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It's Crunch Time in The Premier League

Sunday 11th March 2012
With 11 games to go in the Premier League we are entering the business end of the season. We have a hotly contested title race between Man Utd and Man City, a fascinating race for the remaining Champions League places, a closely bunched up midfield and five teams at the bottom slugging it out for survival.

Title Race:

The two Manchester clubs will battle it out for the title to the death. City are two points clear of United but a visit to Arsenal and a home match with Chelsea before taking on United at the Etihad on the 30th of April will be a stern test to their title crudentials.

Both sides have only lost three times in the league, City ( Everton, Chelsea and Sunderland, all away from home), United ( Newcastle away, Blackburn and Man City at home). When City are in full flow they are a formiddable outfit, their goal difference is +50 whilst United's is +39.

City should have a psychological edge over edge over United in the league after their astonishing 6-1 win over the Red Devils, but Fergie's men have beaten City 3-2 in the FA Cup and the Community Shield. The reds have an easier run in but when the two meet on April 30th at the Etihad, the winner will be champions.

Can United compete with City's strength in depth? United have the experience and the know how to win titles, City could buckle under the pressure.

Race For Europe:

Defeats to Arsenal and Man United have ended Tottenham's slim hope of the PL title but now not even third is assured. Arsenal are only four points off their North London rivals and are very much the form team.

Arsenal are unbeaten in their last five league matches and have capitalised on Chelsea's failings to move into fourth spot and have a realistic chance of third after reeling Spurs into the battle, a fortnight ago Spurs were 10 points clear of Arsenal, for the coveted Champions League place.

Chelsea are three points behind Arsenal in fifth. Since beating Man City on the 12th of December the Blues have only managed three wins in their last 12 league matches, a run that ultimately lost AVB his job. The squad is good enough to make the top four by May but can Di Matteo control and motivate the players to get Chelsea's season back on track?

It would be an injustice to rule Newcastle out of stealing a CL place. A win at Arsenal would propel Newcastle into the mix. The Magpies are only five points off the fourth placed Gunners and by Monday night that deficit could be reduced to two points. The Geordies are dark horses to nick a CL spot.

Liverpool occupy seventh place and defeat to Arsenal last week was disastarous, furthermore that 2-1 loss has all but ended the Reds chances of a CL spot. However, Kenny Dalglish vowed not to give up and the Reds do have a game in hand against Everton on Tuesday night. Win that and Liverpool are back in contention.

The Reds have failed to win their last six PL games and must defeat a resurgent Sunderland side to keep their faint hopes of Champions League football alive.

Mid-table:

It's closer than ever in mid-table with only three points seperating eighth placed Fulham and 14th placed Swansea. Aston Villa are a further three points behind in 15th so a lot of jostling for a top half finish will occur.

It must be remembered that all the clubs involved will want to finish as high up the league as possible as there is a significant difference in how much money you receive when finishing eighth rather than 15th. More money will be provided for the eighth placed club to kick on and challenge for a top six finish next season rather than receiving less money by finishing below teams that are roughly on the same level as you but with less funds for next season you may be facing a battle against the drop instead of competing where you want to be.

All clubs in this mini battle have to reach the magical 38 points to completely enure PL status for another year although it looks extremely unlikely that any of the clubs will be involved in a relegation dogfight.

Relegation Battle:

Five teams are embroiled in a fierce battle to survive and it's so close between them as all teams are within two points of each other and four clubs play each other this weekend, which could be decisive in who is staying up and who is going down from England's top tier.

QPR occupy 16th on 22 points and the new era under Mark Hughes is struggling to get going and the newly promoted side's last win in the league was against Wigan six weeks ago and have failed to win their last five league games.

Blackburn are in 17th and face Wolves tomorrow, a win would be crucial to both relegation threatened clubs. Blackburn have conceded the most goals and haven't kept a clean sheet all season. However unpopular Steve Kean has been at Ewood Park this is the time for fans to back their team to help steer them away from the drop.

They showed what they could do when beating Man Utd 3-2 at Old Trafford. Wolves are currently in the drop zone in 18th and under new boss Terry Connor they got thrashed 5-0 and looked like a side resigned to their fate. In the three games Connor has taken over, Wolves have conceded 12 goals but a win would restore some much needed confidence at Molineux.

They need to find the form they showed at the start of the season, earning seven points from their opening three games. A third of their points came in the first three games of the season, showing that Wolves have deteriorated over the season continue to do this and they are going down.

Bolton sit in 19th place two points adrift of those three forementioned sides above them and have lost 19 league matches out of the 27 they have played this season. Owen Coyle's side have lost their last four games but drew with Arsenal and beat Liverpool prior to that.

Bolton have also hammered Stoke 5-0 and QPR 4-0 showing that they have what it takes to stay up but the Wanderers are so inconsistent.

Another win against QPR will see them out the relegation zone this week. Wigan are bottom of the league but they have escaped from this precarious position in the past few seasons. The Latics have won only once in their last 14 league games and have only won four times in the league this season ( Bolton away, West Brom away, Sunderland away and QPR at home).

It's always enthralling when we reach this stage of the season. Hopefully I have shown that every single league position is still up for grabs in the next few months.

Now is the perfect time to go on a good run whether it's to win the league, stay in the league, snatch a European place or just finish in the top half of the table. I'm sure a few of these battles, considering how tight it is everywhere, will go right down to the nerve shredding final day of the season in which I'm sure everyone will be anticipating with great excitement.

 

 
Calum McClurkin

Total articles: 15

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