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Chelsea one point away from retaining Eng title

If they beat Manchester United, Chelsea will become the only team other than United to win back-to-back titles since the Premier League started in 1992.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2006 09:38 IST

Chelsea is one point away from securing its second consecutive Premier League championship. Manchester United is determined to delay the Blues' celebrations.

Jose Mourinho's team will retain the English title on Saturday if it avoids defeat against Man U at Stamford Bridge. In doing so, Chelsea will become the only team other than United to win back-to-back titles since the Premier League started in 1992. The Blues won their only other English title in 1955. Chelsea hasn't lost at home all season and has gone 42 games without defeat at Stamford Bridge. The last team to win a league match there was Arsenal on Feb. 21, 2004.

But Chelsea is coming off a 2-1 defeat to Liverpool in the FA Cup semifinal at Old Trafford last Saturday, a result which ended the team's bid to complete the league-FA Cup double for the first time. "After the fiasco in the FA Cup, our desire is now to clinch the title against United and I completely convinced we will be champions on Saturday," Chelsea defender William Gallas said. "A win against United is always to be celebrated but, in this case, we want to stop them having any more thoughts about winning the league."

United, which trails Chelsea by nine points, still has a slim mathematical chance of winning the league. The Red Devils would have to win their last three games, with Chelsea losing its final matches, and overturn a 12-point goal difference. "They'll obviously be trying to win the league but it's up to us to try and delay that for as long as possible," Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand said. "They've been very consistent this season and deserve credit for that.

"Nevertheless, we want to be traveling back up the motorway with the three points on Saturday and we'll be doing our utmost to make sure that happens."

While the champion could be determined this weekend, so could the final two relegation spots.

West Bromwich Albion could go down without even playing. Bryan Robson's team, which escaped relegation on the final day of last season, is six points behind Portsmouth. The Baggies will go down if Portsmouth gets a point at Wigan.

Birmingham is in 19th-place, two points behind 17th-placed Portsmouth. A Portsmouth victory and a Birmingham loss will guarantee that Birmingham, West Brom and Sunderland are relegated and Pompey survives. Last-place Sunderland has already been relegated.

Saturday's other games are Liverpool-Aston Villa, Manchester City-Fulham, Middlesbrough-Everton and Charlton-Blackburn. On Sunday, Tottenham hopes to strengthen its hold on fourth place by beating Bolton at home. Fifth-place neighbor Arsenal is four points behind but has a game in hand. The Gunners go to Sunderland on Monday, when West Brom hosts West Ham.

Middlesbrough advanced to its first European final on Thursday with a 4-2 win over Steaua Bucharest in the UEFA Cup. 'Boro rallied from 2-0 down to advance 4-3 on aggregate.

Manager Steve McClaren the first Englishman to guide an English club to a European final since 1985. Then, Joe Fagan's Liverpool lost to Juventus in the European Cup final, and Joe Royle's Everton beat Rapid Vienna to win the now defunct Cup Winners' Cup. That was also the last time two English clubs were in European finals.

Arsenal plays Barcelona in the Champions League final on May 18. Middlesbrough plays another Spanish team, Sevilla, in the UEFA Cup final on May 10.

First Published: Apr 28, 2006 17:00 IST