Will Liverpool’s dropped points against United cost them the title?
There is a quarter of the football season still to play out and the chips are down at both ends of the Premiership table.
With 9 games – a possible 27 points – to go the picture remains unclear (Chelsea still have a game in hand after the League Cup Final).
I think it is safe to say it’s now a two-horse race at the top of the table.
Maybe it always was. The admission by Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino before their defeat at Chelsea that his team do not currently have the “right mind-set to win the Premier League title” suggests to me that he has given up the ghost – at least for the 2018-19 season.
At the foot of the table it has turned into a real dog-fight with five teams still in the thick of it meaning I believe the likes of Burnley, Palace and Newcastle are safe.
But that statement could come back to haunt me.
For me Huddersfield are gone, even though they managed to beat Wolves recently.
The other two? If I thought I could get decent odds I would go for Fulham and Cardiff but they must already be favourites to join Huddersfield. I believe that the south coast teams Brighton and Southampton will have enough about them to get out of trouble. The latter did themselves a lot of good in beating Fulham on the last Wednesday of February.
Given that we are at the sharp-end of the season, March, to my surprise, does not throw up a whole lot of six-pointer matches. Indeed, blockbuster games are pretty thin on the ground.
The Reds’ other big rivals, Manchester United, have already slowed them up by keeping Liverpool down to a point at Old Trafford. Given the first half injury reverses the Red Devils suffered that really was a game Liverpool should have won.
I don’t intend to get too involved in the “give Solskjaer the job” clamour. However, United’s win at Palace means that, at the time of writing, United are yet to lose a league game with Ole in charge. If the United board do opt to look elsewhere for the next manager, they had better choose wisely. The Old Trafford faithful will not accept many more seasons of indifference or the dumping of a “favourite son” who, currently, can do little wrong.
This weekend sees a game that is loosely referred to as a derby – Palace travel to Brighton hoping to keep their M23 rivals down close to the relegation places. Although the clubs are 40+ miles apart, the rivalry is intense. I know Palace fans were unhappy to miss out of drawing either Brighton or Millwall in the FA Cup. Brighton V Palace is on TV in Thailand at 7.30pm on Saturday March 9.
The next day sees the battle for places in the Champions League hot up when Arsenal host Manchester United. United got the better of them in the cup but that has no bearing on this game. Expect fireworks as gaining entry to the Champions League is worth many millions from TV rights and it also improves a team’s recruitment prospects as the best players want to play in that competition. Too close to call.
The weekend after there is a reduced Premier League programme because it is cup weekend. The stand-out cup tie pitches Wolves against Man U, but it kicks off at 7.55pm in England which is just before 3am Thai time. Maybe one for only the most committed fans to stay up to watch.
To conclude the month’s fixtures Liverpool are at home to Spurs on the last Sunday (31st). Note that the kick-off is at 4.30pm in the UK but, given the clocks will have gone forward the night before, that means it’s a more acceptable 10.30pm kick-off in Thailand.
Although nothing will be decided in March it remains a crucial time for the Premier League.
At the end of it we may have a clearer idea of who will be the champs and who will be the chumps.
By Dave Buckley