The title race analysed: Will Leicester, Man City, Tottenham or Arsenal come out on top?

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Leicester continue to defy the odds and, after beating Liverpool 2-0 on Tuesday night, remain top of the Premier League, three points clear of the chasing pack.

Can Manchester City, Tottenham or Arsenal catch them? There are just five points separating the top four and, with key contests between the quartet to come, plus more twists and turns yet to unfold, the title race appears tough to call.

We take a closer look at the key factors which will decide the outcome…

Premier League table

Team

Points

Goal difference
Leicester 50 18
Man City 47 23
Tottenham 45 25
Arsenal 45 15

Head-to-heads

There are some blockbuster, potentially title-deciding fixtures to come in the final stage of the season between the Premier League’s leading teams. Leicester travel to Manchester City on Saturday and then face Arsenal at the Emirates live on Sky Sports the following Sunday, in a double header which will put their title credentials to the ultimate test.

Like Leicester, Man City also follow their Etihad showdown with Claudio Ranieri’s side with a tough test against a title challenger; they host Tottenham on the same Sunday, again live on Sky Sports. Another key fixture for Manuel Pellegrini’s men will be their clash at home to Arsenal on the penultimate weekend of the season. The meeting has been earmarked as a potential title-decider since the fixture list was announced last summer. But will both teams still be in touching distance of Leicester by that point?

As well as City and Leicester, Arsenal must travel to White Hart Lane to take on Tottenham on March 5. The Gunners have already won once there this season in the Capital One Cup. They may need to do so again to keep their title hopes on track.

Top four remaining fixtures

Leicester

Man City

Tottenham

Arsenal
Man City (a) Leicester (h) Watford (h) Bournemouth (a)
Arsenal (a) Tottenham (h) Man City (a) Leicester (h)
Norwich (h) Newcastle (a) Swansea (h) Man Utd (a)
West Brom (h) Liverpool (a) West Ham (a) Swansea (h)
Watford (a) Aston Villa (h) Arsenal (h) Tottenham (a)
Newcastle (h) Norwich (a) Aston Villa (a) West Brom (h)
Crystal Palace (a) Man Utd (h) Bournemouth (h) Everton (a)
Southampton (h) Bournemouth (a) Liverpool (a) Watford (h)
Sunderland (a) West Brom (h) Man Utd (h) West Ham (a)
West Ham (h) Chelsea (a) Stoke (a) Crystal Palace (h)
Swansea (h) Stoke (h) West Brom (h) Sunderland (a)
Man Utd (a) Southampton (a) Chelsea (a) Norwich (h)
Everton (h) Arsenal (h) Southampton (h) Man City (a)
Chelsea (a) Swansea (a) Newcastle (a) Aston Villa (h)

Toughest run-in

When it comes to tough run-ins, they don’t get much harder than Leicester’s. If the Foxes haven’t wrapped up the title by then, they’ll need to take points from a trip to Manchester United, a home game with Everton and a final-day visit to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

In contrast, Arsenal, as well as their trip to Man City, face home games with Norwich and Aston Villa. City’s final three games include away games at Southampton and Swansea, while Spurs also play two of their final three on the road, with trips to Chelsea and Newcastle sandwiching their home clash with Southampton.

Other commitments

Leicester hold a potentially crucial advantage over their title rivals: they have just 14 games left to concentrate on this season. Out of the FA Cup and League Cup and with no European commitments, Ranieri and his coaching staff are free to focus solely on Leicester’s weekly Premier League test.

In contrast, Man City have a potential 26 games remaining, with their Capital One Cup final, Champions League knockout phase and FA Cup run keeping them occupied. Tottenham have one more than that, with their potential nine Europa League ties and four FA Cup contests taking their tally to 27.

Arsenal could also have up to 25 games to consider, should their FA Cup and Champions League involvement continue. All of which, plays into the hands of Leicester.

Injury problems

When it comes to injuries, Manchester City have cause for concern. According to physioroom.com, City have the joint-highest number of injuries at present in the Premier League. Seven City players are in the treatment room: Vincent Kompany, Kevin de Bruyne, Jesus Navas, Wilfried Bony, Samir Nasri, Fabian Delph and Eliaquim Mangala.

Arsenal – who are recovering from a difficult period with key players sidelined – and Tottenham are currently in better shape, with four players out injured each. However, it is Leicester who are faring best in this category. At this point, Ranieri has virtually a full squad of players to choose from; only Matty James and Jeff Schlupp are in the treatment room.

Title-winning experience

With just five points separating the top four, title-winning experience could prove decisive. Man City have plenty of that. Champions just two seasons ago, many of the City squad have formed the foundations of a team which have won the Premier League twice in the past four seasons. Manuel Pellegrini, a title winner in his first season in England by just two points, knows what it takes to get over the line.

Arsene Wenger is of course a three-time Premier League winner, but such has been the gap since Arsenal’s 2003/04 title win, of the current squad, only Petr Cech and Danny Welbeck have experience of lifting the trophy (with Chelsea and Manchester United, respectively).

A Premier League win would be a first for Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino and his squad, while Leicester will be leaning on the experience of two-time winner Robert Huth, who was a champion during his Chelsea days. Foxes boss Ranieri has never won a top flight league during his long management career.

Form

Tottenham, Leicester and Man City occupy three of the top four spots in the Premier League table – but the other place isn’t occupied by Arsenal.

The Gunners have failed to score in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since February 2009. In contrast, the other title chasers – and their key men – are on fire.

After netting three times in his past two games, Leicester’s Jamie Vardy has 18 league goals this season – just one fewer than Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Luis Suarez.

Tottenham’s Dele Alli has had a hand in 10 goals in his last 13 Premier League games (six goals, four assists), while his team-mate Harry Kane has scored 14 goals in his last 15 Premier League appearances – after managing just three in his 17 league appearances prior to this run.

Sergio Aguero, meanwhile, remains as prolific as ever for Man City. The striker has 12 goals in his last 10 Premier League games.

Can Arsenal’s main men rediscover the scoring touch? And which of Leicester, Man City and Tottenham will be able to sustain their current streaks long enough to clinch the crown?

Conclusion

Going into the final straight Leicester – incredibly and against all the odds – are in prime position, three points clear of their challengers and with a significantly lighter workload. However, Ranieri’s side face tough consecutive away days at Man City and Arsenal and their run-in, on paper, is harder than the rest.

Man City are well-placed, though, with the experience of clinching tight title races. The fitness of Aguero will remain central to their hopes – and their other injury concerns to key figures such as Kompany and De Bruyne cannot be ignored.

As for Tottenham, could their young team – on average the youngest in the division – pull off a Premier League title win? To all those who say it is a step too far too soon for 19-year-old Alli and co, will point to their remarkable form, which has seen them defeated just three times in 24 outings this season. A goal difference of +25 – the highest of all four – is in their advantage, too.

Arsenal, though, were not so long ago top of the table and seemingly on course to end their title wait. With FA Cup and Champions League commitments resurfacing, can Wenger’s side re-find their rhythm which saw them win 10 out of 14 Premier League games from September?

Much like this Premier League season as a whole, the title race remains unpredictable.

All four teams will be in action live on Sky Sports on Sunday, February 14, when Arsenal host Leicester and Tottenham travel to Man City. Ahead of the huge weekend, Thierry Henry and Jamie Redknapp will be on Sky Sports News’ The Morning View between 10am and 12pm on Friday, February 12 to preview the games.

source:skysports.com

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