We’re in to the business end of the season and the title race is as crazy as it has ever been.
Not because it’s close or because it has so many teams still in the hunt, but purely because two of the most unlikely of title contenders are well in with a chance of being crowned Champions of England.
Ok, so Tottenham aren’t really unlikely challengers but weren’t anyone’s favourites to still be in with a chance come the end of March. No, come on, they weren’t were they?
But the big story is Leicester City. Those little rascals coming out of no where and directly on the back of relegation battle and coming within just a few games of winning the Premier League. No one saw them coming, which makes it even more beautiful than it already is.
It’s an incredible story, especially as they were the bookies’ favourites to go down before a ball was even kicked this season. They were 5000/1 to win it and we’ve already heard of Leicester fans cashing out for thousands as they begin to bottle the big cash prize in May.
They’re five points clear of Tottenham with just seven games left of the season. Can they really win the Premier League?
Well, this is what our best writers think of it all…
The chasm opened up between the Foxes and Spurs is too much even for Pochettino’s side. People seem to be hanging on to Leicester’s tricky final three fixtures as a last ditch hope to avoid seeing Jamie Vardy lift the title, but it’s too little too late now.
Only injury to Kante or Mahrez could bring their title credentials into doubt and there is little to suggest that the Foxes will suddenly have an outbreak of injuries after their physically perfect campaign to date.
Half the country will be regretting their pre-season predictions but Spurs would have to win all of their seven remaining games if they are to topple Ranieri’s side and, even then, Leicester would have to drop more points in their final seven than they have in their previous nine.
Spurs will be back to mount a title challenge next year, but it is Manchester City and Arsenal who are left red faced as a result of this remarkable title victory.
They said the bubble would burst upon facing the Premier League big boys. It didn’t. They said the bubble would burst during the ever-overloaded Christmas period. It didn’t. They said the bubble would burst against rank and file sides who’d settle for a scoreless draw. It didn’t. Now five points ahead of the pack with just seven fixtures remaining, it’s not going to burst now.
And in truth, Leicester are the only side to have genuinely relished the challenge of being title favourites this season. Chelsea, City, Arsenal and even Spurs all buckled under the pressure, but the Foxes are playing with so much confidence, energy and organisation that I just can’t see them suffering the same fate. Right now, they’re seeing out games like seasoned title winners.
Likewise, sometimes in football, it just feels like history/fate/karma, whatever you want to call it, is on someone’s side. The footballing gods are firmly working in Leicester’s favour at the moment and unless those gods turn out to be more Old Testament than New, possessing a lust for cruelty, misery and crushed dreams, I can’t see why they’d stop now.
As a Spurs fan I would love to say that it could be the North London club’s time to be English champions for the first time since 1961.
However, with seven games remaining and a five-point lead at the top of the table, I am predicting that Leicester will finish the fairytale and go down in history by winning the Premier League against all the odds.
Losing only three games all season shows that the Foxes have been the most consistent team throughout the campaign and their recent winning form shows no signs of letting up.
I think the five-point lead will subside as tricky fixtures stack up for Claudio Ranieri’s side, but I’d love to see the Italian confirm Leicester’s title success against old club Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on the final day of the season.
All season long Leicester have made fools of everyone who said that the bubble would burst, myself included. So predicting their demise now that they are five points clear at the top of the table and have only seven games to go, seems arrogant and possibly foolish. But at least I’m sticking to my guns, right?
Manchester United were eight points clear with only six games to go in 2012, a better position than Leicester’s current one, yet they still lost out to Manchester City. As experienced as United were in title run-ins, they collapsed over the last few games of the season and lost out to a team winning their first title in 44 years.
There will be twists and turns before the end of the season, and throughout the whole season Leicester have been scaling the heights and trying not to look down – it’s now all about whether they do. I think they will, and I think Tottenham will be there to capitalise. When Man City won the title in 2014, they spent just 11 days in first place, Spurs could weave a similar pattern. I hope I am wrong.
I desperately want to see Leicester get over the line. With my team, Liverpool, having been out of the running for the whole campaign, I’ve watched the Foxes with bated breath all season long, and started to believe after they emerged from that run of games that saw them beat Liverpool, Manchester City and narrowly lose at Arsenal.
The pessimist in me worries that the sheer magnitude of the achievement on the not too distant horizon may eventually hit home, but it’s worth remembering that this team have been playing this well for a season and a half now, and seem capable of grinding out results as well as battering sides when given the time and space on the counter-attack.
For me Manchester City are long gone, Arsenal have been weakened significantly mentally by recent losses and Spurs’ ability to pick up at least four points from Liverpool and Man United (their next two games) is questionable.
Of course football can make fools of us all, but I really hope Leicester don’t become the punch line of a great title race.
You can only fight these things for so long and Lord knows I am a weak man.
I didn’t want Leicester to win the league. I don’t know why ‘want’ comes into it but this whole football thing is apparently an inherently emotional pastime.
I didn’t want Leicester to win the league because I couldn’t imagine that they actually would. Leicester City winning the Premier League didn’t compute in my little head that kept reverting to such supposed known truths as ‘the strength of City’s first XI’ and ‘Arsenal’s attacking depth’ in some hope that if I repeated these phrases often enough this whole nightmare scenario of an actual underdog winning in an era where money equates to success would end.
But it hasn’t worked. Leicester are five points clear with seven to play and haven’t dropped out of this race at any of the usual points where they were supposed to. You either have to be very brave or very foolish to stick with your presuppositions when faced with a mountain of evidence to the contrary. And The Lord knows I’m nothing if not a coward.
In a season that has defied all logic, the closing stages are seeing a return to the kind of cliche that has summed up those previous. For now, Leicester City are grinding results out when not playing particularly well on their way to winning the title.
The nature of this campaign has us all expecting one last twist, though the Foxes are showing no signs of being caught. Nerves are bound to kick in as they close in on becoming the most unlikely usurpers English football has ever seen, though they are crucially still winning.
Tottenham Hotspur will no doubt run them close, but it seems as if Claudio Ranieri has done enough to see his side over the line.