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Title in Manchester United’s or Chelsea’s hands?

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Three wins on the bounce will retain the title for Ancelotti's ChelseaAfter Chelsea’s home defeat to Liverpool at the start of February, manager Carlo Ancelotti conceded that his side were out of the title race. Back then Chelsea were ten points off the pace with 13 games remaining, but a recent upturn in form and some slip ups by their rivals now means that the Blues are only three points behind Manchester United with three games to play.

What’s more is that these two play each other at Old Trafford this weekend in what is billed as a title deciding contest. And if that wasn’t enough, both team’s goal difference is exactly the same meaning a Chelsea win would see them rise to the top the table. It’s fair to say that it will have been a remarkable turnaround by Ancelotti’s men should they take the three points on Sunday. Moreover, it will be a catastrophe for Manchester United having been in such a comfortable position a couple of months ago.

However, Chelsea’s pursuit of Manchester United has not been without controversy following the events over the weekend. In the match between Chelsea and Tottenham at Stamford Bridge, the goal line technology debate was reignited after the home side were controversially awarded a goal even though the ball had not crossed the line. The controversy occurred at the stroke of half time when Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes spilled a Frank Lampard effort but appeared to prevent the ball from fully crossing to the line. However, the goal was given much to the bewilderment of the Tottenham players. Then as it looked as though the game would end in a draw, Chelsea’s Salomon Kalou bundled in Didier Drogba’s shot in the 89th minute but replays showed that the Ivorian was standing in an offside position.

Chelsea had closed the gap to three points but Manchester United had the chance to extend their lead once again when they played Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday. Arsenal’s confidence was rock bottom following last weekend’s defeat to Bolton which effectively saw them drop out of the title race. It was the perfect time for United to play the Gunners but they simply didn’t turn up and ended up losing 1-0. However, the Red Devils can consider themselves unlucky that they weren’t awarded a late penalty following Gael Clichy’s trip on Michael Owen. Not surprisingly, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson couldn’t resist having a pop at referee Chris Foy for not awarding his side a penalty but the Scot did admit that his side were fortunate not to concede one themselves after Nemanja Vidic clearly handled the ball in the first half.

After the game Ferguson told Skysports, “It gives Chelsea a major chance now – and that’s what happens when you get these decisions. It balances out in that respect. I think it was difficult to see that one [Vidic’s handball] but the one at the end, Clichy knew [he had committed a foul]. He put his hands up in horror.” Ferguson though did warn Chelsea that his side are more than ready for their visit on Sunday. “But in terms of ability and a game at Old Trafford [against Chelsea] – the supporters will be ready for it – and so will our players.”

Unlike Chelsea, Manchester United have a Champions League Semi Final tie against Schalke to focus on before they can shift their attention to Sunday’s game. With United heading into the second leg with a two goal advantage having won 2-0 Germany, it doesn’t look like they will have to break too much sweat to get the job done. Ferguson will undoubtedly rotate his squad for Wednesday’s match but he must make sure he isn’t too complacent with his selection as Schalke will be ready to pounce and will surely provide a tougher test than last week when they were played off the park by United.

Once Schalke have been taken care of, United’s full attention will be on Sunday’s game. The Red Devils have been nothing short of brilliant at Old Trafford having dropped just two points all season but Chelsea will fully believe they can cause an upset.

It’s set to be a very dramatic Sunday afternoon!

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Alan Frank

    May 3, 2011 at 11:26 AM

    Its amazing how the author can catagorically say that the Chelsea goal against Spurs did not cross the line? Hours of replays couldn’t prove one way or the other. As for the Kalou ‘off side’ goal what about the Man United ‘goal’ against Spurs at Old Trafford earlier this season? The point being that over the course of a season these things average themselves out. How many goals this season for Chelsea have been disallowed for offside when they were actually onside? How many goals have Spurs had given that were marginally off side? Chelsea were the better team by far and deserved the three points end of!

  2. lost_downunder

    May 3, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    I can see you are a Chelsea fan then! I don’t know what you’ve been reading but everyone has said that the ball wasn’t fully over the line and replays clearly show that. I won’t go into an argument though as it does average out – hope you won’t mind then if the title is decided on Sunday by Manchester United being awarded a dubious penalty in the 90th minute…

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