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Race for the Premiership 2001-2002

With only a couple of months to go until the closer title race for years is finally concluded, LFC-1 takes a look at the chances of each club involved in the battle to become Premiership Champions 2002.

ARSENAL

Villa (Away)
West Ham (Home)
Sunderland (Home)
Charlton (Away)
Spurs (Home)
Man United (Away)
Ipswich (Home)
Bolton (Away)
Everton (Home)

Arsenal begin as most people's favourites and with a unbeaten record in all competitions which stretches back to before Christmas, it would be hard to disagree. Suspensions and injuries are no doubt going to be a crucial factor in their title challenge though, and it is hard to see them taking maximum points until the end of the season with so many key stars out.

The derby against Spurs is their toughest home game, while a trip to Man United in April will be a massive game not only for the teams involved in that fixture, but also for Liverpool and Newcastle, who could each move nearer to the summit should results go their way between now and then.

Ambitions of winning the Champions League and FA Cup could prove to be a distraction, and with Arsenal competing in 3 competitions at this stage of the season for the first time, it will be a test for the players on how they cope with playing so many games with such huge expectations from the fans.

 

MAN UNITED

West Ham (Away)
Boro (Home)
Leeds (Away)
Leicester (Away)
Arsenal (Home)
Chelsea (Away)
Ipswich (Away)
Charlton (Home)

With 13 wins and a draw from their last 15 games, United have done exceptionally well to stay in contention until now, and having got themselves into a strong position, they, like Arsenal, are favoured by many to win yet another title.

United's undoubted strength is their ability to win almost every game against lower placed opposition, and with ease. But their weakness over the last season or two has been in the amount of points dropped to their rivals at the top and with such a close contest, it could still prove to be what costs them from achieving a record fourth league title in a row. With only a 4 points from 7 games against the other five clubs in the top 6, United will need to improve their results against the top clubs if they are to stand a chance of winning the title.

Away trips to Leeds and Chelsea are still to await United, with a home match against Arsenal adding to what looks to be the most difficult run in of all four contenders. Failure to take something from at least 2 of those key games could see the Premiership Trophy going to somewhere other than Old Trafford, for the first time since 1998.

 

LIVERPOOL

Boro (Away)
Chelsea (Home)
Charlton (Home)
Blackburn (Home)
Sunderland (Away)
Derby (Home)
Spurs (Away)
Ipswich (Home)

After a sticky patch during December and early January, Liverpool have got themselves back on track and very much in contention for a league title. With off the field problems involving the health of manager Gerard Houllier, and also Markus Babbel, an important team member of last season's treble success, Liverpool have not had the easiest of times this year, but thanks to the excellent work by assistant Phil Thompson, are back on form and looking every bit like a side capable of challenging right to the wire.

Despite having played all their games against the other contenders though, Liverpool still have some tough matches to come, with the away game at Spurs, and the home match with Chelsea looking likely to be the most difficult. But with a fantastic away record and their recent improvement at home, Liverpool will no doubt prove a tough test for any team, and if they can maintain their recent league form for the rest of the season, it could be Liverpool who are celebrating in mid May.

 

NEWCASTLE UNITED

Ipswich (Home)
Blackburn (Away)
Everton (Home)
Villa (Away)
Fulham (Home)
Derby (Away)
Charlton (Home)
West Ham (Home)
Southampton (Away)

Despite recent league defeats by Arsenal and Liverpool, Newcastle are still capable of winning this season's Premiership. Potentially just one point behind Liverpool, Newcastle have the advantage of not having the distraction of the Champions League, and they also have arguably the easiest run in of all four clubs. With Newcastle still within touching distance of top spot, despite having played home and away games against the other sides in the top 6, they should still be considered as challengers.

Injuries to Craig Bellamy and Kieron Dyer could prove costly, but should they stay clear of any other injury worries then Newcastle certainly pose a threat to the leaders. Also, given that Arsenal are potentially 4 points clear of Liverpool, Arsenal would have to drop points in at least 2 games to allow Liverpool a chance. Should Arsenal lose points, there is little evidence to suggest that Newcastle won't also be in a position to pounce.

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