It has been widely reported that Jose Mourinho is set to return to Chelsea in the near future, but Matt Stanger ponders whether this is really a good thing for the Blues and the PL...
Roll up, roll up to have a good laugh at your Football365 scribes, as we look back on our pre-season predictions to see who was wrong, who was right and who was stupid...
Lukaku's two goals against Sunderland saw the teenager overtake Frank Lampard as the highest-scoring Chelsea player in the Premier League this season with 12 strikes so far (Demba Ba has only scored one PL goal while being employed by Chelsea), while the Blues' only out-and-out striker for most of the campaign, Fernando Torres, lags behind with a measly total of seven.
Although Lukaku's brace on Saturday was perhaps slightly fortunate, the determination he displayed to close down Titus Bramble and Simon Mignolet for his second goal epitomised the 19-year-old's endeavour to succeed in his loan spell at West Brom and become a key part of the Chelsea first team - a return that should have been accelerated in January to aid Rafa Benitez's struggling troops.
Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of Lukaku's rise is the youngster's remarkable dedication to improving his game.
'In all my years in football, I've yet to come across a teenager who would rather go home and study DVDs' tweeted Birmingham Mail journalist Chris Lepkowski on Sunday evening. 'Lukaku is unique.'
The striker hinted at his exceptional focus following Chelsea's Champions League triumph last year, and he admitted to feeling uncomfortable amid the club's celebrations after failing to play a single minute in the competition and making only 12 appearances all season.
"I don't like people talking to me about the Champions League. It wasn't me, but my team that won," said Lukaku in May.
"When Kalou put the cup on my lap in the bus I asked him to take it away immediately. I didn't want to touch it because just as with the Champions League, I had no part in it at all.
"Chelsea really wanted me last summer and paid a lot for me but after a while I thought, are you just throwing money around? During the conversation with the manager I will see whether he's serious about me or not. If not, I will go away on loan. I have to play."
While Chelsea have indulged Torres to very little reward, Lukaku has readily taken his chance this season after being granted a temporary release. He is excelling under Steve Clarke's tutelage at the Hawthorns, proving an excellent deputy for the witless Peter Odemwingie in West Brom's last two matches as the Baggies have recovered from a run of eight games without a win to climb back above Liverpool into seventh.
A particularly impressive statistic is that Lukaku's 12 league goals have come from just 67 shots, 31 of which hit the target. Compared to the Premier League's two leading scorers, Luis Suarez - 18 goals from 152 shots, 50 on target - and Robin van Persie - 19 goals from 94 shots, 43 on target - it's evident that the 19-year-old is leaning towards the more efficient end of the scale.
Michu may be the signing of the season, but along with the Spaniard's teammate, Jonathan de Guzman - as well as Nuri Sahin and Harry Kane - Lukaku has continued to prove the value of the loan market in football's current climate of bloated squads and crippling wages.
With 24 points from 27 games and a goal difference of 'only' minus 18, Wigan should find this year's survival battle a walk in the park compared to last season.
At this stage in the 2011/12 campaign the Latics were rooted to the foot of the table with 20 points, where they remained until March 18 when Wolves suffered a 5-0 defeat to Manchester United. Roberto Martinez's side then completed the incredible feat of winning seven of their final nine matches, including victories against Liverpool, United, Arsenal and a 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle, to survive a comfortable seven points clear of the relegation zone.
The experience of that unbelievable run, and the club's preceding survival battles, should give Wigan the edge over their rivals in 16th - 19th as Southampton, Aston Villa and Reading all bid to join QPR in the Championship next term.
It may not seem particularly advantageous for a team who have won only twice at home all season to be playing five of their next seven matches in their own stadium, but form usually goes out of the window for Wigan at this stage. And after their impressive 3-0 victory over Reading on Saturday, the Latics stand to benefit from a favourable fixture list, especially over the next month when Reading face trips to Everton, United and Arsenal, and Villa host Manchester City before a crucial six-pointer against the Royals on March 9.
If Wigan can maintain their level of performance from the weekend, which saw them score two excellent goals following a rather fortunate opener, the relegation battle could go the same way as the title race. This season is really threatening to fall flat.
