There is no better point to start this week’s discussion than congratulating Silver Strikers for retaining the TNM Super League title for a third season running. This is a very remarkable feat because although they did not start the season as favourites, they have silenced many critics, including teams that only believe in making noise and winning the title in the media while they underperform on the pitch.
The only dampener to Silver’s achievement is that the title was won in the most bizarre of circumstances. The match was played in the morning and in an empty Kamuzu Stadium. Nothing beats the feeling of winning a title in front of and together with your fans, but perhaps what really matters at the end of the day is the indisputable fact that the Bankers have underlined their superiority over all teams in the league.
While the local league has been concluded, many leagues in Europe are now getting into the home stretch with exciting battles coming up in some leagues. The Spanish Primera Liga, for example, has three teams tied on 60 points at the top of the table with defending champions Barcelona only nicking it on a superior goal difference over Madrid rivals, Real and Atletico, as the season gets into its final third.
In England, the competition is not that tight but this remains one of the most exciting title races in a long time. Each of the current top four sides has ever tasted top spot at some point with second-placed Arsenal staying there the longest. With several of the top sides still to play each other, there is a real promise of several twists and turns before the winner is determined. It may even go up to the last kick like it was in 2012.
After taking a 10-day break to pave the way for the FA Cup fourth round ties, league action returns this afternoon with a tasty fixture at Stamford Bridge as league leaders Chelsea host sixth-placed Everton. The Toffees declared their intent to become part of the conversation at the top of the table when they beat the Blues at Goodison Park earlier in the season and the home side will be seeking to get even.
For Roberto Martinez’s men, it is important that they rediscover their grit in the league because a loss this afternoon would leave them behind in the fight for a Uefa Champions League place especially if rivals Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur go on to win their matches tomorrow. Their game in hand would only be of some value if they continue to gain points in the matches that are actually played.
There are also potential banana skins for Arsenal at home to Sunderland — who returned to the drop zone in the last round of matches following the postponement of their match against Manchester City, Manchester United away to Crystal Palace in the evening kick-off and tomorrow’s tie at Anfield between Liverpool and Swansea. Any of the big guns cannot afford to drop points if they are to stay on course.
With only 12 games to go before the end of the season for all but four teams, it is important that all teams keep their focus and avoid any off-days because the margin for error is getting narrower by the day. And it is not only the games between and among the big sides that will be decisive, but even with the presumed minnows because the battle at the bottom is also fierce with only eight points separating the bottom 11 clubs.