Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Monday Morning Keeper - EPL Week 31

Courtesy of teamtalk.com
Is the season over? Has the title been decided? The answer to both these questions is no, but it is pretty darn close. Saturday saw Manchester City nearly lose to Sunderland, but managing two late goals to get the draw and earn one point. United played Blackburn on Monday and in typical fashion, saved their scoring for the end and earned three points. United's lead now stands at five points with seven matches to play. So what are the scenarios for United to clinch the title or City to come back; we take a look.

Sunderland were able to do something that no one else has accomplished this season, they earned the first away points at Etihad Stadium. City had won every single home match this season, and although Sergio Aguero was out with a "stupid injury" as Mancini put it, the team was still heavily favored to win. So how did Sunderland put the former league leaders into a 3-1 defecit with only minutes left in the match? They got in the heads of the City players and caused unrest, they banged heads, they tackled hard, they took City off their game. Eventually all Sunderland had to do was watch their opponent implode. Balotelli yelling at Toure, Dzeko getting into an argument and Balotelli breaking it up, Tevez and Balotelli getting into things. Sunderland had just 36% of the possession and nine shots for the match while City managed the balance of the possession and twenty-six shots. If it wasn't for the late efforts of Balotelli and unlikely savior Aleksandar Kolarov, City would be looking at a six point deficit to United instead of five.

United played to the level of their opponent for eighty minutes of the match, Blackburn looked like they might just sneak out with a point for the draw, much needed in their efforts to fend off relegation. But, alas, it was not to be for the Rovers as Valencia scored in the 81st minute followed quickly by Ashley Young in the 85th, and that was all she wrote as United took all three points. This season for United has been filled with late game-winning goals are a wide cast of characters, not just Wayne Rooney. It's almost like Alex Ferguson has a special, "break in case of emergency", button on the bench which he hits late in the match so the team wins. The team, the coaches, everyone involved with United have been in title battles before and know that it is a marathon and not a sprint, the finish is the most important part of the season.

With a five point lead in the standings, there is a chance that if things hold, United will be in position to win the title when they travel to Manchester City on April 30th. If they come into that match with anything more than a three point lead and win, the season is over for City. Right now it is United's title to lose. They will have to tie twice and lose to City in the final seven matches for City to have a chance. Will that happen? It's unlikely. City still have to travel to Arsenal and even if they win out the season they still need help from others playing United.

Here is a look at the top and bottom of the table after thirty-one weeks.

1. Man United - 76 pts, +49 GD (24-4-3)
2. Man City - 71 pts, +50 GD (22-5-4)
3. Arsenal- 58 pts, +21 GD (18-4-9)
4. Tottenham - 58 pts, +20 GD (17-7-7)
17. Queens Park - 28 pts, -19 GD (7-7-17)
18. Blackburn - 28 pts, -21 GD (7-7-17)
19. Wigan- 25 pts, -26 GD (6-10-15)
20. Wolverhampton - 22 pts, -35 GD (5-7-19)


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