Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.
Email Jon to talk about soccer.
Dana Wessel produces the K-TWIN Morning Show on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am. The show is hosted by Eric Perkins and Rena Sarigianopoulos of KARE 11. His team might win the Premier League title, and he is both excited and nervous. Dana?
We will know the winner of the Premier League in fewer than 50 days. Seven matches to go. Everything still to be decided.
This is the fun part although it sort of sucks because West Brom, Cardiff, Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Fulham are tanking for draft picks. Hahaha, oh, wait. No, they aren’t. That is why this is the greatest league in the world. There is more at stake for the teams at the bottom than there is for some of the teams at the top. Nobody is laying down, and every match is intense.
Chelsea are still tops of the league, but for how long? Arsenal are in the top four, but for how long? There have been a lot of intriguing developments since we last got cozy and chatted like this, so how about we light this candle?
Game 1: Manchester United vs Aston Villa at Old Trafford
When: Saturday at 7:45AM on NBC Sports Network
Bahahhaha. I am just kidding. Watching this match is guaranteed by science to make you a dumber, less popular human.
Game 1: Crystal Palace vs Chelsea at Selhurst Park
When: Saturday at 10:00AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: These two last played a Premier League match at Crystal Palace in 2004. Chelsea got all of the allotted points thanks to goals from Drogba (awww) and Tiago.
Chelsea are good enough to win the league, but now must pay for past sins. City control their own destiny, and Chelsea just have to sit and hope they slip up. It is kind of like one of those 1980s movies where the hot girl promises she’ll go to the dance with the main character as long as Big Jock Stud guy doesn’t ask her. All he, and Chelsea, can do is wait and hope.
That emphatic...wait, that word has probably been used 10,000 times in other articles written about that match, so let's try something different... that VIGOROUS (sure) victory over Arsenal last Saturday was one for the ages. The most amazing thing was the talker after the match. It wasn’t about how great Chelsea were, it was how expected this was from Arsenal. I’d hate to root for a club where losing 6-0 to one of your chief rivals while in a title race is met with a, “Yeah, well, what else did you expect?” Sad. Disappointment and Arsenal go together like lamb and tuna fish at this point. Or spaghetti and meatballs if you’re more comfortable with that analogy.
Chelsea have to essentially remain perfect the rest of the way, after getting no help from a worthless Manchester United side in United's midweek capitulation to City. Teams like Palace can’t be overlooked, or Chelsea will find themselves looking up to both Liverpool and City in the standings. Also, Chelsea has two midweek matches against PSG in the Champions League, adding even more stress.
The only London team to win the Champions League is certainly up against it but this is where they have thrived in the past few years. Plus, Jose LOVES playing up the "nobody believes in us" angle.
Game 2: Arsenal vs Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium
When: Saturday at 12:30M on NBC Sports Network
Last year: City blanked the Gunners on their own ground last season 2-rip. Goals by Milner and Dzeko in the first half ended this one early.
Last Saturday, Arsenal visited Chelsea with a chance to come within a point of the league lead, and a match in hand looming midweek against Swansea that could have potentially put them in first. They responded with a 6-0 loss to Chelsea, and a draw against Swansea in which they scored an own goal in second-half stoppage time to gift Swansea a point.
Arsenal are now in a dogfight for fourth place instead of sitting on top of the league. Ouch.
This week, they welcome in the cruising Manchester City, to the stadium they could only manage a single point against Swansea at days earlier. This team is in serious trouble, and are playing with the confidence of the central team of an underdog sports movie in the first half hour of the film. They can still feel good about themselves by winning the FA Cup and fending off Everton and Spurs to finish fourth, but not even the most optimistic Arsenal fan can say they are confident in both happening. Does finishing on the outside of the top four mean curtains for Wenger?
City, on the other hand, are rolling right now. With nine matches left (and currently still in third because they’ve only played 29) it is too early to start stocking up on bubbly, but they know what they have to do at this point. Plus, for a team that wants to win the league, getting knocked out of Champions League was probably the best thing for their title hopes. Rather than having messy midweek games against the likes of Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, City has their sights set solely on regaining the domestic trophy.
On the surface, you have to think City will roll here and Arsenal will continue to crumble. But it is a funny game sometimes. I say the desperate Gunners get at least a point. Their season is going the way of Surge soda right now, and they will be up for this game.
Game 3: Liverpool vs Tottenham at Anfield
When: Sunday at 10:00AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Liverpool got all three points after a Steven Gerrard penalty put the home side up 3-2. If I remember correctly, the penalty was controversial. Spurs went up a goal twice but Liverpool kept fighting and eventually got their reward.
Tottenham finally get a ray of sunlight in their quest for that top four spot and what do they get? A trip to Anfield! Great timing!
I have been saying it for weeks in this here column: If you don’t think Liverpool can win the title right now, then you probably related to Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber. They are absolutely dealing right now, and playing with a sort of confidence - and, yeah, I am gonna say it, swagger - that makes City and Chelsea watch on in awe.
It is kind of funny the reaction that supporters of other teams have taken to Liverpool’s huge run of form. United, City, Chelsea, and Arsenal supporters have basically come to the conclusion that if their own team can’t win the title, they want anybody but Liverpool to lift the trophy. I hate to be one of those NFL meatheads with a shirt that says "My two favorite teams are Chelsea and whoever are playing Liverpool derrpppppppp" but it is true. I don’t want Liverpool to win it. Please, anybody but them. I don’t know if it is because I dated a Liverpool fan once and it ended poorly, or because Liverpool have never won the Premier League and that's kind of funny, or because their supporters are the leaders of the "Chelsea have no history" movement*. Probably a combination of the three.
*By the way, I love when someone around my age gives me the "Chelsea have no history line." Chelsea are creating history by lifting more trophies in the past three years than Liverpool have won in the last 20. Even better, I am alive for this, unlike all the history they love talking about. It is sad. They are like the young Packer fans that brag about Super Bowls I and II. Anyway. Moving on.
Credit where credit is due: Liverpool are playing incredible football and, I must admit, it is pretty to watch. They have a pair of 20-goal scorers for the first time since the 1960s, and look virtually indestructible. With a pair of matches at home against City and Chelsea, it is all there for them.
I think they make easy work of Spurs on Sunday. If anybody catches Arsenal for fourth place it won’t be them. It will be Everton. Timmy Howard in Champions League? How cool would that be.
This Spurs side lacks much conviction and spine. They don’t win big matches, and that isn’t going to change on Sunday.
Alright, kids. That will do it for this week. Remember to tip your bartenders at your favorite soccer pub. We need them more than they need us. Until next time, keep your oranges sliced and your juice boxes on ice.
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