This past derby weekend in the Absa Premiership and English Premier League proved to be very telling in the two respective title races. I have long suspected Kaizer Chiefs will secure a second straight top flight title in South Africa. I also fancied Amakhosi to take the Soweto Derby particularly after Stuart Baxter’s side went down in midweek at Platinum Stars in the build-up. Chiefs have a habit of going down a few days ahead of the Derby only to bounce back on the day. Looking at the Premiership table right now, if I was a bookmaker I would stop taking bets. With two months still to play I am declaring the Glamour Boys the 2013/14 league winners.
Meanwhile in England the picture is far less clear. When Jose Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge I immediately tipped the Portuguese to lead Chelsea to league glory. However Arsenal rocketed out of the blocks and Manchester City were scoring goals for fun at first. Then Liverpool threw their hat into the ring and have clearly shown that without Luis Suarez their well-oiled machine can still motor. The Premier League is very much a four-horse race as the table below indicates.
There will now be a sprint to the finish but which tank has the most gas in it? And more significantly which engine is likely to take less strain as it approaches the finishing line?
Looking at the remaining fixtures of table-topping Chelsea, the Blues finish with games against Arsenal (Home), Crystal Palace (Away), Stoke City (Home), Swansea City (Away), Sunderland (Home), Liverpool (Away), Norwich City (Home) and Cardiff City (Away). Two of those matches will have a significant bearing on the outcome of the title.
Second-placed Liverpool must travel to Cardiff before hosting Sunderland and Tottenham Hotspur. Then the Reds close against West Ham United, (Away), Manchester City (Home), Norwich (Away), Chelsea (Home), Palace (Away) and Newcastle United (Home). Like the Blues, there are two fixtures there that can determine the destiny of the championship.
Arsenal finish against Chelsea (Away), Swansea (Home), Man City (Home), Everton (Away), West Ham (Home), Hull City (Away), Newcastle (Home), West Bromwich Albion (Home) and Norwich (Away). Crucially after two of the first three games the Gunners could be out of it or be left with a clear run to the finish.
And Manchester City, who have three games in hand on Mourinho’s men play Fulham (Home), Manchester United (Away), Arsenal (Away), Southampton (Home), Liverpool (Away), Sunderland (Home), West Brom (Home), Palace (Away) and Everton (Away) before finishing with two home games against Aston Villa and the Hammers.
There is no point in signing off without sticking my neck out and predicting a final winner for this season’s league. I am going to go with my original call of Chelsea but it will not surprise me one iota if Man City’s games in hand prove the difference. Moreover, I am not discounting Liverpool winning the league courtesy of a superior goal difference over the Blues. The fall of Manchester United has brought us the most exciting finish to an English Premier League season ever and perhaps it is best to drop trying to figure out which way it will go and just enjoy the football on display.