Bobby’s Bets

The Title Race

The Football League celebrates its 125th anniversary this season.

Despite so many changes to the game since those Victorian pioneers kicked it all off the ball is still round and a game is won when one team sticks that ball between the oppositions posts more times than they stick it past yours. The team that wins gets the points. If it’s a draw the points are shared. At the end of the season the team with the most points wins the Title.

At its core then football still remains a simple if not quite such a beautiful game. Money matters more than ever that is why the bookies are unanimous that this season the Premier League chase is a four horse race between the four biggest and richest clubs. Indeed since the formation of the PL in 1992 only five teams have won the title…the current Big Four plus Blackburn, now in the Championship, who in the early nineties were the Man City of their day.

Preston North End, whose motto was "No 'tache, No game",  won the very first league title 125 years ago.

Preston North End, whose motto was “No ‘tache, No game”, won the very first league title 125 years ago.

And even then Arsenal, not so long ago The Invincibles (as Preston North End now of League One were known when they won that first Championship in season 1888-89) are seen as relative outsiders with most bookies offering around 10-1 for The Gunners.

Chelsea Back in the Old Routine?

Manchester City have, thus far, appear to have done the best business in the transfer market but how quickly will new manager Manuel Pellegrini catch on to the peculiar ways of the English game and fixture list? And how quickly will their four big overseas signings settle?

As for Manchester United, their new manager David Moyes is under enormous pressure to take over the golden baton (or could it be poisoned chalice) from Sir Alex Ferguson. Can Moyes cope and cajole the Champions into retaining the title? There is doubt…

Arsenal have the stability and are likely to come closer than the bookies currently suggest but if they fail to land Luis Suarez (or another top striker) then they still look short of firepower.

JoseLiftsTitle

Will Jose lift the Premiership trophy for a third time next May..?

And that, for me, leaves Chelsea as the team that will win it with their ‘new’ manager Jose Mourinho, back in the old groove, getting the best out of a tantalising blend of veterans and emerging stars. And should they land Wayne Rooney it will tip the balance further in their favour.

It’s often said you should never go back but in the case of Jose and Chelsea it looks a perfect fit.

So my top four is :

Chelsea,

Manchester City,

Manchester United,

Arsenal.

And to go down:

Stoke, Hull, Crystal Palace

 

The Odds

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The Big Match: Chelsea v Manchester City
FA Cup Semi Final, Wembley

The striking image of George Best clad in a Manchester City shirt on the front page of Bobby may seem strange. To some heresy even. But had Best been around now even Manchester United’s greatest ever pin up would have been tempted by the lure of the riches Manchester City can now offer.

Certainly City’s Abu Dhabi owners, the Mansour family, would have made Best their number one target.  Would Best have taken the Sheiks silver? Well, Wayne Rooney almost did last year and let’s just see what happens this summer on that front. And it should be remembered that by the early Seventies Best had started to grow tired of, as he saw it, propping up an ageing and ailing United side which was in steady decline since winning the European Cup in 1968. A move and a huge pay hike could well have suited Georgie Boy.

Indeed in the early Seventies it was suggested to Best that a move to Chelsea, with a team garnished with flamboyant kindred spirits such as Peter Osgood, Alan Hudson and Charlie Cook, would suit him on and off the pitch. It didn’t materialise then but could well have done now given Roman Abramovich’s resources, although Best would soon end up living just off London’s trendy King Road, a free kick away from Stamford Bridge, after eventually being kicked out by United.

It’s a case of what-might-have-been for Best and City or Chelsea then, had the pound note power of English football been as it is now with both club’s finances underwritten by overseas billionaire owners, because at the start of the Seventies both clubs were on what should have been the start of a sustained era of success.

City had emerged from United’s shadow by winning the League title in 1968, the FA Cup in 1969 then the European Cup winners’ Cup in 1970 inspired by their three Musketeers in Colin Bell, Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee. Chelsea were on the rise too having won the 1970 FA Cup and playing in a style that was a football version of the Rolling Stones.

So when the two teams were drawn together in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup in January of ‘71 a classic clash was anticipated. As it turned out City trashed Chelsea 3-0 at a rain swept and mud caked Stamford Bridge with the brilliant Bell (Steve Gerard is the closest modern day equivalent) scoring twice and Ian Bowyer, who would later go on to achieve great success with Nottingham Forest, scoring the other.

Chelsea v Manchester City – FA Cup 4th Round – 0-3 – Jan 23 1971

City though would lose at home to Arsenal in the next round, The Gunners going on beat Liverpool 2-1 in the final then clinch the Double two days later when they beat Tottenham.

Chelsea recovered from that blow and ended the season by lifting the Cup Winners Cup beating Real Madrid 2-1 in a replay in Athens. And within a couple of years both clubs, like Best himself, would go into sharp decline.

That City win at The Bridge is the last time the two clubs have met in the FA Cup ( there are only two previous encounters), a competition which in recent seasons Chelsea have turned into their own with four wins in the past six years. More incredibly, excluding penalty shoot-out defeats Chelsea are unbeaten in 29 FA cup ties which is an all time competition record. Given those statistics and the manner of their Sixth Round win of over Manchester United, Chelsea look in the mood to salvage another chaotic season in the FA Cup.

But for City, having surrendered the title to United, the Cup which they won two years ago for the first time since 1969 to kick start this new era, is vital too. It’s unfair on Wigan and Millwall but the clash between City and Chelsea actually feels like the final.

So how does Bobby’s Bets see it…?

Latest odds: Chelsea  11/8    Man City  12/5   Draw  3/1

Bobby’s Bets of the day:

Carlos Tevez to score first: 11/2

Yaya Toure to be named Man of the Match: 10/1

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Did You Know…

– Manchester City are yet to concede a goal in the 2013 FA Cup.

– The Blues have won each of their last eight FA Cup matches played at Wembley.

 

Previous FA Cup meetings:

Jan 1971   4th round    Chelsea 0-3 City

Jan 1948   4th round    City 2-0 Chelsea (aet)

Feb 1915  3rd round    City 0-1 Chelsea

FA Cup wins

Chelsea 7 Man City 5

Punters Poser: In that 1971 FA Cup clash why did both Chelsea and City wear their away strips?

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