Premier League preview

With 11 games remaining in the Premier League this season, the race to avoid relegation is entering the final furlong.

Just two points separate the bottom five and with four of those sides in action against each other, it promises to be a key weekend in the battle at the bottom.

Bolton host QPR to kick-off proceedings on Saturday lunchtime, before struggling Wolves and Blackburn Rovers contest a six-pointer at Molineux.

At the opposite end of the table, both Manchester clubs play on Sunday while Roberto Di Matteo takes charge of Chelsea for the first time in the league for their clash with Stoke.

Bolton Wanderers have not won a league match since 21st January and have not scored a goal in four of their last five league games. Owen Coyle has a huge task on his hands to see his side move clear of the bottom three, but a home victory against Queens Park Rangers could see them rise to 16th. Rangers are in a similarly precarious position and have also not taken three points from a game since 21st January. Mark Hughes was appointed by the club to steer them clear of the relegation zone, but he has been unable to improve their fortunes thus far. A point at home to Everton last week will have been encouraging but wins are what both these teams need. Watch them slug it out live on Sky Sports 2 HD from 12.45pm on Saturday.

Wolves Manager Terry Connor will be hoping his side can bounce back

What a terrible performance from Wolves last weekend. Terry Connor’s men were humbled 5-0 at Fulham as their confidence and goal difference took a severe hit. Connor must pick up spirits because this Saturday Blackburn Rovers are in town for a crucial encounter. Both sides are level on 22 points after difficult campaigns but despite their troubles, the chance to remain in the top-flight is still on the cards. Wolves’ defence has been their problem in recent games – 12 goals have been shipped in their last three matches. That is something Steve Kean and Rovers will be hoping to exploit after snatching a point against Aston Villa thanks to David Dunn’s late header. A draw will not really help either team this weekend, so expect a full-blooded tie in the Black Country.

Roberto Martinez's side sit rock bottom at the moment - can they pick it up?

The other side embroiled in the survival battle are Wigan Athletic, and the rock-bottom outfit travel to Norwich City for the final game of the weekend on Sunday afternoon. The Latics produced a disappointing display as they fell 2-0 at home to Swansea last time out, with Roberto Martinez’s old team putting a dent in his hopes to climb up the table. Wigan have the worst goal difference in the division but a win could see them move out of the bottom three – that would be a major psychological boost for a team that has spent the majority of the last year stuck in the relegation places. Norwich have had a great season but are not in the best form, Paul Lambert’s charges having lost their last three games in all competitions. Watch the action live on Sky Sports 1 HD from 4pm.

At the other end of the table, the Premier League title is now a two-horse race with the Manchester clubs well ahead of the chasing pack. Both sides are in action on Sunday after their Europa League exploits on Thursday night, with leaders Manchester City making the trip to Wales to face Swansea. Roberto Mancini’s side have been in imperious league form and have not conceded a goal since January, enjoying a fine run that has yielded four successive victories. Their last two home wins have been comfortable to say the least, but they must warn against complacency ahead of a tricky tie at the Liberty Stadium. Swansea had been suffering a dip in form but recovered to secure a 2-0 success at Wigan last weekend. This should be an entertaining contest with both teams offering a wealth of attacking talent.

Manchester United are not letting up in their quest to catch City and deny them their first Premier League crown. Next up following their defeat by Athletic Bilbao in Europe is a home game against West Brom, who will be full of confidence after their victory over Chelsea. United are unbeaten in the league since a defeat at Newcastle in early January and are starting to click into gear ahead of what is traditionally their best period of the season. Tired legs may be a factor although their European fixture in midweek was at home – a tough trip to San Mames saved for next week. Roy Hodgson’s Baggies are on a great run – three wins on the bounce have seen them net 10 goals and they are currently well-placed in 10th.

Last week’s defeat at West Brom saw Andre Villas-Boas depart Chelsea after little more than eight months at the helm, and Di Matteo now takes charge until the end of the season. His first league game at the helm sees Stoke City travel to Stamford Bridge and the Italian will be hoping to build on the FA Cup victory over Birmingham in midweek. The battle for fourth spot will be the focus until the end of the campaign, with Chelsea currently trailing Arsenal by three points. Stoke, meanwhile, come into the game on the back of successive wins and sit ninth in the table. Jermaine Pennant has been frozen out of the team of late, and Sky Sports sources understand the club have sanctioned the winger twice in recent months and that is the reason he has not featured.

Tottenham go into their match with Everton having been comprehensively beaten in their last two league matches. Perhaps it is speculation linking Harry Redknapp with the England job, or perhaps a squad that has performed so admirably this term is finally beginning to tire. Spurs still hold a four-point gap over Arsenal and are in a strong position to secure qualification for next year’s UEFA Champions League. However, they will want to reproduce the form that saw them labelled title contenders when they go to Merseyside on Saturday evening. Everton are unbeaten in eight games in all competitions and a win could see them move up to eighth. However, their last defeat came against Tottenham.

Kenny Dalglish shrugged off talk of Luis Suarez departing Liverpool for Paris St Germain in the summer, but he will be hoping the Uruguayan can rediscover his early season form when the Reds playSunderland at the Stadium of Light. Liverpool’s hopes of a top-four finish were all but ended last week after a home defeat by Arsenal, but with a Carling Cup under their belt and improvements on the pitch, it has certainly been a campaign of consolidation. Similarly, it has been a season of transition for Sunderland but despite their rejuvenation under Martin O’Neill, there were some ugly scenes during the recent draw at Newcastle. O’Neill will be unable to call on Stephane Sessegnon and Lee Cattermole who are both suspended.

Finally, struggling Aston Villa lock horns with in-form Fulham. The dissenters continue to vent their frustrations towards Alex McLeish and with Villa 15th in the table, three points off 14th, the pressure is beginning to build on the Scot. Financial losses off the field will not make things any easier for the Midlands side, and Fulham will be licking their lips ahead of this game at Villa Park. Martin Jol’s Cottagers have won three on the bounce and are full of confidence after their demolition of Wolves.