Just Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea left in Premier League title dog-fight
And now there are three. At least that’s the way the bookies see it. The title rests between Manchester City (11/10 with Coral), Chelsea (13/5) and Arsenal (4/1). Maybe Liverpool (16/1) can still get back into it after dropping two points at home to Aston Villa at the weekend, but Manchester United and Spurs (both 66/1) and Everton (80/1) have got no chance.
Jose Mourinho was trying to be polite when assessing United’s prospects of retaining their title after events at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, but let’s face it, they can’t possibly win it now.
Even if they were to win every one of their remaining 16 games (and the chances of that are astronomical judged on recent displays), Arsenal would have to drop 14 points, City 13 and Chelsea 12, a scenario that is pretty impossible to envisage.
So the Reds will instead be involved in a four-way fight for the fourth Champions League spot, a most important ambition in itself.
With the leading trio all long odds-on to fill three of those places, we are left with Liverpool (10/11), United (11/5), Spurs (5/2) and Everton (4/1) in a fight for the other place. The least desperate of these are the Toffees, whose whole business plan will not have been so reliant on Champions League football, but it is they who will be in the box seat if they can beat West Brom at the Hawthornes tonight and overtake their Merseyside rivals.
Meanwhile, the relegation battle gets more exciting by the week with Swansea now definitely in the mix (8/1 to go down with Coral) with ten other clubs after their home defeat to Spurs on Sunday.
Crystal Palace are out of the bottom three after beating Stoke, but remain Coral’s 4/5 favourites to go down, though now only just ahead of Cardiff and Fulham (both evens).
Sunderland (11/8) and West Ham (13/8) could have done with better results at home that a draw with Southampton and a loss to Newcastle respectively, but with only six points separating the bottom 11 clubs, every team is just a couple of good results from safety or a couple of bad ones from calamity and it will stay that way for the rest of the season.
Villa (9/1) still aren’t out of the woods after taking that point at Anfield, but you do wonder when they play as well as that just how they can be candidates for relegation. Mind you, that’s something you could say about all the others in the bottom half of the table – they have all looked decent sides on occasions – but they won’t all beat the drop.