Let’s start with a fact; the title is in Man City’s hands. If they win their games in hand they go three points clear at the top with a superior goal difference. If they drop any points at all the title will go to the team that goes the rest of the season without dropping a point… but we all know football is never that simple. There will be shocks, injuries, suspensions and fixture congestion all along the way. As a Liverpool fan I am staying grounded, but when will it be OK to dream? Whatever happens this has been a fantastic season and a joy to watch with Champions League football almost guaranteed to return to Anfield, but can it still get better? Let’s look at the key factors that will determine what happens in May.
As I said in the first line the title is there to be won for Man City. They are in a position where if they win their remaining games they win the league. But the strain of a fixture pile up caused by their 3 games in hand could be a negative factor for their chances, that plus the pressure of needing to win each of these. However, they do have a deep squad with the experience of winning big matches. Vincent Kompany being suspended could be big, as the defence lacks strength without him and the whole team lose a leader. They were fine in their first game without him, but with respect Fulham were never likely to cause them any problems, United and Arsenal away this week will be the big tests. United will not want their noisy neighbours to win the league and will do everything in their power to prevent it, Rooney and Van Persie could be too much for a City defence without Kompany. Arsenal aren’t looking great of late, but at the Emirates could still cause problems. If City can pick up 6 points from these games they would have ridden the worst of it and should go on to win the league. As City are out of the cup competitions there isn’t too much of a fixture pile up, the other games to look at are Liverpool away, they then only have 3 days to recover before Sunderland at home on April 16th, Everton away on May 3rd could also prove tricky.
Despite what Mourinho constantly says, Chelsea are not the outsiders for the title. They are top of the league and at this stage of the season points on the board are more important than games in hand. Chelsea have the easiest run in by far, with Liverpool away looking like the only real test left for them. However, Chelsea still have Champions League responsibilities mid-week and the extra games could be a contributing factor in how many points they pick up in the league. But as we saw last week Ramires and Willian being sent off has little affect to the team, they have so much in reserve suspensions are only a big concern in defence. Chelsea haven’t been the most consistent of teams this season either, although they sit top of the league they have dropped points in some unexpected matches; 2-2 at home and 1-1 away to West Brom, 1-0 defeat to Villa and 0-0 at home to West Ham. They still have some games against sides at the bottom who need points coming up so picking up maximum points from their remaining 7 games is no forgone conclusion. Obviously, Liverpool away on April 27th is the big game, if Liverpool keep winning that could be a game that puts them above Chelsea. If Liverpool go into the game above them already expect an open game, if Chelsea still hold the advantage expect a classic cagey Chelsea away performance against one of the big sides. If I had to pick out other potential banana skins I would say; Palace away this weekend and Swansea away in April could see them drop points. I can’t see them seeing the season out with 7 more straight wins.
Their defeat to Chelsea has all but ended their hopes, even though they would be only be 4 points behind Chelsea if they won their game in hand they have tough games coming up and 4 points is still a big gap at this stage of the season. This weekend they host City and the following weekend they are at Everton, 6 points may give them a fighting chance or it may just give Chelsea the title.
Hull away and Norwich away on the last day are other games which could see Arsenal fighting for their place in the top 4, but it is a tall order for Everton to catch Arsenal at this point, a win when they host them at Goodison Park is huge.
Liverpool arguably has the toughest run in, but do not have any cup competitions to worry about like Chelsea and Arsenal. Top 4 seems a few points away from confirmed, 3rd place is the next very real target and a first league title since 1990 is in their hands. I say this because they still have to host Man City and Chelsea, and winning these plus the other 6 games left would win them the league (if City drop 2 more points)… so yes a lot of ifs and buts and a title which is a very long way away from happening.
Liverpool’s defence has been a concern this season but a strike force that has contributed to 82 league goals this season has resulted in 20 victories out of 30 games. In addition to City and Chelsea, they still have to host Spurs and travel to West Ham, Norwich and Crystal Palace. These games may seem simple to a side as free scoring as Liverpool but the Reds away form is pretty average and these are teams with unpredictable home records who need to win (with the exception of West Ham). One defensive mistake and the title dream could end.
Liverpool are certainly third favourites but they are playing with confidence and a desire to end the long wait for a league title. They have it in them to do it, but I think it may just be a season to soon. If they go into the Chelsea game with the chance to go top it will be the time for Liverpool fans to start to dream.
Whatever happens this has been the most exciting title race, arguably, ever. No one can be sure who will win it and I’m not sure we will do until the final day of the season, those fixtures by the way are; Liverpool v Newcastle, Man City v West Ham and Cardiff v Chelsea; Cardiff the only other team who could be playing for something. May the excitement continue all the way!
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