EPL: Title race swinging this way and the other

Rajdeep Saha

With Manchester City dropping five points in a space of three days, the race for the Premier League title of 2013-14 season enters an exciting phase, as the fight for top position seems to go right down to the wire. The momentum has now shifted towards Brendan Rodgers` Liverpool.

Footballing pundits and bookies favour the Reds to win the title, as the Anfield outfield looks for its first domestic title after a 24-year gap. Chelsea, meanwhile stayed afloat, on second place, after a scrappy win against Swansea City at the weekend. If Liverpool manage to win their remaining matches, they will finish with 89 points and will lay their hands on the trophy.

The last two seasons saw the Manchester giants – United and City, emerge champions with the same number of points.

Let`s have a look at the title winning chances for the top three teams in the EPL table.

Liverpool: For now, it is Liverpool`s title to lose and with the form they are in, it seems unlikely they will misfire. Brendan Rodgers knows the importance in his side`s charge and will look to go all out in the remaining four matches seeking to win it all. The biggest hurdle in between, is a visiting Chelsea side and that is where the title may just get decided. The Reds have been on top form and have recorded their tenth successive victory in the league – a feat they had earlier achieved in 2005. They have beaten all top teams at home this season and a win against Chelsea on 27th April, will see them complete the tally against title rivals in the top half.

Rodgers will be wary of a rejuvenated Crystal Palace, who under Tony Pulis have shown remarkable energy to bottle their way to survival this term. The London club has registered four straight victories on the trot and beat Champions League chasing Everton at Goodison Park on Wednesday. Palace have done well against top teams at home and if they are able to replicate that form against Liverpool, then it can swing the tide back in favour of Chelsea and City. Liverpool`s Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have notched up 49 goals between them and they are Rodgers` best bet for the title. With England potentials – Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling in sublime touch, Liverpool have a chance to write history in England. A trophy that has evaded their cabinet since 24 years, since the birth of Premier League.

Chelsea: The Blues are two points off the top, with focus lying on Liverpool and Manchester City, Chelsea find themselves in a position where they will look for the maximum. Mourinho needs four wins, just like his rivals and will try to prevent Liverpool`s run at Anfield. Jose has often stated his side will not win the title this year and has reserved the favourites tag for City and Reds. But somewhere within, he knows that they are in a position, where they can come out as eventual winners. Chelsea are the dark horses and with Jose`s stewardship, the blue half of London has a lot to offer in the three-way race.

Chelsea are also in the last-four of the Champions League and play Spanish leaders Atletico Madrid. A shot at Europe`s most coveted trophy is where Jose will play his cards on. Their rivals don`t have the added pressure of Champions League and what this holds for the Blues will be interesting to watch. Chelsea have recorded two losses in their last six matches in the league and Mourinho is keen to avoid such results in the remaining games. Outcast Demba Ba has suddenly handed Chelsea a new lease of life in their pursuit for a trophy this term. Chelsea attacking midfield has done well and with Samuel Eto`o up-front, they are still a potent threat. Apart from an away tie against Liverpool, Chelsea play relegation battling sides and Jose will hope for a clean sweep in those games. But a win at Anfield is just what Chelsea need to dictate terms in their own way.

Manchester City: The 2011-12 EPL champions were considered the favourites right from the beginning of the season. Such has been the quality of their squad. City dominated games in an emphatic manner and were clinical against top teams all throughout, barring Chelsea. With games in hand, they were considered the favourites to win the title. Both their rival managers too acknowledged the fact. But in a span of three days, Manuel Pellegrini`s side find themselves in a tricky situation. The 3-2 loss at Anfield served as a crucial setback and the energy lacked against bottom placed Sunderland too. The two results might just see their season end in a whimper. The absence of Yaya Toure against Sunderland and most part of Liverpool game was the point where City`s problems aroused. Their results will make both Liverpool and Chelsea happy, a scenario Pellegrini wanted to avoid at all costs. City still have to play Everton, away, and another tie against in-form Crystal Palace will be two of Pellegrini`s sternest tests. Their defining moment must be in these two ties and Pellegrini needs to win both at all costs.

They lie third and with a game in hand, they can still fight for the title, albeit with some favours from the other two teams. Even if Pellegrini wins all his remaining matches, his side will end with 86 points, three short of Liverpool – with Reds too winning all their matches. If Chelsea win all their matches, they finish on 87 points, two points behind Reds but still above City by a single point. So Liverpool have the numerical edge over their rivals. But from here on, the title can go to either of the three, up till the last match-day probably.