The longer the Premier League season goes, the more it seems that only Liverpool have any real interest in winning the league title.
Liverpool's two closest pursuers, Chelsea and Manchester City Football Club, each received the gift of an April home date with cellar-dwelling Sunderland. Both Chelsea and City were heavily favored against the Black Cats.
So, naturally, Gus Poyet's relegation battlers took four of six possible points from their two encounters with those Premier League pretend-, er, contenders.
Surveying the wreckage Sunderland had wrought to their respective title chases, the managers of Chelsea and City took disparate paths.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho handled the matter with his normal quiet dignity and grace by making a special point to thank referee Mike Dean and his assistant.
"Congratulations to Mike Dean because he made a fantastic performance. And congratulations to Mike Riley because what they did during the season was fantastic for the way the championship is going," Mourinho spat sarcastically following the Blues' 2-1 defeat to Sunderland at Stamford Bridge, per Kevin Palmer of ESPNFC.com.
Mourinho can be petulant and surly on the sunniest of days. On the day he lost his 78-match unbeaten streak at the Bridge, well, the Special One was especially salty.
"It doesn't matter how, why or which way they won, but they won the three points, so congratulations to them," Mourinho said of Sunderland. Classy.
Apparently, Mourinho's plan to be level with an overmatched Sunderland side after 80-plus minutes needed work.
Then again, City manager Manuel Pellegrini's response after Sunderland slurried City's supper with a recent draw at the Etihad was not exactly gracious or warm.
"We couldn't take out of our minds the game against Liverpool and that was why the team didn't play well. We needed more intensity but our mind maybe was not in the moment to do it," Pellegrini said after drawing with the Black Cats, per Richard Jolly of ESPNFC.com.
Right, it was Liverpool's fault that City failed to mark Sunderland forward Connor Wickham twice in the same match. Stupid Liverpool.
Speaking of Liverpool, the Reds have a date with relegation-threatened Norwich City at Carrow Road, which precedes by a day City's visit from West Bromwich Albion.
If Liverpool do as expected and throttle the Canaries, their lead at the top of the Premier League table will be five over Chelsea and nine—yes, NINE—over City.
The Sky Blues' two matches in hand mean that City will be in the very odd position of rooting for Chelsea to beat Liverpool at Anfield next week, regardless of what Liverpool do at Norwich City.
Chelsea's loss to Sunderland should serve as a boost to City's flagging title hopes and battered bodies. It had better, because City are running out of chances to pull back into the three-team race for the trophy.
Pellegrini will again have to make it up as he goes along against the Baggies. Jesus Navas and Yaya Toure are out and David Silva is doubtful, per Jolly.
And Sergio Aguero sure did not look much like himself against Sunderland midweek.
Whichever XI Pellegrini selects for the West Brom match had better dig deep and find a victory. If they do not, City's final four matches figure to have all the intensity of the friendlies they will play in North America this coming summer.
City's XI against West Brom: Joe Hart; Gael Clichy, Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis, Pablo Zabaleta; Samir Nasri, Fernandinho, Javi Garcia, James Milner; Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko.
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