Although there is no EPL action this weekend due to the round of international friendlies, next weekend’s return sees the English top flight run through to the end of the season without breaks and we could be on the verge of seeing one of the greatest shocks in football history. Leicester lead the rest of the league by five points. Can The Foxes continue to lead the pace with seven games remaining and take their first Premier League title or will one of the chasing pack catch them and end their dreams?
We take a look at the run-in for all the challenging sides and predict who’ll be the 2015/16 EPL Champions with online sportsbook Bet365.com.
It has been a hell of a year for The Foxes as at the start of April in 2015 they were facing the real prospect of relegation from the Premier League to The Championship as they had just four wins and 19 points to their name from 29 matches. However, manager Nigel Pearson managed to motivate his players to record seven wins and one draw in their final nine matches of the season to see them finish 14th in the table to secure another season in the top flight. The summer did not go well for the lauded manager as following an incident in pre-season saw three players fired, including Pearson’s son, and this saw the club and manager part ways.
Many saw this as a bad sign as the club had ended the season so well as this may very well lead them into the second tier of English football, but the board brought in former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri and the Italian has taken the club to the verges of an unbelievable story. He has bought well, with the addition of Christian Fuchs and Robert Huth in defence, N’Golo Kanté in midfield and Shinji Okazaki up front all bringing massive upgrades to the side.
Kanté in particular has been a powerhouse running the Leicester midfielder as he runs non-stop from box to box and this has allowed Riyad Mahrez to score 16 EPL goals and create a further 11. Ranieri has also devised the perfect game for goalscorer Jamie Vardy, who was playing non-league football in 2012, to score 19 times for his side and even be called up for England, where he scored the second goal against Germany on Saturday night.
Leicester started the season with a flourish as their gameplan was to outscore their opposition and as the season has gone on they have tightened up at the back with this seeing them win four of their last five matches 1-0 while they have suffered just three league defeats all season. They are performing exceptionally in all areas of the park right now and they will need to keep this up if they are take their first ever top flight title. They have tough games still to come with Southampton and West Ham to visit The King Power Stadium as well as away games at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge, but if they can take all three points in the winnable games against Sunderland, Swansea and Everton then we can see the title being theirs.
While the story of a side that was weeks away from relegation last season being within touching distance of lifting the EPL title this season has taken all of the attention in the Premier League this season the story of the passing of the torch in North London has passed largely unnoticed outside of the capital. Tottenham come into their final seven games of the season six points clear of their local rivals and just five points behind Leicester knowing that a stutter or stumble by the league leaders could see them get their head across the line first to lift their first top flight title since 1961.
They have all but matched the pace setters in the league with the difference caused by one extra draw and one extra defeat compared to The Foxes, and with them approaching their final seven games with no more Europa League action following their recent exit at the hands of Borussia Dortmund and eight wins from their last ten EPL games they will be confident of victory.
The reason for their brilliant form this season has been the trust that manager Mauricio Pochettino has in the youth players at the club. 13 of the 24 man EPL squad for Tottenham this season have come through the ranks at the club, including three of their most important players in Harry Kane – who leads the goalscorer rankings with 21 goals this season – Dele Alli and Eric Dier. All three of these players played vital roles in England’s 3-2 win over Germany on Saturday and, along with Leicester’s Jamie Vardy, will certainly play big parts at the European Championships.
The advantage that Tottenham have over Leicester is their togetherness and team spirit that comes from the working as one at the club for several years already at youth levels. However, they do arguably have a tougher run in than Leicester with away games at Liverpool, Stoke and Chelsea while welcoming Manchester United and Southampton to White Hart Lane as well as winnable games against West Brom and Newcastle. They will be a position to pounce should Leicester and if they do not win this title they are sure to win one in the future, but with a difficult run-in we see it being difficult for them to make up the five point gap to The Foxes in these final seven matches.
The Gunners are currently 11 points off the top of the table and while they have a game in hand over Leicester and Tottenham will eight points be too big of a gap for the side that has not won the title since 2004?
They did defeat Leicester on Valentine’s Day but the following six weeks of action in all competitions has seen Arsenal’s season collapse. Since that late, late win at The Emirates Stadium Arsenal have won just two of their nine games and have exited both the Champions League and the FA Cup, which they were defending. They have won just one EPL match during these six weeks and have fallen right off the pace, with their defence leaking goals. They have conceded seven goals in four Premier League games since beating The Foxes and with their players lacking form and fitness the question is should Arsenal be looking behind them instead of ahead of them for the rest of the season?
If they can improve their form and morale they should be safe in the top four of the league and with a very easy looking set of fixtures to go as they welcome Watford, Crystal Palace, West Brom, Norwich and Aston Villa while are away at West Ham, Sunderland and Man City may be able to close the gap at the top too. Can Arsene Wenger motivate his men though?
City are another side that are currently off the boil in the EPL with them coming in their final eight games of the season with just a single win to their name in their last six league games and while they are into the Champions League Quarter Finals for the first time in their history they are struggling for goals domestically with them failing to score in three of their last four Premier League games. They are a further four points off the pace of Arsenal, seeing them 15 points behind Leicester, and even with a game in hand things are looking difficult for City to claim their third title in five seasons.
As well as failing to score goals recently City have been leaking goals all season and as they have once again lost captain Vincent Kompany to injury they have a tendency to looking like Sunday league footballers at the back. Despite these issues Man City, like Arsenal, have a much easier final eight fixtures of their campaign than the top two sides in the league with only the away match at Chelsea and a home game against Arsenal promising to be tough tasks. The rest of the clashes before manager Manuel Pellegrini exits the club to be replaced by Sergio Aguero should be winnable games but, as the Bet365 odds for City to lift the title suggest, they appear to be too far behind right now.
Both of these sides are a point behind Man City and have an extra game in hand over Leicester and Tottenham, but even with this they are unlikely to challenge for the title due to the distance between them and the summit. This is especially true for Manchester United who have had a very inconsistent season that has seen them record some fine wins, but also lose Sunderland and Norwich who are very much in the relegation fight.
However, West Ham are a different proposition as under Slaven Bilic they are going from strength to strength and if they are win their FA Cup replay against United they will pay a visit to Wembley this season. Their final eight games of the season sees five matches on home soil and while they do have difficult games against Arsenal and away at Leicester to come we would not be surprised to see them muscle in on the top four spots ahead of the out of form Gunners and injury hit Manchester City.
EPL Title Picks Final Thoughts:
Just as the odds suggest in the EPL title race for this 2015/16 season we feel that we will see a side add their name to the list of Premier League winners that is Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. The gap for Arsenal and Man City, especially combined with their other issues, is far too great to see them challenge Leicester or Tottenham for the title and we cannot see Leicester foregoing their advantage as they are playing like champions at the moment as they are winning even when they are performing at their best.
We are backing them to lift the title and stun the footballing world by achieving something that was available at odds of 5001.00 at the start of the season! However, we also have a tip for The Hammers too that offers a much better price than The Foxes to win the title at this late stage of the season.
Our top EPL Picks on the title race are as follows:
Leicester to win the 2015/16 Premier League title @ 1.53 with Bet365.com
West Ham to finish in the top four of the EPL at odds of 6.50 in the Bet365 Sportsbook!