"A moment to transform Norwich City's season," bellowed the Match of the Day commentator on Saturday evening as Grant Holt scored a last-minute winner over Everton. Although the Canaries' leap from 14th to 12th is hardly an astonishing improvement in fortunes, their second late result against the Toffees this season provides welcome relief after a winless run stretching back to December 15. They certainly couldn't have timed it any better, with a trip to Old Trafford next.
Phwoar. Woof. Meow. And whatever else you're meant to say after a stunning goal.
A season of much improvement and healthy praise for that improvement. Rafael's thunderous strike crowned a superb all-round performance against QPR, but the defender's torrid night at the Santiago Bernabeu and first-half substitution against Reading shouldn't be forgotten in a hurry.
Rafael has undoubtedly played an important role in United's walk to the title (THEY COULD STILL SLIP UP. REMEMBER THIS AT ALL TIMES), but he still has plenty to learn and it's too early to hail him as the second coming of Wes Brown just yet. It will be interesting to see if the 22-year-old copes better with the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford on March 5.
After coming from behind to win a Premier League game for the first time since October 2010 against Chelsea, Newcastle have now recorded two such victories in the space of two top-flight home games. The Magpies should now be looking to sneak a top-ten finish.
Three goals and two assists in four Premier League appearances so far. References to his £2million fee will soon be as ubiquitous as the stock info on Michu.
Did Cisse's thunderf**k (courtesy of Nick Miller) against Southampton officially announce his passing from a great goalscorer to a scorer of great goals? The striker has only managed six strikes in the Premier League this season, compared to 13 in 14 matches last year, and Alan Pardew will hope his move back into the centre sees him recapture his finishing touch.
They couldn't really end the weekend 15 points clear, could they? It would have been too much. Too embarrassing for City, too dull for the rest of us. No, thank goodness it's only 12 points. Now we at least have the faint whiff of a title race to accompany the fleeting memories of last season.
Considering I've already discussed Romelu Lukaku in some depth, it's probably worth mentioning that Paul Pogba is the second youngest player to have scored at least five goals in Europe's top five leagues this season. But a central midfield pairing of Rafael and Park Ji-Sung in last season's 3-2 defeat to Blackburn was definitely the right selection.
Crisis? What crisis? Oh, that rather troubling crisis of stark decline and the onset of mediocrity that cannot simply be erased by a narrow victory over Aston Villa.
A big tick for Santi Cazorla, whose two strikes saved us from another week of written tears in the mailbox, but a big red cross for Wojciech Szczesny and the defensive midfielder who was supposed to break up Villa's swift counter-attacks. His name escapes me. It definitely wasn't Abou Diaby - he went off injured.
Jack Wilshere again looked impressive in a more advanced role, providing an exquisite assist of the assist for the winning goal, while Olivier Giroud continues to be a beacon of Arsenal accepting, nay celebrating, their vicious cycle of Arsene Wenger-inspired hope and cruel, predictable disappointment.
Giroud isn't a terrible footballer by any stretch of the imagination (which can often wander to other aspects of his appearance), but he's another own-brand acquisition (relatively affordable, something about mental strength, yadda yadda) when the Gunners really need to sample the Finest range to break through the glass ceiling.
Wenger said on Friday that funds are available to pursue a deal for a forward in the Falcao bracket, but if Arsenal fail to finish in the top four they needn't worry themselves about trying to sign top talent in the summer. Sunday's clash with Spurs is quite important.
Are United really this good? Are City really this bad? Is the title race already over? Why did I spill soup down myself? All questions that can only truly be answered in the fullness of time.
City certainly bucked up their ideas in the second half of a rather drab affair against Chelsea, with the 2-0 victory surprisingly earned after Carlos Tevez (now seven goals in nine games v the Blues) was brought on to join Sergio Aguero in attack. It's funny what can happen when Roberto Mancini plays his best strike partnership.
While City again proved that the top two are very much in a bracket of their own, their chances of retaining the title are still bleaker than a rainy afternoon locked in a dark room listening to Elliott Smith.
The coming weekend certainly won't change things at the top of the table, and City probably won't make up a single point on United before the pair meet on April 8. Victory in that fixture, no matter its vanity, may be enough to earn Mancini another shot at getting things right next season.
