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25 Sep 2008 09:45
After a slow start to the season, champions Manchester United will be looking to build some momentum this weekend when they face Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League.
Languishing in 15th place after one win, two draws and one defeat, United are seven points behind leaders Arsenal, albeit with one game in hand.
Chelsea and Liverpool, the other two main contenders to wrest the title from United, lie just one point behind Arsenal, so the champions cannot afford to lose too much ground.
After a midweek win over Middlesbrough in the Carling Cup, United veteran Ryan Giggs believes the side is on the right track.
“We have had a tough start,” he said. “We didn’t play well at the beginning of the season, but over the last week or so we have played some really good stuff.
“This team is capable of going on a run and winning 10 games on the trot.
Hopefully that run has started now and we can carry it on against Bolton.”
Bolton are one point worse off than United, but manager Sir Alex Ferguson will be wary of the home side, especially as they were beaten 1-0 by Bolton at the Reebok Stadium last season.
Ferguson could unleash Cristiano Ronaldo for his first league start of the season after injury, while fellow midfielder Anderson could also start, having finally looked back on form after he returned jaded from Olympic duty with Brazil.
“There is no doubt Anderson felt the effects of being in China,” Ferguson said.
“When he played his first game at Portsmouth the adrenalin kept him going, but since then he has been pretty low.
Arsenal, meanwhile, will be confident of staying on top as they prepare to face promoted Hull City at the Emirates Stadium.
Hull have exceeded expectations so far, claiming eight points from five games, but with Arsenal having thrashed Sheffield United 6-0 in the Carling Cup, Arsene Wenger’s side are full of confidence.
“We look solid at the moment because we don’t concede goals, and when we concede them we respond,” Wenger said.
“It means the team has transformed the disappointment of not winning the league last season to a bigger hunger.
“It looks now that all the four teams have found their rhythm. The only question mark until now was Manchester United, but they gave a strong response at Chelsea [1-1 on Sunday] and from now on it will be a very interesting battle.”
Chelsea, who will be without Deco and Ricardo Carvalho, are away to Stoke City, while Liverpool play in the Merseyside Derby at Everton.
Fourth-placed Aston Villa will look to maintain the pressure on the top three with a home win over Sunderland, while Manchester City, beaten by Brighton in the Carling Cup in midweek, play at Wigan Athletic on Sunday.
Bottom side Tottenham Hotspur will hope to build on their Carling Cup win at Newcastle by winning at Portsmouth, while Newcastle themselves take on Blackburn Rovers.
Fulham and West Ham United clash at Craven Cottage, while Middlesbrough play West Bromwich Albion in the weekend’s other match.—Sapa-dpa
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