The head honchos of the English Premier League couldn’t have scripted it any better. Six games to play and there are three teams in with a chance of lifting the league title. The Sky Sports commentators are beside themselves with unbridled excitement as they confidently proclaim that “this is the reason why the Large Multinational Bank Premier League is the BEST league in the world!”.
Mourinho’s lack of forward momentum
Chelsea suffered an unlikely setback against relegation battlers Crystal Palace with Jose Mourinho bemoaning the fact that some of his big name players did not turn up for the game. It’s not entirely certain whether Mourinho included his misfiring striking duo of Fernando Torres and Demba Ba in his description of ‘big names’. Everybody pointed out to Mourinho during the January transfer window that an additional striker might be a good idea, but the Portuguese manager knew best.
His main attacking threats during the first half of the season were Eden Hazard and Oscar, with the Brazilian in particular playing some outstanding football from end to end. Both Hazard and Oscar do seem to be somewhat jaded at the moment, and with the veteran Frank Lampard used more sparingly this season, goals have been more elusive for the Blues.
However, this does not take away from the outstanding effort put in by Crystal Palace who should have finished with a more comfortable score line, but were let down by some wayward finishing from promising positions. The home team came to compete and didn’t merely roll over to allow Chelsea to dominate the game. A great result for the neutrals.
Having been blitzed by Chelsea last weekend and then managing to snatch a draw from the hands of victory, it seemed that Arsenal might be in for a long afternoon when they welcomed Manchester City to the Emirates. The Manchester club, you may recall, handed Arsenal a tennis-like hiding earlier in the season. Arsene Wenger must have feared the worst when City took the lead through David Silva’s toe poke. City were looking confident and were full of slick passing and energetic movement.
However, a different Arsenal emerged for the second half, and perhaps Wenger unleashed his version of the infamous hair dryer (a disapproving shrug?) because suddenly the Gunners were actually playing with heart. City, whose best moves revolved around Toure and Silva, suddenly looked disjointed and tired. Arsenal equalized through a well taken Flamini volley and the red half of Merseyside rejoiced at the final whistle.
City still have two games in hand and remain the favourites to lift the crown, but would definitely see this as two points dropped
Hopes and dreams
The only people who could possibly be more excited than the Sky Sports commentators are the residents of the red half of Liverpool. The Reds continued their impressive 2014 with a 4-0 demolition of Tottenham Hotspur. Credit to Liverpool for winning the game in a confident manner, but it must be noted that Spurs were utterly abysmal from the first to the final whistle and barely even put up a fight. Sunderland, in the midweek game against Liverpool were far more competitive and showed that relegation-threatened teams may still have a significant influence on the title race.
Although Brendan Rodgers has attempted to play down the chances of an elusive league trophy for Liverpool, the sense of expectation continues to grow with every game – in particular at the fortress known as Anfield. As a fellow football lover warned me yesterday, however, “expectations are usually manageable until they are encouraged to run wild and free”. In the case of Liverpool supporters, expectations are running as freely as the bulls in Pamplona. There are many Reds chanting from the hill tops that mighty Liverpool (last seen in the 80’s) is back where it belongs and that the title is within reach.
Personally, I feel that the season objectives have been met which was Champions League qualification and anything better than that will be a bonus. Don’t get me wrong, if Liverpool were to win the title I would be booking my flights to go and celebrate in Merseyside in a heartbeat (and trying to figure out how to pay Mini Goalmouthmelee’s school fees on my return).
I know full well that nothing I say will dampen expectations and that fans will be heartbroken and angry if Liverpool doesn’t win the league. After all, if we don’t have hope then what are we left with?