It’s a huge weekend for… Benitez, Manchester City, QPR and Nottingham Forest
Is there a dead man walking in West London? After last weekend’s defeat to Newcastle Chelsea’s manager went odds on to be the next Premier League manager sacked, as rumours became abound that Jose Mourinho was being sounded out for a return to Stamford Bridge.
Whilst much of the circus surrounding Benitez’s employment at Chelsea is of little fault of the manager, Chelsea’s recent record has been poor. They are without a win in four games against Swansea, Brentford, Reading and Newcastle, and that is just not acceptable for a club of Chelsea’s standard.
This weekend Chelsea have as close to a banker as they could wish for, a home fixture against Wigan. Even if Chelsea do win and win well, the knives will remain sharp for Benitez.
Forgive me for my cruelness, but I was more than happy when QPR failed to beat Norwich at home last weekend, because it confirmed to the watching world that it was not just as simple as buying their way to survival.
There is a ticking time bomb at Loftus Road. There have been reassurances from the club that owner Tony Fernandes will not walk away if the club are relegated, but after allowing Harry Redknapp to splurge in January, the spoils of Premier League football are necessary.
Rangers are six points from safety, which is actually further than they were when Redknapp took over. Norwich at home was an opportunity that should not have been missed, and Redknapp will hope that an overdue three points can be taken from the Liberty Stadium.
Put simply, it’s now win or bust. There are 39 points to play for, and Manchester City may will need every single one of them if they are to overhaul a nine point gap to their City neighbours.
Given the resources at his disposal, Roberto Mancini will receive significant criticism if his side do not win a trophy this season, but it is the goalscoring of his side that has been most concerning. City had 17 more league goals at this stage last season.
The difference between Manchester’s City and United this season? Resilience. United have managed to gain 27 points from losing positions in the league in 25 games. City have just 16.
Forest are the new Blackburn Rovers, the joke of the the Football League. They are searching for their seventh manager since 2011 and the Al-Hasawi family in charge of the club are recruiting a fourth manager since they took over in July last year. Patience is a dirty word at the City Ground.
In Billy Davies, the owners have opted to go back to a former fans’ favourite, but not all fans. ‘Never go back’ is the evident cliche, and cynical supporters will be interested in odds as short as 9/4 that the new manager doesn’t even last the rest of the season.