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Chelsea in line for Palace coronation

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FABREGAS-COSTALONDON, May 1- The stage is set for a Premier League coronation this weekend as champions-elect Chelsea host Crystal Palace on Sunday needing three points to claim a first league title since 2010.

Chelsea’s 3-1 win at Leicester City on Wednesday left them 13 points clear of nearest rivals Manchester City and Arsenal, who have a game in hand, and brought the league trophy to within touching distance.

The title seems destined for Stamford Bridge regardless of what happens this weekend, but Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech is eager to cross the line in front of the club’s fans.

“It’s amazing when you win a title, but if you win it at home it puts the icing on the cake,” said the 32-year-old Czech, who deputised for Thibaut Courtois at Leicester.

With Palace 12 points clear of the bottom three and safe from relegation, they would appear to represent perfect dupes for Chelsea’s title party.

But while Alan Pardew’s side have lost their last two home games, going down 2-0 to West Bromwich Albion and Hull City, they have been beaten only once in eight matches on the road.

“Stamford Bridge is ready to celebrate, but if I can ask something from them it is to not celebrate,” warned Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.

“We all want to win on Sunday, but it will be a difficult game. Stamford Bridge must be ready to push us. I hope they want to play the game with us. We need them to help us win the title on Sunday.”

As well as the title race, the battle for Champions League qualification also appears to be sewn up, with Liverpool now seven points adrift of the top four following their lacklustre 1-0 loss at Hull on Tuesday.

But while City, Arsenal and Manchester United look assured of a top-four berth, it is only by finishing in the top three that automatic passage to Europe’s elite club competition can be secured.

City currently lead the way, heading Arsenal on goal difference, but they have played a game more than Arsene Wenger’s men and face an awkward trip to sixth-place Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

– ‘A different Manchester United’ –

With Arsenal not in action until Monday, when they visit Hull, United will look to steal a march on both their rivals by winning at home to West Brom, who pulled off a famous victory at Old Trafford last season.

United lost 3-0 at Everton last time out — their second defeat in a row — and defender Chris Smalling has urged his team-mates to make amends.

“We’ve got four big games now in which we’ve got to make sure we were better than on Sunday,” he told the United website.

“We’ll be eager to put this right. I think we’ll see a different Manchester United against West Brom.”

The relative stability at the top of the standings has lent greater prominence to the battle to avoid relegation.

Bottom club Burnley, five points adrift of safety, could be left on the brink of an immediate return to the Championship if they do not win at West Ham United.

Queens Park Rangers, a point better off, are similarly desperate for points ahead of their trip to Liverpool, while third-bottom Sunderland, who have a game in hand on all the teams around them, host Southampton.

Leicester’s loss to Chelsea ended a run of four straight wins that had lifted them out of the bottom three, but on Saturday they host a flatlining Newcastle United team who have lost their last seven matches.

Leicester manager Nigel Pearson, who has issued an apology for lampooning a journalist after the Chelsea game, has told his players that despite their improved recent form, there is still a long way to go.

“It’s important for us to go into the last few games with our destiny in our own hands,” said Pearson, whose side are a point clear of danger.

“There’s still a lot of hard work to be done. At the moment there’s a strange perception that there’s not. There is.”

Fixtures

Saturday (1400 GMT unless otherwise stated):

Aston Villa v Everton, Leicester City v Newcastle United (1145 GMT), Liverpool v Queens Park Rangers, Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion (1630 GMT), Sunderland v Southampton, Swansea City v Stoke City, West Ham United v Burnley

Sunday

Chelsea v Crystal Palace (1230 GMT), Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City (1500 GMT)

Monday (1900 GMT):

Hull City v Arsenal

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