That’s it people. The title has been decided and it goes to…wait, not so fast! Actually, on the contrary, the ongoing Barclay’s Premier League is anything but over as we enter the final phase of the contest. With just four matches left for the countdown, teams at the top are in a skirmish to finish off with a UEFA Champions League and Europa League berths, while the relegation-threatened ones are scurrying to get off that zone.
The past two weeks have been a treat for football gurus and experts, as they got a lot to chew at, from sensational close-finish matches spanning right through the fortnight. For example, Man United’s triumph over QPR ticked off a then-unbeatable 8-point lead over their derby rivals, Manchester City. In fact, on the same day, spaniard Mikel Arteta (Arsenal) fired a late winner home against City and snatched a much needed win at the Emirates Stadium. Man United, benefiting hugely from this slip-up by City, maybe got a little complacent and took a blow at Wigan with a 0-1 scorecard. City performed beautifully at home right afterward and smashed West Brom into smithereens 4-0. Sergio Aguero entered the top five goal scorers again, taking 2 bites off the hapless WB. City then followed up even better, this time at Norwich. 1-6…doesn’t come better than this – a triple from regularly-benched Tevez, again a double from Aguero and Adam Johnson picking one up at the last minute of added time. City had pulled off a blinder that day, but owing to United’s spectacular Old Trafford-form, they couldn’t cut the lead down any further than 5 points. United won 4-0 and thrust Aston Villa down towards the bottom for the table. This finally leaves United still big-favourites to lift the title again. But you never know – every team will fight it out at this stage to go up a spot or two.
The other two significant teams – Arsenal and Chelsea made light work of their opponents, in a way. Arsenal have played 3 matches over the past fortnight, that included the win over City, then another away win against Wolves (who are at the rock bottom of the table now!). The only time Arsenal tumbled was a few days back, at home versus Wigan. Wigan have earned the reputation of making it tough/impossible for top teams to win against them – right from their hard fought 1-2 loss to Chelsea to beating Man United and now to scoring an away win at Arsenal. Arsenal was completely defensive right through the first half, right after Wigan went 2-0 up with goals from Di Santo and Gomez. But Thomas Vermaelan cut through to salvage a dead-rubber goal.
Three places below them, Chelsea are struggling now to get back to the top 5, despite winning against Wigan first and drawing Fulham in an away match. But they definitely have performed in the Champions League Quarter Finals though – aggregating 3-1 against Benfica of Portugal. Up against the scary Barcelona yesterday, in the semis, Drogba’s finesse proved too good for them. It was a complete monopoly of ball-possession for Barca, and despite many chances of thumping Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, they couldn’t catch a break. Chelsea did well to keep Barca under the radar with Terry and Cahill providing a strong wall to their defense. So Barca will have to wait for their Camp Nou leg to advance to another consecutive final. But for Chelsea, they will have to outclass all their opposition in the coming matches in the EPL if they are to even enter the next Champions League draw!
In the top 5 are also Tottenham and Newcastle – who have quietly slithered their way up through Liverpool, Everton and Chelsea. Two good wins for Newcastle means their form is good and will pose a serious threat to surpass Tottenham and suppress Chelsea, especially now that they stand level with the former. Tottenham will have to register a win, if they want to finish well.
Like I said, the title race is anything but over. If United maintain winning at home and drawing at their mouth-watering clash at Etihad, they will clinch the spoils. But City can spoil their chances if they slip a bit, owing to their outstanding goal difference. The title is definitely between these two sides, but it will be very fascinating if the race goes two-sided till the last match. Follow these games in the next week or so and you’ll see why:
Arsenal (vs.) Chelsea (21st)
Newcastle (vs.) Stoke (21st)
Man United (vs.) Everton (22nd)
Wolves (vs.) Man City (22nd)