After last nights hard fought victory against a well organised Blackburn side, Manchester United took a 5 point lead at the summit of the Premier League. With 7 games left of the 2011-12 season and 21 points up for grabs, what can we expect to happen between now and Sunday 13th May?
8/4 vs. QPR (h)
11/4 vs. Wigan (a)
15/4 vs. Aston Villa (h)
22/4 vs. Everton (h)
30/4 vs. Man City (a)
6/5 vs. Swansea (h)
13/5 vs. Sunderland (a)
First up for us is a home game against struggling QPR. These sorts of matches can often be dangerous with QPR fighting tooth and nail to avoid relegation and with absolutely no expectation of getting anything. That said the home advantage should tell and I would expect a fairly routine victory. Next up we have a Wednesday game at Wigan, who are also involved in the relegation dog-fight. This could be a tricky game for us as Wigan who are in a patch of form, taking 8 points from a possible 12, with 3 of those points coming courtesy of our good friends in Liverpool. We have a good record at the DW stadium in past seasons and triumphed 5-0 in the reverse fixture this season. This is a potential banana skin but again I expect our good record at Wigan to continue. Next we have yet another relegation threatened team in Aston Villa. Villa are usually contenders for Europe and have struggled this term under Alex McLeish. Of the 7 games Villa have won this season, 3 were won away from home which would suggest their away form is only marginally worse than that at home. Villa can be tricky opponents at OT with a 1-0 victory 2 seasons ago and a narrow 2-3 loss 3 seasons ago when Federico Macheda popped up in the dying minutes with the winner. Again, all things considered this should be a routine home win. The following week we are at home to Everton. In the past 2 months Everton have registered wins against Chelsea, Spurs and an impressive away win at Swansea. They have 5 wins from 15 on the road this season and always mount a good challenge at OT. In last seasons fixture it took a goal from Chicharito in the dying minutes to secure the points and I would expect a similarly tough match. This is a game where we could feasibly lose points and I predict a draw. A trip across town to our nosiy neighbours Man City is next on the cards and we will be looking to avenge the humiliating 6-1 reverse at OT earlier this season. The importance of this game has somewhat diminished of late as we have a 5 point cushion at the top and this may well not be as decisive as expected. As things stand this is a must-win game for City and the pressure will lie firmly with them. This will be a fairly cagey affair with Carlos Tevez likely to play a cameo role. I predict both teams will cancel each other out with a scoring draw. The penultimate game of the seasons sees Swansea visiting OT. Much has been said about the fantastic season Swansea have had and the excellent work of Brendan Rogers and the reverse fixture earlier in the season saw the reds scrape a 1-0 win in Wales. Swansea are terrific at home with victories against the likes Arsenal and Man City but their away form tells another story. Their free-flowing, attacking style is often found out away from home and they have registered only 4 wins from 16 on the road. As this is the last game of the season at OT I believe we will win this game comfortably in front of our own fans. The last game of the season sees us take a trip to the Stadium of Light. Sunderland have taken 25 of their 41 points from home games and the recent rejuvenation under Martin O’Neill has seen climb into the top 10. Depending on Cities results this could either be a must-win game or a meaningless fixture. I would expect us to grab the 3 pts if they are required to win the title as there is surely no more motivation: win a game, win the title.
From these predictions, that’s 17 points from 21 which would be enough to clinch the title with a seasons total of 93 points.
8/4 vs. Arsenal (a)
11/4 vs. West Brom (h)
14/4 vs. Norwich (a)
22/4 vs. Wolves (a)
30/4 vs. Man Utd (h)
6/5 vs. Newcastle (a)
13/5 vs. QPR (h)
Arguably Cities toughest remaining fixture comes first at the Emirates. After a poor start, Arsenal have found a patch of form since the 2-1 defeat by Man Utd at the Emirates, losing only one game in 9 and taking 22 points from a possible 27. They will also be very keen to stay above their bitter rivals Spurs in the race for third. City meanwhile have struggled recently with a loss coming to Swansea and disappointing draws against Stoke and Sunderland. This will be an exciting game and I would expect both teams to score in a hotly contested draw. Next for City is the visit of West Brom. West Brom have proved tricky for City at home in recent seasons and 6 of the Baggies 10 victories this season have come away from home. City however should be well motivated for this game if results at Arsenal don’t go their way and I would expect a comfortable home win. An away trip to Norwich is next and this will be a tight game. Norwich have had a first good season back in the Premiership under Paul Lambert and have picked up 23 of their 39 points at Carrow Road. It took a last minute Ryan Giggs goal to secure victory here for the Red Devils and it is a tricky place to visit. With Norwich pretty much safe from the drop and little to play for, an away win is the most likely outcome. The next game for City sees them visit rock-bottom Wolves who have taken only 11 points from a possible 48 at home this season.. Wolves are currently 6 points from safety and barring a miraculous turn of form are all but relegated. They should pose very little problem for this City side and a sizeable City win is likely. City next entertain Man Utd at the Etihad stadium and for reasons stated above I believe this will be a draw. A visit to Champions League contenders Newcastle is next for City and if my predictions ring true then they will be 2 points behind Man Utd at this stage. Newcastle have had a tremendous season and in Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse have found two quality strikers. They are fighting for a place in the Champions League and have registered 32 out of 48 points at home, with three of those points coming courtesy of Man Utd. Both teams will be well motivated for this game and I believe a score draw is the most likely outcome. With the Premier League trophy already decorated in red, City host QPR in the final game of their season. QPR may well be fighting to stay in the division in this game and a win may be required. They have however only registered 11 points out of a possible 48 away from Loftus Road. City will want to end the season on a high for their fans and will have no pressure whatsoever and a home win is more than likely.
Like Man Utd, this is 17 points from a possible 21 and sees City finish 2nd on 88 points.
Of course these are only predictions and in an ideal world I would want to see the title wrapped up before the visit to the Eastlands with the added bonus of a guard of honour courtesy of our not-so-noisy neighbours. All going well, our 20th league title should be paraded at OT after the game against Swansea.
Thanks for reading. If you want to discuss this article or Man Utd in general, either comment below or you can get me on twitter @stephenbusby88.