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The little horse that can: Chelsea's title hopes are alive and well, if a bit under the radar

Michael Steele

Judging by the post-match reactions to both games on Sunday - fans, media, Steven Gerrard's tears all included - we may as well crown Liverpool champions right now.  Let's not worry about silly things like fake tables or the small matter of Liverpool vs. Chelsea and Everton vs. Manchester City still to go (that's the current 1st vs. 2nd and 4th vs. 3rd teams, by the way).

The reality is that Liverpool barely hold an edge over Manchester City and would have to, in all likelihood, win out to grab their first title since Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.  Sure, Liverpool are scoring for fun (and giving [fun]-all about defense) and winning four in a row should not be a monumental task for them.  But there's the fairly sizable wrinkle of already being on a 10-game winning streak.  The Premier League has only ever seen one 14-match winning streak.  It's the record and Liverpool would need to match that.

Should they accomplish that, there could hardly be any argument that they're worthy champions.  They do control their own destiny with respect to both Chelsea and Manchester City, which does make them the favorites.  But ignore the little horse at your own peril.

Chelsea's win on Sunday paled in comparison with Liverpool's or even Hull City's FA Cup semifinal one, but you don't win the league on style points regardless of what Mr. Pellegrini would have you believe.  Just like Liverpool, Chelsea have four matches left as well (and at least two in the Champions League, which could prove an (un)welcome distraction).  And just like Liverpool, Chelsea do control their own destiny, at least when it comes to finishing above Liverpool.  Sunday's headliner may have been a title-fight, but so will be Chelsea's visit to Anfield in two weeks and Manchester City's visit to Goodison as well in three.

"We have probably got to win all of our games one way or another; we've been facing that task since our result at Crystal Palace. Any leeway we had was eliminated after that result."

-Steve Holland; source: Chelsea FC

It's a bit of a rock, paper, scissors situation at the top of the Premier League table, with the City of Liverpool playing rock, Chelsea in the role of paper, and City running with scissors.  Chelsea can cover Liverpool, but still get cut apart by City should Aguero & Co finish the season as the favorites we all predicted them to be in the summer.  But City of Liverpool's rock can punch out City, especially if Agent Romelu Lukaku plays up to his future world class self.  And while paper always beats rock, Chelsea's special brand of paper is very susceptible to missing targets and, sometimes, self-combustion.

"We knew the score [from the Liverpool v Man City game earlier in the day] and looking at the result it was probably the one we wanted even though Liverpool are flying. The manager said before our game regardless of that result, if we don't win our game we will make it very easy for them. We won our game and the pressure's still on the teams above and below us."

"It's very tough but it's very important we keep winning our games,' Terry said. 'It's out of our hands at the moment. We still need City to draw or lose a game and we still have to go to Anfield so it's a massive end to the season for everyone."

"The manager won't let us run away with it. We've got a few days to prepare for the Sunderland game and that's our big focus now. They're fighting to survive relegation and between relegation and fighting for the title we have to be hungrier than them."

-John Terry; source: Chelsea FC

It's more complicated than just rock, paper, and scissors of course.  It's certainly not simple.  And it's certainly not Liverpool's title just yet.  But that's ok, let them talk it up.  Let us return to underdog status once again.  Let the little horse fly under the radar and work its way to the inner rail.  It's how we and Mourinho like it, after all, isn't it?

And down the stretch they come...

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