City squirm as squeaky bum time arrives in Manchester

Mar 12, 2012

Premier League talking points from QPR's ghost-goal to Drogba's century

IT'S OFFICIAL, spring appears to have sprung and squeaky-bum time is upon us. First to falter were Manchester City, who lost to Swansea on Sunday afternoon, as their bitter rivals United leapfrogged them at the top of the table.

Below the battle for supremacy between the two Manchester clubs, defeat for Spurs and victory for Chelsea appears to have created a three-way fight for third between London's biggest clubs. Just four points now separate Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham.

At the bottom Blackburn and Bolton secured vital wins over relegation rivals Wolves and QPR, but the bottom five are only separated by a single point

Here's what the fans will be talking about this morning.

Manchester United are back on top of the table as the season approaches its climax after a routine victory over West Brom. It all looked pretty ominous at Old Trafford where United were slick going forward with the triumvirate of Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young looking particularly sharp, behind Javier Hernandez. They were already two goals to the good when almost the biggest cheer of the day greeted news of Swansea's winner against Manchester City. The lead is only one point but there is little doubt that United will not give up the lead lightly. Steely-eyed Alex Ferguson promised that his side would hold their nerve. And if they can avoid defeat against City on April 30, in what is now a massive game, they should take the title.

For Manchester City fans the best moment of the weekend came on Saturday lunchtime when Mario Balotelli gave a rare interview on Football Focus, chatting away with Noel Gallagher. Because by Sunday evening, the Citizens had lost their second game on the trot and had surrendered top spot in the league to their arch rivals Manchester United. The loss to Swansea was shocking and there were worrying signs that all is not well in Roberto Mancini's camp. First there was a tunnel bust-up between Yaya Toure and, who else, Balotelli, and before that Gareth Barry threw his toys out of the pram when he was substituted. The pressure will only intensify over the next few weeks and Mancini may struggle to keep a lid on things.

AVB is dead, long live RDM. Chelsea returned to winning ways as they claimed just their second league win in the last seven games against ten-man Stoke at the Bridge on Saturday. It wasn't completely convincing, but Didier Drogba made it a day to remember with his 100th goal in the Premier League. He also seemed up for the fight and, along with other members of the old guard, proved that there is life in the Chelsea pensioners yet. Roberto Di Matteo managed to avoid upsetting anyone by picking the likes of Frank Lampard, Salomon Kalou and Drogba. His pragmatic team selection would appear to suggest that he does not believe he has any business looking beyond the end of the season.

One wonders how long Harry Redknapp will be able to maintain his sang froid if he gets the England job at the end of the season. The Spurs boss was beside himself after watching his side lose to Everton on Saturday evening, and even declared himself "suicidal" after a third straight league defeat. His usually affable demeanour was nowhere to be seen during the post-match interview with the BBC in which he looked about as comfortable as Nick Clegg at the Lib Dem conference. He may have to get used to performances like that if he takes the national job. Everton deserve praise for their performance and they have now scalped Chelsea, Man City and Spurs at home. It was a nice way for David Moyes to celebrate ten years at the club.

It's not just Spurs who have lost three on the bounce. Liverpool, who a month ago were in with a shout of fourth place, also lost their third straight league match on Saturday as they succumbed to a solitary strike from Sunderland. The Reds have not now won a league match since January, although they have picked up the Carling Cup since then. After the game Kenny Dalglish made a point of mentioning both the Carling Cup victory and the Reds' FA Cup run, as though to appease anyone unhappy with the club's league form. But the result on Saturday makes the game against Everton on Tuesday significant. All will be forgotten if Liverpool triumph, and the race for fourth could even be back on. Defeat would see them slip below the Toffees and could raise some serious questions about the direction in which the club is heading.

QPR find themselves languishing in the bottom three after defeat at Bolton on Saturday after Clint Hill's header was ruled out, even though it clearly crossed the line before Bolton keeper Adam Bogdan pushed it out. It was still 0-0 when the incident occurred, and Rangers manager Mark Hughes had no doubt that the decision cost his side dearly and demanded that the officials improve their performances. He failed to note that had they done so, QPR would have still ended up with a single goal, because Djibril Cisse was clearly offside when he scored for the Hoops. The row re-opned the debate over goal-line technology. Although there isn't really much of a debate any more. Before the game had even ended the FA had released a statement calling for goal-line technology to be introduced "as soon as possible".

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Ashley Cole now plays for United? I think you mean Ashley Young.

Ashley Cole? Seriously WTF!?

Quite right - Ashley Young. Apologies.