The Aftermatch - by Brian Martin
AMIDST the universal acclaim of Lionel Messi’s heroics and the disappointment of Arsenal and Manchester United’s Champions League exits, it is easy to forget that the race for the English Premier League title is turning into one of the closest and most exciting ever in years.
Chelsea are ahead of Manchester United by two points, with Arsenal a further point behind.
With five matches left, it looks like the Blues should have no problem wrapping up their third EPL title.
But this has been a season of ups and downs, highs and lows, and lots of twists and turns.
Chelsea’s 2-1 win at Old Trafford last week meant that the lead had changed hands for the 20th time this season. This is an incredible statistic because in each of the last five seasons, the eventual winners – Chelsea and United – have had a relatively straightforward run to the title.
Let’s take a closer look at the title run-in for Chelsea, United and Arsenal.
Chelsea have the most number of home matches left – three. Of their five matches, only Tottenham (April 17) and Liverpool (May 1) away look tricky as both these sides are still battling for the coveted fourth spot, which guarantees a Champions League place.
Chelsea will be stretched over the next one week because the London team face Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi-final today, Bolton at home four days later and Spurs at White Hart Lane on April 17.
A betting man would pick Chelsea to beat Villa and Bolton, but fatigue could be a factor in the London derby next weekend.
Chelsea’s next game after that should be a routine three-pointer against Stoke at home, before the really big one against Liverpool.
If the Reds are still in the hunt for the fourth spot, this will be a decisive match-up. Chelsea have a fine record at Anfield, but with Liverpool’s Fernando Torres in excellent goal-scoring form, anything can happen.
Title-rivals United look to have the toughest run-in, with three away matches – starting at Blackburn tomorrow.
This is followed by their biggest test – the derby against Manchester City on April 17.
Expect sparks to fly in this one because City would love nothing better than to beat their cross-town rivals and deny them that record 19th title. Carlos Tevez (pic) is in fine form and would relish the opportunity of scoring against his former employers.
United’s remaining matches will see them take on Spurs at home, followed by Sunderland away and Stoke at Old Trafford on May 9.
For the first time since 1995, the Premier League could commission three replica EPL trophies to be taken to the home grounds of Chelsea, United and Arsenal.
In 1995, a trophy with Blackburn colours was taken to Anfield and another to Upton Park, in case United beat West Ham and clinched the title. Eventually, Blackburn were crowned champions.
If Arsenal lift the title at the Emirates on May 9, it would be the culmination of an incredible season – one which has seen them being written off by most critics after home and away defeats to both their title rivals.
Amazingly, Arsenal are only three points behind Chelsea and what, on paper, looks like an easier run-in.
The toughest of their fixtures is on Wednesday when they meet bitter rivals Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
And Spurs, ironically, will have a huge say in the title race because they will face the Big Three in three consecutive weeks!
All in all, football fans are in for a treat as the EPL reaches its climax. For Chelsea, it’s straightforward – win all five matches and Carlo Ancelotti will be lifting the EPL trophy in his first season in England.
United, on the hand, have to rely on other teams, most intriguingly Liverpool, to derail Chelsea’s hopes, and at the same time avoid dropping any more points.
Arsenal are in the same predicament. A slip-up by both their title rivals could yet give Arsene Wenger his first title since 2003.
So get ready for the title race to go down to the wire – right up to May 9, the last day of the season.
p.s Sesungguhnya pencarian pemilik takhta EPL sessi 2009/2010 memang sukar. Untuk musim ini, dah 20 kali ianya bertukar tangan. Aku tak berani nak letak betting aku kat mana2 pasukan tetapi seboleh2nya aku harap bukan Man U yang menang. Asyik dia aje yang menang. Bagilah peluang kat team lain pulak. Chelsea OKlah tapi kalau Arsenal lagi bagus. Aku bukan penyokong fanatik mana2 pasukan tetapi aku paling minat kat pasukan Liverpool sejak zaman sekolah rendah dulu. Namun selagi Liverpool tak tukar penaja jersi dia dan Benitez masih menjadi manager dia, aku tak nak declare diriku sebagai penyokong Liverpool. Tapi kalau Mourinho jadik datang ke Liverpool, akulah orang pertama menyokongnya.