Another assist for a player who has created the joint-highest number of chances per game this season in Europe's top five leagues. Andrea Pirlo isn't bad company.
"Even if there's one game to go and there's still 12 points we'll do everything we can to win the league - even if it's not possible!" The reasons for City's slip are becoming increasingly apparent.
A poor afternoon for the Championship-grade left-back saw him concede a penalty and provide the assist for the deflection that ensured Jos Hooiveld now shares the record for the most own goals in a single Premier League season. It might be best to leave Luke Shaw on next time, Mauricio.
Defeat to Newcastle has cranked up the pressure ahead of QPR's visit on Saturday.
The end of the Toffees' Champions League push and David Moyes' dignity, with the manager fuming at the amount of injury time allowed by Lee Mason and refusing to shake the referee's hand after the final whistle.
Three shots on target from 15 attempts tells the story of Everton's disappointing afternoon at Carrow Road, and Nikica Jelavic's poor form remains a major concern. But the biggest worry for Moyes should be his team's defensive record, with only Reading keeping fewer clean sheets in the top flight this season. It seems that playing Marouane Fellaini in a more advanced role has come at a price.
The Black Cats have now suffered three defeats in a row, with Martin O'Neill's switch to 4-4-2 on Saturday to incorporate Danny Graham into the starting line-up failing to have the desired impact.
Chelsea and Rafa Benitez
Compact. They need to be more compact. That'll solve everything, won't it Rafa? I'm starting to think that Benitez's display of tactical genius at half-time in the 2005 Champions League final may simply have been the manager shouting the word 'compact' for 15 minutes solid in the manner of Alan Partridge attempting to attract the attention of an acquaintance.
After overseeing Chelsea's slip from just six points behind first place (with a game in hand) to the current 19-point chasm, Benitez no longer seems too perturbed by the Blues' form and it's quite clear that he will be on his way in the summer.
If the manager is still concerned, however, then the manner in which Chelsea conceded both goals on Sunday should have provoked him into some furious note-making. Firstly, the frustratingly average John Obi Mikel gifted Yaya Toure enough room to park a 747 to open the scoring and then the Blues somehow contrived to concede from their own throw-in, allowing City to break and failing to press Carlos Tevez on the edge of the area.
It was amateur stuff and embarrassing for a coach who prides himself on the meticulous organisation of his teams. With Arsenal now only two points behind, Chelsea's place in the top four is under serious threat for the second season running despite huge investment in the summer. Please, no more nonsense about how regular chopping and changing is conducive to success.
It would require carbon dating to trace the first mention of Frank Lampard catching Bobby Tambling's goalscoring record in what has been a tedious sub-plot to Chelsea's tedious season.
I couldn't care less whether Lampard reaches his target or not, and neither is Rickie Lambert reaching 100 goals for Southampton remotely interesting. 101 is an interesting number; they even made a film about it, there were dalmatians and everything. Why can't we celebrate that instead?
Martin Jol's claim that N'Zonzi is 'evil' was rather far-fetched, but the midfielder certainly lost his cool after being caught in the face accidentally in a challenge with Berbatov.
Stoke's Away Record
A crippling lack of ambition from a club that continues to stagnate.
The sad truth of QPR's demise is that no-one other than the club's fans will care when their relegation is finally confirmed. Some will even laugh at seeing this sorry ragtag band of awfulness splash into the Championship like Neil Shipperley belly-flopping from the high board. It's surely only a matter of time now, with the Rs failing to muster a single goal in their last five home league matches.
"I don't think it's impossible. Other people will say I'm crazy to think that, but I think there's a chance," said Harry Redknapp on Saturday. "And while there's a chance, I won't be giving up and will make sure the players don't give up."
The manager's determination is admirable, but QPR are now further adrift than when Redknapp took charge on November 24 and Southampton will look forward to adding to his misery on Saturday.
Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.
"Even if there's one game to go and there's still 12 points we'll do everything we can to win the league - even if it's not possible!" Did Hart really say this?????!!!!! That is the daftest thing I have ever heard...wow!!!!- iyibaba