Although Juventus and Bayern Munich seem to be walking away with their league titles already secured and La Liga having a fantastic three team jumble at the top, the Premier League had a weekend where all of the possible Champions League entrants definitely showed why they have attained their current league position. While Manchester United will hope that Wayne Rooney’s newest contract helps United move a bit up the ladder, Newcastle moves on post-Cabaye, Tottenham struggles against random squads, and Everton saw that they are still a bit off the pace for entering the Champions League, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, and Liverpool are looking capable of staying at the apex of England’s top league.
For Manchester City, the title hunt still feels very alive. Sitting only 3 points back and with a game in hand, the Citizens were the early favorite from the preseason prediction here at The Instep to snag the league title…and they seem capable of making our prediction come to fruition. They sit only one goal back of the top scoring club in the league (Liverpool) and they will be hoping to quickly push a Champions League defeat to Barcelona out of their minds with some quick relief and EPL success. Like Arsenal, it feels as if getting knocked out of the Champions League would not be the worst option for the Citizens as they could place more focus on their domestic league. If City can couple some consistent defense as they watch their strikers return to the form they experienced early in the season, the blue side of Manchester might be celebrating their second title since the influx of Middle Eastern money.
Over at Anfield, the Reds pulled out another close match downing Swansea in a 4-3 shootout filled with messy defending and Jonjo Shelvey continuing to look like a consistent scoring thorn in Liverpool’s side. Although Liverpool are actually winning the games that used to destroy their top four hopes (the games that they “should” win easily), the Reds seem the least likely of the current top four to sweep to the top of the summit. While they will be extremely thankful to Norwich for giving them a new six point pad in between fourth and fifth, the fact that the club has the leakiest defense of the top six teams means that either Liverpool will have to keep scoring at a ridiculous level or they will need to clean up the play of the back four. While the current form of Tottenham, Everton, and United seem to have Liverpool ending the season with their Champions League hopes intact, the best aspect definitely seems to be the future. Jordan Henderson is finally coming good, Sturridge is in the form of his life, and re-entry into Europe’s elite will help Liverpool start bringing the best players in the world back to Anfield.
With both teams involved in this review, the simple fact that a top four finish would put salt in a growing wound over at Manchester United will be motivation enough for City and Liverpool. Add in that with the league becoming even more competitive at the top, both of these clubs will need to be able to impress prospective newcomers so that they can stay at the top of the Premier League. One last thing for Liverpool and their CL chase: it means the difference between retaining and losing Luis Suarez…and that is HUGE.