by Kieran Davies

An Irishman, a Chilean and Portuguese man walk into a title race. No this is not the setup of a joke this is what we find going into the last ten games of the Premier League season. Two of them were expected to be there, the third is a surprise inclusion. In one of the most open seasons in Premier League history the title really still is anyone’s although it is deemed a three horse race by the bookies. With 30 points still available to all teams there is still a long way to go but at this time of the season, form really is priceless. You can surmise whether you think not being in Europe is an advantage or not but the reality is that any team still in the Champions League after this current round should have an accomplished enough squad to deal with it. This is just deflection by managers trying to take the pressure off their side.

The reality is that Chelsea and Manchester City are favourites for the title (they’ve got previous for starters), the other is a gatecrasher, but never say never. Both of these teams do have tricky trips to Anfield in their run in, which Arsenal and Everton will tell you isn’t an enviable trip so this could be another enthralling finale maybe even to rival that Aguero goal v QPR. Elsewhere in the league David Moyes seems to have mistaken the Manchester United season ticket holders with Jimmy Saville and has started writing letters of desperation. By all accounts even Anne Frank sounded more upbeat about her future in ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ than Mr Moyes. They really need a win at West Brom this weekend to go into a huge clash with fierce rivals Liverpool with some sort of confidence. A friend of mine who supports Manchester United said he would prefer to see his team lose 10-0 at home to Liverpool than see them win the title. Some context there for all of us I think.

In South Wales the Cardiff faithful (being the operative word with their current plight) will be hoping three points at home against Fulham will prove the catalyst they dream of in their very own ‘The Great Escape’. People seem to forget than even Fulham at the bottom of the table are only four points away from safety, although defeat in this game could be such a psychological blow for the losers that it pretty much seals their long term future. The other teams flirting with the drop zone have games in hand over their counterparts below them but at this time of the season its points on the board that count, so both Cardiff and Fulham have a huge opportunity to put pressure on the sides above them. Palace face Southampton in desperate need of three points as their great start under Tony Pullis threatens to fizzle out.

At this time of the season at the foot of the table there is one thing which will separate the men from the boys in the relegation battle, an in-form striker. This is where the problem lies for a lot of the teams. Cardiff create more than enough chances to win games but worryingly for their fans their conversion rate is more akin to that of Djimi Traore…….at the right end of the pitch! One positive note for Cardiff fans, this is the case for every side all the way up to Hull City. Bruce’s purchases of Long and Jelavic in the January window may prove to be inspired whilst harsh questions would be asked of West Brom who sold Long to a rival in the table and didn’t replace him.

Many fans of the teams in places from the bottom to thirteenth place will no doubt be reading this thinking ‘we’ve got quality strikers’ but while class is permanent, form is of necessity right now. Norwich will go into another home game with Chris Hughton feeling Marie Antionette with the guillotine blade lurking above him. In my eyes this is poor form by the Canaries board openly outlining the fragility of the manager’s position week after week. Pavlonian conditioning this is not. A huge game looms in the late kick off for both Chelsea and Tottenham. Dropped points for Chelsea could let other teams right into this title race where as defeat for Spurs could all but end hopes of chasing down that fourth qualification spot. Not mathematically but you have to consider to make up deficits you need the teams ahead of you to lose a lot of games. Possible yes, but the majority of these teams seem to be in a rich vein of form just at the right time. Sadly for Tottenham fans when they last won at Stamford Bridge, Sinead O’Connor was top of the charts with ‘Nothing Compares to You’, Saddam Hussein was invading Kuwait and Fox was airing the very first episode of The Simpsons. Should get some good odds there.

Everyone else in the league gets a rest with the exception of those involved in FA Cup action. As to whether cup runs have positive or negative impacts on league form at this time of the season we could debate both arguments for this all night. There are a lot of pros and cons for both sides of that argument. The pick of the cup matches has to be the early kick off between Arsenal and Everton. On the back of Arsene Wenger picking Jack Wilshere for Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad, Everton will prove no pushovers here. While Martinez wants Champions League qualification from their league position, I want to see out my days in the arms of in the intimate company of Megan Fox, we don’t always get what we want Roberto and maybe Everton will see this competition as their best chance of making the season one to remember. Hull and Sunderland will play out a North East derby also and it will be interesting to see how strong both teams are considering their league positions. I find it sad to see teams prioritise the league over one of the oldest competitions in football but can also appreciate the money involved. In the previous round the Arsenal v Liverpool game was everything an FA Cup should be about. Passion, grit, controversy and a will to win from both teams it’s a shame we don’t see more of it from other sides. Whoever you are at this stage anything is possible as this is the quarter finals and you are only two wins away from Wembley. The purist will want to see the two strongest teams left in it contest the final but football has a funny way a throwing up some surprises from time to time.