Sports / Soccer

Reject Carroll out to jolt Liverpool's title hopes

By Reuters in London (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-04 07:16

Former Liverpool striker Andy Carroll can dent his former club's Premier League title chances and virtually seal West Ham United's top-flight status for next season when the teams meet at Upton Park on Sunday.

Carroll did not fit into manager Brendan Rodgers's plans when the Irishman took over at Anfield, and 18 months after becoming the most expensive English player ever following his $58.2 million move from Newcastle United, he joined West Ham on loan before signing permanently last year.

Carroll, 25, faces Liverpool for the first time since leaving for $23 million, and if he turns in the type of scoring performance he produced in a 2-1 win at Sunderland on Monday, his old club's title hopes could be jolted.

A win would also leave West Ham in a secure position, with the Hammers currently in 11th place with 37 points, 11 above the drop zone.

With the end of the league campaign fast approaching and most teams having only six games to play, the outcome will have a crucial bearing on the title race, along with Chelsea's game at home to Stoke City and Southampton's visit to Manchester City.

Everton faces Arsenal at Goodison Park in a game that could determine which of those two finishes fourth and grabs a place in next season's Champions League qualifiers.

Liverpool thrashed hapless visiting Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 on Sunday for its eighth successive league win to reclaim top spot for the first time since Christmas. It has 71 points from 32 games, two more than Chelsea.

Manchester City, which has two games in hand, sits third with 67 points, followed by Arsenal, which has 64 from 32 games.

Everton, which has a match in hand on Arsenal, has 60 points, followed by Spurs with 56 and outgoing champion Manchester United with 54.

At the other end of the table, relegation battlers Cardiff City and Crystal Palace meet in South Wales, Norwich City hosts West Bromwich Albion and cellar-dwelling Fulham visits Aston Villa. Sunderland plays at Tottenham on Monday.

The two biggest games of the weekend are on Sunday when Carroll hopes to prove a point to Rodgers, who has based his game plan on using Luis Suarez as the focal point of his attack rather than Carroll - with handsome dividends.

Suarez became the first Liverpool player to notch 29 league goals in the Premier League era when he scored against Spurs.

His play with Daniel Sturridge and the improving Raheem Sterling in attack has contributed to Liverpool's top spot and league-leading 88 goals.

If it wins its remaining matches, including at home to title rivals Manchester City and Chelsea later this month, Liverpool will be champion for the first time in 24 years.

City also has its destiny in its own hands, and will grab the title if it wins its final eight games. It dropped two points but played well in a 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Saturday but cannot afford to slip up again against the tricky Saints.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said his team, which was beaten 3-1 by Paris St Germain in its Champions League quarterfinal first leg on Wednesday, was out of the title race after it surprisingly lost 1-0 at lowly Crystal Palace on Saturday.

But nobody else seems to think so.

"It is very, very close at the top and I think any one of the top four sides can win it," City coach Manuel Pellegrini said after his team's draw at Emirates Stadium.

"I think all of the top four will drop points, it is still very open. Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and us are all in it and all we can do is keep fighting."

Chelsea will go back on top, for 24 hours at least, if it beats Stoke at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, a ground where the visiting side has not won a league match since April 1974, although it did beat the west London side 3-2 at home in December.

Although Manchester United is out of the title race, it boosted its confidence with a 1-1 first-leg draw at home to holder Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday.

A win at erratic Newcastle would keep United in the hunt for at least a Europa League place next season.

 Reject Carroll out to jolt Liverpool's title hopes

West Ham striker Andy Carroll celebrates scoring the opening goal against Sunderland in their English Premier League match in Sunderland on Monday. Ian Macnicol / AFP

(China Daily 04/04/2014 page23)

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