• Premier League

Player of the Year curse strikes again?

Nick Atkin
May 2, 2014
Suarez wins Player of the Year

As he clutched his newly won PFA Player of the Year trophy, Luis Suarez claimed Liverpool could still win the title despite suffering a potentially terminal 2-0 defeat at home to Chelsea just hours before.

The pendulum had swung Manchester City's way after they took full advantage of Liverpool's slip-up by winning 2-0 at Crystal Palace.

Manuel Pellegrini's side are assured of the title now if they win their remaining games after Liverpool surrendered a three-goal advantage and, despite Suarez's 31st league goal of the season, collapsed in catastrophic fashion at Selhurst Park.

But they aren't the only odds stacked against Suarez and his title bid assertion; the trinket he picked up last Sunday has proved more a curse than a blessing to Premier League title challenges in recent years, too.

Luis Suarez won the PFA Player of the Year award on Sunday © Getty Images

None of the four previous players of the year - Gareth Bale (2013/2011), Robin van Persie (2012) and Wayne Rooney (2010) - have managed to win the league in the same year.

Admittedly, Bale's Tottenham were never convincingly in the running for the title in the two years when he won the award, finishing fifth in both seasons.

Arsenal pipped Spurs to third place in 2012, largely thanks to Van Persie's goals, but finished a distant 19 points behind champions City.

Rooney may have chipped in with 26 league goals for Manchester United in 2009-10, but it still wasn't enough to see them seal a record fourth consecutive Premier League title as Chelsea beat them out by a point.

There is no doubt Suarez deserves his Player of the Year award, with his 31 goals this season capping a remarkable rehabilitation from his troubled start to life in England. Getting banned for eight matches for racially abusing Patrice Evra in 2011 and receiving a 10-game ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic last April was hardly an auspicious start.

Painfully, though, for Liverpool, Suarez appears to be running out of steam at just the wrong time, with only two goals in his last five games.

Suarez has also notably failed to score against City, Chelsea or Arsenal in the league this season, with Liverpool only winning two out of six matches against these three sides.

Yaya Toure - who lost out to Luis Suarez in the race for the PFA Player of the Year award - could prove the difference in the title race © Getty Images

In contrast, City appear to have got Yaya Toure - whom Suarez beat to the Player of the Year award - back at just the right time.

There were concerns Toure could be out for the rest of the season after limping off in the first half of City's 3-2 defeat at Anfield, which had put Liverpool in pole position for the title until their - and Steven Gerrard's - untimely slip-up against Jose Mourinho and co.

City suffered immediately in his absence, being held to a shock 2-2 draw by Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium with Pellegrini admitting "we had in our mind the game against Liverpool".

Toure was hardly missed as they saw off West Brom 3-1, but he returned to inspire City's vital victory at Palace and 3-2 triumph at Everton.

The midfielder put Edin Dzeko's headed opener at Selhurst Park on a plate for him with a pinpoint cross from the right before charging through the Palace ranks in trademark style from his own half, cutting onto his left foot inside the box - via a helpful deflection - and firing home City's second goal.

It was another trademark tour de force and while Toure, after scoring six times in his last six outings, is only City's third-top scorer this season, his 23-goal tally is still a remarkable return by any midfielder's standards.

Toure has crucially taken on the scoring burden in the final third of the season just when the goals from leading scorer Sergio Aguero and second-top scorer Alvaro Negredo have dried up.

Aguero has 28 goals to his name this season, but just two in his last eight appearances after returning from a hamstring injury at the beginning of March.

Negredo has not found the back of the net since scoring twice in a 3-0 win at West Ham in the League Cup on January 21 and has gone from a certain inclusion to a serious doubt for Vicente Del Bosque's Spain squad for the World Cup.

So Toure, not Suarez, might just be the man who has the final say in this Premier League title race. He and City have been here and done it before, after all, pipping United to the title on goal difference, no less, in 2012.

If they do it again, Suarez's success in winning the Player of the Year trophy will be tarnished a little and the curse that comes with it will go on.

Will Luis Suarez be able to drag Liverpool over the line in the title race? © Getty Images

Nick Atkin is an assistant editor at ESPN. You can follow him on Twitter @natkinESPN

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