My prediction on these very pages only last week that ‘Chelsea’s relentlessness looks set to mean that Tottenham will miss out on the title for the second year in succession, although this year it may well be through no fault of their own.’; only goes to show how little I know, as right on cue Chelsea’s defeat at Old Trafford a day after Tottenham’s seventh consecutive win saw the gap in the title race narrow to just four points with six games to play.
A number of Arsenal supporters have asked me this week whether I am concerned about ‘that lot from the Lane’ winning the title. I have to say I am feeling remarkably pragmatic about the whole thing, if Tottenham do manage to overhaul the leaders then they will deservedly be crowned Champions for the first time in 56 years. I guess my resignation at Arsenal’s mediocrity, as well as the long overdue development of some maturity in these matters, may explain in some way my lack of concern should such an event occur. At least instead of the one horse race that it threatened to be not so long ago, we should have a proper championship race to watch.
For the time being however attention switches to Wembley and the two FA Cup semi-finals; first up is the meeting of the top two in the Premier League in what is being billed by many as a potential indicator as to how the title race may shape up. Chelsea have the better track record in big Wembley matches but Spurs are the form side; it would seem to be a game that is ultimately too close to call, and it will be what happens on the day that decides the outcome. With both managers looking to take a step closer to the first trophy for their respective clubs, in Pochettino’s case his first trophy as a manager; it will be interesting to see whether victory on Saturday for either side paves the way for a potential League & Cup double or whether defeat may prove the inspiration for the loser in a final push for the title?
If the first semi-final is too close to call, Sunday’s is completely unpredictable given the erratic form of the two sides and their equally cavalier approach to defensive organisation. Just as in the recent league game at the Emirates, Manchester City start as favourites but will they this time prove capable of keeping the back door shut and keeping Arsenal from scoring? From an Arsenal supporter’s perspective I don’t think I have ever been less enthused by a trip to Wembley; the apathy brought on by Arsenal’s woeful recent form suggests that even if we were to win on Sunday there is only Cup Final defeat to one of our bitter London rivals to look forward to; so much for the magic of the FA Cup!
My visit to Wembley on Sunday afternoon means that I am going to miss an absolutely pivotal weekend in the Eredivisie. After the crucial victory last weekend over FC Utrecht, leaders Feyenoord travel to Vitesse Arnhem knowing that anything but a victory on a ground where they were knocked out of the Cup back in January, will open the door for Ajax. The Amsterdam club however face a potentially tough trip to PSV immediately after the Feyenoord game. PSV’s draw at ADO Den Haag pretty much ruled them out of the title race but the reigning champions will be keen to dent the aspirations of second placed Ajax and keep alive their feint hopes of another season in the Champions League. While this weekend won’t fully decide who wins the title, the chance is there for one or the other to seize the initiative.
After differing fortunes in the Champions League in midweek, the two behemoths of Spanish football go toe-to-toe in Madrid in the latest instalment of the ‘game that the world stops to watch’ as Real Madrid full-back Marcelo described it this week. Wounded from their elimination by Max Allegri’s impeccably drilled Juve side on Wednesday night, Barca know that only victory will do to enable them to salvage something from what is looking very much like a transitional season. Los Blancos are in the driving seat however and if they can at least avoid defeat it will keep their perennial rivals at arm’s length, while 3 points would see them take a huge stride towards their first title since 2012.