Some say in a “New York Minute” everything can change; for the EPL title race everything did change and in a matter of mere moments. Soon after Jamie Mackie’s 66th minute powerfully headed goal, Manchester City looked as if they were not going to be able to unlock the defensive wall of QPR. Fans were crying, leaving, and incessantly calling their mates to find out the score of the Manchester United game. But with the game entering five minutes of stoppage time, City produced a simply implausible finish. First, Edin Dzeko nodded the Blues level before Sergio Agüero collected Mario Balotelli’s return pass and drove home the goal that crowned City champions and denied their local rivals another title. Sir Alex and Co. could only be disappointed as they won 1-0 at Sunderland, but they could only helplessly watch City celebrate their comeback.
On the other side of the coin, QPR’s loss could have dropped them into the relegation mire, but Bolton’s draw at Stoke meant that the Hoops were guaranteed successive seasons in the top flight. For Bolton, it meant that their streak of 11 straight seasons in the Premier League had come to an end and that they’d be plying their trade in the Championship next year along with fellow relegated sides Wolves and Blackburn Rovers.
Wolves signed off their Premier League season with a 3-2 loss at Wigan although they showed true grit and class in their ensuing games after relegation. Blackburn, however, have not showed too much fight since their relegation was rumored and then confirmed. Yakubu scored a consolation goal in the 60th minute but that was indeed all it was as Blackburn returns back to the 2nd tier next year as well.
In the battle for European places, Arsenal and Tottenham both won. Arsenal won automatic qualification to the Champions League next year but Tottenham must wait until May 20th to see if Chelsea loses before they can celebrate their draw to the qualifying round of the Champions League. Newcastle United, although they lost, is guaranteed a spot in next year’s Europa League. This season has been a great achievement for the Magpies as mid-table finish surely would’ve sufficed for them, but a battle to the end for a Champs League spot was a treat for the Jordie faithful.
Elsewhere, Swansea and Norwich capped their impressive debut seasons since their promotion with wins over Liverpool and Aston Villa, respectively. This season has been a breath air if you’ve watched Norwich or Swansea because of their fluid, intricate style of passing football and to see them return for next year is great for the EPL.
All in all, this season has been fantastic for fans (depending on who you support) as there was a changing of the guard in the title race. Newcastle, Swansea and Norwich City all blew expectations out of the water, and Liverpool and Stoke both drastically underperformed. This summer will be dramatic as usual in the transfer market because of the many underachieving teams and newfound wealth of others. For now, we wait for the drama of the Premier League season to start again and try to live up to the great season it has been this year.
Frugality versus munificence…the Scot versus the Italian…the Reds versus the Blues…the Red Devils versus the Citizens…wherever you’re from or whatever you call it, it’s Manchester United versus Manchester City-the legendary derby destined to decide the 2011/2012 Premier League title race.
As unlikely as it appeared three weeks ago when Manchester United went eight points clear of City at the top of the Premier League table, Monday’s title-deciding ultimatum will no doubt be pivotal regarding the destination of the long sought-after Premier League title.
Since the shocking loss to Wigan at the DW Stadium, United has won at home against a struggling Aston Villa side and squandered a two goal lead against Everton at Old Trafford. The latter allowed Man City to within three points, which leads us to the epic match on Monday night.
The Blues are the in-form side of course entering the game with the 3 wins in the last 3 after a disappointing loss to Arsenal. Throughout the week Roberto Mancini has not made it clear whether or not Mario Balotelli would return after he received a red card in that loss to Arsenal. If Mancini knew what was good for his team he would keep his starting 11 the same, most importantly in the frontline where Sergio Agüero and Carlos Tevez have impressed since starting together and in the attacking mid/winger spot where David Silva and Samir Nasri have showed the creative guile and goal-scoring potential that initially brought them together at the beginning of season. So then, where does Balotelli end up? Well hopefully for Man City, on the bench where he belongs…
For Manchester United, these last few weeks have been as painful as the 6-1 dismantling that the Blues handed them at the Theatre of Dreams on October 23rd. The Red Devils will have to respond immediately from last week’s disappointment. If they’re to complete this epic comeback in the title race, Alex Ferguson will have to put out his best lineup rather than underestimate his opponent like he often does. Basically, for Fergie, it means not starting Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick together in the center of midfield. Controlling the center of the park and not letting City’s attack run rampant at the Etihad Stadium will no doubt go a long way in the winning the game (and title) for United.
In conclusion, it is everyone’s hope that this game lives up to the hype and buildup that has been grown in the media. Whichever side you’re on, this game will either make or break your season and will leave both sides crestfallen as they should…a draw of course would leave everyone on the edge of our seats for the last two games and anxiously awaiting the final goal difference of the season for each side.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Manchester United
3- Tevez hat trick; 1- Rooney consolation goal
Back in October, the east side of Manchester was elated as their Blues had just run over title rivals Manchester United 6-1 and their own title prospects looked better than ever. City had a giant goal difference and were massacring every side they faced in the league. However, since the turn of the year, their form has slowed and has seen them eliminated from three different cup competitions. With only the league to fight for, Manchester City now has run into a difficult patch of fixtures and has only taken full points in one of the last six games.
