The final third of the 2015-16 Premier League is nearly upon us, as Tuesday and Wednesday’s league fixtures signal the 15-games-remaining point of an incredibly unpredictable campaign.
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As we enter the final four months of the season, four teams — Leicester City, Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur — presently sit within five points of one another at the top of the table. Over the course of the next six days, a four-team race could be whittled down to just three, or even two. (All games kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET, unless otherwise noted)
Leicester’s hellacious stretch could decide their season
Leicester City vs. Liverpool — Tuesday (NBCSN) — FULL PREVIEW
Liverpool (home), Man City (away), Arsenal (away) — that’s the harsh reality for league-leading Leicester over the next 12 days. They’ll either fall away from the top spot considerably, or they’ll grow their lead to as many as six or seven points, conservatively. On paper, Tuesday’s clash with 7th-place Liverpool is by far the easiest of the three fixtures. The Foxes will need Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, who combined for just one goal during all of January, to regain their early-season form in order to come through this stretch still standing.
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Are Spurs really title contenders?
Norwich City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — Tuesday (Premier League Extra Time)
It’s a question that might just be answered between Tuesday and Saturday, when Tottenham have a pair of massively winnable games against Norwich and Watford. If they can manage six points from those, they’ll likely gain ground on leaders Leicester City (more on them in a moment), who they currently trail by five points, and at the very worst keep pace with Arsenal and Manchester City, whom they trail by just two points each.
Man City’s response to Pellegrini’s departure, Pep’s impending arrival
Sunderland vs. Manchester City — Tuesday (Premier League Extra Time)
Man City’s season is going to go one of two ways, narratively: either they’re going to come together around Manuel Pellegrini, their fantastic manager for the last two and a half seasons, and go finish the season and title race strong; or, they’re going to look ahead to next season under Pep Guardiola, mentally check out on this season and fall away from the most wide open PL race of this century. The last 15 games of Pellegrini’s tenure begins Tuesday, away to 19th-place Sunderland, against whom they are unbeaten in four PL meetings dating back to 2013.
What does the future hold for Louis Van Gaal?
Manchester United vs. Stoke City — Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET (Premier League Extra Time
Now that the managerial dominoes have begun to fall — Guardiola’s announcement will trigger reactions from Man United and Chelsea, both of whom had hoped to land the Spaniard — United will almost surely have begun to look elsewhere for Van Gaal’s eventual replacement, whether that be in the summer or before the end of this season. At this point, it seems an inevitability the Dutchman’s days at Old Trafford are limited. The question now becomes, can he rally the Red Devils and finish on a respectable note?
How quickly do dollars and cents translate to points?
Everton vs. Newcastle United — Wednesday (Premier League Extra Time)
Nobody spent more during the January transfer window than Newcastle United ($42 million), and with good reason — the Magpies currently sit 18th in the league table and have the third-worst goal difference in the PL this season. Between Jonjo Shelvey‘s promising debut, and the shrewd captures of Andros Townsend and Seydou Doumbia, something’s bound to stick for Newcastle; it’s just a matter of whether or not it’s quick enough to save their season, and Premier League status.