Posted by Barrie on Sunday, 18 October 2009

Manchester United Return to the Top

Aston Villa's come-from-behind victory over Chelsea, followed by Manchester United's 2-1 victory against Bolton on Saturday leaves the Red Devils on top of the Premier League this weekend and favourites for the title.

Chelsea took the lead out of the blue in the early kickoff at Villa Park on Saturday when Didier Drogba's long range effort swerved and bounced over the the usually dependable Brad Friedel. But Chelsea failed to deal with a corner in each half that first lead to Richard Dunne heading in an equaliser and then James Collins the winner. Brad Friedel and James Collins in particular at the back had a solid day to keep out the pressure Chelsea put on afterwards.

Chelsea have shown this season their weakness in defending from set pieces, with a goalkeeper in Petr Cech who makes bad judgements and decision when attempting to deal with crosses, while some of the marking inside the Chelsea box has come under question a few times already this season. Credit to Aston Villa who came at Chelsea and worked hard to prevent the Blues from getting any shots in. James Milner and Stiliyan Petrov get shout outs in that respect.

The machine-like Chelsea, who are many people's favourites this season have suffered 2 defeats in their last 3 league games now, which could see them drop as low as fourth if both Arsenal and Manchester City win their games in hand. Although it's still early and they're only 1 point behind Manchester United, they're far from the stage of needing to panic, should they take 3 points from next weekend's home game with Blackburn Rovers after they take on Atletico Madrid in the Champions League midweek. A trip to Bolton could be a potential banana skin with their recent away form, while their next big test in Manchester United on November 8th, 5 days after a trip to Madrid in the Champions League, a competition we feel Carlo Ancelotti has a closer eye on than the Premier League.

Manchester United seemed to be cruising at 2-0 against Bolton on Saturday before Matthew Taylor pulled one back. They had other opportunities of their own, some not taken and some denied by the ever great Jussi Jaaskelainen. Bolton even had a chance to snatch an equaliser deep into stoppage time, but Zat Knight headed over before Gary Cahill headed straight at the returning Edwin van der Sar with the final chance. A much-changed side than the one that drew with Sunderland previously saw Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov pairing up front. Both had chances despite not making it onto the scoresheet. But taking the 3 points from this game was all that mattered ahead of their Champions League clash in Moscow on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see what side Sir Alex Ferguson lines up, presumably a weakened one with their important trip to Anfield next weekend to come. That and a trip to Chelsea in two weeks make for a tough run, but after that you would expect Manchester United to go on a long winning streak that would need to see their title rivals do similar to stay in touch.

Sunderland beat Liverpool, as the Reds were let down by their own fans yesterday when a Liverpool beach ball knocked onto the field by a kid deflected a Darren Bent shot in for the only goal of the game at Anfield. Liverpool, who normally bemoan when Manchester United get some much-needed stoppage time in their games failed to score for the whole game even with an additional 7 minutes, and they are now 7 points off the top, in 8th place. That goes back to an earlier post I made at the start of the season regarding Liverpool's incapabilities to win the Premier League this season, but we're yet to see what impact Alberto Aquilani can make on Merseyside. At their expense, Arsenal and Manchester City's great starts to the season have increased their chances of a top 4 finish, while Tottenham still remain 3rd following a 2-1 victory at Portsmouth.

The Premier League, exciting as ever still have 3 games remaining this weekend before some a London derby, a West Midlands derby, a relegation clash and the big Liverpool-United game next weekend. Be sure to check out our regular Premier League Tips for next weekend's games as usual.

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