages of the win over QPR.

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has rather less pleasant quandaries to ponder after his team slithered to the foot of the table following last weekend’s 4-0 loss at Southampton.

Pardew spoke to owner Mike Ashley after Newcastle fans unfurled a ‘Pardew Out’ banner at St Mary’s and he has called on his team to produce an improved display at home to Hull City on Saturday.

“The one thing that we both agreed on was that we really need to focus on this Saturday and try and get a win for the football club,” Pardew said.

Fixtures

Saturday (1400 GMT unless otherwise stated)

Aston Villa v Arsenal, Burnley v Sunderland, Newcastle United v Hull City, Queens Park Rangers v Stoke City (1145 GMT), Swansea City v Southampton, West Ham United v Liverpool (1630 GMT)

Sunday (1500 GMT unless otherwise stated)

Everton v Crystal Palace, Leicester City v Manchester United (1230 GMT), Manchester City v Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur v West Bromwich Albion (1230 GMT)

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