LONDON, England, April 20 – Manchester City will be hoping Everton can improve their 20-year Old Trafford jinx this weekend as they aim to stay in touch with Manchester United in the Premier League title race.
After the bitter disappointment of last week’s FA Cup semi-final exit to Liverpool, Everton travel to United on Sunday daunted by the knowledge that they have not won at the home of the champions for two decades.
Since a 3-0 win at Old Trafford back in 1992, the Toffees’ record reads played 18, lost 15 and drawn three.
Yet City’s ex-Everton defender Joleon Lescott is backing his former club to get a result against United that could potentially have a pivotal effect on the final few weeks of the battle for the title.
Lescott revealed he has been cajoling his former team-mates via text message this week in a light-hearted attempt to motivate the Toffees.
“They had a big disappointment at the weekend against Liverpool, but I’ll be sending them a few more texts going in to Sunday!” Lescott said.
“We are aware of the situation. Everton are never an easy team to play against, especially for us, and hopefully not for United on Sunday.”
If Everton avoid defeat at Old Trafford in Sunday’s early kick-off, City will have the opportunity to cut United’s lead at the top to either three or two points when they travel to bottom club Wolves later in the day.
That would in turn set up a potential title decider at Eastlands on April 30 when United travel across Manchester to face City, who rediscovered their best form last week with a 6-1 thrashing of Norwich at Carrow Road.
Lescott believes the return of Carlos Tevez, who struck a brilliant hat-trick has contributed to City’s revival.
“I don’t think there’s a reason for it, or that someone noticed and said ‘Right, this is what we need to get back to winning ways’ or to start playing again the way we were earlier in the season,” Lescott said.
“It’s just that it has happened. Carlos has come back into the team and his performances have brought us a lot of energy, so that has helped,” he told the Manchester Evening News.
The unpalatable truth for City however is that a United victory against Everton will raise the prospect of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side clinching the title at Eastlands when the two sides meet later this month.
Elsewhere this weekend, the nip-and-tuck race for Champions League qualification could become clearer if third-placed Arsenal beat Chelsea in Saturday’s early kick-off at the Emirates.
A win for the third-placed Gunners would leave Chelsea 10 points adrift of their London rivals with four games remaining.
Arsenal winger Gervinho said the club were determined to bounce back after their bid for third place — and automatic qualification for the Champions League — suffered a jolt in a 2-1 defeat at home to Wigan on Monday.
“We are fighting only for third place, we don’t think about fourth spot,” Gervinho said. “Everybody is determined to fight until the end, from the players and the manager to the fans, to maintain third place.”
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo has indicated he plans to rotate his squad ahead of next week’s Champions League semi-final return leg against Barcelona.
“We will have to assess the players but there is a good chance some fresh ones will come in,” said Di Matteo after Chelsea’s 1-0 win over the Catalans on Wednesday.
Tottenham meanwhile face a tricky away tie at Queens Park Rangers on Saturday hoping to bounce back from last Sunday’s 5-1 mauling by Chelsea in the FA Cup.
Having looked assured of automatic qualification for the Champions League in early February, Spurs are now clinging on to fourth place, where they lead Newcastle on goal difference.
“If we don’t end up fourth we will have failed as a squad,” Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker said.
“We’ve had a fantastic ride this year and we’ve dipped, that’s obvious. It’s probably a combination of a few things: dip in form, a bit of tiredness, but we need to try to stay mentally strong and grind it out now.”
Fixtures (1400 GMT unless stated)
Saturday: Arsenal v Chelsea (1145), Aston Villa v Sunderland, Blackburn v Norwich, Bolton v Swansea, Fulham v Wigan, Newcastle v Stoke, QPR v Tottenham (1630).
Sunday: Liverpool v West Brom (1500), Man Utd v Everton (1130), Wolves v Man City (1500)