It was a Bad Weekend for... dentists, apologists and escapologists
It was a Bad Weekend forÃ¢ÂÂ¦
Did he have a bad weekend? Or did Luis Suarez have exactly the type of weekend that he thrives on? ItÃ¢ÂÂs not news that the Uruguayan is partial to a little controversy. Anyone could immediately name several unsavoury episodes, and while he almost always apologises afterwards, the fact is that he keeps on finding trouble.
LiverpoolÃ¢ÂÂs excellent game with Chelsea yesterday afternoon could have been about goals, substitutions (Rafa Benitez, weÃ¢ÂÂre looking at you) and Daniel Sturridge, but Suarez made sure it was all about him. And in 90 minutes we saw every argument for and against his winning the PFA Player of the Year award.
First, the good. Mazy runs, shot after shot, a simply beautiful assist for Sturridge to score LiverpoolÃ¢ÂÂs first equaliser and a late, late goal himself to rescue a dramatic point for his side.
Now, the bad. Despite protestations that the sun was in his eyes, there was no need for Suarez to handle the ball to turn a relatively harmless Chelsea corner into a penalty kick. This coming just minutes after the aforementioned assist made it all the more frustrating. And then came the bite.
There arenÃ¢ÂÂt words to describe the idiocy, the shamefulness and the brutality of biting Branislav Ivanovic. It was a disgusting act that would be funny were it not so disgusting. He has, of course, got form here. Back in November 2010, while captain of Ajax, Suarez bit PSV Eindhoven's Otman Bakkal.
The resultant ban of seven league games meant that he never played in the Eredivisie again as he signed for Liverpool before the suspension was up. With his current employers almost certain to miss out on European football next season, and a lengthy ban Premier League no doubt on the horizon, who can say with any certainty that weÃ¢ÂÂll see Suarez in a Liverpool shirt again?
If he is to leave, would we miss him? His skill is undoubted but unlike Mario Balotelli, the incidents that follow and surround him leave a bad taste. While the Premier League is the poorer for BalotelliÃ¢ÂÂs absence, there will be many who would be glad to see the back of LiverpoolÃ¢ÂÂs current No.7.
Manchester CityÃ¢ÂÂs title defence hasnÃ¢ÂÂt been the disaster that many make it out to be. True, they're a country mile behind their local rivals, but they have spent most of the season comfortably ahead of the chasing pack, beaten United at Old Trafford and reached the FA Cup final.
So it could have been worse.
But for all the good they have done, the season could well be remembered for the meek surrender of one Sunday afternoon in North London. For an hour City cruised, leading 1-0 thanks to a simple but well-worked early goal from Samir Nasri. In a game they needed to win to ensure that the title race lasted for at least one more week, the champions were cool and in control.
And then Tottenham scored. A mis-communication between Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany allowed Clint Dempsey to poke the equaliser, and that was all it took for City to give up the ghost, the game and the title race. Within five minutes, Spurs were in front as the Citizens fell apart, Jermain Defoe with an excellent finish before Gareth Bale completed the comeback with an excellent third.
So all eyes are on Old Trafford tonight. If United win, they are champions; if Aston Villa win, both QPR and Reading are relegated. If itÃ¢ÂÂs a drawÃ¢ÂÂ¦ well, ermÃ¢ÂÂ¦ there's more to look forward to this weekend.
We all know the drill: Wigan are exceptionally poor from August to March and then inexplicably turn into the English Barcelona (with more pie than paella) and sweep all before them to preserve their Premier League status. It happens year after year and has been the subject of lazy punditry and lazy journalism (ahem) for weeks now.
Except nobody seems to have told Wigan.
While it is entirely possible that Roberto Martinez is simply setting up a scenario that will challenge his considerable Houdini skills, WiganÃ¢ÂÂs spring 2013 form has been patchy at best. An FA Cup run has diverted attention and late home wins in the league against Newcastle and Norwich at the end of March kept the clichÃÂ©s coming, but since then they have struggled to a draw at QPR and been goallessly beaten at Manchester City and, on Saturday, at West Ham.
Martinez batted away questions about whether the cup run has delayed his side's annual spring spurt, but the Latics are leaving it late. If they donÃ¢ÂÂt improve over their next three games Ã¢ÂÂ against Champions League-chasing Spurs, obdurate West Brom and Martinez's old side Swansea Ã¢ÂÂ they could run out at Wembley already relegated.
If Wigan have worries, it's almost resignation time for their bottom-three colleagues QPR and Reading, who were both easily beaten (2-0 by Stoke and 2-1 to Norwich respectively).
The hooped brethren are now so far behind the rest of the league that they could have their relegations confirmed tonight Ã¢ÂÂ albeit only in the unlikely event that Aston Villa win at Old Trafford.
