Monday night’s Manchester derby concludes one of the most thrilling weekends in this seasons Premier League. This has been among the most exciting and unpredictable seasons in Premier League history, with the title race, the battle for the last two Champions League positions and the fight for survival at the bottom of the league – all going down to the wire. It has been certain for some time now that the title is going to stay in Manchester; the only question that needs to be answered is- ‘Where?’
If last nights Manchester derby was any indication, the odds are in favor Manchester City. The 163rd Manchester Derby was indeed billed to be one of the biggest matches in the history of the league and City lived up to expectations. Prior to the game, Sir Alex Ferguson had confidently proclaimed that United would win, but that was not to be as City dominated the game from the go and did not give United any breathing space. The latter only managed three attempts on goal in the entire game and were completely outplayed by City.
Much to the delight of the forty-six thousand spectators in the Etihad Stadium, Vincent Company gave City the lead when he got into a very good position between two United defenders and powerfully headed past Da Gea from a well taken corner that allowed City drive home their slender 1-0 advantage and collect three points. United’s defense looked shaky throughout the match and should consider themselves lucky not to have conceded more.
City’s win over United has definitely tilted the title race in their favor, but much remains to be seen as the two clubs are level on points and are separated only by goal difference. The onus is now on City to bring home the title after a gap of more than 40 years. The next two weeks are going to be like walking on glass for both Manchester clubs, as any slip ups will cost them dearly.
The last two fixtures are going to be a little more tricky for City who play Newcastle and Queens Park Rangers than United who play Swansea and Sunderland. But with their current form and the desire to win that their players displayed, City are favorites to be crowned champions this year.
Below the top two, there is another battle taking place. The last two Champions League positions are up for grabs as Arsenal, Tottenham, Newcastle and Chelsea are separated by only five points. Arsenal seem to have secured their position with 65 points and another win for them would cement their place in the top four.
The other three are separated by only one point, with Tottenham and Newcastle level on 62 and Chelsea fractionally behind on 61. Chelsea have an opportunity to jump into fifth place in Thursday’s match against Newcastle at Stamford Bridge, after which they will have to ride their luck and hope for the Spurs to slip up. The last two weeks have been exceptional for the Blues and they showed just how good their form has been with a 6-1 mauling of QPR, in which Fernando Torres picked up his first hat trick for the club.
Even though skeptics point out that the goals came against a relegation side, his finishing was sublime and bore evidence that he is back to his prolific best. It wouldn’t be surprising if Roberto Di Matteo chose to play Torres ahead of Drogba in the match against Newcastle. Of course, the result of this match might be rendered moot if Tottenham manage to hang on to their lead by winning in their remaining matches against Bolton, Aston Villa and Fulham.
The Spurs had a disappointing run last season and failed to qualify for this years Champions League. Harry Redknapp’s men will be looking to leave their demons behind by obtaining a top four finish, which will definitely be regarded as a successful season for the club. Newcastle’s prospects of a top four finish look bleak as they have to face Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton in their last three fixtures of the season.
At the bottom of the league the skirmish to survive relegation is also underway. Wolverhampton, with just 24 points are already out of the reckoning and have no chance of surviving relegation, which leaves Blackburn, Bolton and QPR scrambling to stay out of the remaining two places. QPR and Bolton are tied on 34 points with QPR ahead due to superior goal difference, with Blackburn trailing them by three points in 19th position.
Another defeat for Blackburn, who narrowly survived last year’s relegation, would surely end their Premier League aspirations for the next season. Predicting the survivor among QPR and Bolton is not easy as both have been in woeful form and have tough fixtures ahead against Manchester City and Tottenham respectively. Both of their fates will depend on how they finish their other matches with Bolton playing Stoke and West Brom, while QPR also plays Stoke.
The next two weeks in the Barclays Premier League are going to be crucial as the fate of a lot of clubs will be decided during this time. Once again the openness and competitive nature of the Premier League has shown why it is considered to be the best and most exhilarating league in the world.