Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur find themselves embroiled in an enthralling title race, with one of the most unpredictable and dramatic Premier League seasons set for a tense finish as both teams have their sights on the finish line. Both teams have been a credit to themselves and English football, and while critics have been quick to point out that all of the big guns have majorly underperformed, it should take nothing away from two clubs who have surpassed all expectations to challenge at the summit. Claudio Ranieri’s team, who were rated as 5000/1 long shots with Betway to win the title before a ball had been kicked, have established a commanding lead at the top, but the upcoming weekend could prove to be make-or-break in deciding the destination of the 2015/2016 Premier League title.
Leicester City have been a revelation this season, with a team who narrowly survived relegation in their previous campaign achieving something than even they never thought was possible. Many neutrals are hoping to see a fitting ending to what has been a fairytale story that may even be turned into a box office film, such has been the feat of their achievements. Lifting the Premier League trophy may be just the tip of the iceberg for a club that will be playing Champions League football next season, but even if they fall short in their quest to become champions, they deserve all the praise that comes their way and should take nothing but pride away from what they have achieved. They have managed to power forward despite many waiting for them to slip up, with their fantastic 4-0 victory against Swansea providing yet another example of a team that are playing as champions.
Ranieri has been calm and collected throughout Leicester’s unbelievable season, and while his warm persona and colourful personality has resulted in numerous funny interviews, recent signs of emotions merely reflect a man who is beginning to realise what he is on the brink of achieving. Questions were raised when the Italian replaced Nigel Pearson at the King Power Stadium after he was sacked after less than 4 months in charge of the Greece national team, but it has proved to be a masterstroke. He has proved that it does not take millions of pounds to build a team that is capable of winning the Premier League title; Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez are proof, if needed, that football clubs can unearth rough diamonds at a low price, with the latter, who has just been crowned PFA Player of the Year, costing just £500,000.
Leicester City will certainly receive another strong test of their title credentials when they travel to face an in-form Manchester United side at Old Trafford on Sunday, with both teams needing the three points for contrasting reasons. Louis Van Gaal’s side have been given an outside chance of finishing in the top four thanks to Arsenal’s slump in form, and are unlikely to roll over against the Premier League leaders. Ranieri will know that his team will have to be at their very best to get a result – one that could prove crucial on a weekend in which their closest rivals travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea on Monday night. Tottenham may fancy their chances due to the superb form they are currently enjoying, but Guus Hiddink’s side are usually strong on home soil and will not fancy the prospect of losing a London derby. It could, therefore, be a make-or-break weekend for the title contenders, and although some fans are including Betway’s Premier League odds as a way of trying to predict which one will prevail at the end of the season, it promises to be a tense and dramatic couple of days for two teams who are so close to lifting the trophy.
While Leicester City are certainly deserving of all the praise that has flooded their way, Tottenham Hotspur have emerged as the major force in North London after many years of being in Arsenal’s shadow. Mauricio Pochettino’s team have been fantastic to watch, with their young stars continuing to shine for club and country; Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier have been pivotal in Tottenham’s surge up the table, while Toby Alderweireld has established himself as one of the best centre-backs in Europe. They may find themselves playing catch-up to the league leaders, but even if Tottenham fail to bridge the gap this season, there is no question that they deserve to be considered among the contenders next season. Pochettino has successfully moulded a team that are not only strong at the back and tough to break down, but also one that can attack with considerable pace through highly-talented players such as Alli who can unlock any Premier League defence. Alli, who has just been deservedly crowned PFA Young Player of the Year, is another example of a young star who has been picked up from the lower leagues and transformed into a top quality player.
Travelling to Chelsea with a no fear approach may be the best way forward for a Tottenham side full of confidence, with their 4-0 hammering of Stoke illustrating just how powerful they have become. It will be the first time in twenty-one years that Tottenham enjoy bragging rights in North London for finishing above Arsenal, and while that alone is enough reason to celebrate a successful season, crowning it off with the Premier League title would be the icing on the cake. Knowing that Leicester have to face Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea in their remaining fixtures may provide an element of hope that Tottenham can climb above Ranieri’s men if they carry their fantastic form into their last three games. However, they have reached a point of no return; Pochettino’s team will have to realistically win every game during the run-in to stand any chance of finishing the season as Premier League champions, and if they fail to pick up three points at Chelsea, irrespective of how Leicester fare at Old Trafford, then the title will not be lifted at White Hart Lane.
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