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March 24, 2014 | by  | in Opinion Sports | [ssba]

The League

Aahh, the Premier League. Arguably the best sporting competition on the globe. It is home to some of the world’s most iconic teams and players, has some of the highest-quality and competitive football that Europe has to offer, and provides us with a thrilling theatre of drama week in, week out. This time last year, Sir Alex’s Manchester United were proving themselves true champions by dominating the league before eventually claiming the title with four rounds remaining. However, one year is a hell of a long time in football, and this season we have seven weeks remaining with four teams in the title race… and Man U isn’t one of them.

According to the bookies, Manchester City are the current title favourites. However, Manuel Pellegrini has never won a major trophy in Europe, and his City side has recently exited Europe and been knocked out of the FA Cup by Wigan for the second year in a row. They’re also struggling at the back at the wrong end of the season, with defensive linchpin Vincent Kompany in poor form and without a solid defensive partner, so a spirited effort is required in order for City to fulfil their title aspirations.

The return of the Special One filled Chelsea faithful with plenty of hope at the start of the season, and José Mourinho has exceeded expectation with the Blues currently perched on top of the Premier League ladder. Although their strikers aren’t firing, the ever-present attacking dangers of Eden Hazard and Oscar, an impressive defensive partnership of the reborn John Terry and Gary Cahill, and the easiest run-in out of the four title challengers, ensures that Chelsea has every bit of potential to blow the League wide open in the weeks to come.

There are a lot of things that exert pressure in football: the media, fans, a demanding schedule… but an empty trophy cabinet is perhaps the biggest incentive for teams to perform, and there are not many cabinets out there emptier than Arsenal’s. Arsène Wenger’s side is one of English football’s most prestigious clubs, and this year presents a genuine opportunity for the Gunners to return to glory by claiming a League title (an FA Cup is also in the offing). However, the absence of some key players to injury and the lack of a prolific striker severely weaken Arsenal’s title challenge.

Like Arsenal, Liverpool is a traditional giant of English football that has seen limited success in recent years. However, I believe the smart money is on Liverpool to nab the title on the final Sunday. Not many teams have the ability to humble Manchester United 3–0 at Old Trafford. Furthermore, not many teams have the attacking potency of Liverpool – if the SAS (Suarez and Sturridge) can continue their red-hot form in the weeks to come, then there’s no reason why the Reds can’t restore some Liverpudlian pride by claiming the trophy.

Top 5 sports films

5.  Cool Runnings: This timeless classic is what makes the Jamaican bobsled team so iconic. It also consolidates the stereotype of Jamaican people being GCs.

4. Coach Carter: If you’re looking for an inspirational Hollywood storyline about some hoodlum high-school hoops, then this is the way to go. Samuel L. Jackson is pretty badass too.

3. Green Street Hooligans: Although Elijah Wood is way too much of a pussy to suit being a football hooligan,  GSH is still a classic film about some gnarly-as British thugs to whom the round ball means everything.

2. Space Jam: Anything with Michael Jordan in it is going to be pretty swell, and Space Jam is no exception. It makes it even sweller how he teams up with Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes crew on the basketball court to defeat an evil team of aliens.

1. Remember the Titans: It had to be a football movie, didn’t it? And there’s no greater football film then Remember the Titans. Coach Boone (Denzel Washington) successfully unites a racially divided high-school team and, in doing so, unites a community.

In Wellington this week – Ollie Ritchie previews two clutch games taking place in the capital this week.

Warriors vs Tigers, Saturday, 5 pm, Cake Tin: Robbie Farah’s Tigers travel to Wellington for the Warriors’ second home game of 2014. Another poor start to the season will look to be turned around in the capital – look for a big game from Shaun Johnson and Sam Tomkins, and a much-improved performance from the wings who have been poor so far. My pick: Warriors 1–12.

Wellington Phoenix vs Adelaide United, Sunday, 3 pm, Cake Tin: The Phoenix will be looking for a big win at home against Adelaide United, who sit just two spots and three points above the ‘Nix. The Phoenix are going to have to step it up a gear this time around as they continue to push for a playoff spot – a draw will not be good enough. As coach Ernie Merrick said, he believes in this team and believes they can still make a push for the playoffs. My pick: Draw.



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