In one of the closest run Premier League seasons to date, war is raging across the nation. Local rivals are battling it out left, right and centre as they jostle for league position and regional bragging rights come the end of season. It is power struggle from Manchester, where the victor will be crowned Premier League Champions, to London where there is a three-way fight for third and fourth place and those all-important Champions League places. London and Manchester are not the only regions in the thick of things as battle commences tonight on Merseyside that could see Everton move ahead of Liverpool in the Premier League, a game that both Sunderland and Newcastle have a big interest in – it is certainly all to play for. But who will come out on top in the race for not only the title, but those important European places as well.
Battle of Manchester – Premier League Champions
Manchester City have been top of the pile since game 8 in this season’s Premier League, topping the table in October and they have remained there until losing away to Swansea last weekend (game 28). That is almost six months at the top of the league for City – good going for a team that lack the experience of winning a title. The form of Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Micah Richards, Yaya Toure, David Silva and the goals from Sergio Aguero have given them every chance this season. United have kept the pace with their city neighbours, remaining in second throughout despite Tottenham’s best efforts. After Spurs slipped out of the race, the title is defiantly heading to Manchester. United have been once again lead by Wayne Rooney, with old heads Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes helping steady the ship as United aim to claim their 13th Premier League title. Manchester United and Manchester City still have to play each other in what could become one of the most important games in Premier League and Manchester history. Whether the Premier League trophy will be heading to the red side or blue side of Manchester remains to be seen, but with only one point in it, things cannot get more exciting than this.
Key Factors: More goal’s from Wayne Rooney & the form of David De Gea.
Crucial Games: Everton (Home) and Manchester City (Away)
Key Factors: The return of Carlos Tevez and holding their nerve.
Crucial Games: Chelsea (Home), Arsenal (Away), Manchester United (Home) and Newcastle (Away)
Verdict: Manchester United have the better run-in and the title winning experience. It will come down to City winning the big games above, with the derby being the crucial match. For me Manchester United will win the title!
Battle of London – The race for the Champions League
Very few saw Tottenham’s demise coming if we look back a few weeks to when they were 10 points clear of Arsenal in fourth place, but things change quickly in football. Spurs’ inability to get anything out of recent big games against Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton has already cost them and could cost them further come the end of the season. The manner of those defeats has completely knocked Spurs’ confidence and belief – they need to return to winning ways as they head towards a ‘must win’ game at Chelsea. Chelsea themselves have had indifferent form, but have still managed to keep winning, even under former manager AVB. They are in with more than a chance of qualifying for the Champions League and only sit 3 points behind Arsenal and 4 points behind Spurs. Arsenal are absolutely flying and are coming in to form at the crucial time, you wouldn’t be surprised to see them take third spot with the most inform striker in world football, something that neither Tottenham or Cheslea have. Third place is Spurs’ to lose, but Arsenal will make it as uncomfortable as possible and if Chelsea can stay in the mix, it could go all the way.
Key Factor: Returning to winning ways quickly.
Crucial Games: Chelsea (Away) and Sunderland (Home)
Key Factors: Keeping Robin van Persie fit and if Mertesacker gets back in team.
Crucial Games: Everton (Away), Manchester City (Home) and Chelsea (Home)
Key Factors: Return of John Terry and how Di Matteo handles the run-in.
Crucial Games: Manchester City (Away), Tottenham (Home), Fulham (Away), Newcastle (Home), Arsenal (Away), Liverpool (Away)
Verdict: You can easily see Arsenal taking third if van Persie keeps scoring and the team keep improving defensively. It is Spurs’ to throw away as they have a much more favourable run-in than Chelsea, but anything could happen. Arsenal third, Spurs fourth and Chelsea to just miss out, but hold on to fifth.
Battle of the North-East and North-West – European scraps
Whoever manages to finish in sixth spot this season will be in with a good shout of gaining a Europa League place. It is all-important for all these clubs to give themselves the best chance of taking that next step. Currently Newcastle are in the driving seat following a quite incredible season on the back of a twelfth place finish last season. Newcastle currently have a 5 point buffer between them and Liverpool, but this could easy be cut down – look what happened to Spurs. Liverpool fans are demanding a high-placed finish and have put the pressure on their team to do it, whether they can or not is another matter as they now have Everton breathing down their necks. Everton’s form of late has been one of the best as they now remain unbeaten in the last 8 league and cup games ahead of the Merseyside derby. Sunderland have taken many by surprise after their form under Martin O’Neill and are the outsider of this bunch for the sixth spot in the league, but they may as well enjoy it after expectations were lowered earlier in the season.
Key Factor: Goals of Demba Ba.
Crucial Games: Liverpool (Home), Swansea (Away), Chelsea (Away), Manchester City (Home) and Everton (Away)
Key Factors: Scoring goals and how the team handles the fan pressure.
Crucial Games: Everton (Home), Newcastle (Away), Chelsea (Home) and Swansea (Away)
Key Factors: Keeping everyone fit and maintaining momentum.
Crucial Games: Liverpool (Away), Arsenal (Home), Swansea (Away), Sunderland (Home), Manchester Untied (Away) and Newcastle (Home)
Key Factor: Enjoying their football.
Crucial Games: Manchester City (Away), Spurs (Home), Everton (Away), Manchester United (Home)
Verdict: Liverpool have to beat the teams around them to secure sixth place and the pressure is well and truly on – anything less will not acceptable for the fans. Looking at the fixture list and current form, you would think Sunderland should finish strongly, whilst Newcastle will have to hope they can rediscover some form after no win in the last 4 games. The rest of Everton’s season could depend on the Merseyside derby result, but they are in great form. I will go for Liverpool to finish sixth, Everton seventh, Newcastle Eighth and Sunderland ninth.