Goal difference to decide title destiny
This year’s goal difference column is going to decide the destiny of the Premier League trophy and, quite likely, decide the relegation places. I have never really been one to keep an eye on the goal difference column because I never considered it too important. This season has proved that I am very wrong to not take notice of it because it really is going to be classed as an extra point come next Sunday tea-time.
To lose the league on goal difference or to be relegated by it really will be a sickener to the affected clubs and really is a far more bitter pill to swallow than to lose by the odd point. Take a look at the top and you will see that Manchester City’s destructions of Swansea at home, Spurs away, Blackburn away and Norwich at home and away yielded a goal difference of +21 while obviously gaining maximum points.
Now you spin that around and look at Manchester United’s results and goal difference against the same opposition and they gained only a goal difference of +9 while also winning all those games. It’s easy to see how formidable City’s goal difference really is. City’s 6-1 mauling of United only adds to the equation and it comes down to the fact that City have been far more clinical in front of goal and much more stubborn at the other end.
It looked at one stage as if neither team wanted to win the league, with each giving the No.1 spot away. As much as it pains me to say it, Carlos Tevez really does seem to have made a difference in the run-in for City. But, personally, I feel that he deserves no credit at all after deserting his team-mates and then coming back and, no doubt, picking up the championship. It’s still not over yet as QPR will be looking for the point at City next weekend that will confirm their Premier League status but I can’t see past a comfortable City victory and a well-deserved Premier League crown.
Now to the fight to stay in the league and it looks like any two from four. QPR were the biggest beneficiaries of the weekend’s results with a last-gasp victory over Stoke to put them two points clear of the bottom three. I feel that Blackburn need a minor miracle to stay up with the clash against fellow strugglers Wigan taking up so much importance.
Here comes our old friend goal difference again. If, and it’s a big if, Blackburn beat Wigan at home and Chelsea away and the teams around them get beaten, they are still likely to go down on goal difference because they have a difference of -6 to make up on Wigan and QPR. So for this reason, and the fact that they are travelling to Chelsea on the last day, I feel that Blackburn, along with Wolves, will go … and then, out of the other two of QPR and Bolton, it’s a close one to call.
Do I think that QPR can go to City and get anything? Not a chance. City know that they still need the win and there will be no final-day slip-up. So the question is can Bolton go to Stoke, where nothing less than a win will keep them up? Stoke will be fired up for this one and there is no way that Tony Pulis’ men will just go through the motions because, as we have all seen over the last few years, that’s not in their mentality. Besides, they know a positive result for them could possibly mean a jump from 14th to 11th and that, in itself, will be an incentive.
I think it will be a close game with just the odd goal deciding it but I feel that Stoke will win this one and, unfortunately, relegate Bolton. That’s a shame because Bolton look like a well-run club with good people and a manager, Owen Coyle, who has had to deal with a lot this season and never once tried to pass the buck.
I may be completely wrong and only time will tell. But one thing is for sure, there will be so many different permutations between 3pm and 4.45 next Sunday – and not to mention a few gnawed nails – until everything is put to bed for another intriguing Premier League campaign.