After a one-week hiatus, the Premier League is back.
The title race is taking serious shape, but there are plenty of races around the rest of the Premier League table. With Leicester City, Tottenham, Arsenal, and Manchester City all vying for the top spot, those below them are still battling for various positional milestones.
Who is the favorite for the Premier League crown? Who has a realistic shot at the top four? Who is hot and who is cold? Who will be dragged into a relegation battle? With 12 matches left in the season, these questions still don’t have answers, but they may after this weekend.
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1. Is Tottenham the title favorite?
Tottenham vs. Swansea City — Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET
I can see the comments flooding already: “You guys still don’t give Leicester City any credit?” Sure we do do. At the moment, Tottenham is not the title favorite. The team at the top of the table with 12 matches remaining is the title favorite, and that means Leicester City. When/if Spurs does take over the lead, then they will be the favorites.
This fact, however, is undeniable: Spurs is in the best form of the league and has a title-winning league resume this season. They’ve lost just three times all year, and just twice since an opening-day loss to Manchester United. Since their 1-0 loss to Leicester City in mid-January, they’ve rolled off five straight wins. Last week’s win over Manchester City was enormous, and it means they have a breeze of a schedule the rest of the way, with just one other top-4 team on the dockett through the end of the season – the North London derby on March 5 which will be a massive occasion.
Given Tottenham’s inability to get over the top 4 hump in recent seasons, any Champions League finish seems like a major victory, but a title race has essentially fallen into their lap. Can they take advantage where Arsenal has failed this season?
2. Can Leicester recover?
Leicester City vs. Norwich City — Saturday, 10:00 a.m. ET
Remember how Tottenham has lost only three times this season? Leicester had only lost twice…until last week, when they fell at the Emirates. A potentially big blow to Leicester’s title chase, Norwich could be just the spoonful of medicine the Foxes need to get back on track. The Canaries have opened the scoring against opponents just eight times all season, the second-worst amount in the league ahead of only bottom-feeding Aston Villa. That’s not likely against the Foxes who had conceded just two goals in eight matches before their 2-1 loss to Arsenal last week. A win feels like a must for Leicester’s title hopes this week, but that also seems the likely result.
3. Will the Gunners use the momentum?
Arsenal vs. Manchester United — Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET
Arsenal was humbled by Barcelona in Champions League, but losing to one of the best attacks ever assembled is nothing to hang their heads about. The league form for Arsenal still breeds confidence, with three unbeaten following the loss to Chelsea. The Gunners need to milk every last point possible out of their remaining matches if they hope to keep pace with or pass Spurs, and this week’s matchup with a faltering Manchester United seems like the perfect opportunity to jump back on the soapbox. Just two points back, Arsenal is right in the thick of things, but they need to build on recent performances if they have any hope of sticking around.
4. Can Southampton make a move on Manchester United?
Southampton vs. Chelsea — Saturday, 10:00 a.m. ET
The Saints’ poor run through December was a debilitating wound, but not a mortal one. Southampton still has the opportunity to push for a guaranteed Europa League place, and their chances for the top four seem dire but not dead. This weekend seems to be the perfect opportunity to make a move on Manchester United and shimmy into the top five. The Saints already dispatched Chelsea once this season at Stamford Bridge, but this isn’t the same Chelsea team they faced back in early October. Can they pass the Red Devils? Also notable: Chelsea has an outside shot at moving back into the top 10 should things shake out, something that seemed well out of reach in the early going.
5. Can Crystal Palace get back to winning ways vs West Brom?
West Bromwich Albion vs. Crystal Palace — Saturday, 12:30 a.m. ET
One of these teams hasn’t won since December 19; the other has just six points since early January. Two teams looking to avoid being swept into a relegation battle meet at The Hawthornes, with both in dire need of a victory. The Eagles have tumbled down the table, without a win since 2015 and on the verge of totally undoing all the impressive early season results. Both these sides sit at 32 points, and with the relegation zone eight points back, the heat isn’t on just yet, but it could be with yet another failure this weekend. Games like these have a habit of ending in a draw, but it’s likely Alan Pardew could go for all the marbles.