Premier League Round Up

Premier League Round Up
The Premier League heads into an international break this week, returning in a fortnight to begin the final quarter - this season is turning into one of the most exciting title races in recent memory.

The majority of teams have just 8 games to play, while Manchester United and Portsmouth have a game in hand. United have led the pack since the 17th January, but the gap has now closed to one point, with Liverpool refusing to give up the fight and turning in some brilliant recent form of late.

If Manchester United do win the League for the third year in succession, they will equal Liverpool's all time record of 18 League Championships, but their local rivals have the momentum while the current Champions are feeling the pressure.

Liverpool could go top of the league if they continue with their current winning form, as they play Fulham a day before United play Villa. This would really pile the pressure on the Champions.

Liverpool tore apart Aston Villa last weekend with a 5-0 victory including a hat-trick from captain Steven Gerrard. The week before they had beaten Real Madrid 4-0 in the Champions League and completed a season double over the champions, winning 4-1 at Old Trafford.

1 Man Utd 29 12 1 1 31 9 8 4 3 18 9 31 65
2 Liverpool 30 9 6 0 27 8 9 4 2 27 13 33 64

Despite their status, Liverpool have found League Championships elusive in recent history, they have not won the title since 1990, something which manager Rafa Benitez very much wants to put right. They have however always remained a major force since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, finishing frequently in the top positions, and winning domestic and european trophies but finding the title just out of reach.

In that time Liverpool Football Club have won seven major trophies including the Champions League, Uefa Cup, FA Cup twice and three League Cups. In total they have won more domestic and European trophies than any other English team, and their supporters will be hoping that this is the season that they return fully to their former glories.

Defender Jamie Carragher spoke to the media after the victory over Aston Villa.

"This will have sent a message out to United and Chelsea," said Carragher. "Let's not kid ourselves, they'd have been watching the game.

"When you play Real Madrid and Manchester United and score so many goals, you know in the back of your mind that can't happen every week so to get five against Villa was a magnificent achievement.

"If we'd have dropped points against Villa, United's defeat at Fulham wouldn't have made that much of a difference but we've capitalised on it.

"Now United will realise they are in a fight for the league."

"We're well aware that the title is in Manchester United's hands, but we're trying to put them under as much pressure as possible."

Chelsea are also still in with a shout, being 3 points behind Liverpool on 61 points, but their loss against Tottenham at the weekend to a single goal from Luka Modric, will not have helped their fading cause. Interim Manager Guus Hiddink has got them playing well again, but will they be able to close the gap with 8 games remaining?

The title is definitely still in Manchester United's hands, but they have thrown away the lead before, in the 1997–98 season they lost five matches after Christmas and finished in second place, one point behind double-winners Arsenal. Incidentally this marked Arsenal's arrival as genuine title contenders for the next few years and Liverpool fans will be hoping for the same.

Arsenal themselves won at the weekend against Newcastle, to put themselves into the all important Champions League spot in 4th place, with Everton and Aston Villa in strong competition, the Gunners are starting to look a strong team again, and while they will be favourites now for that position, it is still a very tight race.
Beneath the pack, Wigan, West Ham, Fulham, Manchester City and Tottenham are in position 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 respectively and are fighting it out to move up the table for a European place in the newly formed Europa League, which replaces the UEFA Cup next season. Whether any of those teams can gain the ground on Villa and Everton into 5th and 6th remains to be seen, with 10 points between the two groups.

Anyone in 12th or below could be relegated as it is very tight in the bottom half, with only 5 points between 17th and 12th. Newcastle United dropped into the bottom 3 after losing at home to Arsenal, and without a permanent manager, the Tyneside club look in danger of being the biggest club to go down since Leeds United in 2004. While it is never good for any team to go down, a club of Newcastle's stature who have remained in the Premiership since it's second season would be a sad loss. They may yet survive, but they find themselves in a perilous position, and facing Chelsea in their next game. Middlesborough and West Bromwich Albion make up the other 2 teams below them in the relegation zone.

All in all, the twists and turns of the Premiership 2008-09 have made this one of the most exciting seasons ever, and may yet hold some surprises before the final game.

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