As the football season winds down, let’s take a second to look at where we are

2014-04-12 00:00

AT the start of the season, not many people would have picked Mamelodi Sundowns and Liverpool to win the PSL and English Premier League titles respectively, but with just a few game weeks remaining, that possibility seems more logical than any other.

As we approach the end of another domestic footballing year, there have been enough surprises at home and abroad to keep us all wide-eyed on the edge of our seats.

Kaizer Chiefs appear to have hit the self-destruct button, and the vocal Pitso Mosimane sees his side three points ahead of the defending champions, though they have played a game extra. Still, a look at the fixture list suggests that the title race will go down to the wire.

Sundowns may be the form team in the league at the moment, but their last four fixtures read: Black Aces at home, Swallows away, SuperSport United at home and then Maritzburg United away on the final day of the season. Aces under Clive Barker have built up a reputation for themselves as giant killers this season, and Maritzburg is one of the more difficult places to go these days.

Chiefs may be nowhere near their best right now, but their next two fixtures — Polokwane City away and Free State Stars at home — are likely to result in six log points. That would leave their last three — Wits away, Tuks away and AmaZulu at home — as the matches that will determine their season.

For all of his mumblings, the league would be a more competitive place next season should Mosimane pull of the title. It is good for clubs outside of Soweto to show that they can still be dominant, and putting a cracker under the rears of Pirates and Chiefs can only improve the quality of football seen in the league next season.

Off the field, there still aren’t enough people watching football at the PSL’s stadiums, and that will be an area that — as it always has done — will command attention.

For obvious reasons, England has been enthralling. The demise of Manchester United is now complete. The celebrations against Bayern Munich midweek lasted a minute, and that was the last celebrating Red Devil fans will have for some time. It’s time to regroup, rebuild and turn attention to how, and if, they can get back to being one of Europe’s most dominant forces.

But as big as Manchester United’s fall from grace has been, it wasn’t entirely unexpected. Two clubs in particular have surprised, and they are both from Merseyside. Liverpool and Everton continue to light up the league, and under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez respectively, they have been fearless. Even in his time as Wigan manager, Martinez went to the biggest and baddest clubs in the land with his head held high, chest puffed out and ready to play some carpet football. That has never changed, except that now he has a more capable bunch of players at his disposal.

The results have been immense, and Everton are now in a position where they can upset all the odds and take United’s place amongst Europe’s elite. The irony can’t be ignored. It might take Martinez one season at Everton to achieve what Moyes couldn’t do in 10.

Liverpool host Manchester City today in a match that is set to have a major say in where the title ends up. Rodgers’s side weren’t given a sniff a few months back, but they have hung in there long enough and if they win today they will surely be favourites to go the distance.

Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge are as potent a strike force as we have seen in recent history, and if attacking intent and creativity were the only criteria by which to win a league, then Liverpool would have done so ages ago.

There is also the small matter of today marking the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, so Anfield is set to be drowned in emotion. If you’ve got nothing to do at around 2.37 pm tomorrow, tuning into SuperSport Three for a more spirited than usual rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone is sure to get the goosebumps bouncing, regardless of where your allegiances lie.

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