Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Morning Keeper - EPL Week 26

Courtesy of The Guardian

Let's get to the important things first. The push for the title is a two horse race, has been for the better part of the season. Although there have been some weekend guests in the top two (Newcastle, Tottenham, Chelsea, etc), they were just visitors and in the end the title will end up in Manchester. That was further solidified this weekend after Tottenham was, for the lack of a better term, spanked like an ill-acting child by hot-cold Arsenal 5-2. But which Manchester team will it be? With just twelve matches left in the season and just two points separating the teams it will come down to three key points: 1) strength of opponents, 2) number of home matches, and 3) the April 30th Manchester Derby. We start off "The Keeper" today with a rundown of these three points.

For Manchester City they face one of the bottom three teams in the league in Blackburn this past weekend and served up a complete clinic as Steve Keen wondering if he will get sacked before the end of the season or be there to lead the Rovers into relegation. Anytime the scoreline for City reads "Balotelli, Aguero, Dzeko" you know that the Citizens are likely going to be on the winning end of the equation. Instead of making things interesting City maintained almost eighty percent of the possession for the match and even when they didn't have the ball Blackburn was hard pressed to get out of their own end of the pitch. Meanwhile in the city of Norwich, the Canaries we down 0-1 to Manchester United at the half, but showed resilience to get the match back to even in the 83rd minute with off a Grant Holt equalizer. Nerves must have set in for Norwich, they moved back on their heels for the final ten minutes and left many opportunities for United to get the winning goal. Although chance after chance were stopped, the oldest player in football Ryan Giggs pulled one out of midair and flicked in a great cross for the winning goal. Although United played sub par for most of the match they did enough to win in the end which will be their theme this season if they end up winning the title. So what about the strength of both teams opponents going forward? For City they are looking at a team standing average of 10.4 whereas United are going to face an average of 12.3 based on current team standings. Advantage to City. Next we take a look at home versus road matches going forward. City have six home and six away matches with the big road matches being Arsenal and Newcastle. United have six home and six away matches as well, but their big road match are Tottenham, Sunderland, and of course Manchester City. Advantage to City. The last, and likely deciding factor, is the April 30th Manchester Derby where City and United will face-off at the Etihad. If the teams hold course and match points up until that match, the derby will decide the title as there are only two matches left following the meeting. We all know about the blood bath at Old Trafford in the fall where City won the match 6-1, so the likely advantage would go to City in the return leg. On paper it is City's title to lose and they have known this since they took the league lead back in the fall. With Carlos Tevez, last seasons league leader with 20 goals, it will be interesting to see if the Argentine will give City the nudge over the top or be a distraction from the big three of the current City offense.

No more recaps on the other matches because no one cares or else you would have emailed or tweeted me telling me you had enough for our Manchester bias. That's why they make ESPNsoccernet, for the other teams, we are talking title race here people. Of course, "The Professor" is a bed-wetting Newcastle fan so I guess we need to mention that the Magpies managed a 2-2 draw with Wolverhampton to remain well within reach of one of the Champions League spots at the end of the season.

Here is a look at the top and bottom of the table; the basement is getting awfully crowded as QPR continue to fall.

1. Man City - 63 pts, +48 GD (20-3-3)
2. Man United - 61 pts, +37 GD (19-4-3)
3. Tottenham - 53 pts, +21 GD (16-5-5)
4. Arsenal - 46 pts, +16 GD (14-4-8)
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17. Queens Park Rangers - 21 pts, -18 GD (5-6-15)
18. Blackburn - 21 pts, -22 GD (5-6-15)
19. Bolton - 20 pts, -25 GD (6-2-18)
20. Wigan - 20 pts, -27 GD (4-8-14)

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