If this weekend showed us anything, it told us that no games are easy and there is likely to be many twists and turns left this season. It seems anyone can beat anyone, United losing to Bolton, Arsenal losing to Boro and Chelsea to Villa.
Here I am looking at games that could well have an influence on the title race. I know no game is a cert win but these stand out as ones where a shock could be in store.
Chelsea vs Liverpool (Feb 10th)
Liverpool are out of the title race but will be playing for pride. The likes of Gerrard and Torres will have something to prove and will want to have some influence on where the title goes, even if they won’t have any chance of winning it this season. They will also use it as a build up to their Champions League match with Inter Milan. Chelsea may have Lampard and Mikel available to strengthen the midfield. With such a good home record, I cannot see Chelsea losing this game, a draw is possible though.
Newcastle vs Man Utd (Feb 23rd)
The second coming of Kevin Keegan has not exactly begun the way many Geordies had expected. The Toon Army will never forget the arguments between Keegan and Ferguson during Newcastle’s remarkable title challenge. It would mean so much to Keegan and the fans to kick start the new regime with a victory over United. That said, it seems Man Utd will have too much for Newcastle, especially if they continue to defend the way they do. If they raise their game to the level they reached against us at St James’ Park, we could see at least a draw here.
Arsenal vs Aston VIlla (Mar 1st)
At Villa Park earlier this season Arsenal came through a tricky tie but were lucky to do so. Despite dominating proceedings in the first half, Villa put immense pressure on us in the second. They constantly attacked with pace and power, hitting the bar in the process. Arsenal held on but that game showed that Villa can pose a real threat. They are experts at set pieces; Arsenal’s Achilles heel and this could be crucial.
West Ham vs Chelsea (Mar 1st)
West Ham will host their main rivals with very little pressure on their shoulders. They have already beaten Liverpool and Man Utd at home this season and they will look to inflict the same outcome on Chelsea. Chelsea will have to deal with a robust and dogged approach that will get the Hammers’ fans going. Chelsea have the quality to win this game but, as United found out, they will need to show something extra to get 3 points here.
Man Utd vs Liverpool (Mar 23rd)
Man Utd were victorious at Anfield earlier this season as they won 1-0 from a Carlos Tevez goal. I have no doubt they would take the same result now. Liverpool will want to beat their rivals and any loss to Man Utd would hurt anyone involved with Liverpool FC. Pride is the main thing at stake for Liverpool and with the Champions League still a possibility, they will want to keep their season on track.
Chelsea vs Arsenal (Mar 23rd)
In the second game of Super Sunday Arsenal will want to get a similar result to the one they got at the Emirates in December. Last season we got a draw at the Bridge after Chelsea battered us for 90 minutes solid. Flamini nicked a goal only for Essien to salvage their home record. I am sure another draw would do Wenger nicely. Chelsea will need to win this game and it will be interesting to see how both teams set up.
Bolton vs Arsenal (Mar 29th)
After Arsenal knocked Bolton out of the FA Cup last season, many claimed Arsenal had wiped clear the hoodoo Bolton held over us. Have we really shrugged off Bolton as our bogey team? Remember, we did not beat Bolton in normal time and showed them that we are still vulnerable from crosses into the box. We threw away the game in normal time and could have paid for it. This game will determine if we can really put recent results at the Reebok behind us.
Man Utd vs Aston Villa (Mar 30th)
Villa have drawn at Stamford Bridge (4-4) and Anfield (2-2) already this season and will feel they are capable of doing the same at Old Trafford. In the League United thrashed Villa 4-1 but in the cup only just managed to scrape through with two late goals. This game could turn out either way. I feel it will either be a very comfortable victory for United, or Villa will push them all the way. It depends how O’Neill arranges his troops and if they can use Young and Agbonlahor to their best potential.
Arsenal vs Liverpool (Apr 5th)
As said earlier, Liverpool are plying for pride in these big games. They may still have the Champions League to play for and they will want to keep confidence high during these games. Benitez may well rotate his squad a little if they get through the Inter tie. Arsenal should have won at Anfield but somehow only managed a draw having squandered two open goals. They will want to put that result right at the Emirates but it will be up to us to open up Liverpool and take our chances when they come. Gerrard and Torres will be a threat as always.
Middlesborough vs Man Utd (Apr 5th)
Middlesborough have beaten Arsenal at home but also lost to Chelsea at the Riverside. In these games we saw two very different performances from Gareth Southgate’s sides and this game will depend on which Boro side come out of that tunnel. Against us they worked extremely hard, pressured the ball and created chances. Against Chelsea they looked blunt and were easily brushed aside. Many big teams have lost at the Riverside in recent season; if we see a committed performance from Southgate’s team, we may see a similar outcome.
Man Utd vs Arsenal (Apr 12th)
This could well be the most crucial, and potentially the most exciting game of the season. Arsenal are currently two points ahead of United and if the difference between the two sides is of a similar size, it could be a real six pointer if ever there was one. United will want to use home advantage and take 3 points whereas I am sure Arsenal would take a draw. That would correspond to the result from the Emirates. Such a result would be better for Arsenal than United, with Chelsea the main beneficiary. Arsenal will probably look to hit United on the counter but will have a real job on their hands if Rooney, Tevez and Ronaldo are on song.
Everton vs Chelsea (Apr 19th)
Everton will want to avenge the Carling Cup defeat inflicted on them by Chelsea and they will also be pushing for a European place. Everton are a clever, strong and mobile side who can play good football and score goals. Chelsea will look to get a similar result to the 1-0 victory in the semi-final and will need to work hard for such a win. It is yet another tricky away tie for the Blues but they should have a full squad together by then to cope.
Blackburn vs Man Utd (Apr 19th)
Ewood Park has long been a very tough place to go to. Blackburn pressure the ball and give their opponents little time on the ball. This frustrates the opposition and in Bentley, Santa Cruz and Benni McCarthy they have goals within the sides. They have performed well this season with a generally solid defence. Man Utd will need to win this game and Blackburn will have to defend well for large periods of the game. Ferguson will hope Mark Hughes will not dent his old side’s title hopes. I wonder if Hughes will use this opportunity to rest a few players?
Chelsea vs Man Utd (Apr 26th)
This game could have a massive bearing on the title race. Whoever wins the game will be buoyed massively in their pursuit of the title, the loser will be gutted. They may not be out of the race for good, but it would be a huge blow. Chelsea have an extraodinary record at home and I can see them extending this, whether that be with a draw or a victory I do not know. It is likely both sides will be involved in the Champions League could this affect their chances coming into this game?
Arsenal vs Everton (May 3rd)
Arsenal may have won 4-1 at Goodison Park just after Christmas but the outcome did not really reflect the game. The result somewhat flattered Arsenal as Everton were the better team for the first half. We simply took our chances and punished any Everton mistakes. If we are still in with a chance of winning the League, there will be an awful lot of nerves around the side going into the game. The atmosphere would be electric and Everton would make it a really good game.