Juan Mata’s late goal at Old Trafford on Sunday had massive implications for the race for Champions League places next season. Chelsea are now firmly in the driving seat for third place and will secure a seat at Europe’s top table in the autumn if they beat rivals Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge this week on account of their far superior goal difference.
Manchester United and Chelsea have already met four times this season and the score stands at 2-1 to the Londoners with one match drawn. That was an FA Cup quarter-final tie at Old Trafford when the Blues came from two goals down inside the opening 11 minutes to force a replay, which they won thanks to a goal from Demba Ba.
Form generally goes out of the window when it comes to a Merseyside derby but Liverpool and Everton both renew hostilities in decent shape, the Reds being unbeaten in five while the Toffees have lost just one of their last seven and kept cleans sheets in five of those games.
Arsenal fans have probably developed a twitch every time they see Robin van Persie’s name on the Manchester United score-sheet and it must have been particularly galling for Gooners that their former hero smash the hat-trick to steered the Red Devils to title last week.
There is rarely a shortage of goals when the Magpies take on the Reds but Liverpool’s firepower has been significantly diminished with the suspension of top scorer Luis Suarez. His actions have been well-documented and it’s fair to say that the Uruguayan has had little sympathy inside or outside football for his assault on Branislav Ivanovic.
Barring an amazing collapse, Manchester United are going to win back their Premier League title but they are hardly galloping to the finishing line. They were probably a little fortunate to get a draw at West Ham in midweek having been far from impressive against a badly out-of-sorts Stoke City in their previous outing.