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The Race For The Title

Friday 3rd February 2012
With just 15 games to go and 45 points to play for, will Manchester United add another Premier League trophy to their name or will their ‘noisy neighbours' Manchester City or the surprise package Tottenham Hotspur make history by winning their first Premier League trophy? We analyse the situation so far and after looking at the remaining fixtures, make a prediction.

This is assuming that this year's title race is only a three horse race. The spluttering fourth placed Chelsea lay a mammoth 12 points behind current leaders Manchester City, surely too much ground to make up at this stage. It seems apparent that the Blues will battle it out with Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle for positions four to seven.

The season so far

Up until around Christmas time, there only looked to be one winner. After reinforcing strongly over the summer and with other star players settling to the English game, Manchester City looked simply unbeatable.

City started the season 14 games unbeaten, demolishing all opponents in sight, including thumping and famous victories over current challengers Manchester United (6-1) and Tottenham Hotspur (5-1). These early season results sent out messages of intent but these have recently dropped.

After finally losing their unbeaten start to the season to Chelsea on December 12th, the Citizen's went on to drop points against West Brom and Sunderland allowing their Manchester neighbours to sneak back into the picture. Add to this their elimination from The Champions League, The F.A. Cup, which United gained some much needed revenge and The League Cup and maybe things aren't so rosy in the City camp.

City's 1-0 defeat to Everton this week allowed a previously dare I say it, a nearly written off Manchester United to draw level at the top. Thus far, United have endured a difficult and pressured season by their standards.
Like City, they started very well, annihilating a shocked Arsenal 8-2 as well as comfortably beating Spurs 3-0 and Chelsea 3-1. Despite their embarrassing 6-1 home defeat to City, at which point many thought the title race was over, United rallied, showing true resilience to battle to three successive 1-0 victories.

This is often forgotten, they were not playing well but somehow dug deep to get results and kept themselves in touching distance with a City side who were winning all the plaudits. Despite also being eliminated from the League Cup and most unexpectedly the Champions League, United battled back to achieve five straight victories in the Premier League in December.

Despite wobbling after that with surprising defeats to Blackburn and Newcastle as well as being knocked out of the F.A. Cup, United revamped to win the next three and draw themselves level at a crucial stage, where their nearest neighbours appear to be cracking.

At the same time a largely unnoticed Tottenham side have been plugging along, surprising a host of pundits at how well they are doing. Despite a woeful opening two games, where they were convincingly beaten by both Manchester clubs, the ‘yids' have since been in superb form, losing just once in 19 league games.

Despite the stuffing appearing to be knocked out of them as they were heartbrokenly beaten by a 95th minute penalty against Manchester City last week, Spurs picked themselves up to win against Wigan and again close the gap on the top two to just five points.

Despite squeezing through to the last 16 of the F.A. Cup, they haven't had any other cup distractions after being knocked out in the early stages of the Europa League and the League Cup.

Redknapp has undoubtedly accumulated a fantastic squad, arguably the second best in the league, and so without doubt they are still in the hunt for the title. Although they may not be as fancied as the Manchester clubs, Redknapp will be determined to make his side in with a shout.

Remaining fixtures and predictions

So as we near what Sir Alex calls “squeaky bum time”, just who is going to have the bottle and class to lift that Premier League trophy in May?

The pressure is now evidently on the Citizen's who despite an apparent early invasion of all the competitions they were in, could end up with none.

They will have to prove the doubters wrong and go head to head against the experienced, wily battlers Manchester United, who have been in this stage on more than one occasion since the Premier League's inauguration in 1992.

City have a favourable run in, where they will look to reassert themselves at the top of the table. City should be looking at gaining maximum points in the next four games, three of which are at home; they play host to a Fulham side, who always struggle on the road, as well as relegation duo Blackburn and Bolton. In between these City also travel to Villa Park to face an inconsistent Villa side, they will need to win games like this to prove they can be champions.

City have a fantastic home record but have notoriously struggled of late on their travels, gaining only five points from the last possible 18. With difficult looking trips to Swansea, Stoke, Arsenal, and Newcastle to come, the pressure will really be on them to step this form up.

In contrast, Manchester United's next four games are very difficult. After an away trip to Stamford Bridge this weekend, they then host old enemies Liverpool followed by tough away trips to Norwich and then Tottenham.

If United can get a reasonable amount of points back from these fixtures, it will be very difficult to stop them as their following seven fixtures are against teams all in the lower half of the table. You would expect the Red Devils to accumulate a host of points in this run. However, like City, with their Europa League commitments in midweek, anything can happen.

Spurs meanwhile have the most difficult run-in of them all. Some may say their title challenge will barely begin before it's over. Their next eight fixtures will ultimately define their season, away trips to Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton, Chelsea and Sunderland follow as well as home fixtures against Newcastle, Manchester United and Swansea.

If they are still in the title race after this they will be doing extremely well and deserve all the praise they get. To mount any realistic goal, you simply have to beat the teams around you. Like Manchester United though, if Spurs manage to get a reasonable amount of points on the board after these, they can finish strongly as their last six games are against lower half opposition that you would expect them to beat.

Judging this, I feel it will be one of the two Manchester clubs who will lift the title. They play each other in the third last game of the season on the 28th April in what is set to be a title defining occasion.

Both teams will surely be a force in Champions League B, I.E. the Europa League, there couldn't possibly be a Europa League final between these two as well just to spice things up even more could there?
Will Ridgard

Total articles: 11

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