Liverpool’s 2-0 defeat to Chelsea on Sunday allowed Manchester City to ease back into pole-position in the Premier League title race, with manager Manuel Pellegrini now in the knowledge that three wins from three will secure the league. The bookmakers’ have now installed City as the new favourites to triumph come May 11, and the wider perception is that they will go on to lift the title.
But not according to Pellegrini.
So does that mean Liverpool are still favourites? No, says manager Brendan Rodgers. Perhaps Chelsea? Jose Mourinho says they’re not even in contention despite the weekend victory. Then who exactly is the favourite for the 2013-14 Premier League?
On paper, City certainly seem favourable, providing they can come through a testing trip to Everton this Saturday evening. The Toffees are somewhat out of sorts having suffered recent defeats to Crystal Palace and Southampton, although the 2-0 win over Manchester United certainly put pay to David Moyes’ career at Old Trafford.
Speaking after the win over Crystal Palace on Sunday, Pellegrini rubbished suggestions that his side now held the advantage.
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“There is no advantage now, no,” said the Chilean. “It depends what we can do in the future.”
He added: “This league will be decided by a narrow margin, maybe one point, maybe even goal difference.”
Pellegrini was also quizzed on whether the Liverpool defeat had driven his side on to victory.
“The players knew the score, but it was a very professional performance,” he continued. “It could have been difficult for us to manage the game but we did it very well.
“For the moment we'll continue in third position, so we have to play and win our three games but the good thing is that the destiny is in our own hands.”
Providing they come through the tie with Everton, City will face matches against Aston Villa and West Ham in their final two matches, and if there is any slight advantage for Liverpool it is that they only have two matches to win this season – against Palace and Newcastle.
But Rodgers feels that City will consider themselves favourites as they hold their fate in their own hands, something Liverpool did until the defeat to Chelsea.
“If we win our last two games we will finish above them [Chelsea] and maybe Manchester City”, said Rodgers. “There is still a way to go. Manchester City now will feel they can go on and win their games. For us, we will just recover now and focus on our next game.”
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The Anfield win will have injected a timely momentum boost into the Chelsea squad ahead of their Champions League semi-final second leg with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. They also sit just two points behind Liverpool, and should the Reds come unstuck at Selhurst Park and City lose at Everton, wins against Norwich and Cardiff would see the Premier League trophy head to Stamford Bridge.
But ever the sceptic, Mourinho claims that his side aren’t even in the title hunt despite what the table says.
“We're back in nothing,” he said after the match on Sunday. “At this moment we are almost third. With Everton's defeat (on Saturday) we were automatically qualified for the Champions League.
“Now with these three points we need one point to finish third. Champions are only one (team) and the champions will be City or Liverpool.”
According to bookmakers’ Betfair, City are odds-on favourites to reclaim the title they lost to Manchester United last season, with odds of 4/5 reflecting their advantage. They are closely followed by Liverpool, whose price of 13/10 represents a sharp change from their odds before the weekend, and Chelsea bring up the rear in the betting with odds of 14/1 suggesting the bookies tend to agree with Mourinho.