Tuesday, March 23, 2010

23 March 2008 - The Football Equivalent Of The Planets Aligning

On 23 March 2008, each of the English Premier League's "Big 4" clubs - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United - played another in two matches. The day was billed by the media as "Super Sunday" for its implications on the race for the league title (and is not to be confused with the Sky Sports program). It was only the fourth time that each Big 4 team played another on a Sunday since the introduction of the Premier League in 1992-93.

While those four teams are known as the Big 4 due to their usual occupation of the league's top four spots, that domination is relatively recent. They first filled the top four positions at the end of the 1997-98 season, but did not repeat the feat until the 2003-04 season. After skipping the 2004-05 season, however, they have finished as the top four ever since.

23 March was the fourth Sunday on which the League had aligned the teams to play each other and the second such time that season. They had earlier met up on 16 December 2007, with Manchester United winning 0-1 and Liverpool and Arsenal winning at home against Chelsea, 1-0. In the next Super Sunday round, United again topped Liverpool, but by a larger margin, winning 3-0 at Old Trafford. Chelsea, meanwhile, repaid Arsenal for the previous result, this time beating the Gunners 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.

The six points earned by United on the Super Sundays proved decisive, as they held on to repeat as League champions, beating second-place finishers Chelsea by two points. Arsenal finished two points behind Chelsea in third, while Liverpool came in a distant fourth.

While the matchups were generally well-received, not everyone was happy with the schedule. Before the matches on 23 March, England manager Fabio Capello complained that the matches were preventing several key players from participating in England's friendly against France the following Wednesday. The FA assured Capello they they would not schedule another Super Sunday before a competitive international and, to date, there have been no more Super Sundays.

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