City and Arsenal now concentrating on the Premier League
It’s back to the grindstone of the Premier League on Saturday after what has been a pretty depressing week in Europe for both Manchester City and Arsenal.
Beaten 2-0 at home by Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively in eerily similar circumstances, the Blues and the Reds are now hoping for second leg miracles in Spain and Germany.
But the likely reality is that they are now only contending on the home front; City, 11/10 favourites with Coral to win the Premier League, are now 80/1 to win the Champions League, while Arsenal, 9/1 for the title, are 100/1 in Europe.
The question is, how will they respond after such demoralising defeats? City (1/6) are playing Stoke and although on paper that looks like a gimmee, will Manuel Pellegrini’s men take out their frustrations on the Potters or will there be a hangover from Tuesday night?
Arsenal (3/10) also have the chance to let rip against Sunderland and the Gunners do seem pretty adept at bouncing back when everyone else is starting to write them off.
But Gus Poyet has instilled some real belief in the Black Cats and though back in the bottom three, we can be sure that they will be fighting tooth and claw at the Emirates. A draw (4/1) wouldn’t be a massive surprise.
With no less than 11 teams genuinely still in the relegation battle, there are six-pointers every weekend now. This Saturday we have two: Cardiff v Hull and West Brom v Fulham.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hasn’t brought immediate relief to Cardiff, but it was a tough start for him with trips to the two Manchester clubs and there is still a good chance that he will turn things around before it’s too late.
Hull at home would appear a good opportunity to gain a valuable three points, but Steve Bruce’s side are managing to maintain valuable distance between themselves and the bottom three and the acquisition of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long up front may well keep them out of trouble.
This looks like a draw (11/5), but Fulham will do well to get anything out of West Brom (8/11) after their recent upheavals.
The Baggies are hardly in a great position themselves after picking up just three points in their last six games, but those points have been gained with 1-1 draws against Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea so new boss Pepe Mel clearly has plenty to work with.
West Ham, 15/8 to beat Southampton, have shown just how quickly things can change in the relegation zone; three straight wins have taken them from out of the bottom three up to 11th.
It’s all about having players back fit, according to manager Sam Allardyce, and there’s a good chance that the Hammers will continue their good run against the Saints, a better team on their day, but in danger of going through the motions with neither Europe nor survival to play for.