So we have arrived at the final push, the remaining fixtures will provide us with the best fight to the finish we have seen in a few years. In a couple of months time the Premier League champions will be crowned. This year is so intriguing thanks to the involvement of four in form teams in the Premier League title race.
Chelsea are most definitely the favourites despite José Mourinho continually playing down this notion. The wobble at Villa Park a week ago showed a side of Chelsea that is not often there. A disjointed scrappy animal replaced their usual calm and professional approach. Every so often pressure will get to the best teams, and we know that Aston Villa are more than capable of turning over top opposition when they want to. The suspensions received for Willian and Ramires will be a slight hindrance to their starting line up, but with a big squad like Chelsea’s it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
The one thing that predominantly makes Chelsea favourites for the title has to be their fixtures. With the utmost respect to the likes of Stoke and Norwich these are games you would expect Chelsea to win comfortably, especially given that Mourinho’s men have been unbeaten at home whenever the master has been in charge. The one game that could throw a spanner in the works is the tie away to Liverpool. This however may not be the biggest hurdle as Chelsea are the only team in the title race still competing in the Champions League. Gruelling trips to Europe can sometimes take their toll as the season reaches its climax.
Lampard, Terry, Čech, and Eto’o just to name a few, are all experienced heads. Theses players have been here and done this before. If there was ever a time to want an older squad it would be now. It’s hard not to tip Chelsea with the fixture list and the tactical genius of Mourinho, but they may still be dependant on others doing them some favours.
Liverpool and the battering ram of Suárez and Sturridge are having a big say on this title race. Liverpool are currently in deadly form with six straight wins in the Premier League. Momentum is carrying this young team in the right direction and it is hard to believe they were nowhere near top four last season. The media nevertheless are hyping Liverpool too much. There are many factors that do not favour a first Premier League title for the reds.
The squad that Brendan Rodgers had assembled is very good, and hungry for success. Inexperience though could prove to be their Achilles’ heel. Many of the players have not been in this situation before, and on the same note neither has Rodgers. This is not to say that they cannot complete the most remarkable achievement of winning the title, just history would suggest that experience can be the difference.
Fixtures suggest Liverpool have a difficult time ahead with games against Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea all to come, it looks as if they would need a miracle to win this trophy. If you were Rodgers though it should be a motivator, Liverpool have a fantastic home record this season and with all the fixtures mentioned above at home surely it’s a matter of win these, win the Premier League?
Manchester City the sleeping giant, with three games in hand on Chelsea it almost seems like they have given them a head start. Some would say that Manchester City have the benefit, if they win their games in hand they win the league. Arguably this is not the case, if you asked Manuel Pellegrini if he would rather have banked points like Chelsea, he would take it.
Strikers have in recent years been the blessing of Manchester City. Agüero, Džeko, Negredo, and Jovetić are all top strikers, something the other teams do not have in abundance. Injuries and form have cost City, with Agüero and Jovetić out again and Negredo and Džeko misfiring, this could prove to be their weakness.
City, like Liverpool, have difficult fixtures with Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton – this will be their biggest test to win a league title thus far. A battle against wounded United could be the turning point. If Pellegrini loses this particular encounter, it could be game over. City though do boast the biggest squad of all the contenders and therefore should be more adaptable at fighting until the end. Coupled with the league now being their only goal, it’s hard to determine if City will be on top come the close of play in May.
After this weekend’s horrendous loss to Chelsea, the media have gone on a frenzy about Arsenal being out of the race this year. Although it is bemusing how Arsenal collapse against top opposition, their clinical work against the smaller teams could still play its part. Seven points is a solid gap from first but a win against Swansea and it will only be four.
Arsenal only have Manchester City left to play of the challenging teams, it is at the Emirates and what a way it would be to end their hoodoo. If Arsène Wenger can mastermind a win in that game, and get his players to step up a gear in the final push then why can’t Arsenal win the league? Obviously the Gunners would need the teams around them to slip up, but surely in a season of the unexpected no team is going to have a hundred percent end to the season.
Failure to beat City will most likely end Arsenal’s hopes completely, but regardless of this the FA Cup is still a distinct possibility and I’m sure on reflection Arsenal fans would take top four and a trophy this year.
So with Chelsea seemingly favourites and Manchester City hot in pursuit, will the underdogs come through and cause an upset? Regardless of the result this will go down as one of the most enthralling Premier League seasons to date.