A MONTH ago it was a title race I thought would go down to the wire.
Now I’d say we’ll be lucky if it’s still any sort of contest by the time we get to Easter.
In fact, forget that. In my eyes the Premier League is over already, certainly in terms of who will be champions.
The strangest few weeks in the strangest of seasons means whatever happens at Liverpool on Sunday, Manchester City will win it at a canter.
So much for my view that six or seven teams could still be in with a shout come late April.
As far as I’m concerned, the only battle now is for second place. And the way City are going, a poor second at that.
Since I said we were in for a 1970s-style season, when you could throw your hat over half a dozen teams, City haven’t dropped a point.
In fact they’ve only conceded one goal — two if you include the FA Cup at Cheltenham — while everyone else has stumbled at some stage.
That’s a real pity, because we’d all have loved to be on the edge of our seats going into the last fortnight.
But this race is over, believe me. The biggest shock is that Manchester bookie Fred Done hasn’t already paid out on them winning it — I bet he would if it was United!
Only a month ago four points separated the top seven. There was one point between the top three and City were fifth.
Going into this weekend they are seven ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s team, with a game in hand, and looking as unbeatable as a couple of years ago.
Funnily enough, it wouldn’t surprise me if Sunday’s game ended all square because Liverpool do raise their game against the bigger teams.
It’s the supposed smaller ones which have caused them problems. Who’d have put a penny on Brighton or Burnley winning at Anfield, never mind both? West Brom got a point there, too.
There was no fluke about Wednesday’s result. Brighton were good value, Klopp’s lot only had one shot on target and looked lethargic to me.
We know they’ve had injuries, but don’t forget City are doing it all without Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero hasn’t started a game since October.
Of course we’ve seen plenty of daft results this season, but it’s hard to see where and when City will slip up again.
John Stones looks a top-class centre-back again and the bloke alongside him, Ruben Dias, has been a sensation.
City are the one team you can rely on for results because it’s still as mad as ever with the rest of them.
Look at those five Premier League games on Wednesday night — every one of them was an away win.
I’ve said before, I do think playing in an empty stadium has a big effect and shows how important the fans are to a “proper” game.
None of us want to go back to a year ago, when we could only get a football fix from re-runs and replays, but this still doesn’t feel like the real thing.
There’s no tempo, no pace and no real excitement. At times some of the matches have been pretty hard going.
I remember saying years and years ago the big difference for a lot of players, the thing that really makes them perform at their best, is being in front of a big crowd.
Put them in the lower leagues, when there’s only a handful of people watching, and some of them really don’t look anything special.
I’ve loaned players from the Premier League to Division Two who’ve made me look a real mug, because they’ve been useless. It’s the crowd that gets them going.
The one team that doesn’t seem to have been affected is City and there’s no reason it should suddenly change now.
So, yes, I’m sure Liverpool will be up for it and may well get a point.
But I still can’t see them being within double figures of Pep Guardiola’s team come the end of it all.
WILDER’S A FIGHTER
They are still rock bottom and need the biggest miracle ever to survive — but what a fantastic spirit Sheffield United are showing.
It would have been easy for them to let their heads drop given how far adrift they were.
But three wins from five — including at Old Trafford — shows they won’t go without a scrap.
Not that I’d expect anything else with Chris Wilder in charge.
And if they do drop, I just hope the owner sticks to his word and keeps hold of him.
Wilder IS Sheffield United and there isn’t a better bloke out there to bring them back to the Prem.
They’re just unfortunate the others who were in danger, like Brighton, Burnley and Crystal Palace, have all picked up points recently, too.
I think the bottom three now are the ones who will go. But, just like the Blades, I hope Fulham and West Brom keep their bosses.
Scott Parker did a great job to bring Fulham up in the first place and I’m sure he would do so again if that is required.
And if West Brom go down, there’s no better man than Sam Allardyce to get them straight back up.
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FOXES TO GO VARD
It’s FA Cup time this week — and I fancy Leicester City to give it a right go.
On their day they can beat anyone.
They’ll fancy their chances at home to Brighton and, even if Jamie Vardy isn’t back against Wolves, he will certainly be fit for their sixth-round clash.
GOOD WILL FOR BRUCE
I was delighted for Steve Bruce when Newcastle won at Everton last week because the stick he’s had is way over the top.
And I tell you one thing…
If Callum Wilson keeps playing like he did at Goodison, he could have a real shout for England at the Euros.