APRIL 7th, 2016
With only a handful of games left in the Barclays Premier League, the chase for the League Title has taken shape. Two teams now find themselves in contention for England’s top prize, separating themselves from the typical title contending sides of the last decade. Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur find themselves in unfamiliar waters, battling one another for a place in footballing history as England’s league champion. Leicester City’s sudden rise atop the Premier League is unprecedented; if they are to continue their awe-inspiring form, their season will be remarked upon for centuries. Tottenham Hotspur, on the other hand, have found incredible form under the leadership of up and coming manager Mauricio Pochettino. Leicester City are no doubts the favorite to secure their first Premier League Title ever, but don’t be surprised if Tottenham are right there with them going into the final Matchday of the Barclay’s Premier League.
Tottenham Hotspur F.C.
4/10 (H) v. Manchester United
4/18 (A) v. Stoke City
4/25 (H) v. West Bromwich Albion
5/2 (A) v. Chelsea
5/7 (H) v. Southampton
5/15 (A) v. Newcastle United
Key Games: Manchester United (H) and Chelsea (A)
Tottenham Hotspur find themselves in an unfamiliar position this season as a legitimate contender for the Premier League title. In years past, Tottenham have seemingly been on the brink of top four contention, but were never able to see that potential come to fruition. Now firmly in second place, four points ahead of rivals Arsenal, Tottenham look primed for not only a Champions League position, but perhaps even a Premier League Title (Premier League).
Mauricio Pochettino, now in his 2nd year as Spurs’ manager, has transformed the London team with a relentless high-pressure mentality. In year’s past, Tottenham had trouble beating the top Premier League clubs. Sides like Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Manchester United would routinely defeat Tottenham, creating a sort of meme among football supporters: “Lads, it’s Tottenham.” Now, with the emergences of Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Toby Alderweiereld, combined with the already solid play from Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen, Tottenham have achieved the best goal differential among all teams in the Premier League and continue to be an attacking force (Premier League).
Even with Spurs’ prolific season thus far, they still find themselves in need of serious help if they are to win the Premier League Title. Down 7 points to Leicester City with only six games to play, Tottenham will have to hope Leicester lose at least two games. Even then, Spurs will have to seemingly win out against tough competition to even have a chance to win their first title since 1961 (World Football). Fortunately for Tottenham, having already been eliminated from the F.A. Cup and Europa League, the Lillywhites can focus their attention on the Premier League title race.
With only one game remaining against a top six side, Tottenham’s remaining schedule is certainly manageable. This weekend Spurs host Manchester United, a widely inconsistent side plagued by injuries. Wayne Rooney looks to be out again at White Hart Lane, leaving rising teenager Marcus Rashford to play the crucial striker role against
centerback duo Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. Unlike United, Spurs have had mostly good luck on the injury front, with the season’s starting 11 still intact heading into April (PhysioRoom). United have shown to be formidable opponents against England’s top sides, winning against the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal this season (BBC Sport), but the depleted Red Devils will have little chance of upsetting the Spurs at White Hart Lane.
Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion might not have the quality of Europe’s elite, but these two sides know how to get a result against Tottenham. Stoke City have not lost to Spurs since April of 2014, winning two and drawing one against the Lillywhites (BBC Sport). And, West Brom, even for a low-table side, found a way to defeat Spurs last season in a 1-0 defeat at White Hart Lane (Chowdhury). Fortunately for Spurs, this season’s overhauled roster is much more capable of holding and achieving leads. West Bromwich Albion is an extremely defensive side, but Spurs have enough quality between Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, and Dele Alli to find at least one goal to edge out the Throstles. Don’t be surprised if Spurs head to Stamford Bridge on a three game winning streak still in firm contention of first place.
For all that Chelsea have endured this season, they are still a formidable side capable of beating anyone in the Premier League – especially at home. Since the new year, after suffering an absolutely disastrous start to the season, Chelsea have yet to lose in the Premier League (McNulty). Interim manager Guus Hiddink has not completely turned around the Blues’ atypical season, but he has ensured the London side still have a chance at a Europa League spot come next season. Aside from the clubs still vying for the Title, Chelsea may play the largest role in determining the Premier League victors, playing both Leicester and Tottenham at home. Given Chelsea’s recent form, Spurs would be happy to get out of Stamford Bridge with a draw. The reverse fixture between these two sides was a lethargic 0-0 draw played at White Hart Lane (Hafez); expect a similar outcome when Spurs visit their London rivals in May.
Southampton, Maurcio Pochettino’s old club, have recently found themselves as a mid to top table team. Last season, Southampton qualified for the Europa League after finishing 7th in the Premier League (Premier League). This season, although not quite reaching the form found last season, Southampton find themselves again in contention for a Europa League spot. For all of Southampton’s recent success, Tottenham has continually shown that it is still the superior club, cruising to a 2-0 away win in the reverse fixture this season (Dawkes). Now at home, expect Spurs to again disrupt Southampton’s attack with a high pressure mentality.
