Welcome back, Nuclear Warheads.
We have a nice little slate of matches on our hands. Chelsea stay top, Arsenal are charging, United keep winning….and City are in fourth?
Just too bad Spurs and Liverpool had to bottom out already before the fun really started. It appears the top four teams have all but locked things up — just a matter of what order they finish in at this point.
On to the matches!
No. 1: Burnley vs Arsenal at Turf Moor
When: Saturday at 11:30AM on Big Boy NBC
Last year: These two last met at Turf Moor back in 2009. The match ended in a 1-1 draw with Cesc Fabregas scoring for Arsenal. Memories!
Arsenal can't really do it, can they? I mean, no, they can't catch Chelsea, right? Naw…can they? They can.
Winning eight Premier League matches in a row does wonderful things for any side but it now has given Arsenal unexpected hope in the title race. City have played their way out of the race and the Gunners sit just seven points behind Chelsea, but have played one more match than Mourinho's side.
It is unlikely but it is certainly possible, especially with these two still set to meet at the Emirates at the end of the month.
But first thing’s first for Arsene Wenger and his men, they must continue running that win streak. They play play a Burnley side still riding high from that historic win against Manchester City over St. Paddy’s Day weekend. They sit level on points with QPR at 18th and a win could get them into safety from the drop zone.
Burnley managed to draw Spurs last weekend and are doing everything they can to ensure Premier League survival. They are the little engine that could personified but a nearly full-strength Arsenal side. I see Arsenal winning and head into the FA Cup semi final with a full head of steam against Reading before the showdown with Chelsea on the 26th.
No. 2: QPR vs Chelsea at Loftus Road Stadium
When: Sunday at 7:30AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: This London derby last took place at Loftus Road in 2012 when both teams played to a scoreless draw. I don't remember much of the specifics but I remember it ruining my day.
Chelsea were dealt some rough news Friday when Mourinho announced league leading scorer Diego Costa would miss the next four matches with that nagging hamstring injury that has been around all season. Scary to think what this guy could do when healthy all year.
But the show goes on with Loic Remy starting in his place. The French international has back-to-back match winners for Chelsea so all is not lost. However, the Blues will surely miss the physical presence and pace that Costa provides.
Chelsea's focus this week is the same as it has been the last few weeks and will be until the season ends. Three points gets them that much closer to the title and anything less will open the door a little more for Arsenal.
The Blues need to win five of their final eight matches to guarantee they are champions. They really hope that number is cut to four after Sunday.
No. 3: Manchester United vs Manchester City at Old Trafford
When: Sunday at 10:00AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: City stomped a mudhole in their neighbor’s backside to the tune of 3-0. The match was held on March 25th while United were in the middle of their nightmare campaign.
City went from level at the top of the table with Chelsea on January 1st to just hoping they can hang onto a top four spot. Dude. That is like chilling at the top of the Candy Land board only to hit that big slide and find yourself scrambling.
Making matters worse is they sit behind their blood rival Manchester United. In case you are new to Premier League, the City/United rivalry makes the Ducks/Hawks rivalry in Ducks 1 look like the Team USA/Iceland rivalry in Ducks 2 look like the Eden Hall JV/Varsity rivalry in Ducks 3. Yeah, it is that big of a deal.
It will be fascinating to see just how far City can fall. United would love nothing more than to run off their sixth straight league win and watch their noisy neighbors continue to tumble. But despite City's poor recent form, it is hard to imagine them falling out of the top four. Liverpool and Spurs are still seven points off the pace. But man! It sure would be hilarious if they did. The defending champs and their supporters are going to be sweating this one out to the very end.
As far as Sunday goes…who really knows. One intriguing part of this match is what it means for these two teams going forward. If the season ended as it stands now, it is a massive success for United. If the season ended today, everyone at City is fired. After City won last year and United finished 7th, it appeared the two were heading in complete opposite directions for the next five years. Didn't take long for United to catch up and, for now, pass City.
Not even going to venture a guess who wins Sunday. Hoping for goals. And red cards. Lots of them. Red cards by the bucket. And goals. Lots of goals.
That'll do it for this week. Enjoy the matches. It will all be over before we know it.