On the other hand, City’s rivals Manchester United have taken off since the turn of the year and have even eliminated Manchester City from the FA Cup, but like their cross-town enemies the Reds have been eliminated from all of their cup competitions this year. United seemed to turn their season around after a shocking defeat to FC Basel in the last game of the Champions League first round in which United were awfully disappointing and manager Alex Ferguson made controversial team selections. The run in which Manchester United are on has seen them pass Manchester City in first and extend their lead to five points after their win against Blackburn Rovers 2-0 on Monday night.
To make it worse for City, Manchester United plays QPR on Saturday before Manchester City plays Arsenal, who are on a hot run of form themselves. If United win on Saturday, then their lead will become almost unassailable with an 8 point lead with only six games left. But, if Manchester United do not win, then City could climb to within 2 or 3 points with a win themselves and then possibly overtake United with a win over the Reds on April 30th.
Manchester United: Manchester City:
4/8 Vs QPR 4/8 Vs Arsenal
4/11 Vs Wigan 4/11 Vs West Brom
4/15 Vs Aston Villa 4/14 Vs Norwich City
4/22 Vs Everton 4/22 Vs Wolverhampton
4/30 Vs Manchester City 4/30 Vs Manchester United
5/6 Vs Swansea City 5/6 Vs Newcastle United
5/13 Vs Sunderland 5/13 Vs QPR
Predictions & Analysis- EPL Round 22 “Big Games” (Home Team First)
Norwich City vs. Chelsea
I say: Draw, 2-2
Though Chelsea thumped Norwich City back at the beginning of the season, City has adjusted well to the Premier League since then. Norwich are yet to record a clean sheet this season, but are boosted by this game being at their beloved home ground, Carrow Road. Look for Norwich to come out strong against the Torres-led Blues strike force like they did when they defeated another top 6 team, Newcastle United, at home.
Fulham vs. Newcastle United
I say: Newcastle United Win, 2-1
Despite losing Demba Ba due to the African Cup of Nations, Newcastle still scored and won last week thanks to wonderful displays from Hatem Ben Arfa and Shola Ameobi. Yohan Cabaye, Newcastle’s talismanic midfielder, is an injury concern after he was fouled hardly last weekend. Cabaye’s midfield partner, Cheick Tiote, is on international duty for the Ivory Coast at the African Cup of Nations as well. Fulham will have to pounce on the Magpies weakness in the midfield if they want to win this game.
Manchester City vs. Tottenham
I say: Manchester City Win, 3-1
After Manchester City pummeled Spurs earlier this year at White Hart Lane 5 to 0, Tottenham found a great run of form which saw them shoot up to 3rd in the table, where they are now. Spurs will not want to “spurn” this chance of getting ever closer to City, as they enter the weekend 5 points behind the league leaders. The task will prove challenging as Tottenham are away in this fixture, but title challengers must take some points in these games.
Arsenal vs. Manchester United
I say: Arsenal Win, 2-1
Definitely the gutsiest of the predictions, but I believe Arsene Wenger’s side will have a different mindset this weekend than they did last week after a lackluster display against Swansea as they lost 3-2. Wouldn’t it be something if we saw the old duo of Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie against their old formidable rival, Manchester United? Though this would produce a classic strike force, Wenger has other issues. His main concern should be his defense; Laurent Koscielny is the only 100% healthy starting defender. Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen both have been hampered by injury the last few weeks, and the Gunner’s youngster Miquel would be baptized by fire if he starts this game. Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, and Dimitar Berbatov would all scare a healthy defense, so Arsenal and Miquel should be petrified if their backline isn’t on their game on Sunday.
In yet another installment of the long and cherished rivalry of Manchester United and Manchester City, this one seems different because it is a rematch from last year’s FA Cup semis. This 4th round FA Cup match means that one of these top sides is sure to go home empty-handed as the loser is ousted from the tournament.
Last year, Manchester City pulled off a shocker at Wembley when they beat Manchester United and City looks confident to make it three in a row including the 6-1 thumping of United earlier this year. Not helping United’s cause, Man City has now gotten back on track after a shaky holiday season which included a 0-0 draw at West Brom and 1- 0 loss at Sunderland. With City’s plethora of skilled attacking players, United can only hope for a miracle with their poor defensive performances this festive period.
Like Manchester City did last year in surprising many with their victory, Man U hopes to do the same. Manchester United has been galvanized on the injury front the last month and their depth at midfield and defense has been tested. The pairing of Phil Jones and Rio Ferdinand in the last match did not work out well at all as Man Utd. were bombed 3-0 at Newcastle. Ferdinand looked clumsier than ever and unable to make a fair tackle and Jones looked susceptible to the long ball and slow in one-on-one battles with Newcastle forwards Demba Ba and Shola Ameobi.
There is not much cover on the bench; however, with the mistake-apt Jonny Evans, injury prone Rafael Da Silva, and Chris Smalling all waiting in the wings. Smalling is uncertain to return yet from his tonsillitis though. Moreover, the midfield pairing of Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick, in the center of the park, seemed to have no flair in attack and Giggs looked like he had never played defense before, highlighted by his atrocious tackle on Newcastle’s Ba. All in all, the Red Devils look in for a long afternoon.
In the end, the Blues come in off a fantastic performance at home to Liverpool and Man. Utd. did the polar opposite when they traveled north to Tyneside. One thing is for sure, if Manchester United is to have a chance, their defenders must play mistake-free football for 90 minutes against the freight train of the City attack.