The Premier League title race was blown wide open yesterday, after an under-strength Chelsea won 2-0 at table topping Liverpool.
The victory for Chelsea was not just good news for the Blues, but also for Manchester City, who also won 2-0 at Crystal Palace on Sunday.
For all Jose Mourinho’s talk of the game not being important and playing the reserves, the Chelsea boss pulled off a tactical master-class.
Mourinho did name a slightly weakened side, but that was almost out of his hands with the likes of John Terry, Petr Cech and Eden Hazard sidelined through injury.
People have criticised Chelsea’s style of play in the victory at Anfield, including Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, who accused Chelsea of ‘parking two buses’. However, at the end of the game it was Chelsea celebrating, even if the style of play was not thrilling to watch.
If Mourinho had approached the game in a gung-ho way, then the Blues probably would have come away from Anfield with nothing, as that would have been playing to Liverpool’s strengths. Too many teams have been naïve against the Reds this season and that is why Brendan Rodgers team have scored 96 Premier League goals this season.
Mourinho, as he has done so many times down the years, knew exactly how to counteract such an attacking force. The Portuguese may be criticised for his often controversial behaviour, but in big games he usually has an answer to the opposition.
The Chelsea boss has written-off his own team’s chances of winning the title, but the Blues are very much in the thick of the title race, especially with a home game against struggling Norwich to come at the weekend.
Ironically, Chelsea’s win has actually put Manchester City in the driving seat to win the title. The Citizens are now just three points behind Liverpool, with a game in-hand and a superior goal difference. The Citizens are also now favourites to win the Premier League title at odds of 4/5.
Manchester City have wasted opportunities in the past to take the initiative, but Manuel Pellegrini’s side cannot afford to miss this opportunity with just three games remaining in their season. It seems simple all City have to do is win at Everton, and beat Aston Villa and West Ham at the Etihad Stadium to become champions.
Does sound simple, but it is easier said than done. City face a tough challenge getting anything at Everton’s Goodison Park, even if a minority of Toffees fans will want their side to lose the game in order to stop arch-rivals Liverpool from winning the league.
Everton’s players and management staff will go out to win the game and in the unlikely event of Newcastle taking points off Arsenal this evening, the Toffees could very well still have a chance of making fourth spot.
The City game will be Everton’s last home game of the campaign and the team will want to finish the season in style and finish on a high. I do not think many of those Everton players will be worried about helping Liverpool win the title. They will just be going out there to give their best for Everton.
City will face a depleted Everton side, with the Toffees sustaining some key injuries to the likes of Kevin Mirallas, Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin in recent weeks and months. However, City have a terrible record at Goodison Park, having won at the grand old lady just once in their last 15 visits.
City will no doubt have to put in a good performance against the Toffees to earn maximum points and end that record of just one win in 21 years on the Blue half of Merseyside. City have the quality to do it, but it all depends on how the home side plays and what players boss Roberto Martinez has available to him.
This season has produced some very unpredictable results. The destination of the title is now very hard to predict. It is very easy to judge team’s chances by looking at their fixtures, but Chelsea and City have already slipped-up in very winnable games this season.
The same could still happen and Liverpool have a tricky trip to Crystal Palace next Monday, by which time they could be third in the league if City overcome Everton and Chelsea defeat Norwich. It is still all to play for and the race for the tile could go down to the very last day.
The Premier League comes in for some undue criticism sometimes for the standard of football. However, it is hard to argue with the league’s entertainment value, when we are so close to the end of the season and three teams can still win the title. May the best team win!
Who will win the Premier League title this season?
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