A third of the season has gone. The table is starting to take shape. It’s called the greatest league in the world because it’s the most competitive and this season the EPL is living up to its reputation.
So it’s time for a review and closer look at the contenders for the top and those destined for the drop with a look ahead to all of this weekend’s EPL matches.
Leapfrogging Leicester confound
Before the campaign kicked off no-one would have predicted the surreal sight after 13 games of champions Chelsea languishing in 15th place and 14 points behind a team who escaped relegation, sacked their manager and now sit top.
But unfashionable underdogs Leicester City continue to confound pundits, punters and online football tipsters and they leapfrogged Manchester City and Arsenal to take the top-spot with a 3-0 demolition of Newcastle.
Foxes’ Vardy eyes Ruud’s record
Hotshot Jamie Vardy was once again on the score sheet and equalled Ruud van Nistlerooy’s Premier League record of scoring in ten consecutive games. The 28-year-old has been a revelation this season and key to the Foxes success under new boss Claudio Ranieri.
Leicester have earned their place at the head of the table as the EPL’s top scorers and are on a four game winning streak. They’ve only lost once and drawn four and Vardy will have the chance to claim the outright record when the Foxes take on van Nistlerooy’s former side, second placed Manchester United on Saturday evening.
United are ‘boring’ but title contenders
Louis Van Gaal’s men overtook rivals Man City and Arsenal to go second with a last gasp 2-1 win at Watford. They are title contenders thanks to recent results that have helped silence some criticism for their ‘boring’ play. Under Van Gaal United may not be exciting fans with the all out attacking play that’s won them so many supporters and trophies, but they are still racking up the points and only Leicester and Spurs can boast fewer defeats.
Arsenal count cost
Arsenal’s capitulation to West Brom cost them the chance of top spot and the injury picked up by Coquelin could end up costing manager Arsene Wenger far more. The Gunners’ best defensive midfielder is out for the next three months and football tipsters may be rethinking Arsenal’s title chances given Wenger’s annual failure to sign a recognised player to fill that role. Arsenal visit 16th placed Norwich on Sunday and can expect a battle against the side beaten 1-0 by a reinvigorated Chelsea last weekend.
City slip, Reds dare to dream
Manchester City return from Juventus to take on sixth placed Southampton on Sunday. Ronald Koeman’s men were last season’s Leicester – Southampton were second in the table at this stage last year – and he’ll be hoping to heap even more pressure on City boss Manuel Pelligrini following the 4-1 humiliation inflicted by Liverpool that saw City slip to third in the table.
Jurgen Klopp’s transformation of Liverpool has got Reds’ fans, bettors and tipsters thinking about a top four finish and some are even daring to dream of perhaps even better. Despite being eight points behind Leicester, ninth placed Liverpool just might be gearing up for another long winning run. They visit 14th placed Swansea on Sunday following their Europa League match and the Welsh side will need at least a share of the points to ease some of the pressure being applied to their under fire manager Gary Monk.
Fit to be contenders
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino has bemoaned Sunday’s early kick-off against Chelsea given his side’s travels in the Europa League compared to the extra two days rest afforded Mourinho’s men. Pochettino’s concerned because Spurs’ success is built on their fitness and ability to put opponents under pressure. They’ve lost just once all season but are only fifth in the league having dropped valuable points in six draws. With Harry Kane starting to find the net again and their 4-1 hammering of West Ham, Spurs are starting to maximise their points haul with victories and emerge as contenders. On Sunday they have the chance on Sunday to dispose of champions Chelsea and consign more Premier League misery on Mourinho.
Never has the Portuguese manager lost more than seven games in one season but with only four wins and two draws in 13 games, Mourinho has already managed that this year. Last season Chelsea won the league on 87 points. If they win every one of their remaining 25 matches they can reach 89.
Hammers’ falling form is Toffees’ fancy
The Hammers are sixth but without a win in their last three and Sunday’s opponents West Brom will be looking to extend that unenviable losing run in the same manner that they ended Arsenal’s six game winning run. Defeat for West Ham could see them fall all the way to 11th, such is the tightness between the teams below them.
Everton are just one point behind the Hammers in seventh and the Toffees will fancy their chances against relegation threatened Bournemouth. Everton spanked the league’s bottom team Aston Villa 4-0 last time out and could repeat the feat against second bottom Bournemouth given the form of Kone, Lukaku, Barclay et al.
Black Cats and Geordies
Sunderland occupy the third relegation place but football tipsters have pointed to Sam Allardyce’s appointment as manager and Monday’s win over Crystal Palace as reasons for the Black Cats to be optimistic. Mid table Stoke will be a tough test as Mark Hughes men look to make it three wins in a row.
Newcastle are likeliest to take Sunderland’s unwanted position in the drop zone given an abject display from Steve McLaren’s men in the 3-0 defeat by Leicester. The Geordies travel to take on Alan Pardew’s tenth placed Palace on Saturday and McLaren could go the same way as Tim Sherwood did at Villa if his side don’t show a vast improvement from recent displays.
A future king, prime minister and the club set to drop
Sherwood was sacked and replaced by Remi Garde and the new French boss has a Herculean task to revive a Villa side already looking doomed for the drop. The club can count Britain’s future king and its current Prime Minister among their fans but they have amassed only five points from their first 13 games. With just one win and ten defeats so far, Villa look odds-on for relegation and many online football tipsters are predicting exactly that. On Saturday they host 13th placed Watford, a team fresh from the disappointment of losing out to Manchester United due to a last minute own goal. A win for Villa will still leave them bottom but if they are to have a chance of survival and preserving their status as one of only seven clubs never to have been relegated from the Premier League, they must take all three points.
By: Joe Cahal