Soccer Focus: Nothing is set in stone yet
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The general sentiment heading into the final round of fixtures this year is that Manchester United is running away with the title after its neighbor Manchester City slipped up against Sunderland to fall seven points behind at the top of the table.
However, allow me to remind everyone of last season, when City surrendered a five-point lead before December and United repaid the favor with interest — letting slip an eight point lead in April as the trophy went to the blue half of Manchester.
By the same token, it would be extremely naïve to proclaim United as the champions-elect this early in the season.
Chelsea continued its excellent run of form with a huge win over Aston Villa and another, albeit shaky one, over Norwich.
This, combined with United and City dropping points over the two games, means that the Londoners cannot be discounted from the title race now.
They are currently four points behind City, but are expected to win the game in hand against Southampton to close the gap, which means that it will take merely one more week like this to make it a three-horse race for the Premier League title.
I’m not saying that it is going to be easy though, especially when Chelsea is prone to the occasional blip in form. The only thing for sure is that the top of the table is not yet set in stone.
With that being said, we now turn an eye to the transfer window, which opens next week.
Fans will probably be excited at the prospect of new faces arriving to reinforce their clubs, but I think it will be a fairly quiet one this time.
I’ll be surprised if Manchester United sign anyone — their squad is big enough to deal with injury problems like the ones they have now without compromising too much on quality.
The same goes for City.
Their current position can be put down to a misfiring front line. For example, they had almost 70% of possession in the 1-0 loss against Sunderland midweek and created plenty of chances, but their finishing was just poor.
There are two teams I know who will need to sign players in January — Liverpool and Chelsea.
The Reds will definitely be out to add to their squad as Brendan Rodgers’ revolution is far from finished. He will need another striker to back up Luis Suarez but he doesn’t fancy recalling Andy Carroll back from West Ham — there are rumors of Daniel Sturridge making a move to Liverpool, which is a start, but I think Rodgers will go on and sign another player or two.
Chelsea will probably bear a lot of scrutiny this window with their big-spending ways and their prime task is to push the Manchester clubs in the title race.
They surely need a quality striker too, to deputize or even partner Fernando Torres up front, especially if Sturridge leaves for Liverpool.
Torres has been leading the line since the start of the season and will need a break before the end of the season — who may the striker be? I don’t know, and I don’t want to speculate as there are so many suitable candidates out there.
All we know that there are an interesting couple of weeks ahead of us and there are absolutely no complaints about that.
Former Liverpool and England International Steve McMahon is a soccer expert with ESPN. Catch him on The Verdict at 7 p.m. and on ESPN’s coverage of the Barclays Premier League.
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