With the English Premier League a little over halfway done, what can we look for in the coming weeks of the season?
Here are my top 4 teams.
1. Manchester United
The top team in the league right now, in my biased opinion, is Manchester United. I know many will disagree with this statement, but the Red Devils always find a way to be right in the thick of things, despite having somewhat of an “off year.” The main reason I have United as my top team, and my prediction as league winner, is because of Man City’s inability to run away with the lead, even though they were given multiple opportunities. There have been at least a handful of chances where City could have just beared down and gotten a W for the week; resulting in a few game lead on their cross-town rivals. Fortunately for United, they have not done so. Which is why I do not have Man City as the number one team. Another reason I have Man U as my foreseen victors, is due to the fact that they are eliminated from Champions League. With little left to focus on, Sir Alex will definitely hold a Premiership Title in his highest regards this year. With Rooney and Nani leading the offensive charge, look for a second half surge from an injury plagued Red Devil squad.
2. Manchester City
Despite all of the Tevez drama, City finds themselves atop of the tables with 51 points. After all of the big-name, big-money signings, The Citizens finally appear to be clicking, but just a litte bit. Let’s just say Man City has done the very minimun to be considered league leaders, if that makes sense. They are just one game up (3 points) on Man United and have shown a severe lack of consistancy. After being elimated from the Champions League a few weeks back, The Blues were also recently eliminated from the FA Cup by the boys in red, Man United. Having nothing left to play for really, it will be interesting to see the rest of the year pan out. There will certainly be a lot of pressure on Mancini to maintain the lead and win the league title. Man United have had a roller-coaster of a year thus far, and City’s incapacity to take a substantial lead lands them a second place finish. That being said, early season signing Edin Dzeko and playmaker David Silva have proven to be key parts to the City attack. Do not take what I am saying as set in stone. The Citizens definitely have the firepower and skill to win the Prem League. The question is, will they be able to keep their composure?
Lead by winger and fan favorite Gareth Bale, The Hotspurs are playing great soccer and are just 5 points back from the lead. They will have an interesting test and great chance to make up ground against league leaders Man City on Saturday. It is a bit far-fetched to say this squad will win the league title, but they are definitely hungry to earn the Champions League birth with a top 4 finish. In order to do so, they will need to avoid any 1-1 draws agaisnt Wolverhampton or Swansea (like they did the past few weeks). Regardless, Tottenham has proved to be a force in the Prem League this year and have the talent to challenge any top team. Their dynamic offensice attack allows for multiple guys to get on the score sheet on a regular basis. I would love to see them at the top of the tables this year, let’s hope they can maintain their game and finally achieve a much deserved Champions League bid.
Like many of the teams in the Barclays this year, Chelsea has had a bit of an up and down year; taking losses and draws so subpar squads. I do not see The Pensioners giving up a lead to a mediocre Arsenal or Liverpool squad, but I also do not think they have to the players to make a late season surge. Fortunately for The “Real” Blues, they are now getting deep into Champions league matches and should make that their primary focus for the ladder half of the season. Look for Lampard to continue his rejuvenated year and keep this team in the runnings for a Champions League birth next year because we do not want to see the boys in blue go through another manger change… or do we?
Honorable Mention: Arsenal
It is hard to make a top four list without The Gunners, but this team just does not have it this year. Van Persie is doing all that he can to keep them a contender, but their broken back line and inability to keep opposing teams out of the net has proven problematic for them. When are the “Young Gunners” going to become the “In Their Prime Gunners”? I love Arsene, but you gotta make some moves… sometimes. This team is going to need more than just one big signing to rehabilitate them back to “The Invincibles” days of 03-04; and acquiring long-time fan favorite and “Invincibles” leader Thierry Henry was not the trick. On a positive note, unlike the clubs of Manchester, Arsenal is still very much in the Champions League race. They should enjoy it while it lasts, because this could be the last year for a while. All in all, I would not be surprised if Arsenal goes out this summer and finally spend some of their keesh to try and fill the multiple voids on their team.
It is going to be an interesting second half of the 2011-2012 campaign. It is very rare that the top 2 teams get eliminated from Champions League before the Round of 16 even begins. Look for some eventful games coming up. Make sure to set your alarm for 7:30 am CST Saturday and watch Man City take on Tottenham on ESPN2.