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Liverpool playing part in EPL race
If this weekend of Premier League football was any indication, it will be nearly impossible to predict what will happen in the remaining 13 matches this season. The race at both the top and bottom of the table is as tight as it gets.
Liverpool kicked off the weekend with an impressive showing against Arsenal with a 5-1 win. I think you have to take Liverpool into big consideration to finish in the top four. I don’t see them winning it all, but they’ll have a big say in who does. What Brendan Rodgers has done with this club has been quite remarkable. With all the issues he has faced, he’s turned this team into a very special one this season.
Aside from Luis Suarez, important to the Reds’ success has been the return of Raheem Sterling to form. He has come back to the player we saw a year ago. And on Saturday, it wasn’t just the way that they won, but the manner in which they did it. It was an exciting performance – one to be proud of.
I was with Liverpool legend Ian Rush this weekend, and he was talking about the feeling that the club has right now, one of positivity and enthusiasm. It’s a thrilling time for the Reds players, coaches and fans.
On the other hand, the same old doubts about Arsenal are rising back up again. There will always be “buts” when it comes to the Gunners. I’ve been there, as a player, and sometimes, you get beat by your rivals. It happens. Unless Arsenal can overcome their “buts,” there will always be doubters.
I don’t think Arsenal helped their case in the January transfer window, either. I’m surprised they didn’t make one or two signings – it seems short-sighted. Chelsea and Manchester City got the players they wanted. Now you’re starting to see a little bit of fatigue from Mesut Ozil. Olivier Giroud is still isolated. It comes down to this: if you’re top back up is Nicklas Bendtner, you’re struggling.
Chelsea, however, are really clicking. People talk about Suarez as the best player in the Prem, but Eden Hazard is right up there with him. Newcastle got pushed aside by the most in-form player in the EPL at the moment. He is really quite breathtaking.
While many questioned Jose Mourinho signing Samuel Eto’o, if you look at the play of Hazard and Oscar, it makes sense. Eto’o has played with many creative players in the past – just look at his time at Barcelona – he knows and understands what Oscar and Hazard want, what run they want. He links up so well with those clever players. Signing him was a master-stroke by Mourinho.
While Chelsea are on the rise, longtime foes United are still in a free fall. Despite dropping points at home to bottom-of-the-table Fulham, I didn’t think they played that poorly. David Moyes now has most of his preferred starting 11 healthy and fit. They created chances and linked up well. What was unlike United, something that’s been an issue all season, is not being able to see games out – especially at home. It’s not what Manchester United are. Sunday was a perfect example of just how far they’ve fallen in such a short time frame. They’re becoming a normal Premier League team instead of the invincible giants they once were.
Juan Mata's reaction summed up United's emotions as the final whistle blew. (Photo: Carl Recine/Reuters)
Fulham are in a tough fight to avoid relegation. It’s a massive race at the top, but at times people forget how big it is at the bottom as well. Once you’ve gone down, it’s very difficult to come back up. The key isn’t necessarily about getting points in the games against United or City – you have to get them against Hull, Palace and the rest battling with you.
I think a key to Fulham’s survival is Lewis Holtby. Securing him on loan was a great move. I always liked him in the Bundesliga, and was impressed with his time at Spurs. He’s the type of player that can roll up his sleeves and work hard, but also has impressive skill on the ball. It’s a long uphill battle for the Cottagers, but I think they can do it.
I love chatting with you guys, so do take a moment to follow me on Twitter at @WarrenBarton2. It’s a lot of fun to be able to banter with you guys each week. And don’t forget, you can always ask questions to us at @FOXSoccer. We’ve got a weekend of exciting FA Cup matches coming up, with Manchester City vs. Chelsea on Saturday (12:15 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 2) and Arsenal vs. Liverpool on Sunday (11 a.m. ET, FOX Sports 2), I do hope you’ll join us. Thanks as always for reading, and I will see you Monday!