At the conclusion of another packed weekend of football, the title race is heating up, coming down to the home stretch. Manchester United implemented their "text book" game plan: sit behind the leaders until the final stretch of the season, ending up with a one-point lead with six games left to play.
In the midst of an injury crisis, Chelsea (originally expected to run away with the title) is currently one point behind United. The young gunners from Arsenal are proving their ability to recapture the title for the first time in five years. So the underlying question yet to be answered: which team will rise to the occasion?
Winning out will be the secret. Paul Scholes of Manchester United was quoted earlier last week saying they have the ability:
"I'd like to think we've got the right players, ones who have been there before and know how tough it is to win the league. The game against Chelsea is going to be massive and we know we need to win that one, but that's not the only important game. If we want to win the league we're going to have to win every game. It's going to be tough but I'm sure we can do it."
Manchester United has the experience and the ability to win out. Arsenal is looking at the easier road to the finish, but will need to rebound after a lackluster performance at Birmingham.
The final six games for Arsenal will include the newest addition to the top four, Tottenham Hotspurs, contending for a spot in the Champions League. The remaining four games are against mid-table teams, where Arsenal will be the overwhelming favorite.
Manchester United and Chelsea hold the top two spots and will face off on Saturday, April 3, in a game that will most likely eliminate one team from contention. Chelsea will then conclude the year with a visit to Anfield, where Liverpool will be playing spoilers.
Manchester United will have the toughest road to finish the season. After the showdown with Chelsea, they will travel to visit the Rovers at Ewood Park. Then they will be visitors in the final local derby against rival Manchester City ,and then host Tottenham Hotspurs to conclude a difficult April.
Needless to say, the ending will be nothing short of amazing, and there is no clear cut indicator to who will be on top by the end of the season.
Looking purely at the schedules, you may lean towards Arsenal taking the top spot. If you believe that pressure can push a team to outperform, Ancelotti will be fighting for his job after Chelsea exits from the Champions League, or if you believe in experience and past results, United will be on top.
The one curve ball facing all three teams will be stamina to finish the season. Manchester United and Arsenal start the first leg of the European Champions League quarter final this week. Chelsea is currently in the middle of a very serious injury crisis that may hinder the team’s chances this year.
It is hard to make a solid prediction of who will finish on top, but Manchester United has done it before and I believe they will do it again. Arsenal will likely finish a very close second, if not upsetting United as Champions.
That being said, United needs to take it to Chelsea next weekend, a win that would destroy the morale at Stamford Bridge and put the final nail in Ancelotti's coffin.
The real question is, if it is to be Manchester or Arsenal, does either team have it in them to bring home the double, winning the European Champions League?