Reds could take log top spot
In form Wayne Rooney (File)
London - Manchester United could be in second spot in the Premier League by the time it plays Aston Villa on Sunday after two surprise defeats cut its seven-point lead to one.
Liverpool visits Fulham on Saturday and a win would take the Reds two points clear at the top of the standings before Man United kicks off at Old Trafford, albeit United will still have a game in hand.
The Reds have scored 13 goals in their past three matches - a 4-0 Champions League win over Real Madrid, a 4-1 victory over Man United and a 5-0 triumph over Aston Villa.
Liverpool will be wary, however, as Fulham beat United 2-0 in its last game at home.
"We were playing very well before the break, that is true," Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said. "Now we have to start again. We want to pick up where we left things and carry on winning. We've every confidence it will be the same when we get everyone back. I am really positive when I think about the rest of the season."
International teammates in action in two rounds of World Cup qualifiers are now back to face each other in the Premier League.
That means the likes of Man United's Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand, Chelsea's John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole and Liverpool's Steven Gerrard, who all helped England beat Ukraine 2-1 on Wednesday for its fifth qualifying victory in a row, are now on opposite sides in the Premier League title race.
As it chases a third league title in a row and a possible five trophies in one season, Man United will be boosted by its impressive record against Villa.
During its run of 10 Premier League titles in 16 seasons, United has lost only twice to Villa, winning 23 matches, including last season's 4-0 victory at Old Trafford.
United has not lost three league games in a row for eight years, when it went down to Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham in 2001.
Third-place Chelsea, which is four points behind United, will take on a Newcastle side mired in relegation trouble but now with Alan Shearer in charge.
The former Magpies striker, who has no coaching experience, has taken over for the last eight games of the season and is the fourth different manager to take charge of the ailing team after Kevin Keegan, Joe Kinnear and Chris Hughton.
Having scored 206 goals in 395 league games for Newcastle, Shearer took charge of training for the first time Wednesday and fans hope he will be able to lift the players' confidence. Newcastle is 18th in the 20-team standings and hoping to avoid its first relegation since 1989.
With fifth-place Villa at United, Arsenal hopes to hold on to fourth by beating Manchester City at home on Saturday.
In the struggle to avoid relegation, last-place West Bromwich Albion hosts No. 16 Stoke and next-to-last Middlesbrough visits Bolton. No. 17 Blackburn is at home against Tottenham, which has climbed away from trouble to 11th under Harry Redknapp.
Hull and Portsmouth, both just above the relegation zone, also meet, while No. 14 Sunderland, only three points above the last three, has a difficult game at West Ham.
Also Sunday, it's No. 6 Everton at home to No. 7 Wigan, with both clubs chasing places in next season's European competitions.