Friday, May 9, 2008

Finally: Manchester United, Chelsea to Decide Premier League Title

There are only two matches that matters this weekend in Europe: Wigan-Manchester United and Chelsea-Bolton. For the first time, the English Premier League championship will be decided on the final weekend of the season. To clarify: United and Chelsea are even on points (84), United has the insurmountable edge in goal difference (17) and will win the title with a victory at Wigan. Any slipup coupled with a Chelsea victory, and the Blues are champions.

Logic tells you that United and Chelsea are heavy favorites against 13th place Wigan and 16th place Bolton respectively. But logic flies out the window when conspiracy theorists enter the fray--and boy are they out there in full force. The mind games leading up to this weekend are staggering, giving credence to the theories that intangibles, and not talent, will decide the championship Sunday.

For instance:
  1. Wigan boss Steve Bruce is a former United player; how closely allied is he with United and will his team lie down for Man U.?
  2. Wigan’s home pitch is a mess, well less than perfect, and will destroy United’s precise game.
  3. Wayne Rooney is officially doubtful for the title decider, leaving a gaping hole in the Man. U. attack.
  4. Bolton players have been partying all week, says Sir Alex. Never mind Wigan laying down, what about the Wanderers, he asks.
  5. Sven Goran Eriksson is suddenly linked with the Chelsea job 48 hours before the game(s) of the year. Is he really in line to replace Avram Grant? What if Grant wins the Premiership--AND the Champions League? How do you replace him?
  6. Ricardo Carvalho is doubtful for Chelsea, leaving a gaping hole in the Chelsea back.
  7. The experts like Manchester United.

Sensible fans will realize that all of this is hype, and come kickoff, not of it matters. There are simple counters to all of these theories:
  1. Steve Bruce is a professional and his team will give an honest effort.
  2. The messy pitch is there for both teams.
  3. Rooney will play.
  4. Football players party all the time, this week is no different for Bolton (nor United, Chelsea or Wigan for that matter).
  5. Sven isn’t going anywhere near the Chelsea job.
  6. Carvalho will play.
  7. Why wouldn’t the experts like United with so many factors in United’s favor.

In the end, talent and desire--and the best team wins out. Unless United succumbs to “squeaky-bum time,” it beats Wigan, Chelsea slaps Bolton around and United wins the title.

It only makes sense.

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