Early Doors

Neutrals should cheer for Chelsea

Early Doors

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Neutral viewers of Sunday's Premier League title showdown at Old Trafford will be in the rather unfamiliar position of cheering on Chelsea.

For so long the reigning champions have thrived upon a siege mentality, efficiently muscling their way to victories and trophies up and down the land. For so long they have been a side worthy of much respect but so difficult to love.  

This weekend, however, anyone hoping for a thrilling end to the season should be cheering on the Blues when they travel to face Manchester United in the last game of the weekend.

In case you haven't been paying attention, a win for Carlo Ancelotti's side would put them top of the table on goal difference with two games left to play, providing us with the sort of exciting denouement not seen for many a year.

Sure, the title has been decided on final day several times in recent years, but the top two level on points with just 180 minutes of play remaining is a rarity worth beholding.

Given United's (shock?) defeat at Arsenal last weekend and Chelsea taking 25 points from the last 27 available to them, anything could happen on Sunday. A win for the Londoners and it is on like the proverbial Donkey Kong.

Were it not for their mid-season stumbling, Chelsea would already be champions, something which midfielder Michael Essien observed with the most hackneyed analogy since Paul Merson compared the struggle to walk past a betting shop to that of walking past a hairdressers.

"It has been a sweet and sour season," said the Ghanaian. "To use a sandwich analogy: sweet bread at the top, sour filling and more sweet bread at the bottom. We started the season extremely well, had a sour middle part and are now ending strongly."

Chelsea were the last team to beat United at Old Trafford. That 2-1 win came just over a year ago, but seeing the name Joe Cole (remember him?) on the scoresheet makes it feel like a lot longer. The league leaders and Champions League finalists have only dropped two points there all season, but if there was a team to win on Fergie's patch, Chelsea are the ones you would put your money on.

Should Wednesday's reserve run-out against Schalke prove poor preparation for Sunday's clash and Chelsea win, United will try to take heart from what is, on paper at least, an easier run-in.

Blackburn and Blackpool are all that stand between United and the title, while Chelsea must face Newcastle at home and Everton away.

But the former duo are both scrapping desperately for their survival, while the Magpies and the Toffees are both sitting comfortably with their respective lots.

We are set for a wonderful end to a ridiculous, topsy-turvy campaign - as long as Chelsea don't ruin it for everyone.

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Chelsea skipper John Terry admitted that he had been "an Arsenal fan for 90 minutes" during the Gunners 1-0 win last Sunday. Gunners fans will now have to swallow their cross-capital hatred this coming Sabbath and hope the Blues do them a favour if they are to have any hope of claiming surely the most unlikely of Premier League crowns since Newcastle threw theirs away in 1996.

That win over United has agonisingly kept Arsenal's moribund title hopes on life support . Despite their best attempts at pulling the plug themselves, they are yet to be put out of their misery.

If there is to be a merciless smothering of the Gunners' final chance of silverware, how fitting it would be to come at the Britannia Stadium. It was on the home ground of Stoke City (FA Cup finalists, lest we forget) that it all started to go wrong for Arsene Wenger and his players last season when Ryan 'not that kind of player' Shawcross hit Aaron Ramsey's leg with not so much a Reducer as an Obliterator. The Welshman's leg was broken in two places, and he did not play for another nine months.

The midfielder's recovery appeared to stutter somewhat as loan spells at Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City did not see him clock up as many minutes as he would have hoped, but now he is back. Captain of his country, scorer of that winner against United to cap off a great performance against the Red Devils.

Conclusions that his presence would fully offset the potential summer sale of Cesc Fabregas may be a little premature, but if the Spaniard is missing again through injury than Ramsey can lead the Gunners to victory at the site of his own personal nightmare then it would be a huge moment for both him and the club.  

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Silly names are going to be bandied around but we have identified our targets. We can expect this type of thing over the coming weeks but some of the rumours are going to be more ridiculous than others. Certainly, the Michael Owen rumour fits into that category." - Derby County manager Nigel Clough shrewdly distances himself from rumours that Owen is on his way to Pride Park.

FOREIGN VIEW: "This takeover, the value of which is being kept confidential, will be officially ratified by the general assembly on May 12. I'm very happy to lead Neuchatel onto the path of national victory." - Chechen businessman Bulat Chagaev announces his big plans after completing his takeover of Swiss club Neuchatel Xamax.  

COMING UP: We will have video previews and team news for every one of Saturday's Premier League fixtures, plus team news for all the other major leagues around Europe.  You can also check out the final part of our exclusive interview with Brighton boss Gus Poyet

Jim White and Paul Parker will be filing their latest blogs on all things football, while The Fantasist will be dropping in for the latest Yahoo! Fantasy Football webchat.

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