EPL Table Week 29: How Games in Hand Will Dictate Title Race

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IMarch 9, 2014

Chelsea may be top of the table, but Manchester City can catch them.
Chelsea may be top of the table, but Manchester City can catch them.Jon Super/Associated Press

Jose Mourinho's Chelsea side have stormed ahead in the race for the Premier League title.

A cavernous seven-point gap has now opened up between the Blues and their nearest challengers, Arsenal and Liverpool. Manuel Pellegrini's Manchester City find themselves an almost insurmountable nine points behind.

However, all three chasers have the luxury of games in hand over the table-toppers.

A single win from the Gunners and the Reds will still see them four points behind Mourinho's men, but City will usurp them on goal difference if their three outstanding fixtures are all won. 

Here is how the table looks as of Sunday:

Premier League Top Four, Week 29
Manchester City2618354257
Manchester United2814681548
West Ham288713-431
Aston Villa288713-731
Stoke City2971012-1431
Hull City288614-530
Swansea City287813-429
Norwich City297814-2229
Crystal Palace288317-1927
West Brom2941311-1125
Cardiff City296716-2825

In two of the last few weeks of the season, things could get really interesting as both Chelsea and Manchester City travel to Anfield.

Liverpool's only other potentially troublesome fixture is their next one. 

However, Brendan Rodgers and his players will go to Old Trafford full of confidence and believing they can get a result against a patently off-colour Manchester United side.

Arsenal travel to White Hart Lane for a date with a Tottenham side eager to erase the memory of defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Just a week later, on March 22, the Gunners head to Chelsea for their second London derby in a week in a fixture that will go a long way to deciding if Arsene Wenger's team can still be considered as genuine title contenders or also-rans.

The biggest challenge to the destination of the title comes from the blue half of Manchester. Mourinho himself was ready to concede the same.

Manuel Pellegrini's side are displaying a wanton attacking abandon, with a fantastic defensive base from which to work from. Their 27 goals conceded are just five more than Mourinho's Chelsea, but importantly City have already scored 13 goals more.

A plus-eight goal difference over their rivals with three extra games to play is what will take the title to Manchester.

Aside from the defeat at Chelsea, Pellegrini's men have been unbeaten in the league since early November.

It's a run of form that outstrips their rivals as we enter the business end of the Premier League season, and if we take a look at a couple of City's outstanding games, they are eminently winnable fixtures.


Manchester United vs. Manchester City

Manuel Pellegrini's men comprehensively outplayed David Moyes' Manchester United last time.
Manuel Pellegrini's men comprehensively outplayed David Moyes' Manchester United last time.Getty Images/Getty Images

Crossing to the red half of Manchester will hold no fears whatsoever. The reverse fixture earlier this season was a cakewalk for the Citizens with the official Manchester City website describing United as:

Unusually flaccid, but they weren’t really allowed to play as City defended in banks and then attacked with elan and class.

There was a fluidity and grace to the game that the pantheon of top class names on the team sheet signposted and the raw energy and primal urgings from the side lines made it another derby day to remember rather than forget – at least for City fans!

United's slow and ageing back line was no match for the pace of City's forward line, and a toothless Reds attack that day offered nothing of note to trouble Vincent Kompany et al.

With little rotation and change at Old Trafford since, a similar result should be expected.


Manchester City vs. Aston Villa

Yaya Toure completed an aatonishing 95 percent of his passes in the reverse fixture.
Yaya Toure completed an aatonishing 95 percent of his passes in the reverse fixture.Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press

Unless Pellegrini's side suffer a collapse of epic proportions, their final game in hand falls on the final day against Aston Villa and should be something of a title procession.

Since the beginning of October, Paul Lambert's under-performing side have won only five games, three of which were against teams who were or are still languishing in the bottom few places in the table.

After a wonderful season last time out, Christian Benteke has disappointed this season, and Villa's attackers have rarely offered a meaningful threat in games this season.

Lambert has had to rely on the defensive excellence of Ron Vlaar to keep them out of trouble this season, but even he was as culpable as any in a pathetic 0-0 performance recently against lowly Cardiff.

Vlaar and his partner Nathan Baker will not be able to contain the twin terrors of Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero, whilst the marauding Yaya Toure should dominate the midfield areas against the lightweight Fabian Delph, as he did in the first game with an astonishing 95 percent pass accuracy, according to WhoScored.com.

Mourinho may have one hand on the trophy already, but this is a marathon not a sprint.

And Manchester City have the legs.