Compared to Chelsea’s comfortable walk to the Premier League title last season, England’s top division is witnessing an enthralling race to the summit.
The story of the season has definitely been Leicester City who have gone from Premier League survivors to title challengers in one year’s time. Claudio Ranieri’s side currently lead the way by five points with four games left to play. Leicester need eight points from their final four games to guarantee the title. Were it a seasoned team, most would agree that a team with a five point cushion over the second placed side would take the title home, but Leicester’s inexperience in such situations make them capable of capitulating, in a Liverpool-esque fashion (a couple of season’s ago).
It might have already started as the side narrowly drew against West Ham. The bigger blow was Jamie Vardy being sent off. The English striker has been a mainstay of the team and the Foxes will definitely feel his setback. While the rest of the team has shown they can come up with goals, Vardy is the main supplier and is needed at this consequential moment. He will miss the game against Swansea and could miss more, depending on his FA hearing.
The bigger challenge for Leicester is the run of games that concludes their season. Their match against Swansea City is followed by a trip to Old Trafford where they take on the unpredictable Manchester United. Post that, they host Everton, who are in terrible form at the moment but definitely capable of hurting anytime considering the players they possess. Leicester’s final game comes against last season’s champions Chelsea, capable of dealing a severe blow, at Stamford Bridge.
Ranieri would want to get to the eight point mark before the final day but the games make it difficult and if any slip-up were to happen, the unstoppable Tottenham Hotspur sit patiently in the second place to grasp the opportunity.
Tottenham host West Brom on Monday night after which they travel to Chelsea. This is going to be the key game for Mauricio Pochettino’s side. The rivalry between the two teams will certainly make it a tough game for Spurs and Chelsea certainly possess the quality to inflict real damage, no matter how badly their season has gone. Chelsea will try and make life difficult for their city rivals, though considering the form Spurs are at the moment, they could arguably beat any team in Europe’s top 5 divisions.
Next, Tottenham host Southampton and their season ends with a game against Newcastle United at St. James’ Park. Rafa Benitez’ side could prove to be a thorn in their side as a side fighting relegation always gives in more as its literally about survival in the top division. Having said that, obviously Tottenham’s run-in is far easier than Leicester’s bar that Chelsea game, at least on paper.
Another point that is favourable for Spurs is that they possess goals in their locker. It’s not only Kane who is providing them, midfielder Dele Alli, attacker Christian Eriksen are all pitching in and other players like Erik Lamela, Heung-min-Son etc. also possess them in their arsenal. Spurs have a much larger and better squad than Leicester and it could really matter at this stage of the season.
With Vardy out, Leicester will struggle with goals and there might not be enough time for Ranieri to bring in another dimension to the side’s game. Vardy has started every single league game this season and has contributed 22 goals and made six assists. He adds more to Leicester’s games by the pressing he does in front. He chases the opposition defenders ensuring the side never really settle into the game and get comfortable with the ball.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men might be five points behind Leicester, but very importantly have real impetus in their stride after the 4-0 demolition against Stoke City, where the scoreline could very easily have been a lot more embarrassing for the Potters.
However, the Foxes have beaten the odds in the entire campaign so it would be of erroneous quality to solely think “on paper”. It’s not as though the likes of Mahrez, Okazaki and Ulloa have not contributed with strikes. Leicester still have a five point gap over their rivals and have overcome a lot more odds to get to the point where they are.
With four games to go and pressure on both sides, we should expect plenty of twists and turns. Even with Jamie Vardy’s suspension and possibly prolonged absence, the five point cushion puts the ball in Leicester’s favour; however, the brilliant Spurs will be ready to pounce if Leicester take their eye off the prize for one second.