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Thursday, 26 May 2011

London Neighbors Are Always Nice

61 days meant 2 months for everyone. But for Chelsea, more than that ! Change of fortune and glimpse of hope !!
By the end of February 2011, West London felt like a bleak place and city was in a dull mood due to their team’s position in the Premier league table. Top of the table gazed red and uncertainty stared at Chelsea due to their loss of form added with their 50 million British record signing failing to live up to the  expectations. Players and fans looked dejected and their body language and confidence no longer belonged to champions. Even though North London claimed they are going to be title contenders this time, each one including Sir Alex Ferguson were confident about the lack of steel in the Arsenal side. In that contest, it was almost certain that EPL crown was heading towards Manchester. 15 points separated red part of Manchester and blue part of London.
Then came the month of May forecasting a beautiful spring. Wow ! There is chance of painting the top of the table with blue shade. Three games remaining for Manchester United and Chelsea with the title decider between them staged at Old Trafford on 8th May. Following week United travel to Ewood Park while Chelsea host New Castle. Final week will see Chelsea traveling to Merseyside, luckily not Liverpool and United host Blackpool at home. Chelsea travel to Old Trafford knowing that there is no better chance of wounding United than beating them at their own perch thereby denting United’s title hopes. Worry not; there will be prayers and wishes from Liverpool too.
3 points now separate United from Chelsea with same goal difference. Thanks to North London neighbors for beating United at the Emirates ! From Chelsea’s perspective, their performance in the last 61 days was scintillating. Credit goes to the  players as well their Italian Manager Carlo Ancelotti, who somehow found out a way to accommodate Torres in his line-up, to be fair not so convincingly, managed to bring the best out of Didier Drogba, may be emotionally challenging the Ivorian by demoting him to bench for making way for Torres. In those circumstances the big Ivorian will crave for next opportunity and will show his boss who the real boss is !
Renaissance started with a 2-1 win against United at Stamford Bridge on 1st March. Last week Chelsea beat Tottenham and the score line remain unchanged. But, the league table and the prospect of Premier league crown underwent changes. Between those two wins at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea played 9 games and amassed 25 points out of the available 27. They failed to get all points only at Britannia stadium. And during that streak Torres managed to get his first goal in blue jersey against West Ham after 734 minutes on the pitch. With the sight of United nearby and overtaking the Red devils not a distant dream, John Terry, Chelsea and English captain, has urged his teammates for a spirited display and stated “Chelsea can beat Manchester United at Old Trafford and steal the title”. If that remarkable turnaround happens at Old Trafford, Terry is to rank that achievement alongside winning the league in 2005 for the first time in five decades. Now, that seems like a Champion’s statement and no surprise the confidence factor is back again.   
Irrespective of above comments I foresee United sail over all these situations because of the man at the helm at Old Trafford. During the past years Sir Alex has undergone familiar situations and he knows exactly where to tap and whom to tap to produce thumping displays under pressure. Positives for United and their Manager are the drive for 19th league title and they are not going to give that up when the target is almost achieved. Another drive could be repeating the feat they achieved in 2008, when they completed the Double including English Premier League and Champions League.
Of course there are few concerns for United too. They have and extra game to play against Schalke 04 on coming Wednesday in Champions league. As the tie was almost settled with an away win at Gelsenkirchen last week, United will plan to rest few players in their starting XI to keep them afresh for battle against Chelsea in the weekend. But, imagine a situation where Schalke stuns Old Trafford with an early goal or two. Sir Alex has to opt for his best players to save the match and at the same time he cannot afford any key player coming out with an injury. Also, the players will feel the fatigue due to these high adrenaline games with Arsenal and Chelsea in EPL and Schalke in Champions league. If that takes a toll, then Chelsea can corner Manchester United players with their physical game.
Another deciding factor is the presence of 37 year old veteran midfielder Ryan Giggs who is considered to be the ‘engine’ of Manchester United this season. United’s best performances, especially in Champions league away to Chelsea and Schalke demonstrated the still uncompromising footballing skills of Welshman. And the last two games United lost, to Manchester City in FA cup and Arsenal in EPL, the ‘engine’ was missing from the line up.
A United victory or draw at Old Trafford will swing the title towards Manchester. But in case Chelsea prevails, then Blue wind will start blowing. United’s away form is a concern this season and they face a stiff competition at Ewood park. Even though playing at home, United will find a stubborn opponent in Blackpool, if the seasiders are still engaged in the relegation battle. Luckily for Chelsea, both Everton and New Castle are above relegation zone. Everything depends on the verdict at Old Trafford on Sunday and even neighbors and Merseysiders wait for good news.
Will the spring bloom in Manchester or London ?

2nd May, 2011
The day after Arsenal beat United at the Emirates

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