Friday, April 29, 2016

Pennant Fever

Donald Trump may win the Republican Nomination for President, and Leicester City may win the English Premier League.  I cannot overstate what a big deal this would be for Leicester City -- it would be like Vandy winning the NCAA Basketball Championship, or Air Force winning the NCAA Football Championship.  Last weekend, the Foxes smashed Swansea City 4-0, while Spurs drew 1-1 with West Brom.  So now, with three games left, the top of the table looks like this:

1.  Leicester:  22-3-10 (76 points)
2.  Spurs:  19-4-12 (69)
3.  Man City:  19-9-7 (64) (goal difference of 32)
4.  Arsenal:  18-7-10 (64) (goal difference of 24)
5.  Man Utd:  17-9-8 (59)

With only three games left, the best Spurs can do is finish with 78 points.  So if Leicester can win at Manchester United on Sunday, they would have 79 points, and that would CLINCH THE TITLE.  As you can imagine, Leicester doesn't usually win at Manchester United -- they haven't done so since 1998, and their all-time record against Man Utd is a dismal 33-60-27.  But this could be their time.

On the other hand, Manchester United has reached the finals of the F.A. Cup, where they will play Crystal Palace.  For reasons I don't understand, the F.A. Cup final almost always features a big club and a small club.  Here are the last six Cup Finals:

2010:  Chelsea 1, Portsmouth 0
2011:  Manchester City 1, Stoke City 0
2012:  Chelsea 2, Liverpool 1
2013:  Wigan Athletic 1, Manchester City 0
2014:  Arsenal 3, Hull City 2
2015:  Arsenal 4, Aston Villa 0

So except for 2012, when Chelsea played Liverpool, every game featured a heavy favorite against an outsider.  The outsiders went 1-4 in those games, with Wigan's victory being the only upset.  Similarly, I would expect Manchester United to grind out the usual victory in this year's final.

But wait, there's more!  Manchester City is still in the running for the biggest prize of all -- the European Cup.  City went 4-2-0 in the Group Stages to reach the knock-out rounds.  Then they beat Dynamo Kiev by a 3-1 aggregate score in the Round of 16.  Then they beat Paris-Saint German by a 3-2 aggregate score in the Quarter-Finals.  So that put them in the Semi-Finals, which look like this:

Real Madrid (ESP) v. Manchester City (ENG)
Bayern Munich (GER) v. Atletico Madrid (ESP)

Real Madrid won the title in 2013-14, and has 10 European Cups in its history.  Bayern Munich the title in 2012-13, and has five European Cups in its history.  Neither Manchester City nor Atletico Madrid has ever won the title.  So I was pretty confident I knew how these semi-finals were turning out.

The semi-finals are played in two legs, with each team hosting one leg.  It's an advantage to host the second leg, so naturally Manchester City and Atletico Madrid hosted the first legs.  The games were played this week; here's what happened:

Manchester City 0 - 0 Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid 1 - 0 Bayern Munich

So the two underdogs are very much in contention -- City can advance on the away goals rule if they can both score and get a draw in Madrid, while Atletico Madrid (which has the grimmest and most annoying defense in soccer) just needs to hang on for 90 more minutes.  But even in a year where so many upsets have occurred, I'm still going with the favorites.

1 comment:

  1. Leicester City drew 1-1 with Man Utd today, so the standings now look like this:

    1. Leicester: 22-3-11 (77 points)
    2. Spurs: 19-4-12 (69 points)

    Spurs has three games left, and they can still get to 78 points if they win all three. They play at Chelsea tomorrow -- if they don't win there, Leicester will win the title.