Terry faces uncomfortable reunion with Bridge
LONDON: Chelsea captain John Terry faces an uncomfortable reunion with Manchester City's Wayne Bridge on Saturday as the Blues bid to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League.
All eyes will be on Terry and Bridge at Stamford Bridge when they meet for the first time since the Chelsea star's alleged affair with Vanessa Perroncel, Bridge's former partner and mother of his child, came to light last month.
The fall-out from the scandal continues to reverberate through English football.
Terry has been stripped of the England captaincy and Bridge decided this week to turn his back on international duty to avoid the unpalatable prospect of playing in the same team as the man who has caused him so much pain.
Now they will come face to face on the pitch, with every tackle and gesture involving the pair certain to be pored over for signs that the animosity lingers.
It has been suggested that Bridge won't even shake hands with Terry during the teams' traditional pre-match greeting, but the two managers will be far more concerned with the final result than the settling of any old scores.
For Carlo Ancelotti's Chelsea, the match represents an opportunity to bounce back from their mid-week defeat at Inter Milan and move four points clear of second-placed Manchester United, who are in League Cup final action against Aston Villa on Sunday.
City boss Roberto Mancini will also be desperate for a positive result after Wednesday's FA Cup exit at Stoke.
Mancini's fifth-placed side have won just twice in their last eight games and the former Inter Milan boss, who hopes to have Carlos Tevez available, knows he must secure the top-four finish that guarantees Champions League action next season.
Yet the Italian insists he doesn't feel under increased pressure.
"Absolutely not," Mancini said. "I'm disappointed because we lost at Stoke. We had a good chance to go to the next round and the final, but this is football, we must improve."
If City lose at the Bridge, fourth-placed Tottenham, who host Everton on Sunday, will be able to increase their lead in the race for the final Champions League spot.
Harry Redknapp's side have enjoyed convincing wins over Wigan and Bolton over the last week, with previously out of favour Russian striker Roman Pavlyuchenko the unlikely hero.
Pavlyuchenko has scored four goals in two games to make an emphatic case for more regular inclusion.
"He can only get himself out of the team now," Redknapp said. "I have said all along when he works hard and wants to play he is a fantastic technical player. I could have sold him in January but I didn't want to. He's a smashing lad."
Liverpool, who booked their place in the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday, host Blackburn with star striker Fernando Torres set to return to the starting line-up after five weeks out with a knee injury.
Torres came on as a substitute against Manchester City last weekend and assistant manager Sammy Lee admits his presence has been a major boost to everyone at Anfield.
"It gave us a lift and gave all of the supporters a lift," Lee said.
"It's a credit to his professional attitude that he has worked so hard in his rehabilitation."
Third-placed Arsenal, who sit six points behind Chelsea, travel to Stoke hoping to keep in touch with the leaders and end their Britannia Stadium misery.
Arsene Wenger's team lost 2-1 at Stoke last season and were eliminated from the FA Cup at the Britannia in January, but Gunners defender Bacary Sagna believes it is their destiny to win the title.
"There is destiny and I am sure this is Arsenal's one and I am sure we will celebrate at the end," Sagna said.
"Even if we are behind Chelsea and Manchester United today we have many games to play and we just want to win everything."
At the other end of the table, crisis-club Portsmouth travel to fellow strugglers Burnley, while Bolton host relegation rivals Wolves.
Saturday (1500GMT unless otherwise stated)
Birmingham v Wigan, Bolton v Wolves, Burnley v Portsmouth, Chelsea v Manchester City (1245GMT), Stoke v Arsenal (1730GMT)
Liverpool v Blackburn, Sunderland v Fulham, Tottenham v Everton (1300GMT)