Seven points clear with 12 matches to go after a tenth successive league win. With United also boasting a considerably superior goal difference, Liverpool effectively now require the leaders to lose three matches (and win all their fixtures) to overhaul the champions. It isn’t going to happen.
Finally, a victory when it mattered. Chelsea’s problem this season has been a consistent failing to perform on the biggest occasions.
To reveal just how different this season’s story would have been but for this failing, consider the league table had Chelsea drawn all of their matches this season against their Big Four rivals:
Man United: 60 pts
Chelsea: 55 pts
Liverpool: 51 pts
Arsenal: 43 pts
To repeat a previous observation: Chelsea’s Big Four mini-league record this season of Played 5, Drawn 1, Lost 4 didn’t just spell doom for their title tilt but was probably also the big reason why Luiz Scolari was fired.
Had they lost at Villa Park on Saturday, then failure to qualify for the Champions League would have also become a real possibility – a failure that the club can, quite literally, not afford to contemplate if they are to achieve their ambition of breaking even for 2010. In that respect, Chelsea’s two victories over Villa this season remain their most important of the campaign. Had both games been drawn, then Chelsea would trail by five points. Instead, they’re now ahead by one.
The league’s top scorer’s first goal in two months.
Seven points clear of the relegation zone after the defeat of West Ham.
27 of their 33 points for the season have been collected at Craven Cottage.
Sir Alex Ferguson
Tuesday’s game against Inter Milan is the biggest game of the season for Manchester United, especially with the league all but sewn up. So why was Jonny Evans playing with a bad ankle while a healthy Nemanja Vidic was sitting on the bench? Evans reinjures the same ankle that ruled him out of action earlier this year for a month and suddenly United are struggling:
“I hope we can get two centre backs out because at this moment it’s very doubtful,” Ferguson lamented. Then again, United were supposedly suffering from an injury crisis a few weeks ago only for some miracle recoveries to occur overnight, so Ferguson’s wailing should be met with caution.
If United lose to a bad defensive mistake in Italy on Tuesday and go out of the Champions League, critics will look back to the Blackburn game where Fergie got it all wrong.
The Champions League now represents their best hope of silverware this season and while they are out of form – Liverpool have recorded just five wins from their past 13 league games – Real Madrid warmed up for Wednesday’s meeting by scoring six first-half goals on Saturday night. These are dispiriting times at Anfield and Rafa Benitez’s refusal to either sign a new contract or clarify the situation is only adding to the sense of decline. A season that promised so much is now turning ugly.
Total number of goals scored this season by Villa in 360 minutes of play against the three teams currently above them in the league table: None.
Since making his international debut against Germany in November, Agbonlahor has scored just three goals in 19 appearances.
Arsenal have scored just four league goals in their last seven home games and have to start watching Everton as well as Aston Villa. Missing out on the Champions League next year will be a huge blow for Gunners fans. Slipping to 6th and missing out on Europe all together is a bad nightmare that is becoming more realistic with every passing week.