Another weekend, another twist in the Premier League title race.
The way this season is going, it would be foolish to write Chelsea, Manchester United, or even Arsenal out of the race for top spot.
As the Manchester derby edged towards full time earlier on today, those of a blue persuasion in West London must have thought their slightly lighter blue cousins up north were about to do them a huge favour and hold United to a draw, surely ending any hopes they had of hanging on to their title.
Then in an instant everything changed.
Patrice Evra swung a ball into the box and an unmarked Paul Scholes craned his neck to head the ball past Shay Given to give his side an unlikely three points deep into stoppage time.
United were presented with their big chance, and they took it with aplomb.
Then the focus shifted to North London, where Tottenham took on Chelsea.
A response was needed from Carlo Ancelotti’s side. It didn’t materialise.
Tottenham were the better side throughout, and their performance was typified by Gareth Bale, who ruthlessly exposed the deficiencies of Paulo Ferreira—none more so than when he cut inside the Portugal international and fired in his side’s second goal a minute before half time.
Chelsea’s performance was not a complete disaster—their usual passing game was in evidence throughout. However, a final product was lacking when it mattered.
Any hopes of a comeback in the second half were scuppered first by an injury to Didier Drogba, and then John Terry’s foolish sending off in the 66th minute. In front of the watching Fabio Capello the former England captain did little to impress, making a number of bad decisions. His tackle on Bale was rash and anything other than intelligent.
Frank Lampard’s consolation strike in injury time proved too little too late.
They rode their luck against Bolton on Tuesday. Today it ran out.
Now attention shifts to the next set of fixtures.
Chelsea entertain Stoke City at Stamford Bridge next Sunday, a fixture they will be expected to win. Manchester United, meanwhile, face a home fixture against Tottenham, who are proving to be key players in the race for the title. Next weekend it will be Chelsea fans who will be willing Spurs to inflict damage on their rivals.
The key game in deciding the destination of the Premier League will, for me, take place at Anfield on 2nd May. If Chelsea overcome Stoke as expected, the trip to face Rafael Benitez’s team will be huge. Win and the Blues will go into the final day of the season still in the lead, and with a winnable fixture against Wigan in store.
Lose or draw, and United could very well leap frog them at the top of the table.
Liverpool could hand their fierce rivals a 19th league title, which would of course beat the record set by the Merseysiders. Such a prospect is the stuff of nightmares for the followers of Liverpool, but it could well be a scenario they will have to confront in the dog days of this remarkable campaign.
With the race at the top proving to be so unpredictable, there is little to do but indulge in conjecture, some of it rational, some of it based on fantasy.
After a day of high drama, one thing is for certain: Chelsea still have the momentum, but only just.