Two games to go in the 2011/12 Premier League season and everything is still to play for

May 4, 2012 2:06 pm

Who would have predicted that with just two games left to go in the Premier League season Newcastle would be vying for a Champions League place, Liverpool would be struggling in mid-table mediocrity and Aston Villa would be fighting for survival? It has been an incredible season, and, with just two games left, everything is still to play for. There are five teams struggling to avoid relegation, four battling for Champions League qualification and two going for the title.

We have all known for some time that Wolves would be relegated, they have been doomed ever since their chairman took that ridiculous decision to sack the experienced Mick McCarthy and throw poor old Terry Connor in at the deep end, but who else is going to follow them through the Premier League trap door into the relative obscurity of the Championship? Blackburn, Bolton, QPR and Wigan seem to have been around the bottom since the opening day of the season, but they have only just recently been joined by Aston Villa, courtesy of a truly horrific run of form by Alex McLeish’s men. So it will be two from five to join Wolves. Wigan’s 4-0 thumping of Newcastle last weekend is a continuation of their splendid recent form that has seen them claim the scalps of both Manchester United and Arsenal. They always seem to play their best football at this time of the season and when you consider they host already relegated Wolves on the last day of the season it seems that The Latics may well live to fight another day in the Premier League. You would also have to say that Aston Villa have just too much class to be relegated, although the abysmal football that they have played for the majority of this season will have raised serious question marks over whether Mcleish is the right man for the job. With just one win in seven, Blackburn find themselves three points from safety, and with a trip to Stamford Bridge on the last day of the season they are the favourites to join Wolves in the Championship next season. Wednesday night’s 4-1 home defeat at the hands of Tottenham means Bolton remain in the bottom three and in big trouble, although they seem to have the easiest run in considering both of their opponents, West Brom and Stoke, have very little to play for. QPR, on the other hand, could hardly have received a harder final match: they travel to Manchester City in a game that could determine where the title goes. However, they do have a better goal difference than Bolton, which could prove vital. So who is going to be playing the likes of Charlton next season in the second tier of English football? Definitely Wovles, probably Blackburn and either QPR or Bolton.

Chelsea’s home defeat to Newcastle on Wednesday night, thanks in part to a Papiss Cisse wonder goal, has meant that they will probably need to win the Champions League if they want to be playing in it next season. Although they can mathematically still finish in the top four, realistically it is going to be two from Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle. Arsenal currently sit in third place, one point ahead of Spurs and Newcastle and the Gunners probably have the easier run in: they play Norwich at home before travelling to West Brom for their final game. As long as nothing happens to Robin Van Persie, Arsenal are the favourites to secure third place, leaving Tottenham and Newcastle to fight it out for the final Champions League spot. Not so long ago Spurs were mounting a genuine challenge for the Premier League title, but, after a severe dip in form that has coincided with Harry Redknapp being linked to the England manager position, they are not even guaranteed a top four finish. Newcastle, however, have exceeded everyone’s expectations. They have been excellent for large parts of the season and their latest win, against Chelsea, has given them a real chance. However, the fact that the Magpies play Manchester City next makes Tottenham favourites for fourth place. If they do qualify it may well prove to have been at least a season too early; Newcastle do not yet have the strength in depth to compete in Europe and simultaneously enjoy a successful Premier League Campaign. Let’s not forget that if Chelsea finish outside the top four and they do win the Champions League then the battle for fourth place will have been irrelevant because it would be Di Matteo’s men who would be the fourth English team in the competition and not the fourth place finishers in the Premier League: the Bayern players may well be receiving a few bottles of champagne from north London or Newcastle should they lift the trophy on 19th May.

 

We have known for some time that this season’s Premier League title is heading to Manchester, but with only two games remaining, we still don’t know for sure to which half: red or blue, Old Trafford or Eastland, United or City. The footballing nation has been asking the question since both teams’ sensational early season form. The two teams may be level on points but after City outplayed United on Monday night to win the most important game in the Premier League’s twenty year history, they clearly have the momentum and, despite the constant insistence to the contrary from Roberto Mancini, they are favourites to claim their first title since 1968. That win saw City claw back the last three points of a deficit that stood at eight just under a month ago, and this will have hurt United’s morale. The one thing in Red Devils’ favour is that they have the easier run in: they face Swansea and Sunderland, both of whom have nothing to play for at this stage, whereas City face an excellent Newcastle team chasing Champions League qualification and a QPR side fighting for their Premier League lives. Mancini’s men are certainly going to have to earn their success because you can be sure that Ferguson will not allow his team to falter again. Any sort of slip up from City and United will be there to silence their noisy neighbours and snatch away the title from under their noses. It seems that, in a season of twists and turns, it would take a brave man to bet against it.

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