Tottenham’s last game of the season, coming against relegation fighting Newcastle, is probably the easiest of its six remaining fixtures. Newcastle United have suffered both offensively and defensively this season, allowing the second most goals (58), and scoring the third fewest goals (30) (Premier League). In all likelihood, Newcastle United will have already been guaranteed relegation when they face Spurs for the season finale. If that is the case, and Spurs still have a chance at the title, expect Spurs to not hold up on the attack.
4/10 (H) v. Manchester United W 3-1
4/18 (A) v. Stoke City W 2-0
4/25 (H) v. West Bromwich Albion W 1-0
5/2 (A) v. Chelsea D 1-1
5/7 (H) v. Southampton W 4-2
5/15 (A) v. Newcastle United W 3-1
Spurs finish with 78 points
Tottenham’s chance at their first Premier League Title in 67 years relies heavily on Leicester City’s outcomes. Even if Spurs can achieve 16 of their remaining 18 points, they will still need Leicester to drop nine points, or three losses – the total amount of losses Leicester City have on the season! So, not only will Spurs have to exceed expectations during their final six game run, but they will also have to hope Leicester City experience a complete and total collapse. Let’s look at Leicester’s remaining schedule to better gauge Spurs’ title chances.
Leicester City F.C.
4/10 (A) v. Sunderland
4/17 (H) v. West Ham United
4/24 (H) v. Swansea City
5/1 (A) v. Manchester United
5/7 (H) v. Everton
5/15 (A) v. Chelsea
Key Games: Manchester United (A) & Chelsea (A)
Leicester City began the Premier League season strong, but was giving up an alarming amount of goals. In fact, it wasn’t until October 24th, Matchday 10, when Leicester City finally earned a clean sheet against Crystal Palace (Ranieri). Before shutting out Crystal Palace two months into the season, Leicester had allowed 17 goals in 9 games, good for 3rd worst in the Premier League (Premier League). Because of Leicester’s early high scoring affairs, it looked as though Leicester would eventually flame out and return to mid-table mediocrity. Jamie Vardy, coming out of complete obscurity, has lead Leicester City’s attack with 19 goals in the Premier League thus far. Perhaps the most important trait of a title winning side, however, is a strong, cohesive defense; if Leicester hadn’t shored up their defense, they would have assuredly fallen off among England’s elite.
Something changed, however, after the Foxes’ clean sheet victory at the King Power Stadium. Before their game against Crystal Palace, having given up almost two goals per game, Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri promised his team a pizza party if they pulled off the clean sheet (Ranieri). Since then, behind the play of Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kanté, and Jamie Vardy, Leicester City have achieved 12 clean sheets in 23 games en-route to a 7 point lead atop the vaunted Premier League Table (Premier League). Midfielder N’Golo Kanté, providing a non-stop engine, has continually disrupted attacks of opposing teams. Moreover, the emerging centerback partnership of Robert Huth & Wes Morgan has made scoring against the Foxes an almost insurmountable task. Leicester City’s counter attacking mentality, lead by Riyad Mahrez, has shown footballing pundits that possession based soccer isn’t everything – even in the most competitive league in the world.
Now with only six games to go, Leicester City looked primed to maintain their lead and take home the Premier League title for the first time in the club’s 132 year history (World Football). Recently, the Foxes have been steadily producing 1-0 wins, a stark contrast from their high-scoring form early in the season. Like Spurs, Leicester have the benefit of only having Premier League fixtures left on their schedule, having already been eliminated from the F.A. Cup (by Spurs). Moreover, the Foxes are the healthiest team of the current top 6, with only one player injured: Jeffrey Schlupp, a backup left back (PhysioRoom). Leicester City’s key players have been able to stay healthy for the entirety of the season, perhaps being aided by not having to compete in the grueling European competitions. The Foxes look almost certain to qualify for the Champions League, needing only one more victory, so it will be interesting to see how they fare in
the Premier League next season having to juggle the European competition as well.
With a seven point lead, Leicester City have plenty of room for error; Claudio Ranieri’s side can afford to lose two of their last six games, provided they win the remaining four. Essentially, if Leicester are to assure themselves a Premier League Title, they need to win at least three of their next six games. Tottenham Hotspur are capable of winning their remaining six fixtures, but they will likely falter at least once in their pursuit of Leicester. Just one Spurs loss will significantly improve Leicester’s improbable title chances.
Leicester’s first game of their six game stretch comes against relegation fighting Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. The surging Foxes should continue their impressive streak of clean sheets en route to an easy win. West Ham United, however, may prove to be a difficult task for Leicester City. With Dmitri Payet back from injury and in great form, West Ham United are currently in 6th place and in pursuit of a Champions League bid next season (Premier League). Fortunately for Leicester, they get the Hammers at home, where the Foxes have the best record in the Premier League (Premier League). At the very least, expect a draw from the feisty Foxes to remain in first place position atop the table.
Swansea City are an interesting side this season, finding victories against Arsenal and Manchester United, but losing more often than not to lowly sides like Sunderland and Norwich City (Premier League). The reverse fixture between Leicester and Swansea City finished in a 3-0 rout in favor of the Foxes (Pritchard). That game was at Liberty Stadium. Leicester should have no trouble disposing of the Welsh side again, this time at the comforts of the King Power Stadium.
