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Man Utd out to tighten EPL screws on City
By Tom Williams
07:13 AEST Sat Dec 29 2012

Manchester United will look to put even more daylight between themselves and Manchester City when they host West Bromwich Albion on Saturday in the English Premier League.

Speaking before the Christmas period, United manager Alex Ferguson had set his players the modest target of being top of the standings on New Year's Day, but his side are already disappearing towards the horizon.

Wednesday's thrilling 4-3 win at home to Newcastle United left the 19-time champions seven points clear and, with second-placed City facing a difficult trip to Norwich City, United could stretch their advantage by disposing of West Brom.

Javier Hernandez's last-minute winner against Newcastle left Ferguson beaming, and he will have more room to manoeuvre with his squad after injury and illness robbed him of key players against Newcastle.

Wayne Rooney sat out the game with knee ligament damage that will keep him out for up to three weeks, but Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic could all return.

Manchester City's title defence was dealt a potentially-decisive blow in a 1-0 loss at Sunderland on Wednesday, and Saturday's opponents, Norwich, have been beaten at home just twice all season.

The champions' odds of retaining their crown are lengthening by the week, but manager Roberto Mancini said he was not fazed by his side's seven-point deficit.

"It hasn't changed. At this moment, United are better than us, they are at the top, but we have time to recover," said the Italian.

"We need to resolve our problems before and after - maybe we can win. It's no problem, seven points.

"That's not important. We know United are a fantastic team and probably they will win every game, but the season is long and it is not important if it is six or seven or four points."

City's setback enabled Chelsea to close to within four points of second place by winning 1-0 at Norwich and Rafael Benitez's side - 8-0 victors over Aston Villa in their previous game - also have a game in hand.

On Sunday, last season's Champions League winners visit fifth-placed Everton - one of three teams in the table on 33 points, along with Tottenham Hotspur and West Brom.

Arsenal lost ground in the battle for a top-four finish, and Champions League qualification, after their Wednesday game with West Ham United was cancelled due to a strike on the London Underground.

The Gunners benefited from an unexpected rest when their rivals' resources had been stretched, but midfielder Jack Wilshere says his teammates will have to switch on quickly when they return to action at home to Newcastle on Saturday.

"It's a tough game against Newcastle," he said.

"They need the points, they're not in a good run of form and they'll want to prove something, but we want to keep this momentum going."

Queens Park Rangers, who returned to the foot of the table after losing at home to West Brom, host Liverpool on Sunday, while second-bottom Reading tackle West Ham on Saturday and third-bottom Wigan Athletic are at Villa.

Sunderland are at home to Tottenham Hotspur, Swansea City travel to Fulham and Southampton visit Stoke City.