With 12 games left in the Barclays Premier League, Chelsea is five points clear at the top, putting the Blues in prime position to win. This Premier League season has marked the resurgence of Manager Jose Mourinho, the self-proclaimed ‘Special One,’ and his Chelsea squad. But no one—including Mourinho—is foolish enough to think that Chelsea is going to coast to victory. The Premier League is notorious for wild finishes, and even this late in the season, there are six other teams still very much in the running.
Chelsea: It’s not at all surprising that Chelsea is leading the Premier League this season. Mourinho’s coaching has brought consistency on defence and made Stamford Bridge a near impenetrable fortress for opposing teams. On offence, Chelsea has a myriad of scoring options. The team can rely on the League’s top scorer Diego Costa, who is having an outstanding debut season with 17 goals so far. Over Chelsea’s last 20 games, they have conceded goals in only four. That statistic is practically unbelievable—especially in the Premier League—and explains why they are favourites to win the League this season.
Manchester City: This is a very talented team, filled with perennial stars such as Sergio Agüero, David Silva, and Yaya Touré, but is one that has performed slightly below expectations this season. Manager Manuel Pellegrini has orchestrated a hyper-offensive style of play, which has pumped up the team’s scoring this season. Unfortunately for City, the team has tied far too many games and that has cost crucial points in the race to keep up with Chelsea. Second place for Manchester City would be a step back for the defending champions, but is the most likely outcome at the moment.
Manchester United: United has bounced back tremendously from last season’s disastrous performance. New Manager Louis van Gaal has rejuvenated the team and has helped his players perform significantly better on both sides of the ball. The addition of Ángel Di Maria from Real Madrid has had a positive impact on the team and has helped United’s attacking options, but fellow newcomer Radamel Falcao is performing well below his usual form, and is unlikely to be staying with Manchester United much longer. If United were to finish third, it would not be a surprise to anyone, but a few slip-ups down the stretch could mean that the Champions League might not be in the cards next season.
Still in the race
Southampton: Southampton is having a phenomenal season. With the departure of key players such as Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, and Rickie Lambert to Liverpool, the team’s prospects looked grim. However, with the arrival of new Manager Ronald Koeman, the team has defied all expectations on its climb to the top of the standings. Fourth place and a coveted place in the Champions League would be a massive achievement for a team that only returned to the Premier League in 2012-2013 after being relegated seven years prior.
Arsenal: Since the departure of Thierry Henry in 2007, Arsenal has put together a string of roller coaster seasons. Inconsistency has always plagued Arsenal and if the team does not close strongly, a spot in the Champions League next season is out of the picture. The addition of Alexis Sanchez has been one bright spot for the team this year.
Tottenham: The emergence of Harry Kane has been a blessing for the Spurs this season. A stunning victory against Chelsea at White Hart Lane has definitely given the team the confidence it needs to make the leap from good to great. If it can keep its momentum going until it faces Manchester City and Manchester United in the final games of the season, a Champions League berth is within reach.
Liverpool: A terrible first half of the season has cost Liverpool dearly. The second half of the season has seen a revival from Mario Balotelli and the Reds, but its path back to the top is steep. If Liverpool can keep this run going, they may be able to jump up from sixth. Digging yourself out of a first half hole is hard in any league, but with one of the toughest end-of-season schedules, getting to fourth place will be a true test of this team’s character.
(Photos courtesy of: Nick Potts / PA; wallabet.fr; thisisanfield.com)