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Manchester City is only 6 wins away from wrapping up the Premier League title. Better yet they can do that when they host Manchester United at the Etihad on April 7.
It has been a while since the Premier League has seen such a dominant force. The Citizens are 16 points ahead of second-placed Man United and are shattering the claim that the Premier League is the most competitive and hardest competition in world football.
When you look below City, however, the race for the Champions League spots and the unofficial award of the ‘best of the rest’ is very much heating up. Man United are on 56 points, Liverpool on 54, Chelsea 53, and Spurs 52.
United had a reasonable advantage over the rest of the sides for much of the season but the gap has narrowed following their recent loss to Spurs and Newcastle. The side which was expected to put pressure on or perhaps catch City can even lose a top four spot if they don’t address their issues immediately.
There are plenty of reasons for United’s dip in form.
Alexis’s signing, which happened almost out of the blue, has caused an imbalance in the attacking midfield. Martial and Lingard were on fine form before the Chilean’s arrival, but now that he is here the adjustments undertaken to fit him into the side can have some negative effects and we have seen hints of that in the last couple of weeks.
For instance, in order to accommodate Alexis into the left side, Martial was moved to right wing against Spurs. The France international struggled in that position.
The Pogba dilemma is still there. There are reports of conflict between the manager and the midfielder.
Pogba is certainly producing for United but not always and not in the disciplined manner you expect from a Mourinho side. Almost two years after signing Pogba, Mourinho still hasn’t figured how and where to best use the midfielder.
The defense is another big problem. Mourinho keeps dropping Luke Shaw even after praising him in press conferences while fielding the disaster duo of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in central defense.
Chelsea is another team in turbulence. Antonio Conte looks unhappy at Stamford Bridge and that is having detrimental effects on the pitch.
Recent losses to Bournemouth and Watford meant the Italian would be sacked, given how Chelsea deal with these matters. The Blues however managed to beat West Brom in their last league game. There are still questions to be answered but they seem to have found momentary respite.
Spurs and Liverpool are on great form unlike the aforementioned sides. There are the ludicrous criticisms that these two teams haven’t won any trophies of late, but what they are showing on the pitch is a testament to their ever-increasing abilities under their respective managers.
Spurs have earned a valuable draw away at Juventus in the first leg of their last 16 tie. They also managed to beat Arsenal and Man United in the league.
Liverpool’s recent form has silenced the continuous moaning of some fans over the club’s unwillingness to replace Coutinho during the January transfer window. Salah has registered 30 goals in all competitions already, this makes the claims that ‘Liverpool need a striker who scores 30 goals a season’ even more ridiculous.
There is that man Firmino who is more than just a striker with his work-rate and ability to create chances. Sadio Mane is in form once again. Karius is showing improvements and Van Dijk is settling in at Liverpool.
While the notion that ‘form is temporary’ remains true, Liverpool and Spurs are well placed to finish the season on a high. Both sides can also surprise everyone by going far in the Champions League.
Manchester United’s problems can be solved when the manager makes the right decisions in how he sets up his side and how he chooses to use the qualities of his best players. United still have to face Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool, and Arsenal and need to get results in those games to maintain their position.
Chelsea’s problems go deeper than matters on the pitch. It certainly affects the team’s result when there is a manager who doesn’t look happy by what is going on around him.
While there may not be a title race to be excited about the race for top four is something to keep an eye on in the last months of the season.
Written by Brook Genene
Follow Brook on Twitter @brookge
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