While Leicester City gained promotion just this weekend to one of the most prestigious leagues in the world, it is almost certain that the Premiership trophy will take a little longer to find its new home, with no less than three teams battling it out for the ultimate prize in English football. As the end of the campaign gets ever closer, pressures start to rise, tensions begin to show and it starts to become a case of ‘all or nothing’ for those at each end of the table.
|Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers|
(source: Liverpool FC)
This is certainly the case in what must surely be the closest title race ever, as Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool all look to be crowned champions of the Barclays Premier League come May. Therefore, due to this extremely tight finish in store for the fans and with no-one knowing which way it’ll swing, I decided to tackle of task of determining who stands the best chance of lifting that trophy at the end of the season.
All three teams appear to be finding form at this crucial time and none are showing any real signs of weakness; this is particularly true of Liverpool who have now won their last nine league games, scoring a total of 32 goals during this time. With impressive 3-0 victories away to Southampton and Manchester United, both of whom occupy spots in the top half of the table, it is hard to imagine who is going to stop Liverpool on the road, with their remaining away games being against Norwich and Crystal Palace – two teams that look set to be involved in a scrappy relegation fight. At home they’ve put five goals past Arsenal and netted four at Anfield in the game against Tottenham, however The Reds look to face a tougher challenge with both title rivals, Manchester City and Chelsea, still to visit the Southern side of Stanley Park. These two games are undeniably crucial in the run-in and if Liverpool manage to gain six points from these matches, then the Barclays Premier League trophy stands a very good chance of being lifted in Merseyside for the first time in its history. While Liverpool have shown mental and physical strength against West Ham today, brushing them aside by two-goals-to-one, the resilience must remain for their final five games if victory is to be the end result for The Reds.
|Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho|
(source: Wiki Commons)
Chelsea are another team who also pose a similar threat, despite Mourinho claiming it is, in fact, an “impossible” task for them to win the title following their victory over Stoke yesterday. The Blues looked to be on Cloud Nine after a 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal towards the end of March, only for them to lose 1-0 at Crystal Palace just one week later. As the table stands, Manchester City will go four points above Chelsea if they win their two games in hand, not to mention their superior goal difference which is currently fourteen above the London club. Chelsea are just about hanging in there; however, one must not forget that they’re actually seated in a respectable second position, behind Liverpool. Dropped points by either of their rivals would put them right back into the mix.
Having said this, Chelsea are still competing in the Champions League, meaning that they are playing more matches and therefore, particularly at this stage of the season, are sure to be experiencing more fatigue than both Liverpool and Manchester City. What Chelsea also lack, which the other two hopeful teams possess with great effect, is an out-and-out centre forward who has the ability to change or impact a game whenever required. Samuel Eto’o has scored eight goals in his nineteen appearances for the club, while Fernando Torres, the man that was bought in for a record-breaking £50 million, has managed just four league goals this season. Compare this with Luis Suarez of Liverpool, for example, who has netted twenty-nine goals (as well as gaining eleven assists) having missed the first five games of the season. Similarly, Sergio Aguero has managed to score fifteen times from his seventeen appearances for Manchester City this year, showing pure domination in front of goal. It just highlights Chelsea’s problems that they are facing at this vital time, yet it would seem foolish to write them off just yet, with their run-in looking the best out of the three teams who have their eye on the title. Sunderland, Norwich and Cardiff all feature in their remaining five games, making the task ahead seem a little easier for Chelsea and making the race for top spot even more pulsating.
|Man City manager, Manuel Pellegrini|
(source: Wiki Commons)
Finally Manchester City – the favourites – look in an incredibly strong position as the run-in begins. Yes, they still must go to Anfield, as well as Goodison Park to face a fearless Everton team who put three past fourth-placed Arsenal on Saturday; however, if they win all of their remaining matches, the crown is theirs. While this does, indeed, seem very appealing, it must also be considered that they have two more league games than both Liverpool and Chelsea, meaning more matches and therefore extra pressure. Liverpool and Chelsea must simply play out their weekend games, with a minimum of six days in between each one (not counting Chelsea’s Champions League fixtures), whilst City have two mid-week matches remaining, one of which is on the last week of the season. This means that, between the 3rd and the 11th of May, the Northern club will play three games when both of their other title contenders will have just two. Nevertheless, the pure depth of City’s squad is arguably the best in the league and probably the best equipped to cope with the demanding schedule. On occasions, their substitute bench has looked as strong as the opposition’s starting eleven and the big names keep coming for City as a few are still to return from injury before the end of the season. The crowds at the Etihad Stadium have enjoyed huge wins in recent weeks, such as a 5-0 walkover against Fulham and a 4-1 victory over Southampton on Saturday, meaning that the squad is high in confidence, something they’ll certainly look to take into the huge game away to Liverpool next weekend.So, as we’ve seen, the title race is far from over and many predict that it will go right down to the wire and be decided on the final day of the season. I wouldn’t bet against any of these teams.
|Steven Gerrard: "We want this badly"|
If anyone is to stop The Reds in their title surge, it will surely be Manchester City. With the euphoric memories from their dramatic triumph in 2012 surely in their minds, this is clearly something they’ll be striving for again and something which could well happen in May. Chelsea are also contenders that are currently knocking on the door, waiting for a slip-up, but it will be an extremely tricky task for the title to make a return to Stamford Bridge this year.It has been an incredible season so far, with the lead at the top changing a staggering twenty-two times, and there are sure to be a few twists-and-turns to come before the season’s out in May. One thing is for sure, whatever happens, it will certainly be the best and most deserving team that are ultimately crowned champions of the Barclays Premier League in 2014.