Manchester United, next on Leicester City’s schedule, have the least goals allowed this season at home this season (7) (Premier League). For all their offensive inconsistencies, no one can deny Manchester United’s defensive prowess at Old Trafford. Manchester United and manager Louis Van Gaal are still trying to achieve a place in the Champions League, and if Wayne Rooney can return in May, the Red Devils will have an excellent chance of knocking off the streaking Foxes. United goalkeeper David De Gea will certainly have his hands full with the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, but given Manchester United’s unbelievable defense at home this year, one can expect Leicester to drop their fourth game of the season in a low scoring loss.
Everton, much like Tottenham, seem to continually be on the verge of a top four finish in the Premier League. This season, however, the Toffees find themselves in 12th place, ten points off a position in the Europa League (Premier League). Even with Everton’s struggles this season, Roberto Martinez’s club has a positive goal differential with the help of young striker Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian talisman has netted 18 goals thus far in the Premier League, good for fourth among all players (ESPN FC). Conversely, American goalkeeper Tim Howard has been largely ineffective for Everton this season, losing his starting spot midway through the season to Joel Robles. Take away Lukaku, and Everton simply do not have enough firepower to get past Leicester’s recently unbeatable defense. Expect Leicester’s defense to focus on the Belgian striker, coming away with a crucial victory after a tough game against Manchester United the week prior.
Leicester’s last game of the season fittingly comes against Chelsea, last year’s Premier League champions. Chelsea have struggled mightily this season, sacking
manager Jose Mourinho and finding themselves out of Champions League contention for the first time since the 2011 season (ChelseaFC). Recently, however, the Blues have found surprisingly good form, achieving the second most points in the Premier League in the last six games (Premier League). Like Tottenham, Leicester City have the tough task of traveling to Stamford Bridge. There is a significant chance that Leicester will have already clinched the Premier League title by this time, but if the championship comes down to the last day, Leicester may be in some trouble. Tottenham have a relatively easy game against 19th place Newcastle. Leicester can not afford to lose their last game to the Blues if they are to hold off Spurs for the Premier League Title. If the title race comes down to the last Matchday, expect Leicester to hunker down defensively and attempt to counter-attack the talented London side.
Leicester City are the odds on favorite to win the 2015/16 Premier League Title, a statement many – including myself – would have dismissed and laughed off at the start of the season. If they can continue their defensive form and counter-attacking prowess, there is no doubt that they will win England’s top prize and complete the ultimate underdog story.
4/10 (A) v. Sunderland W 2-0
4/17 (H) v. West Ham United D 1-1
4/24 (H) v. Swansea City W 1-0
5/1 (A) v. Manchester United L 2-1
5/7 (H) v. Everton W 2-0
5/15 (A) v. Chelsea D 0-0
Leicester City finish with 80 Points and win the Premier League Title
Leicester City will need to experience a complete collapse if they are to surrender their position a top the Premier League Table. Claudio Ranieri’s ambitious side look primed to complete a storybook season of the century. Before the season started, Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy, and N’Golo Kante were completely unknown commodities. Now, in complete control of the most competitive soccer league in the world, people across the world have recognized their improbable skill and quality. I for one can not wait until next season, when Leicester get to face off against Europe’s elite in the UEFA Champions League. This Premier League season has been truly unique, but the best has yet to come.
BBC Sport. “Premier League Fixtures.” BBC Sport. British Broadcasting Company, 2016. Web.
ChelseaFC. “Club History.” Chelsea FC. Yokohama. 2016. Web.
Chowdhury, Saj. “Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 West Bromwich Albion.” BBC Sport. British Broadcasting Company, 21 Sept. 2014. Web.
Dawkes, Phil. “Southampton 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur.” BBC Sport. British Broadcasting Company, 19 Dec. 2015. Web.
ESPN FC. “Premier League Leading Scorers.” ESPN FC. ESPN. 2016. Web
Hafez, Shamoon. “Tottenham Hostpur 0-0 Chelsea.” BBC Sport. British Broadcasting Company, 29 Nov. 2015. Web.
McNulty, Phil. “Leicester City 2-1 Chelsea.” BBC Sport. British Broadcasting Company, 14 Dec. 2015. Web.
PhysioRoom. “English Premier League Injury Table.” PhysioRoom. PhysioRoom, 2016. Web.
Premier League. “Club Form Guide.” The Official Website of the Barclays Premier League. Barclays, 2016. Web.
Premier League. “Premier League Table.” The Official Website of the Barclays Premier League. Barclays, 2016. Web.
Pritchard, Dafydd. “Swansea City 0-3 Leicester City.” BBC Sport. British Broadcasting Company, 5 Dec. 2015. Web.
Ranieri, Claudio. “We Do Not Dream.” The Players Tribune. Jeter, 6 Apr. 2016. Web.
World Football. “Premier League – Champions.” WorldFootball. HEIM: SPIEL, 2016. Web.