With one more round of games to go, The Premiership looks like it is going right down to the wire. With the title still undecided, third and fourth far from being sorted out, and two positions still in the relegation zone, this seasons Premiership could make for one of the most interesting final days in its history.
With goal difference separating the Manchester giants, this years climax to the season is keeping everyone guessing. Despite many media outlets and pundits saying City have snatched it, there could very well be one final twist before the season closes. A few weeks ago, UTD held an 8 point gap, and City went to 33/1 to win the league. It looked dead and buried - seemingly confirmed by Mancini as well. Fast forward to today and we have City in pole, within touching distance of the coverted Premiership Title. With UTD away to Sunderland, and City at home to QPR, you could be forgiven for thinking that this one looks over. But with a certain Mark Hughes determined to put a dent in his former employers hopes, everything is not as over as it seems.
QPR dangle perilously above the drop zone, sitting in 16th place, 2 points above Bolton, and realistically need 3 points for safety (of course depending on teams around them) - and with Hughes leading the charge against his old club, this could be a tougher game than City expect. Sure City are unbeaten at home, but we all know football is a fickle game, and lady luck needs to play a big part in it. QPR also boast Wright-Phillips and Barton in their squad - former Blues, and maybe with a point to prove. With their place at the top table far from being guarenteed, a stubborn QPR may just have a say in which half of Manchester the title goes too.
If City are going to win this title then they will have to bring their 'A' Game, ignore the fact that the title is on line, and just focus on their game. Littered through their squad are game winners - World Cup Winners, Champions League Medals, and titles adorn many players mantelpiece, and this could prove to be valuable in probably the most vital game in City's recent history. Mancini will be sure to tell his squad that no matter what, the job isn't over until its over.
His counterpart, Sir Alex Ferguson, is of course a seasoned veteran when it comes to title run ins, and for me his experience and knowledge may be the key. When looking at the table Sunderland really have little to play for, and will prove to be much different opponents compared to QPR. They are however guided by motivational expert, and well respected Martin O'Neil - and there will be no way he will allow this Sunderland team to roll over. The UTD team, despite winning against Swansea, didn't really look to try and capitalise on the goal difference, and with just 2 goals scored, look like they may have already acknowledged that it would be a monumental task for themselves. That said, they fight to the death, and are sure to go for the win, regardless of title. They have won many a title over the last 2 decades, and will know all the pressure is on City, and Mancini, to win. Ferguson knows this, and will ensure a professional finish from The Champions.
The race for third and fourth is as exciting as the title race at the moment, with any two of Arsenal, Spurs, Newcastle & Chelsea to chose from. You would be hard pressed to guarantee the outcome. Arsenal and Tottenham seem to be trying to hand 3rd to each other, both teams missing ample opportunities to cement it for themselves; Arsenal most recently against an impressive Norwich team, and Spurs slipping up against a very dour [and surely soon to be changing Villa]. Newcastle suffered a battering at Wigan but then bounced back with a fantastic win against a born again Chelsea - with Cisse providing some truly magical moments, and Chelsea despite that loss are still within touching distance (and an extra game to play). It's all to play for and with just one position guaranteeing Champions League qualification - this makes for a highly exciting climax.
At the other end of the table, 4 teams are still in the mix to be relegated, and with QPR discussed, we shall look to Wigan & Blackburn - who square off in a fierce battle tonight, and long term Premiership residents Bolton.
Wigan v Blackburn tonight is really a make or break game for these teams. Blackburn in the midst of an extremely poor run (including a shot less game at Spurs), and Wigan doing every thing they can to defy the odds AGAIN! Blackburn have won just one game in the last 6 attempts, and should be looking over their shoulders very worried. A lifeless performance only added to woes when up against Spurs, and with Kean & Co back under the microscope, you have to worry for the former Champions. Anything less than a win and they will join Wolves in The Championship next year, and with a Wigan team playing some good football of late - including some famous wins on the way - things look bleak.
Wigan have it all to play for tonight and this game can define their future. Against the odds Wigan managed to get into the Premiership, and you would have to wonder if you would see them again if they were to be relegated, with Martinez' stock rising in football, you would also wonder if he would be there to guide them back. Recent form suggests however that Wigan look the more likely to go on for a win. With just 37 points, Wigan sit 2 points above Bolton, and with this game to play they could guarantee their safety for another season. Performances against the likes of Manchester Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal have given hope, and with a 4-0 drubbing of Newcastle under their belts, they will look to capitalise. Roberto Martinez has introduced some truly exciting football to Wigan, and if they turn it on again, they should see this one through. If starlet Victor Moses manages to perform then they could just snatch it. Recent formation changes have led to a positive change in the squad, and will cause Blackburn allot of problems.
Bolton on 35 points need a win to survive - dependant on QPR & Wigan, and things could be tough for them. An 11 year run in the Premiership could come to an end, and Owen Coyle will be in desperate need of a result. Against Spurs, for periods of the game they looked like winning, but seemingly collapsed after a Spurs goal took the wind out of their sails. If they can sustain these periods of football then they should be able to perform well against a tough Stoke side. With Stoke safe, they may already be looking to their holidays, and Bolton may just snatch something. Consistancy hasn't been their strong point this year, but with players like Kevin Davies leading the line, they should be more than match for the physicality of the Stoke team. Whether a stubborn Stoke team are going to let that happen remains to be seen. On a winless run in five games, they are sure to want to send off the Stoke faithfull with a stong performance, and could just prevent Bolton getting all three points.
What defines football, is the ability to take the chance when presented to you, and there is a fine line between success and failure, Anything can happen in the game we love, and for all involved it can define them. Nothing is over until that final whistle. I wouldn't like to call any of these results really, but as I am a football optimist I will be bold and say UTD for the title, Spurs third, Arsenal 4th, Newcaste 5th, and Blackburn Bolton to go down. Never say never!