Belfast Telegraph

So, just who will win the race for the title?

By Steven Beacom

The Premier League title race is compelling this season with four teams in the hunt for the crown. Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City are set to provide a thrilling climax. Here we assess the run-in for each club.

Chelsea

No matter what Jose Mourinho says, table topping Chelsea are in prime position with points on the board and easier fixtures to come than the other contenders.

They also have the best defence and serial winners like Petr Cech, John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard who know what it takes to succeed at this stage of the campaign.

Throw in the class of Eden Hazard and Oscar and, even without consistent goalscorers up front, they are the team to beat.

Tomorrow Chelsea face Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in a grudge match.

With both going for the title and the intense rivalry between the managers, made worse by Mourinho calling Arsene Wenger 'a specialist in failure' earlier in the season, this fixture will have a razor sharp edge.

The Gunners' game is massive, but Chelsea's April 27 clash with Liverpool is likely to be the biggest of all.

Should the Blues reach the last four in the Champions League, sandwiched in between the semi-final legs will be the trip to Liverpool!

Mourinho's head will be spinning as he comes up with all manner of mind games ahead of that special one.

Liverpool

For Liverpool to be where they are now almost defies belief. The transformation from also rans to title contenders in less than two campaigns under Brendan Rodgers has been staggering.

The Ulsterman has been the manager of the season so far. How he would love to see his skipper Steven Gerrard (pictured) parade the Premier League trophy in front of the Kop on May 11.

If Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge continue to smash in the goals and the defence keeps clean sheets, as they have done in their last two matches, Liverpool will be champions,

It's a big ask but Liverpool are fearless right now, and when they go ahead in games are virtually impossible to stop. A crucial factor in the title charge will be how the team will cope should they go behind.

Tomorrow's game at struggling Cardiff will be tougher than most people think. The trips to West Ham and Palace won't be comfortable either, but it'll be the Anfield affairs in April against City and Chelsea which will tell us if the Liver Bird is about to return to its perch.

Arsenal

The next four games will define Arsenal's championship aspirations.

The Gunners should defeat Swansea, but look at the other three... Chelsea, City and Everton.

The game with Chelsea, which will be Wenger's 1,000th in charge of the Gunners, has so much riding on it.

Jose Mourinho has never lost at home in the league as Chelsea boss.

Wenger will be desperate to end that record. A Bridge too far I suspect.

Defeat and it would be impossible for the Gunners to claw back a seven point gap. Draw, which is on the cards, and they are still in the mix. It'll be the same scenario when they play City.

Arsenal are capable of avoiding defeat in both, but I've a feeling Everton will beat them at Goodison Park, gaining revenge for an FA Cup loss at the Emirates.

The Gunners should win their last five league games. By then, however, the damage will be done.

Arsenal WILL lift a trophy this season ending their barren spell since 2005, but it'll be the FA Cup not the Premier League.

Manchester City

City have six home games left and will win every one with ease, enhancing their already impressive goal difference.

It is the five away matches that provide uncertainty... United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton and to a lesser extent Crystal Palace.

City won't win all of those. United's victory over Olympiakos in the Champions League will have given them a real lift ahead of Tuesday's Old Trafford derby. That will be a test for the noisy neighbours.

Ditto the trip to Goodison given that Everton boss Roberto Martinez has previous in beating City in big games in May. Wigan, the 2013 FA Cup final in case you have forgotten.

Most critical of all though will be the matches at Arsenal and Liverpool.

Sergio Aguero may be back in time from injury for the trip to north London and boy does Manuel Pellegrini need him to fire alongside the dazzling David Silva and battering ram that is midfield talisman Yaya Toure.

If City fail in the title race, a League Cup triumph this season would be a poor return on all their investment.

Verdict

Having considered all the matches... here's what I've come up with: City 85 points, Liverpool 85, Chelsea 85 and Arsenal 83. Yes, it really is that close.

Every game is vital, but ultimately the title will be determined by Chelsea v Arsenal this weekend, Arsenal v Man City next weekend and Liverpool v City and Liverpool v Chelsea next month with the last of those fab four fixtures the most decisive of the season. If the Blues don't lose at Anfield they will be crowned champions.

Victory for Liverpool though and the Reds will fight it out with City in a dramatic final day shoot-out when top spot will come down to goal difference. Fasten your seat-belts... this is going to be quite a ride.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph