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Consistent Jog For The Title

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Last weekend, Blackburn were 1-0 up against Manchester United and this blog was amongst many other fans in hoping that somehow the so called "Race For The Title" (even though a race suggests speed, which in turn makes the Premiership more of a marathon of endurance. "Consistent Jog For The Title" doesn't have the same ring to it) was finally becoming just that; a race.

Alas we were all drastically let down, as United once again demonstrated just why they are in first.

That was all until they visited Portsmouth. Perhaps it was the double blow of losing Vidic and Neville in the same week. It could even have been the demoralising defeat to Roma. The fact that Chelsea had psychologically closed the gap to three points after beating Tottenham could also have played some part. Objectively, this blog even believes that making Rio the captain when more senior players such as Giggs and Van der Sar were on the pitch was responsible. But whatever the reasons, the fact remains that Manchester United were beaten.

A casual observer might have put it down to luck, and more importantly, bad luck in United's case. However, the nerves seemed to get the better of the men in red, and a succession of poor mistakes and lazy defending resulted in Manchester United dropping points, and allowing Chelsea to close the gap to 3 points for the first time since Christmas.

David James' role in the game cannot be ignored, and it seems that the ex England man chose the best day to showcase his ability where Paul Robinson was once again beaten from distance with a frankly tame and speculative shot from Carvalho. James' saves were top drawer, and his composure throughout the game was of vital importance. Portsmouth took the game to United and were rewarded, had Tottenham perhaps done the same elsewhere, they too may have left with some dignity. Instead they put in a languid performance obviously tired from their late week exertions, and no matter how fit and professional you're meant to be in this sport, 39 hours is no time to rest a squad still jostling for position on 2 fronts.

Lawrenson and Hansen still put their belief behind United, and although Gabby Logan refused to be drawn to comment (probably in the knowledge of the gagging order imposed on Lineker regarding the ITV/Sentanta TV rights deal), this blog isn't so sure.

This Chelsea side have achieved a lot under Mourinho, and most of them are natural winners. They are a squad of players who know what it feels like to win, and who never give up as has been demonstrated on various occasions this season. They will chase this title to the end, and whether or not the presence of a fat lady is garunteed, the Blues will be there on the last day. Manchester United have played some of the finest football in Europe so far this season, they have in their midfield, the most in form player in Europe, and they have the desire to win. That winning desire may not be enough to stay ahead of Chelsea, and they will be punished should they show a similar lapse in concentration against the potential banana skins lining their run in; West-Ham, Everton, Man City and most notably a visit to Stamford Bridge.

This isn't to say that Chelsea have it easy. Far from it, Chelsea have yet to play Arsenal, West-Ham and Bolton, 3 games against teams either struggling to survive or struggling for Europe. These final 6 games will not be simple tasks for either team, and clich├ęd as it is, they will all be "Cup Finals" for both.

Then there is the simple matter of the F.A. Cup semi finals, and the return legs of the Champions League quarter finals where both squads face daunting tasks which will test them to the hilt.

To suggest that this is a "race" is folly, it is more about the survival of the fittest, a battle only time will tell.

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posted by teedoubleyou


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