RangersÃ¢ÂÂ manager Harry Redknapp summed up the hopes of both sides when he said that any thoughts of survival were now Ã¢ÂÂin tattersÃ¢ÂÂ.
Steve Sidwell's stats
Joey Ramone once said, to paraphrase, that being in a rock band was an awesome job, but when it came down to it, it was still a job and therefore still sucked. While most of us wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt agree that this applies to being a Premier League footballer, it seems that FulhamÃ¢ÂÂs Steve Sidwell is right on RamoneÃ¢ÂÂs side.
See, Sidwell was in a funk about returning to work after a lovely bit of time off following a recent red card. Presumably Sidwell spent his three-game holiday doing what the rest of us do when off work: played a bit of PlayStation, ate toast for lunch, watched Homes Under the Hammer and tossed a coin to decide whether to shower or not. And he was in no mood to give up that utopia just yet.
And so, 12 minutes into his return against Arsenal, Sidwell took strike action. Unfortunately for the GunnersÃ¢ÂÂ Mikel Arteta, Sidwell struck the SpaniardÃ¢ÂÂs ankle.
So another red card and at least another three games off. If Sidwell plays his cards right, he might never have to go to work again.
The forgotten few
Though itÃ¢ÂÂs very unlikely that West Brom will mount a late charge for fifth place and a Europa League spot, or that Fulham will be dragged into the Championship, every team in the Premier League still has something, mathematically, to play for.
Not so in the Football League. With EnglandÃ¢ÂÂs bottom three tiers on winding-up duty, the amount of sides with nothing interesting going on Ã¢ÂÂ no relegation scrap, no play-off rumble Ã¢ÂÂ is growing by the game.
Saturday's results mathematically ended the season for Championship sides Birmingham, Derby, Leeds and Middlesbrough (although Boro haven't been seen much since Christmas anyway). In League One, where most teams have just one game left to play, there are 13 teams who will snore their way through next weekend and itÃ¢ÂÂs probably best to avoid the Facebook updates of the 10 League Two sides from Chesterfield down to Accrington who all have nothing interesting to say.
This time of year is without doubt the most exciting, dramatic, torturous and exciting of the year. For many, itÃ¢ÂÂs the reason we love football. But as April draws to a close, spare a thought for those with nothing whatsoever to play for.
Scunthorpe's great escape
Even if it's making hearts race in northern Lincolnshire, Scunthorpe's end-of-season attempt to get out of the relegation zone might not make a screenplay. Two wins and a draw from their last six isn't Hollywood stuff, but Saturday's 1-0 win at MK Dons gave the Iron hope of a happy ending.
Sadly for Scunny, at the same time their rivals were also doing well: Oldham beat Crawley while Colchester and Shrewsbury fought out a 0-0 which saved the Shrews but left the U's three points above the drop zone.
And so in Saturday's final reel, Scunthorpe must win their home game against play-off side Swindon, hope that Colchester lose at Carlisle and pray for a three-goal swing along the way. ItÃ¢ÂÂs tense, it's improbable, but at least it's possible.
Nerves at the bottom of League Two
Much like Scunthorpe in the league above them, Aldershot grabbed themselves what may ultimately prove to be a pointless win on Saturday by beating Dagenham & Redbridge at home.
The victory keeps the ShotsÃ¢ÂÂ slim survival hopes alive, but their Football League future is more than precarious, being three points and six goals from safety Ã¢ÂÂ with their sole remaining game a trip to Rotherham, who need the win to ensure promotion. But it also drags the Daggers three places down into the drop-zone dog fight.
WeÃ¢ÂÂve loved the bonkers League Two relegation battle this year, and there are still seven sides Ã¢ÂÂ more than a quarter of the league Ã¢ÂÂ who can still go down, so whoÃ¢ÂÂs to say Aldershot canÃ¢ÂÂt pull off the improbable? Given that four of the bottom seven won on Saturday, only a fool would rule anything out.
Exeter CityÃ¢ÂÂs season unravel since Christmas when a promising promotion charge started to derail, week by week. Without a win since March, and with the play-offs disappearing, the Grecians needed to beat Cheltenham on Saturday to keep their season alive.
Well, it was never going to happen. The Devonshire side have been absolutely stripped of confidence and although they went through the motions, they were unable to prevent a fifth defeat in six games.
So thatÃ¢ÂÂs season over for Exeter, who are now four points outside the top seven with only a game to play. A offer of a mid-table finish would have been snatched up gleefully at the beginning of the season, but having tasted the top, City fans wonÃ¢ÂÂt be satisfied come the final whistle next Saturday.
Unless Torquay are relegated.