Liverpool face Brum battle as Foxes aim to fell Forest.

Leicester City again dominated their game but came away from the Madejski Stadium with a 3-1 defeat at the hands of promotion rivals Reading. Brian McDermott’s Royals have gone from outsiders to genuine contenders in the race for a play-off spot, while Leicester have tried, but failed, to maintain their promotion push.

After conceding against the run of play on 19 mins, then again two minutes later, The Foxes flooded forward and left gaps in their defence. This allowed Reading substitute Noel Hunt in for their third of the night. Andy King’s 15th goal of the season the only conciliation on another disappointing night for Eriksson’s men.

But there was some good news as King was named in the Championship PFA Team of the Year, his goals from midfield clearly being recognised by his peers. He told “It’s always a great feeling to be recognised like this, especially in a vote that your fellow pros have been involved in.”

After sharing the club’s player’s player of the year with Jack Hobbs and becoming The Foxes permanent captain the end of the season has brought the 22 year old plenty of joy. Promotion may be a touch too far for him and his teammates but on a personal note Andy King will feel he has progressed with great strides this season.

For this vital Good Friday evening fixture Leicester travel the short distance to the City Ground to take on rivals Nottingham Forest in this East Midlands derby. As both teams look towards the play-offs, a defeat for The Foxes would probably end their slim chances of a top six finish, a victory would place them level on points with Forest, but still just out of reach of the coveted play-off places.

Liverpool are also a fingernail away from Europe in their hunt for something from this season. Sitting in sixth after a 1-1 draw with Arsenal last weekend, the Reds have too few games to catch Spurs in fifth.

In an emotional week for Liverpool fans everywhere, a superbly recognised minute silence for the Hillsborough victims and for Arsenal director’s Danny Fiszman’s passing started the game in a fashion that is indicative of the great respect these two sets of players and fans have for each other.

Generous applause from both fans as Liverpool stalwart Jamie Carragher left the field after being concussed showed further this respect, even if Gunner’s manager Arsene Wenger said something to Kenny Dalglish at the final whistle that led the Scot to tell his French counterpart to “Piss off.”

Wenger felt he had a grievance. With 94 minutes on the clock the hosts took the lead through a penalty, only for Kuyt to level at 1-1 with a penalty as the game entered its 100th minute. All the time came from Carra’s treatment, surely something nobody would deny.

Arsenal, though, have been six seasons without a trophy and it’s seven since finishing second to Chelsea. This year’s loss to Birmingham City in the final minutes of the Carling Cup final adds credence to the feeling the Gunners lack steel. It’s generally accepted they play some of the best football in England but playing pretty and having an empty trophy cabinet does not makes good bedfellows, or fans happy.

A move away from Highbury to a brand new stadium at Ashburton Grove proved the Arsenal board were looking to the future. The club’s revenue is up and the shareholders are happy, but the fans are getting a little frustrated. Being challengers on four fronts is fine but deep down the North London fans will be feeling close, but no cigar. Again.

With Stan Kroenke increasing his shareholding, does Arsenal’s future lie with one man? He bought Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith’s and the late Fiszman’s shares to take a 62.89% holding – thus passing the 30% mark where he is obliged to make a mandatory cash offer for the remaining capital.

But 27% shareholder Alisher Usmanov, an Uzbeki billionaire, is unwilling to do business and the Arsenal Supporter’s Trust has said its members are not willing to sell their 10%.

Will anything change if Kroenke becomes owner? Considering the manifesto he has sent out to the remaining shareholders it will be business as usual, careful purchase of players, hoping the youngsters pull more than their weight and getting to the farther reaches of cup competitions while still active in the title race come late April. That will surely not please the Gooners, who have been starved of silverware since being outplayed by Manchester United in the 2005 F.A. Cup Final but winning on penalties.

Since leaving Highbury Arsenal have been careful in the transfer market, buy reasonably priced players to keep them competitive and the aim to bring youngsters though. This appears to be the crux, an aim to keep them there but not push on to see their captain, perennial Barcelona target, Cesc Fabregas lifting cups to the roar of the Gooner support.

With the hunt for Champions League places still hot there are considerations for all four qualifying teams and the two that will miss out. With the money flowing through Manchester City and Chelsea and Manchester United’s debt concerns, it is imperative for Spurs to get into the top four for financial reasons. Arsenal, while looking a good bet for the top four are in fact now looking stagnant.

This will please Liverpool. They appear to be on the journey upwards at a time when the non-bankrolled teams are sliding backwards. The Anfield outfit have suffered through bad ownership but appear to be heading in the right direction, and that is a start. Being stationary or even knowing the drop may be coming is not a better place to be.

It is conjecture, but the Premiership is finally gaining the interest that the Championship holds, which is better overall for the English game.

Liverpool entertain Birmingham City this weekend hoping to end a miserable run of one victory in six at home against their Midland foes. A patched up back four against Brum’s physical presence will be a test for their young stars Jack Robinson and John Flanagan.

Carragher is out and Fabio Aurelio and Andy Carroll are doubts as the Reds look to finish their season on a high, especially as Kenny Dalglish is undefeated at Anfield since returning as manager. But with Manchester United’s twelfth man in charge of the game, Howard Webb, and Alex McLeish’s links to Alex Ferguson it may not be an easy ride for Liverpool.


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