English Premier League Title Race: For Once, It's Actually Interesting!
For all of the years that I have been following the English Premier League, the race for the league title has been utterly boring. It has lacked much of the drama and excitement that you get when supporting one of the "less fashionable" clubs in the league.
As a supporter of one of those "less fashionable" clubs in Portsmouth, I can tell you that I'm rarely interested in what is happening in the battle for domestic glory.
The reason for that, of course, is that for the past number of years, the excitement and real competition at the top has been lacking, save for an outside challenge of another club working to sneak its way into the last Champions League place.
What is exciting about hearing Sir Alex Ferguson whinge that he hasn't won enough trophies in his career? Who listens when Liverpool supporters proclaim that "this year will be their year," only for them to be out of the title race by January?
It just isn't exciting. It's far more exciting to be another club in the league that manages to beat one of these "title contenders," and send their supporters and media pundits into a frenzy.
This year, however, it has been entirely different. As has been discussed far more than is necessary, the league is as close as it has ever been at the bottom, with practically any team in the bottom half of the table still trying to stay away from that third relegation spot. (I say third, because Middlesbrough and West Brom are dead and buried, end of discussion.)
At the top of the table, however, the excitement hasn't been over the UEFA Cup spots as it usually is. Rather, that discussion has been largely left by the wayside for a title competition that has actually demonstrated the grit and determination I expect from the rest of the league.
Now, I'll admit that I was part of the crowd who believed that Manchester United had all but wrapped up this year's EPL title at the beginning of February, with Liverpool's "sustained" challenge all but over.
United's recent 4-1 loss to Liverpool, however, certainly changed things, but it was their huge stumble against Fulham that has really livened things up, with Rafa Benitez (finally) not blowing his opportunity to close the gap at the top.
Unbelievably, it's almost April, and the title race is close. United certainly still hold the upper hand, but, for once, things are interesting.
I, for one, believe that it's a nice change.
All of this is thanks to how tight the Premier League has been this year, which is a benefit (and a concern) for all clubs involved.
No longer are sides pushing for the UEFA Cup comfortably safe from the relegation trap door. No longer are the promoted sides the clear favorites to find themselves back in The Championship.
While I still think it's better to be a Fulham supporter, as they provide a huge roadblock to United's domestic ambitions, you can't help but be interested in what the outcome will be at the top of the table this season.
Will United recover and retain their title?
Will Rafa Benitez finally be able to deliver what Liverpool supporters have been craving for almost 20 years?
Will Chelsea continue their renaissance under Guus Hiddink and pip the other two?
For once, these are questions I actually care about. It's a nice change.
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