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Friday, May 1, 1998 Published at 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK



Sport: Football

Premiership D-Day looms
image: [ Arsenal need only three points to be sure of the prize ]
Arsenal need only three points to be sure of the prize

Arsenal could complete their charge for the Premiership crown this weekend, and push Everton closer to First Division football at the same time.

They need just three points from their last three games to take the title, and having won their last nine, they must be favourites to beat Everton on Sunday.


[ image: Arsenal will be without their Dutch maestro]
Arsenal will be without their Dutch maestro
The Gunners will have to complete the season without Dennis Bergkamp after he pulled a hamstring in the 1-0 victory over Derby on Wednesday night, but with club record scorer Ian Wright ready to return from injury, the Dutchman may not be missed.

Wright is likely to be on the bench for the Everton game, with Christopher Wreh and Nicolas Anelka starting the match.

The Premiership relegation picture could look a little clearer by the time Arsenal meet Everton at 1600 BST on Sunday.


[ image: Attilio Lombardo has already stepped down as the Eagles player-manager]
Attilio Lombardo has already stepped down as the Eagles player-manager
With Crystal Palace already relegated, Barnsley, Bolton, Everton, Tottenham and Newcastle are still fighting to avoid joining them in Division One. Wimbledon could still go down, but they would have to lose both their last games whith goal-shy Bolton scoring 13 times.

Barnsley and Bolton are the prime candidates to return from where they came a year ago, both need to win their last two games and hope the bigger clubs above them slip up.


[ image: Bolton need to pull off two more unlikely victories like last week's win against Aston Villa]
Bolton need to pull off two more unlikely victories like last week's win against Aston Villa
Bolton, home to Palace and away at Chelsea in the week of the Londoners' European Cup-Winners Cup final, have the easier task.

But Crystal Palace midfielder Sasa Curcic has raised the temperature ahead of Saturday's clash with Bolton. "I'm going to go to my old club Bolton to score a hat trick," he said.

Andy Todd will return in defence for Wanderers in place of Gerry Taggert.

Barnsley must beat Leicester at Filbert Street before facing Manchester United at home. Striker Ashley Ward has now recovered from the kidney infection which kept him out of the defeat by Arsenal.

Everton have been in football's top flight for 44 years - only Arsenal have had a longer continuous run - but for the fourth time in five years their position in the Premiership is under threat.


[ image: Everton will need all Duncan Ferguson's battling qualities]
Everton will need all Duncan Ferguson's battling qualities
They need four points from their last two games to be sure of avoiding the drop, and after Arsenal they face Coventry, who are pushing for a European place.

Tottenham are in similar trouble. On Saturday they play Wimbledon and they then finish the season against Southampton. Defender Ramon Vega is suspended for the Wimbledon match, with Colin Calderwood likely to move into the centre of defence and Allan Nielsen slotting in at left-back.

Newcastle are by no means safe, they need three points from the visit of Chelsea, and their trip to Blackburn to be sure of staying up. The trip to Ewood Park could be tricky, Blackburn have been stuttering recently, and having been championship contenders for much of the season, they are looking for maximum points to ensure a UEFA cup place.

Newcastle will be without Temuri Ketsbaia who is on international duty, and Keith Gillespie who is injured.


[ image: Neil Redfearn has been inspirational for Barnsley]
Neil Redfearn has been inspirational for Barnsley
There is still plenty to play for at the top of the table with UEFA cup places up for grabs. Coventry will have Dutch under-21 star George Boateng back for Blackburn's visit on Saturday, but their opponents could be missing captain Tim Sherwood.

Liverpool will have Michael Owen back for the visit of West Ham, but they will rest Steve McManaman. The Hammers have major injury problems, and could play striker Paul Kitson even though manager Harry Redknapp concedes "he is nowhere near fit".

Derby could be without Lars Bohinen for the trip to Southampton, while the Saints are without John Beresford.
 





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