Winning the league, surviving the drop and hitting the sofa
It truly is. Without doing too much wrong, the league title race is suddenly back on. It the perfect embodiment of our kneejerk tabloid culture that whilst United are now struggling (after dropping just two points against Newcastle), Chelsea could win the league whilst Arsenal are finished (despite being on the same number of points).
What is true is that if United fail to beat Everton at home, questions will begin to be asked. United’s treble has already become a double, and with the reality of having to beat one of Barca or Real to win the Champions League, the Premier League is the most likely trophy candidate.
But the fact remains. Win their other games, and United need just one point from the two games against Arsenal and Chelsea to take their 19th title.
The manner in which Spurs recovered from two goals down against Arsenal was not altogether surprising: No one has taken more points from losing positions in the PL than Spurs this season, and they have gained ten points from the eight games in which they have been losing at half time.
But Spurs need wins now, not draws, especially when you look at theirs and Man City’s run ins. Whilst Spurs still have to face three of the top seven in their remaining six games, City’s only top seven fixture is at home to their rivals for fourth spot.
For this weekend, all the above boils down to the absolute necessity for three points at home to the Baggies, particularly with City not playing until Monday. They have dropped points at home this season to Wigan, Sunderland and West Ham. This cannot be repeated if their Champions League dreams are to be extended to a second year.
Miss out, and you feel it may get harder year on year.
It was a big weekend last weekend, so heaven knows what adjective you use for this Saturday’s home game against Wigan.
Sunderland are struggling with injuries to be fair to Bruce, but he seems to have the hallmarks of a resigned man. Depending on who you believe in the North East, Sunderland may not have enough money to sign players unless sales are made this summer, but that financial questionability would be deepened through an unthinkable relegation.
But it could happen. Two weeks ago we were surprised when a WBA win meant overtaking the Mackems. Last weekend a Birmingham win took them level on points with Sunderland. If Wigan won at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, Bruce’s could be two points off the drop zone, and sinking like a stone.
Time to stop the rot, if ever it was needed.
The current bottom three
There was a feeling three weeks ago that the relegation dogfight would go right down to the wire, with seven or eight teams all vying for survival.
However, for this to happen, the current bottom three need to pull their collective fingers out. The three sides currently occupying have lost their last eight combined games, with an aggregate score of 6 – 25. In seven of those eight games, the side has conceded at least three goals.
It is all very well sides like Sunderland and Blackburn sinking, but West Ham, Wolves and Blackpool need to get points of their own.
Queens Park Rangers
It is an odd season in the Championship. QPR have led the way from the off, and this weekend can all but seal promotion if they avoid defeat away at second place Cardiff.
Say it quietly though, and their squad does not inspire in terms of the Premier League. Regular performers Paddy Kenny, Tommy Smith, Heidur Helguson and Wayne Routledge have all had a go at the Premier League and not succeeded. Others, such as Bradley Orr and Clint Hill, have not even reached that level. Actually, only Adel Taraabt could be said to look like true Premier League quality. Shaun Derry has played most games, for goodness sakes.
QPR will surely get to the Promised Land. One suspects that may just have to be the first stage.
The armchair fan
The beauty of the Easter weekend. As you may know, I will be walking for 88 hours over the next eleven days, but don’t let that stop you getting your fill.
In full (and because here at OTP we like to treat you), this is the televised football for you until you next have to go back to work. To repeat, this only includes the games I consider ‘big time’:
Friday 5.15pm Forest v Leicester
Friday 7.45pm Leeds v Reading
Saturday 12.45pm Man Utd v Everton
Saturday 12.45pm Cardiff v QPR
Saturday 5.30pm Chelsea v West Ham
Saturday 7.00pm Valencia v Real Madrid
Saturday 9.00pm Barcelona v Osasuna
Sunday 12.30pm Rangers v Celtic
Sunday 4.00pm Bolton v Arsenal
Sunday 8.00pm Sevilla v Villareal
Monday 8.00pm Blackburn v Man City
Oh, and just so you don’t get withdrawal symptoms, the Champions League is back the next day.