With Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea all locked in a three way battle for the title, the last Champions League place looks set to go to Merseyside, North London or Manchester…. But who is best placed?
Perfectly placed in the no. 4 position currently is Liverpool, in thanks mainly to the heroics of the SAS strike-force, Sturridge and Suarez. The two have accounted for 33 of their 53 goals this season, with Suarez grabbing 22. Brendan Rodgers’ side have been widely praised for their brand of flee-flowing football, and have notched victories over Manchester United and Tottenham, whilst also securing a 3-3 draw away at fellow competitors Everton. A big plus point for the Anfield based club will undoubtedly be their home advantage over all the big teams this season scrapping for the title coming into the second half of the season, bar Manchester United.
However, several injuries have hit Liverpool hard this season, with Jose Enrique, Glen Johnson, Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge all experiencing varying stints on the sidelines. However, with arguably the league’s best strike force in Suarez and Sturridge, a resolute defence and a captain boasting a wealth of experience at the top level, Liverpool are rightly so the bookies favourites to claim Champions League football for the first time in five years.
It would be foolish however, to rule out the resurgent Tottenham. With the 5-0 humiliation and the sacking of Andre Villas Boas, many wrote off Spurs’ chances of Top Four glory. Yet there is more than hope for Tim Sherwood’s men.
Level on points with Liverpool, Spurs have recorded some impressive victories over the past few weeks, with a 3-2 triumph at St. Marys, a 2-1 win at the recent happy hunting ground for away sides, Old Trafford, and a 3-1 success away to Swansea among the more notable wins. One of the key factors has been the re-integration of Emmanuel Adebayor into the starting line-up. Having endured a torrid time during AVB’s first season, scoring five goals in the Premier League, the Togolese man has come back stronger, netting five times in seven appearances. With easy on the eye football replacing the stale offerings offered up by the former manager, Spurs are most certainly in the mix.
Everton have always been renowned for possessing a stiff upper lip. Whilst plenty were sceptical of the appointment of Roberto Martinez, the cynics have most certainly been dismissed, with the Spaniard imposing his attacking brand of football, whilst also tightening up the defence, keeping nine clean sheets, conceding just 20 goals and only losing twice.
Their summer signings were some of the more astute decisions made by the club, recruiting both Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry from Chelsea and Manchester City on loan respectively. Lukaku quickly endeared himself to the Toffee’s fans, netting the winner against West Ham in September, and going on to score nine times in 18 showings. Barry, along with James McCarthy, has become a fan favourite, being loved for crunching tackles, clamping down on opponents and then distributing the ball to their promising young starlets, like England international Ross Barkley and Barcelona loanee Gerard Deulofeu. However, their status as outsiders must be upheld, as, with such a small squad, injuries could start piling up, leaving them with a scrap for a top seven finish.
With Sir Alex Ferguson’s United, they could never be ruled out. Even in the dying seconds of the beautiful game, there was never anyone ruling out a last minute equalizer, or a moment that could define a season. However, with David Moyes at the helm, there hasn’t been that sort of security. The reigning Premier League champions have endured an indifferent season, trailing league leaders Arsenal by 14 points.
Yet, they have almost made the biggest signing of the January transfer window. There has been speculation surrounding the future of Juan Mata since ‘the Special One’ re-entered English football this past summer, and he now looks set to hand the champions a massive boost by completing a deal reportedly worth £37 million. Now with Mata to add a forward line of talismanic workaholic Wayne Rooney, Dutch international Robin van Persie and Belgian/Albanian wonder-kid Adnan Januzaj, Moyes will enter the second half of the season with renewed optimism of salvaging a season which has yet to take off. But they must rebuild the fortress of Old Trafford, and not allow any more slip ups; otherwise they will be mocked in the footballing world for the best part of a summer.