Taking three points away despite being down a man for much of the match due to a red card to Vincent Kompany early on, Manchester City FC has begun closing on Chelsea FC, who handed three points to Aston Villa when they went down a man on Saturday. Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, could only wave his fists in frustration as he watched his club’s comfortable lead atop the Premier League standings begin to be chipped away. With City facing a struggling Fulham squad next week, the likelihood of their continuing to climb with another three points looms large.
Mourinho’s post-match comments were clipped and terse, refusing to comment on the red cards issued rather than get himself in trouble, leaving the flustered interviewers no questions about his mood. Even his “no comment” provided plenty of commentary, however, as he was coaxed into a little more criticism of the referee than he was originally intending.
With two other top-four squads yet to play this weekend, it is not only Manchester City which has a chance to close on Chelsea, but Liverpool and Arsenal as well. Mourinho can only watch, hoping that Sunday’s matches do not see a six-point lead dwindle down to four on a weekend where it might have potentially grown to as much as ten. These are big games now, with increasingly more on the line, and the clubs are all feeling the pressure to kick it up a notch. There may be some hope yet for the Chelsea and City faithful, as Sunday’s matches are likely to be more heavily contested than some might believe.
Certainly Manchester United, finally hitting its stride after struggling for much of the season, will have an answer for Liverpool in the new “big three.” With Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, and Juan Mata finally working together with more confidence, the Anfield bunch may find it more difficult to jump Manchester City into second place, despite Brendan Rogers’ comments claiming they were more than ready for Man U even on short rest. For just a little while, the blue side of Manchester might just harbor a little secret support for the hated reds as they play the role of spoiler in the standings battle. Should they start to actually threaten for one of the Champions League berths at the top again, however, the familiar state of perpetual antagonism will quickly resume.
While on the face of it, Arsenal may appear to have a slightly easier path to walk with their match against Tottenham Hotspur FC, it is not necessarily the case. Manager, Tim Sherwood, and his bunch have a chip on their shoulders and something to prove after a disappointing match where Sherwood had words with Benfica manager Jorge Jesus. A banged-up Arsenal squad might just be ripe to take advantage of as the Spurs look to erase that last match from their minds and Sherwood continues with his ongoing audition to retain the manager job at Tottenham.
As this Premier League campaign rolls on, and the advantage of a significant points lead becomes more and more each week, Saturday’s and Sunday’s results may have a bigger impact on who takes the silverware than one might guess. While Saturday’s heartbreak may not mean that the door is closing on Chelsea FC by any means, it does mean that the Manchester City FC boys have had a door open for them. How wide it opens, and whether they are able to step through, remains to be seen.
Commentary by Jim Malone