Manchester City would have ruined countless accumulators this weekend with their loss away at relegation contenders, Burnley. In truth, the team that started this round of fixtures second from bottom gave a much better showing than last year’s champions, thoroughly deserving their win over a lacklustre City side.
Two losses in their last three games now see Pellegrini’s side slipping away in the title race and, unexpectedly, being dragged into the fight for top four. They are just one point ahead of Arsenal and two ahead of Manchester United, who both registered 3-0 wins this weekend, as well as good performances to boot.
However, as any fan will tell you, this is football and anything can happen. For the entirety of the season, most have tipped the Premier League crown to go to one of City and Chelsea, with the best of the rest expected to challenge for third and fourth spot. However, with City slipping up too many times and Chelsea stuttering slightly, it appears that Arsenal and United are back in with a shout.
Many will point to Chelsea’s six point advantage and game in hand as an indicator that the Blues will surely win the league but that match (against Leicester) falls at the end of April, with five games to play before, including consecutive games for Chelsea against United and Arsenal, home and away respectively.
If both teams are able to continue their current form, they have the ability to cause problems for José Mourinho’s side and put a dent in Chelsea’s title ambitions. In fact, Manchester United are to play a key role in deciding where the Premier League trophy will be heading come the end of May, as they are due to play all three teams that lie ahead of them in the table.
Arguably, as they are the furthest away from first place out of the current top four, Van Gaal’s team have the least chance of going on to win the league. But the Red Devils host both City and Arsenal in the run-in, and of course, are away to Chelsea. Should they match City’s next two results, they will have a chance of going ahead of their Manchester rivals when they play them at Old Trafford on 12th April.
Or, if they lose to City and beat Chelsea on the 18th April, they would drag the leaders down towards the chasing pack, which would result in a nervy game at the Emirates for the Blues the following week. And, in the penultimate week of the season, United host Arsenal in what could go some way to deciding who wins the league and who claims a Champions League place.
To add yet more uncertainty into the mix, Liverpool could also help to decide things. The Reds welcome United to Anfield on Sunday, as well as taking on both Arsenal and Chelsea away from home before the season is over. Brendan Rodgers’ men will be hoping to secure a top four spot themselves, and could maybe throw a spanner in the works to their fellow contenders.
With so many big games coming up, the Premiership is starting to shape up nicely for a exciting finish, especially if United and Liverpool manage to become banana skins for those above them. Perhaps mid-season expectations of predictability will be met with an unforeseeable climax.