Three teams, one cup...

Three teams, one cup...

To the impartial but sky-blue football desk, I thought I should bring you all up to speed with this year’s epic race for the English Premier League title.

Liverpool leads the way with 74 points. At the start of the season, not many experts had given Liverpool much chance as genuine title contenders but they are in pole position with five games to go. They have two huge games coming up against Chelsea and Man City, which will go a long way in deciding who will lift the trophy this year. Liverpool’s lethal combination of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge up front has been the most prolific partnership this season, with Suarez setting a new club record, scoring three hat-tricks on his way to 29 Premier League goals so far. With their rivals sure to spend and strengthen before the start of the next season, and with their own resources to be stretched with the inclusion of a Champions League campaign next year, this could be Liverpool’s most realistic chance of winning their first league title since 1990 and the days of the old First Division.

Chelsea is currently second on 72 points. Charismatic manager Jose Mourinho has been back to his best form, playing mind games through the media. Despite having led the Premier League for the last few months, he has consistently stated that: “the table is fake … We are just the little horse in this race.” Despite lacking goals from their strikers, Chelsea has had their talented midfield players plugging the gap. The in-demand winger Eden Hazard has been leading the way with 14 goals and Petr Čech leads the goalkeeping stats with 15 clean sheets, making up for their comparative lack of goals. Their progression to the Champions League semifinals may prove to be a distraction and the lure of lifting the European cup with Chelsea may force Mourinho to take his eyes off the domestic prize.

Manchester City, having already won the Capital One Cup, remains many pundits’ favourite to win the title this year, despite sitting in third place with 70 points. However, City has two games in hand over its two other title rivals and also possesses a superior goal difference. No one knows the importance of goal difference better than City, having won the title in 2012 after that famous last minute goal against QPR. After next week’s crucial game at Liverpool, City has a pretty easy run to finish off the season. If they win all of their remaining games they will be champions.

We continue our build-up this week with a look at Group E.

UEFA – Union of European Football Associations
Population: 66 million
Currency: Euro
Capital: Paris
Language: In French, they are les Bleus. Don’t be surprised if they have blue uniforms.
FIFA World Ranking: 172th
Qualified: Beat Ukraine 3-2 in a playoff.
Fun Fact: A very embarrassing internal meltdown in 2010 that went public led to a 29th place finish at the last World Cup.
History: If winning the World Cup in 1998 on home soil was a high point, then Zidane’s infamous headbutt in the 2006 final was definitely a low point in their history.
Key Players: Franck Ribery is the most experienced member in a team full of Arsenal, Newcastle, Real Madrid and PSG first team players.
Prediction: Will make amends for 2010 and make it to the quarterfinals.

UEFA – Union of European Football Associations
Population: 8 million
Currency: Swiss Franc
Capital: Bern
Language: French, German and Italian are all official languages
FIFA World Ranking: 7th
Qualified: winner of qualifying group
Fun Fact: Only team to have failed to score a penalty in a World Cup penalty shoot out.
History: Remaining undefeated in qualifying for this year’s tournament bodes well.
Key Players: Exciting young Bayern Munich star Xherdan Shaqiri, who is another of my FIFA 14 favourites.
Prediction: They have a good chance of sneaking through.

CONMEBOL – Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol
Population: 15 million
Currency: US dollar
Capital: Quito
Language: Spanish nickname, La Tri, also hints at their uniform’s bright colours.
FIFA World Ranking: 23rd
Qualified: Fourth place in qualifying group
Fun Fact: Ecuadorian Serie A side Barcelona SC should not be confused with Spanish La Liga side FC Barcelona.
History: Patchy international record but they did beat Australia 4-3 in their last match, which is always nice to hear.
Key Players: Man United winger Antonio Valencia is the national captain of a team made up of lots of promising young local players.
Prediction: Won’t be bothered by the climate, so that could prove the difference against one of the bourgeois European teams.

CONCACAF - Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football
Population: 8 million
Currency: Lempira
Capital: Tegucigalpa
Language: Los Catrachos, which means “the Hondurans” in Spanish.
FIFA World Ranking: 36th
Qualified: Third place in qualifying group.
Fun Fact: Eliminated without scoring a goal in 2010.
History: Very much a light-weight on the international scene. This is only their third World Cup.
Key Players: Defender Maynor Figueroa who has over 100 caps and plenty of Premier League experience against the world’s best.
Prediction: Thank you, come again.
This article first appeared in Issue 8, 2014.
Posted 4:31pm Sunday 13th April 2014 by Daniel Lormans.