By Andrew Leci
This weekend sees the last round of Barclays Premier League fixtures before the 2012 Presidential Election in the United States of America.
This may sound like a curious way to start a piece, and I'm sure there are a number of you already scratching your heads trying to think up possible connections, and I'll fess up early. There are not many.
Except that on November 6, the map of the USA will be carved out and divvied up along state lines, and as results come in, vast swathes of represented countryside will be coloured in either blue or red - the political demarcations of a two party system that passes for democracy these days.
Similar lines will be drawn, and the same colours will be to the fore in Liverpool ahead of the Merseyside derby on Sunday, and at Stamford Bridge the same day, as Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea prepare to entertain Manchester United.
While certain states in the US can pretty much be coloured in either blue or red many moons before the electorate actually vote, there are plenty of swing voters out there in the football world, when it comes to choosing between the title credentials of Chelsea and Manchester United. Yes, I'm keeping the analogy going for a while, even if it kills me.
Chelsea's start to the season has been excellent, while United have yet to hit a full stride, and although much of that may be down to injuries (particularly at the back), and the integration of new players, Sir Alex Ferguson will know that all cylinders will be required for Sunday's clash at The Bridge.
Conversely, Chelsea's new signings have hit the ground running, with the likes of Oscar and Eden Hazard illuminating the BPL and putting fear into the hearts of opponents. With an unsettled defence (still missing Nemanja Vidic) Manchester United are vulnerable, and have been conceding far more goals than is healthy.
Uncharacteristically, United have been poor starters this season, going behind in six of their eight league matches, while their form in Europe (despite three wins in three group-stage games) has been less than imperious.
True, they did manage to come back from a two goal deficit against Braga in the UEFA Champions League in midweek, but Ferguson will be far from happy that his side put itself in such a position in the first place. Furthermore, coming from behind can take a lot out; just ask Mitt Romney (yes, still hanging on to the analogy... although only just).
Chelsea come into this Sunday's fixture off their first defeat of the season (we won't count the Community Shield, or even the European Super Cup).
Let's be honest, they were dismantled by Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday night, and the score line would have been that much grimmer had it not been for the heroics of Petr Cech.
Sunday though, represents an opportunity for The Blues to stamp their mark on this BPL season, after wins already at Arsenal and Spurs, and a positive result would open up a 7 point gap on United.
Sunday's other blue/red clash sees Everton entertaining Liverpool at Goodison Park, the latest edition of the Merseyside rivalry that dates back to 1894.
The number of times Everton have finished above Liverpool in the standings since the inception of the Premier League can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Last season, as the red part of the football hotbed that is Merseyside will not need reminding, was one such occasion, as Everton finished four points clear of their rivals. The fact that Everton currently sit six points and eight places better off than Liverpool, is galling for the Reds and their fans. They're simply not used to not holding the bragging rights in the city.
While Everton have made a positive, even surprising, start to the season, Liverpool still appears very much to be a work in progress.
I wrote a few weeks ago that Brendan Rodgers needed to be given time to get things right, and impose his football philosophy on the club, and that seems to be gathering both pace and momentum. Young players are being ingratiated into first team action, and the future looks bright.
Significantly, despite Everton finishing above Liverpool in the last BPL season, the Toffees came unstuck in all three meetings between the two. Liverpool won 2-0 at Goodison; 3-0 at Anfield, and came out on top in April's FA Cup clash to boot.
Liverpool 'get up' for the big games - that much is, and has been clear. Sunday will be just such an occasion.
With less than a quarter of the season gone, heading into the weekend, the blues are on top, while the reds are coming from behind. It's similar to the case in the United States that saw Obama with a healthy advantage a few months back, only to see Romney closing the gap in the build-up to the election.
Blue versus Red; Chelsea versus Manchester United; Obama versus Romney; Everton versus Liverpool. They're probably all too close to call