Is the Premier League Now a Two-Horse Race?

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Well done to Chelsea for putting up a decent fight for so long. However, according to Chester Carrick, the Blues have now run out of luck following their 1-1 draw against Portsmouth. Indeed, the fans were relieved with a point at Fratton Park. Still, there’s always the Carling Cup, FA Cup and maybe even the Champions League for them to win this season…

With only thirteen matches left this season for each of the ‘Big Three’, the odds are firmly stacked against Chelsea repeating their success of 2004/5 and 2005/6 by winning the Premier League title. Avram Grant may have done an admirable job in place of Jose Mourinho but Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Portsmouth may have left them with too much ground to make up.

The Blues might have stood every chance of landing the title if they were only chasing one team towards the line, but surely it’s unthinkable that they will be ahead of champions Manchester United and Arsenal by the middle of May. The Gunners went top after Saturday’s 3-1 win at Manchester City, six points ahead of Chelsea and with a vastly superior goal difference.

Meanwhile, the Red Devils remain four points ahead of the Blues after their 1-1 draw with Tottenham, although they’re sixteen goals better off when you subtract ‘goals against’ from ‘goals from’, an indication that the West London team have been beating opposition by the odd goal rather than comprehensively.

Chelsea face Liverpool on Sunday and, while they have a strong record against the Reds in domestic competition, a failure to win is likely to leave them eight points off the pace with Arsenal and Manchester United facing Blackburn and Manchester City respectively. In addition, they will still be without Drogba, Terry and Essien, players who have previously been crucial in matches against top-class opposition. Benitez’s men were unfortunate not to beat the Blues at Anfield this season and are also scrapping to ensure they’re playing Champions League football next season.

Supporters of the club might argue that Arsenal and Manchester United still have to visit the Bridge in the league this season, although it’s perfectly feasible that at least one might actually claim victory and unlikely that Chelsea will win both matches. In addition, the Champions League is still very much the holy grail for owner Roman Abramovich, who recruited Jose Mourinho partly on the basis that he had won the competition while at Porto.

Odds of 11/2 about the Blues claiming their third Premier League title suggest that the Carling Cup and FA Cup are more realistic targets for Avram Grant’s men this season, especially with United and Arsenal meeting in the next round of the latter competition. The bookmakers continue to make Sir Alex Ferguson’s men an odds-on chance to retain their crown, mainly because they’re perceived to have a higher-quality and more experienced squad and partly because the Gunners still have to visit Old Trafford.

However, if Arsene Wenger’s team can record another historic victory at the Theatre of Dreams on 12th April, there’s every chance that they can upstage their big-spending rivals in Lancashire and west London. By going to the City of Manchester Stadium and winning comprehensively, the Gunners once again demonstrated they are not just about pretty, attacking football. Instead, they have a solid defence and a killer instinct (mainly in the form of Emmanuel Adebayor), which belies their youthful appearance.

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