Can Cardiff put a dent in Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes?
After Chelsea and Arsenal battle it out in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off, the other two contenders for the Premier League crown, Manchester City and Liverpool, face different types of challenges altogether against the two teams propping up the table, Fulham and Cardiff. And whatever happens at Stamford Bridge, neither north west club can afford to slip up.
The title race could hardly be closer with Coral’s 5/4 favourites City going into the weekend six points behind Chelsea (2/1), but with three games in hand.
Liverpool (100/3) are four points behind Jose Mourinho’s men with a game in hand, the same as Arsenal (14/1) and if anybody doubted that the Merseysiders had a realistic chance of winning the league for the first time since 1990, they should have been at Old Trafford on Sunday when they brushed Manchester United aside.
City’s FA Cup defeat at home to Wigan reminded us that the Blues still have this occasional tendency to take inferior opposition too lightly, but surely lighting won’t strike twice in the same place so soon afterwards. It will be one of the shocks of the Premier League season if they fail to beat Fulham in the Etihad.
But it might not be quite such an easy ride for Liverpool. There’s no hiding place from the expectations any more and perhaps now that the players are themselves starting to believe they can win the title, we could be in for a nervous wobble or two.
At the same time, Cardiff are scrapping for their lives and they showed enough spirit when losing to a late goal at Everton last week to confirm that they haven’t given up the fight yet. Coral’s 7/2 the draw makes some appeal.
Norwich and Sunderland, both 7/4 to be relegated, meet in a six-pointer at Carrow Road and this game has a more obvious look of a draw about it (23/10).
This is the first of four winnable games for Chris Hughton’s side before their nightmare final four fixtures of the season and they will be desperate for all three points.
But Sunderland have probably needed time to get the Capital One Cup Final defeat out of their system and should soon start taking advantage of their games in hand.
Who knows how Man United will react at West Ham after their midweek heroics in the Champions League? Will there be a refuelling of confidence or is this just another false dawn?
I suspect the latter – despite that fine win over Olympiakos there is clearly still much work to be done – but it will probably be down to City next Tuesday to expose the Reds’ ongoing problems rather than the Hammers, who aren’t doing anything like as well in March as they were in February. Coral’s 3/4 a United win looks fair.