For all the talk of Super Sundays, title-deciders and must-win games, there remains an intriguing air of uncertainty about how this season is going to pan out at the top and the bottom of the Premier League. With all due respect to the relegation dogfight though, I really don’t care enough about it to write about it. So there.
Besides, when the three teams I hate the most are competing for a prize I care about more than any, it makes for an interesting situation and, hopefully, interesting reading. Three parties vying for power and glory over our great nation, all of whom I despise…it’s a bit like a General Election.
Today’s first match was like none other I have seen this season. Liverpool against City was, quite rightly, billed as a huge match and, unlike so many other matches between top teams, it actually delivered on quality and drama.
Five goals, a late red card and penalty appeals all over the place, the whole match was a beautiful shambles, a tribute to the frenetic, chaotic nature of English football. Luis Suarez, the man with the uncanny ability to annoy me anytime, anywhere, was once again on top form, but arguably should have been sent off three times, all for what I would call ‘bitch offences’: diving, kicking the ball away, and just generally being Luis Suarez.
The match was an exhilarating oasis in a desert of serenity and sombre reflection. This Tuesday marks the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy and both sides were commendable in their respect to the victims. The game almost felt like a distraction at times, given the enormity of the occasion, the sombre nature of the match’s context and the Sky-inspired hyperbole in the build-up.
However, it must be said that this was a match of real quality and entertainment between the two best sides in the country, not just in an attacking sense, but in terms of how they played throughout the season.
And yet, there is one more protagonist in this season which continues to twist and meander like a rapid, turning river. Chelsea have almost gone under the radar in recent weeks, due to a combination of indifferent league form and their Champions League exploits.
Today, like a gifted child doing a piece of boring homework, they once again did the bare minimum required, scraping over the line against a Swansea side who had been – quite rightly – reduced to ten men fifteen minutes in.
To quote the banal nonsense of pundits up and down the country, winning games in second gear a few times a season is a commendable quality, after all, ‘it’s what champions do’. However, doing it week after week is just really boring. Credit must be given to Jose Mourinho for his outstanding record at delivering success wherever he goes, but the debate as to whether it is all really worth it continues to rumble on. Well, it doesn’t. It’s worth it. Unfortunately.
Chelsea cannot be discounted. Their football may make self-castration a viable alternative to watching their games, but they continue to accumulate points. A win at Anfield in two weeks may ultimately see them crowned champions. Before this turns into a full-blown rant at the Blues, let me acknowledge that, as a Man United supporter, most of this is borne out of jealousy and with the acceptance that, if United played the same football, but had the same results, I may not be complaining.
But they don’t, and they haven’t, so I am.
With four week of this season remaining, I am loathe to predict the winner of this incredible title race. I am also loathe to watch any of these teams take the biggest prize. As a London-based United fan, I have reason to despise City the least, so they reluctantly get my vote, but it is a decision similar to choosing to be beheaded rather than burnt or drowned.
Many neutrals should be supporting Liverpool, however. My position as a United fan means I cannot support them. It’s not biologically possible. Honestly, I tried once and I started going purple and my skin fell off. Despite that, one must accept that they play the best football, deserve another shot at domestic success and conduct themselves in the right way.
Like the theme music for Super Sunday, some things in football are simply ‘written in the stars’. 25 years on from Hillsborough, it would feel oddly fitting if Liverpool were on their way to a piece of history.