Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Morning Keeper - EPL Week 30

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It truly seems like there is no rhyme or reason to the results for the top six teams week after week as we creep towards the end of the season. Considering the form shown by both the Manchester teams in the first half of the season, you would think that the second time playing the same teams would yield similar results. The same would also apply to Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, and Liverpool, but for whatever reason the soccer gods like to keep things interesting. This weekend was no different where nearly all of the top six teams had results that were a bit unexpected and perhaps United playing on Monday was the biggest benefactor of all.

Manchester City have had a rough time seeing their incredible season through to the ultimate goal of winning the league title. Where the first half of the season was about total destruction, about the only thing that is still in tack is their perfect home record. After going down mid-week to Chelsea 2-0 at home in the 75th minute it seemed like the City of old, especially when an old friend, Carlos Tevez, came on as a substitute. A quick penalty converted by Aguero and then a Tevez to Nasri combination to score the go ahead goal in the final minutes and City came up with a much needed three points for the win. Riding high, City traveled to Stoke on Saturday a place they hadn't won at since the Potters moved up to the Premier League in 2008. And wouldn't you know, City still weren't able to win at Britannia Stadium even running high off their Chelsea victory. Peter Crouch, yes he still plays for Stoke, used all of his 6 foot 20 inch frame to head in a goal early into the second half, and again City was left trying to find an answer to save the match and their chance at the title. Again on came Tevez with about fifteen minutes left in the match and although he did not directly impact the tying goal, his presents was felt. The tie resulted from Yaya Toure firing a rocket from thirty yards out that took a slight deflection and went in past the keeper. There were a few more attempts by Stoke, but the result stood and City managed to only pick up one point and move temporarily into first place on goal differential. The result means that as things stand, United could move three points clear at the top if they beat Fulham at Old Trafford later today.

Meanwhile, Chelsea had their second big match in just over four days as they hosted Tottenham after falling to City mid-week. And the highlights of the match... there weren't any. Even possession, only a handful of shots on goal for each club, if a flea market was setup in the middle of the pitch it might have been more exciting. I guess it was a good result for the Spurs who picked up a point and continue their push to stay in the top four for the end of the season. Considering Chelsea have temporary manager Roberto Di Matteo they aren't doing any worst than they were with AVB at the helm, but still, this is Chelsea and you would expect more.

Then there's Arsenal, who were all the way down in seventeenth place in the first few weeks of the season and Arsene Wenger looked to be heading to the gallows. The Gunners have had the best record of any non-Manchester team since the midway point of the season and now sit three points clear of Tottenham in third place after beating Aston Villa at home 3-0. And with home matches with Chelsea and Man City as their biggest hurdles in the final weeks, Arsenal look poised to continue their streak of Champions League qualification with a third place finish.

The other key results from the weekend were Liverpool  getting beat at home by bottom-feeders Wigan who are trying to claw their way out of relegation. Bolton, in their first match since Fabrice Muamba's heart attack, managed an emotional 2-1 win at home against Blackburn and are now out of the relegation zone with a match in hand. Muamba apparently sent a message to the team just before kick off wishing his boys well and that spark helped the team dig deep for the victory. Bolton will have to keep their emotions in check as they go back to White Hart Lane on Tuesday to pick-up the FA Cup match in the 41st minute when Muamba collapsed last Saturdat. Oh what a rush of emotions it would be if Bolton could manage another win this week.

Here is a look at the top and bottom of the table with only eight matches to go for most of the teams. Can Fulham sneak out an unlikely result today at United to keep City in first, we shall see.

1. Man United - 70 pts, +50 GD (22-4-3)
2. Man City - 70 pts, +46 GD (22-4-4)
3. Arsenal- 58 pts, +22 GD (18-4-8)
4. Tottenham - 55 pts, +18 GD (16-7-7)
17. Bolton - 26pts, -25 GD (8-2-19)
18. Queens Park - 20 pts, -19 GD (6-7-17)
19. Wigan- 25 pts, -28 GD (5-10-15)
20. Wolverhampton - 22 pts, -34 GD (5-7-18)


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