Sixteen rounds of matches to go in the 2015-16 Premier League season, and if there’s one thing we can comment regarding the title race right now is; we have no idea who will clinch the league title in May.
For now, Arsenal are on the league summit with 44 points in 22 matches, ahead of surprise package Leicester City on goal difference. Manchester City are one point behind, with Tottenham (39 points) and Manchester United (37 points) also remain within reasonable closing distance.
So, the million dollar question, who will win ultimately? Well, we still have no idea about that. But we have picked out the following six fixtures which can prove pivotal in the title challenge.
Manchester City vs. Leicester City
When: Feb. 6
Where: Etihad Stadium
The finishing line of the season will still remain too far away to predict this one a title decider match, but Manchester City’s home fixture against surprise-package Leicester City on 6th February might turn out to be a turning point in the title race this term.
Both the sides have two more games before this fixture, so the distance between City and Leicester should not be much more than the one point gap right now. Pellegrini’s men will be looking for a comprehensive victory to push themselves ahead of Leicester permanently, whereas the Foxes will eagerly wait to show their title credentials yet again.
The return fixture, which was sandwiched in the middle of a busy holiday period, ended in a goalless stalemate. As the stakes are so high now and time starting to run very short, we can predict the rematch producing more excitement from both the title contenders this time.
Arsenal vs. Leicester City
When: Feb. 13
Where: Emirates Stadium
The crunching fixture at the Etihad is first of the two important away trips for Leicester City. Only a week after, the Foxes will be making the trip south to London to play current league toppers Arsenal at the Emirates.
To say the two back to back matches are huge for Leicester would certainly be an understatement. Coming out as Winners from both away games would serve as the biggest sign that Claudio Ranieri’s boys are now up to the task. Whereas losing both may not end the Foxes’ title challenge but would be a huge blow.
All this season the naysayers have been waiting for Leicester to fall away under pressure ultimately. They haven’t yet, and their consistent performances prove we should not expect their downfall any time soon. Although the Gunners managed to win the return fixture 5-2 at the King Power Stadium, that defeat now seems a distant past and remains one half of Leicester’s total in the loss column all this term.
Ranieri’s team have been really tough to see off throughout this season, but this will be no doubt their toughest challenge so far.
Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur
When: Feb. 14
Where: Etihad Stadium
Just like Leicester City, Manchester City also have a crucial two-match stretch next month. One week after welcoming the Foxes, Citizens will host Tottenham at the Etihad for yet another showdown of title contenders.
The only difference lies in the fact that, unlike the Foxes, City will step into both the fixtures with home advantage. Winning these two games could give Manuel Pellegrini’s boys the ideal platform to launch a sustained run in Premier League despite recent ups and downs.
It would not be an easy task, though. In their return clash, Tottenham destroyed Manchester City 4-1 back in September.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal
When: March 5
Where: White Hart Lane
Are Tottenham really running hard in the title race? Mauricio Pochettino’s boys sit just five points adrift of the current leaders Arsenal, but haven’t been able to generate that much chatter compared to their north London rivals.
This record could change finally on 5th March, when Arsenal make an away trip to White Hart Lane for the second north London derby of the league in this season. Tottenham to some extent outplayed their neighbours for a major part of the first derby but had to settle for a 1-1 draw after Kieran Gibbs dramatically equalized 13 minutes from time rescuing the Gunners
If the gap between Arsenal and Tottenham remains somewhere near the five points, the return fixture of the north London derby could enforce greater implications than just bragging rights. It could prove a pivotal one in the Premier League title race.
Manchester City vs. Manchester United
When: March 19
Where: Etihad Stadium
Following Manchester United’s hard fought win over Liverpool at the weekend, Dutch manager Louis van Gaal himself raised questions about whether the title was still within reach for the Red Devils. He had very little doubt on the matter.
“The gap is seven points, he said, “We can overcome that, and so that’s what I’m thinking about.”
One important factor going in United’s favour is the fixture list. Between now and the end of this season, Manchester United will have their chance to beat each of the four sides ahead of them. The most important of these fixtures might be the second Manchester derby of the Premier League this term.
The match will be played on 19th March; 4 days after Manchester City will welcome Dynamo Kyiv in the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie. With fatigue potentially going against their arch rivals, Manchester United will be looking to make a strong statement on the enemy’s ground.
Manchester City vs. Arsenal
When: May 7
Where: Etihad Stadium
Of all the matches on this list, Manchester City’s home game against Arsenal on 7th May might become the most pivotal one at the end of the season.
Will it be a title decider? It could be.
With respect to Leicester City’s stunning achievement in this season, it’s completely fair to comment that Manchester City and Arsenal are the two most possible candidates to lift the Premier League silverware in May. Of all the title contenders, Wenger and Pellegrini certainly have the biggest and best squads in disposal, and both the teams are well-positioned to challenge each other.
That means this match could be immense. When Arsenal managed to beat Manchester City 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium back in December, Wenger’s men seemed to be the team to beat. But the gap between the two sides currently remains only one point.
Manchester City will be boosted by the advantage of playing this crunch match at home, just like the other three crucial matches; against Leicester, Tottenham and Manchester United. In other words, though Manuel Pellegrini’s boys haven’t managed to fully convince in this campaign, the fixture list somehow suggests they will have their say about who wins the league finally.