Tevez could keep West Ham in Premier League

Argentina striker Carlos Tevez will play what is likely to be his final match for West Ham on Sunday.

updated: May 14, 2007 14:06 IST
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Argentina striker Carlos Tevez will play what is likely to be his final match for West Ham on Sunday, hunting a final-round win at Manchester United to keep the Hammers in the Premier League.

The fact that he's playing for the club at all could then drag it down anyway.

The striker's standout performances have helped the Hammers climb out of the relegation zone.

With Charlton and last-place Watford already set to go down, West Ham is fighting to avoid the third and final relegation spot.

West Ham is at crowned champion Manchester United, while Wigan and Sheffield United, the other relegation candidates, face each other.

Wigan is three points behind the Hammers and the Blades, but the relegation issue may not be over even after the games have finished.

Wigan and Sheffield United are among four clubs threatening legal action against West Ham and the Premier League over the fact that Tevez is playing for the Hammers.

Tevez and fellow Argentine Javier Mascherano moved to Upton Park this season, but the fact that their contracts were owned by a third party broke Premier League rules.

While Mascherano has since moved on to Liverpool _ and may play in the May 23 Champions League final against AC Milan _ the Premier League fined the Hammers 5.5 million pounds last month.

West Ham's relegation rivals protested, saying the club should have had points deducted. If the Hammers stay up, they likely will push for the league to change its ruling.

Although the Hammers acknowledged breaching regulations, they said they provided all the relevant information to the independent panel that ruled on the case and no further action should be taken.

Whatever happens, Tevez could be on his way out.

His recent form for the Hammers after initially going 19 games without scoring has impressed several bigger clubs. The fact that he speaks very little English could lead to a move elsewhere, but manager Alan Curbishley hopes he will stay.

"Tevez in recent weeks has responded brilliantly, like the rest of the players," the West Ham manager said.

"His performances have been excellent. In all his actions, he has been desperate for the club to do well. He is a footballer's footballer. When footballers come into a club they are accepted straight away if they have got the ability and that is what he has got. That overrides any language barrier."

West Ham hopes that opponent United will relax, having already clinched the league title.

Manager Alex Ferguson and his team will collect the trophy a week after regaining the title from Chelsea. On Wednesday, the two teams drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge to maintain the Red Devils' seven-point advantage over the Blues.

Guaranteed the runner-up spot, Chelsea finishes the season with a home game against fifth-place Everton before the May 19 FA Cup final at Wembley against Manchester United.

Sunday's other games are: Blackburn vs Reading, Bolton vs Aston Villa, Liverpool vs Charlton, Middlesbrough vs Fulham, Portsmouth vs Arsenal, Tottenham vs Manchester City, Watford vs Newcastle.