The pressure is well and truly on as last weekend’s Barclay’s Premier League fixtures served up no shortage of drama, both on and off the pitch.
Amid dropped points and reports of dressing room bust-ups, it was Liverpool who emerged as last week’s biggest benefactors.
Tim Sherwood’s men were ruthlessly swept aside by Brendan Rogers’ rampant Reds. And such was Sherwood’s frustration at his team’s ineptitude; the Spurs boss reportedly swung a fist in the direction of one of his hapless defenders. One can’t help but wonder if perhaps the manager would be better served by looking at himself and his decision to watch the action from high in the Anfield stand, rather than from the dugout. Either way, they were no match for the Merseysiders, who by my reckoning are now title favourites. Manchester City may have two games in hand, but with a daunting visit to Anfield still to come, Manuel Pellegrini would surely rather have points on the board. The defining factor is simply this; if Liverpool win their remaining games, it doesn’t matter what anyone else does, they will be crowned champions for the first time in 24 years.
The battle also intensified at the foot of the table. Following a thrilling and hard-fought 3-3 draw at The Hawthorns, reports emerged of a furious dressing room brawl involving several West Brom players and staff, their failure to see off Cardiff means that the Baggies are still well and truly in the relegation dogfight.
So, with tensions high, we head into this weekend’s fixtures awaiting the next round of Premier League twists and turns.
Saturday’s early kick-off sees Southampton travel north to the Etihad. On the back of last week’s disappointing draw at Arsenal, this is a must win for City. Manuel Pellegrini can’t afford complacency however, Southampton were superb last time out, destroying a Newcastle side that look increasingly out of ideas as the season reaches its conclusion. A 4-0 stroll in the park set the Saints up nicely for their Manchester showdown, but it should prove a very different story this time out.
Southampton will be resilient as they seek to consolidate their mid-table position, but City will surely be too strong over 90 minutes and should see off the plucky Saints by a couple of goals.
The evening kick-off sees Chelsea entertain a much improved Stoke. Following their impressive 4-1 demolition of Aston Villa and a good 1-0 home victory over Hull last time out, Mark Hughes’ men have cause to be confident.
Chelsea looked tired during their surprising derby defeat at the hands of lowly Crystal Palace, and following their midweek exploits in Paris, José Mourinho will know his side can ill afford another slip in their pursuit of Liverpool and City. But with top spot up for grabs, Chelsea will surely not falter again. Stamford Bridge is a fortress with the outspoken Portuguese having never lost a league match on home soil, and it’s going to take a better side than Stoke to break that record. Chelsea will edge them out by a goal or two, but with his Stoke side sitting comfortably in mid-table, boss Mark Hughes will not lose any sleep should his men slip to a predictable defeat.
The stakes couldn’t be any higher on Sunday when Arsenal visit Goodison Park to take on an Everton side who have seemingly hit form at precisely the right time. Victory over the Londoners will move the Toffees to within a point of fourth placed Arsenal with a game in hand. This could be the game of the weekend as the Gunners seek to build on their impressive draw against City last week. I can see this being another uncomfortable afternoon on Merseyside for Arsène Wenger and his team. Everton may not have the physical presence of previous seasons, but they have serious muscle up front and seldom fail to score at home.