All eyes on Rooney as Manchester United consider next move
London: Chelsea have the chance to extend their lead at the top of the English Premier League this weekend but all eyes will be on the Manchester United teamsheet and the presence or otherwise of Wayne Rooney.
England striker Rooney told United this week that he will not sign a new contract and wants to leave the club, claiming that they do not match his ambition.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said he was shocked and disappointed at Rooney`s actions and words and seemed resigned to losing the 24-year-old before his contract ends in the summer of 2012.
Despite Rooney`s words, suspicion remains that money is at the heart of his problems with the club. Manchester City, Chelsea and Real Madrid have immediately been linked with a move to sign him.
Ferguson has vowed to sort out the issue sooner rather than later, but first he will have to decide if Rooney will be part of his plans for the trip to Stoke City on Sunday.
Rooney was left out of the midweek win over Bursaspor in the Champions League with an ankle injury. But if he is fit, he will present United and Ferguson with a dilemma.
The striker has not been on top form this season but one thing is for sure, Ferguson is determined to focus on the pitch and not on contractual, personal problems.
`Sunday`s game against Stoke is the most important thing. This is a bagatelle, believe me,` the manager said of the Rooney affair.
`We will be OK. I have every confidence. The structure of the club is good. We have the right staff, the right manager, a brilliant chief executive. There is not a thing wrong with Manchester United.`
United lie fourth in the league, five points behind leaders and champions Chelsea, and the Londoners will be out to take advantage of any slip-up from United by beating Wolverhampton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge.
The champions should welcome back Didier Drogba after he missed last weekend`s draw with Aston Villa and Ancelotti will be expecting to take maximum points against Wolves.
The biggest match of the weekend will be at Eastlands where Manchester City take on Arsenal. Plenty of goals are expected if both sides play as they have done of late.
Arsenal go into the match on the back of a thumping 5-1 win over Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League and manager Arsene Wenger believes his side can maintain their form.
`We have won our last two games now and that is important because we go into the Manchester City game with a good level of confidence and with some certainties in the way we want to behave.
`When you win 1-0 people think it`s too difficult, when you win 5-1 people think it`s too easy. We had a good team attitude and we had a very good technical level.`
At the other end of the table, Liverpool will be hoping they can begin the long fight to move back up the standings by beating Blackburn Rovers at Anfield.
Defeat at home to Blackpool was a new low for Roy Hodgson`s team and though the club`s ownership was finally resolved last week, the new owners saw their side well beaten in the Merseyside derby, a result that left them second from bottom.
Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres will return after being rested for the Europa League match in Naples and manager Roy Hodgson knows he needs a result.
`It was a very straightforward (decision) for me because it was a question of priority,` Hodgson said.
Fifth-placed Tottenham face Everton at White Hart Lane, while the weekend`s other games see Fulham travelling to West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United taking on Newcastle United, Wigan Athletic meeting Bolton Wanderers, Sunderland entertaining Aston Villa and Birmingham hosting Blackpool.